Proof That Toyota Has Been Working On Fuel-cell Technology For 30+ Years

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Since the early 90s, Japanese auto brand Toyota has invested in clean energy for its vehicles and manufacturing. Because the history of Toyota’s involvement in fuel-cell development dates back as early as 1992, that makes 31+ years of testing, building, and cutting down on emissions. The brand has always been a pioneer in hybrid design, with cars like the Toyota Prius blazing a new trail for clean driving. Toyota has also spent millions on developing solid-state batteries and a fleet of all-electric vehicles slated to hit the market by the decade’s end, so it’s clear they have a mission.




Before driving or owning an EV was cool, you had brands, including Toyota, testing it. Although this may have been behind closed doors, Toyota spent much of its time perfecting batteries, building platforms, and investing in technology far beyond the general population’s time.

Whatever the case, fuel-cell technology has only recently become common knowledge, and we are expected to see more electric models use it in the near future. You may remember the hydrogen Toyota Mirai, which is mainly sold in California. This was an example of Toyota’s continued dedication to doing something unique with its power and time. Keep reading to follow Toyota’s fuel-cell timeline.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Toyota.


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Toyota’s Fuel Cell Commitment Dates Back To 92′

Something that many people don’t know is that Toyota has been developing and investing in hydrogen energy/fuel cell vehicles for decades. In 1992, the brand created its Electric Vehicle Development Division, setting the stage for research and development aimed at meeting stringent emission regulations. Over the next few years, Toyota would go on to crack the code with hydrogen tech and fuel-cell EV manufacturing.

In addition, Toyota went on to drop concept models like the Townace and the Crown Majesta EV, laying the foundation for a new way of thinking about driving. After all, this Japanese brand has always tried to be a few steps in front of the competition. This becomes even truer in modern times when Toyota has *technically* already released a full-scale hydrogen model, Mirai.


By the mid-1990s, Toyota’s focus shifted toward fuel cell technology with the unveiling of the RAV4 EV-based fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV).

Toyota’s Slow But Sure Fuel Cell Transition

As the years have gone by, Toyota has continued to publicly tease its findings with fuel cell and hydrogen-powered vehicles, even releasing one. Because of the market’s current dash toward electrification, Toyota finds itself at the cusp of domination.

The brand even created a dedicated department to research this technology in 2002, with the Fuel Cell System Development Center. This division of the Toyota group focused heavily on the successful operation of fuel cell vehicles in extreme conditions and the certification of high-pressure hydrogen tanks.

Real-life testing: In 2006, the commercial operation of the FCHV-BUS expanded to include the area around the Central Japan International Airport. This continued for many successful years.


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Toyota Has Toyed With Full-Scale Hydrogen Models

Toyota Mirai Internal View
Toyota

For many years, Toyota has teased, tested, and released fuel-cell vehicles to the world. As recently as 2015, the brand debuted the FCV Mirai, which offered 300 miles of range per hydrogen fueling. Even now, this beats many EVs and their promised range, which is an interesting point to make in favor of fuel-cell energy. What has always been a pro to hydrogen/FCV is that it allows you the freedom of ICE distance and refueling, all without using a drop of gasoline.

Hydrogen has always been a great alternative to both gas and electric powertrains as we know them. As long as you have an on-board hydrogen tank or have access to a refueling station, you’re golden. That said, the world lacks many of these, and we’re only starting to see government interest in fuel cell design.


Remember, not everyone is Toyota. Most people have zero idea they can drive a hydrogen-powered car, truck, or SUV and skip the charger. Toyota has been raising awareness on the issue, though, so perhaps this could be the beginning of something incredible for them and the world.

California Got All The Good Stuff

Red 2023 Toyota Mirai
Toyota pressroom

In addition to the Mirai released in 2015, California is the state that got these models. The Golden State has invested more heavily in hydrogen refueling stations and infrastructure, which has aided drivers in making the switch from gas or battery energy to hydrogen/fuel cells.


It is worth noting that as of February 2024, there are an estimated 18,025 fuel-cell cars sold or leased in the United States. Much, if not all, of these are Toyota’s Mirai sedan. There are also currently 55 hydrogen refueling stations open to the public in the state of California. Moreover, there are 108 total hydrogen stations under development in the state as of this year.

  • Total FCVs in the US: 18,025
  • Hydrogen stations in California: 55
  • Stations under development in California: 108

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Why This Next Chapter Matters To Toyota

Red 2023 Toyota Mirai
Toyota


Considering Toyota has had its skin in the game of fuel cell development since the early 90s, the 2020s and 2030s will prove pivotal for the company. As of 2024, we have the brand releasing the newest generation of Mirai, which is proving to be a great investment for them. Because much of Toyota’s engineering and groundwork for fuel cell design happened in the early 2000s, we’re seeing them lightyears ahead of Honda, GM, Tesla, etc. With the Mirai on the market in California and the U.S. slowly moving forward in its fuel cell infrastructure, this will only torpedo Toyota to the top of the food chain.

Since 2011, Toyota, Alongside Other Manufacturers, Promised To Establish A Hydrogen Supply Infrastructure

Something else we’ll note in Toyota’s fuel-cell timeline is that in 2011, a total of 13 auto manufacturers, including Toyota, vowed to make hydrogen supply chains a thing by 2015. Coincidentally, the Mirai was also able to be released that year because of Toyota’s commitment to this fuel-cell promise. The Tokyo Motor Show also continues to be where we see the most hydrogen unveiling from Toyota.

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Toyota Is The Future Of Fuel-Cell Driving

Toyota H2 Le Mans
Toyota


On top of Toyota’s continued success and innovation in the hydrogen market, the Japanese manufacturer plans to swap out engines and batteries from existing models and replace them with fuel-cell hydrogen systems. This is a mission for the company and will come to fruition by the next decade.

The 2024 Mirai is a perfect example of how fast Toyota has evolved this tech, with 400+ miles of range PER refuel. That’s up 100 miles in under a decade. Who knows how far the company will be able to go by 2030 when these hydrogen models will hit the road at a larger scale globally? Regardless, you want to keep an eye on Mirai if you ever plan to buy hydrogen cars from Toyota, as it has been a tester for many years.

The United States And Asia Will Be Prioritized

One thing to remember with this hydrogen boom is that it will likely be prioritized in the US/North America and Japan/Asia. Because these two countries and continents have been developing hydrogen infrastructure relatively fast, Toyota continues to set its eyes on the regions.


Of course, Europe is ahead of the game regarding EV infrastructure and development, so expect the market to follow suit. By 2030, across the world, Toyota should see quite a few fuel-cell vehicles dominating roadways. And to think, this all began as a wild experiment back in 1992. Ah, how time flies.

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