Bob Carter, Toyota's senior vice president for automotive
operations, said in a speech that he believed a hydrogen fuel cell
car it plans to launch next year could eventually be as successful
as its pioneering Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.
Carter said "naysayers" who have spoken out against the technology
would be proven wrong and referred to Elon Musk, founder of electric
car maker Tesla Motors Inc, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co,
and former Volkswagen executive Jonathan Browning by name.
"Personally I don't really care what Elon and Carlos and Jonathan
have to say about fuel cells. It's very reminiscent of 1998, 1999
when we first introduced the Prius," Carter said at a conference
held in conjunction with the Detroit auto show.
The comments underscore just how big the stakes are in the race to
take the lead in the next generation green car.
While Toyota is investing heavily in fuel cells, others such as
Nissan, Volkswagen and Tesla are betting on electric vehicles as the
next big thing while publicly questioning whether hydrogen could
ever develop into a practical automotive fuel.
At the Los Angeles auto show in November, Browning, who was then
chief of Volkswagen's U.S. operations, ruffled feathers by saying
electric was a more viable technology because it was a lot easier
for consumers to find electric sockets than hydrogen stations.
Toyota's Carter addressed the infrastructure issue on Tuesday,
arguing that the number of hydrogen fuelling stations would grow in
time, helped by private-public partnerships such as the one
established in the state of California.
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By placing stations in better locations, Carter estimated that if
all cars in California were running on hydrogen that the state's
fueling needs could be met with 15 percent of the nearly 10,000
gasoline stations currently in operation.
Fuel cell cars convert hydrogen to electricity, emit only water
vapor and have a similar range to conventional petrol-driven cars.
Toyota believes that makes them the best next-generation technology
to succeed the hybrid vehicle, of which it has cumulatively sold
nearly 6 million since the first Prius rolled off the production
"Ten years from now, I have a hunch our fuel cell vehicle will be
viewed in similar terms. We truly believe it has the same potential
as the first Prius," Carter said.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; editing by
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