Toyota sees global sales of fuel cell vehicles increasing significantly after 2020, to at least 30,000 per year from today’s 3,000. To prepare for this growth, the company unveiled plans for two major new facilities today: a brand-new building near its original automobile factory for expanding fuel cell stack mass production, and a new line in an existing plant to manufacture high-pressure hydrogen tanks. The FC stack is what generates the on-board electricity from hydrogen and oxygen which propel vehicles with zero emissions, and the tanks store the hydrogen fuel. Manufacturing both components at scale is critical to achieving lower system costs and wider availability for further growth and sales of fuel cell vehicles.
To increase FC stack output, Toyota will move production from its current location, within one of the existing buildings at its Honsha Plant in Toyota City, to a brand-new, eight-floor high-tech facility on the same premises, near the original site of the company’s very first automobile factory in 1938.
The production of high-pressure hydrogen tanks will be handled by a new, dedicated line to be added inside the nearby Shimoyama Plant in Miyoshi City (Aichi Prefecture). Previously, the hydrogen tanks were assembled at the Honsha plant on a smaller scale. Toyota’s hydrogen tanks are made of extra-thick carbon fiber and are built to withstand major impacts.
The new facilities are expected to help significantly reduce CO2 emissions during the production stage. This is one of the initiatives for the Plant Zero CO2 Emissions Challenge in the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 announced in October 2015. Construction of the new hydrogen tank line at Shimoyama is starting now, while the exterior for the new stack production facility is already finished and work will now begin on the interior. Details of the respective facilities will be announced later with a view to start operations around 2020.
As a technology, fuel cells are mature and ready to scale up. Toyota took the lead in bringing to market the mass-produced fuel cell sedan, the Mirai, in December 2014. Annual production and sales have increased yearly, going from about 700 units in 2015, to around 2,000 units in 2016, and, most recently, approximately 3,000 units in 2017. However, in order to encourage more widespread use of hydrogen-powered zero-emission vehicles, popularization needs to start by the 2020s. Toyota aims for annual sales of fuel cell vehicles to top 30,000 units globally from around that time. In the Japanese market, Toyota aims to reach sales of at least 1,000 units per month and over 10,000 units annually, from around 2020.