Although the technology has been talked about for quite some time now, the concept of using oxygen and hydrogen to power an automobile seems poised to finally hit the market.

According to reports, the Toyota Motor Corporation has recently declared that their sedan-type Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) will begin production at the end of this year. At the moment Toyota claims this would make them the first automaker in the world to market such a vehicle to the public at large.

The FCV carries a stock of hydrogen on board and uses oxygen from the air to generate power. It’s said that a single 5kg (11lbs) supply of hydrogen can carry Toyota’s FCV over 500km (310mi). This is probably a good thing since at the time of its initial launch, stations where hydrogen can be purchased will be few and far between, found in only four of Japan’s major urban centers: Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka.

It’s also been reported while that the establishments of around 100 of these stations have been expected to occur over this year, they are currently behind schedule. As such the Japanese government has been stepping in to encourage faster development.

Like many new technologies, the FCV will initially sell for a high price. Previously it was expected to cost 10,000,000 yen (US$97,500), but as of this writing has been marked down to an expected 9,900,000 yen ($96,500) with hopes that certain subsidies will kick in and lower the price further over the year.

Toyota is aware that these vehicles aren’t going to sell like hotcakes in the early days and will only produce 50 cars a month when ready. The company is mainly aiming at national and local governments as well as wealthy individuals or corporations with a particular interest in eco-friendly cars as potential buyers. As such someone should probably consider setting up hydrogen stands in the ritzier parts of Japan as well.

Readers of the news reacted with cautious optimism. Several asked the questions “Where does the hydrogen come from?” and “In what way do we get the hydrogen?” The first question is by far the most important, as the method that the pure hydrogen is produced may cause a substantial amount pollution as well thus negating the whole environmental aspect of the car.

With regards to the latter question, when I first heard about hydrogen fuel cells I always imagined/hoped it’d be like those glowing energon cubes from the Transformers series, but based on this promotional video from last year it looks like you just pump the hydrogen into a tank like you do with regular old gasoline. However, this also begs the question: How much will the hydrogen cost?

Indeed, it’ll be a hard road ahead for the FCV with challenges in infrastructure, pricing, and public attitude to contend with. However, if this is truly the start of a wave of automobiles producing a small fraction of the emissions of regular combustion engines, my grey boogers may one day vanish into nothing more than bedtime stories for my grandchildren.

Source: Tokyo Web via My Game News Flash (Japanese)
Images & Video: Toyota