Toyota has unveiled two fuel-cell concept vehicles – a six-seat saloon model and a 79-seat bus – both of which use hydrogen as the primary energy source.
The first concept, dubbed “Fine-Comfort Ride”, is powered by a 416 bhp motor that is claimed to deliver a top speed of 137 mph, a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 5.4 seconds and a range of approximately 621 miles on a single fill.
The fuel-cell stack is located at the front of the vehicle while the hydrogen tank is under the floor. According to Toyota, the latter can be refuelled in about three minutes.
The design study also incorporates artificial intelligence and automated driving based on the company’s so-called “Mobility Teammate Concept” in which the car watches over the driver and intervenes as and when needed.
Its exterior design adopts a diamond-shaped cabin that narrows towards the rear, while the interior features a flexible seat layout; for example, drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel and turn their seat around to converse with passengers.
The second vehicle, a concept bus called the “Sora”, is said to be closer to a production version with Toyota planning to start sales next year and introduce more than 100 of these buses ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Measuring 10,525 mm long, 2,490 mm wide and 3,340 mm tall, the Sora uses two 153 bhp fuel-cell stacks and two 152 bhp, 247 lb-ft electric motors with 10 high-pressure hydrogen tanks offering 600 litres of hydrogen capacity.
It’s also equipped with a high-capacity external power supply system, providing a maximum output of 9kW and 235 kWh supply. This enables the bus to be used as an emergency power source; for example, it can power evacuation sites such as school gymnasiums and community centres for about five days with lights on for six hours per day (50 kWh per day).
Toyota engineers say they paid close attention to both convenience and safety when developing the bus. As a result, eight high-definition cameras fitted inside and outside the vehicle detect pedestrians and bicycles around the bus, providing a peripheral monitoring function that warns the driver with sound and images to improve safety.
For the safety of standing passengers, an acceleration control function enables gentle acceleration from stops. There is no lurching due to the lack of a need for gear shifting. Seats automatically fold up when not in use to provide space for strollers or wheelchairs.
The concept bus also envisages futuristic features that will not be available on the production model released next year. These include “Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Connect” and “automatic arrival control”.
While the former utilises vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to support safe driving, together with systems that support bus convoys and that provide priority at traffic lights, the latter is said to improve boarding and exiting by detecting the guidance line on the road surface and using automatic steering and deceleration to stop the bus – it is claimed to ensure approximately 3 to 6 cm of clearance from the bus stop, and stopping within 10 cm ahead of or behind the bus stop position.