TOKYO – Toyota has developed a new fuel cell hybrid, a green car powered by hydrogen and electricity, that can travel more than twice the distance of its predecessor model without filling up, the automaker said Friday.
The improved model's maximum cruising range is 516 miles (830 kilometers) compared with 205 miles (330 kilometers) for Toyota's previous fuel cell model, the maker of the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury cars said in a statement.
The FCHV-adv model, which received Japanese government approval Tuesday, will be available for leasing in Japan later this year, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Kayo Doi said. Pricing and other details weren't available, and overseas plans were still undecided, she said.
Fuel cell vehicles produce no pollution by running on the power of the chemical reaction when hydrogen stored in a tank combines with oxygen in the air to produce water.
The FCHV-adv from the world's second biggest automaker also comes with an electric motor and works as a hybrid by switching between that motor and the hydrogen-powered fuel cell. Toyota's Prius hybrid switches between an electric motor and a standard gasoline engine.
Fuel efficiency in the FCHV-adv was improved 25 percent with better braking and other changes, Toyota said. The new fuel cell vehicle can also start and run in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 Celsius), it said. Getting a fuel cell to work well in cold weather is a technological challenge.
Major automakers around the world are working on fuel cells and other ecological vehicles, including electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which recharge from an electrical outlet. And consumer interest in alternative fuels is increasing amid soaring gas prices and worries about global warming.
Rival Honda Motor Co.'s revamped fuel cell vehicle for leasing in California is rolling off a Japanese factory floor later this month.
For 2010, U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. is planning a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle, while Tokyo-based Nissan Motor Co. is planning electric vehicles for the U.S. and Japan.
Fuel cell vehicles are usually marketed through leasing arrangements since the technology is too expensive for most people to buy in an outright purchase.