Friday, November 8, 2013

Toyota FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) Concept ready for Tokyo, maybe not 2015

By Jacob Brown
We Go Behind Closed Doors to Discover the Future of ToyotaWhat if I told you that much of the automotive industry's technology wasn't being designed in some eerily clean, white room in Detroit, Japan, or Germany by scientists in lab coats? What if it was buried in a nondescript garage on a side street in working-class Gardena, California?
That's where Toyota's technical center is in the U.S. Rather than going to its Torrance headquarters with its orderly floral arrangements and bustling schools of employees always entering or exiting, I ventured to the automaker's tech center just a few blocks away. This place is bordered by 10-foot fences and chicken wire. I signed in at a security desk and surrendered my cell phone's cameras to translucent tape over their lenses. Not that it mattered; I got as far as the first conference room in the building.
In that conference room, I met one of Toyota's gatekeepers, a guy who could tell me more about Toyota's future technologies than just about anyone else: Justin Ward, the manager of powertrain system controls. As ambiguous as his title sounds, what you need to know is that his small team of engineers is planning the next generation of cars, starting with what Toyota anticipates will be the first mass-produced hydrogen-powered car for sale to the public, in addition to a long list of other new technologies.
"My hope is that there's going to be a whole lot of fuel-cell cars on the road and the market takes off really quickly with it," Ward says of hydrogen cars. "I remember university lectures on how the Prius was not sustainable and how we wouldn't be making any money on it."
But Toyota has made money on it. In fact, it's the best-selling lineup of cars in California, and Ward thinks that Alternative Fuels: Round 2 -- with the help of space-age materials -- has a chance to be just as revolutionary.