Japan’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, has introduced a new hydrogen fuel cell car in a bid to revive demand for technology that aims to compete with the rise of California’s Tesla Inc.
Toyota showed off a prototype of its fully renovated fuel cell sedan, the Mirai, which is built on the same platform as its Lexus brand luxury LS coupe.
The carmaker has been developing fuel cell vehicles for more than 20 years, but the technology has been overshadowed by the rapid rise of rival battery electric vehicles promoted by Tesla Inc.
Fuel cells divide hydrogen molecules to create an electric current capable of powering an engine. The only byproduct of the process is water, which makes these systems much cleaner for the environment than traditional fossil fuel engines. Its biggest drawbacks are that hydrogen re-fuelling stations are rare and gas is highly combustible.
Electric cars like Tesla use lithium-ion batteries similar to those found in smartphones and laptops. They must be recharged, which can take longer than filling a hydrogen fuel cell car, but they do not carry an explosive gas.