Toyota Is Testing Fuel-Cell Vehicles In Australia

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Toyota has recently completed the first series of fuel-cell-powered HiLux utes, marking the culmination of over two years of development. The first prototype, finished in June 2023 and publicly unveiled three months later, is part of a batch of ten test vehicles. These vehicles will undergo rigorous testing and evaluation to pave the way for a potential market launch. According to Motor1, Toyota Manufacturing United Kingdom (TMUK) has finalized the tenth prototype, signaling the readiness for the next phase. Five of these ten HiLux FCEVs (Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles) will be subjected to real-world on-road testing to assess their durability, while the remaining units will be used for promotional and media purposes.

In addition to the UK prototypes, Toyota is also developing fuel-cell HiLux vehicles in Thailand, the primary source of Australia's HiLux supply. Although there is no confirmed timeline for the HiLux FCEV's showroom debut or the specific countries where it will be available, Toyota’s plans indicate a serious commitment to this technology. Toyota Australia has expressed keen interest in evaluating the fuel-cell HiLux, following local tests of a battery-electric HiLux and a hydrogen-powered HiAce van. A Toyota spokesperson highlighted the significant involvement of the local vehicle evaluation department with the HiLux, signaling readiness for any potential prototype evaluations in Australia.

Toyota Hilux ev

Fuel-Cell Technology and Advantages

Fuel-cell vehicles are lauded for their long range and quick refueling times. Toyota claims that hydrogen’s low weight allows the HiLux FCEV to offer superior payload and towing capacities compared to battery-electric powertrains. Toyota’s pioneering efforts in fuel-cell technology began with the 2014 Toyota Mirai, the world’s first series-production fuel-cell sedan, although it was not publicly sold in Australia. The focus has since shifted to transport and light commercial fuel-cell vehicles, exemplified by the hydrogen-powered HiAce van tested in Australia last year. A senior Toyota executive has hinted at the possibility of a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell LandCruiser also being considered for future release.

Toyota Hilux fuel cell


Toyota’s Multi-Pathway Strategy

Fuel-cell technology is integral to Toyota’s ‘multi-pathway’ product strategy, which aims to provide various powertrain options—including internal combustion, hybrid, battery-electric, and fuel-cell—to meet diverse market demands. Europe is seen as a pivotal region for hydrogen development and a significant sales opportunity. In support of this, Toyota announced the establishment of a ‘Hydrogen Factory’ in late 2023, following the start of fuel-cell module production in Europe in January 2022. The company also aims to aid in developing a hydrogen refueling network across Europe. Australia’s first public hydrogen refueling station opened in Fyshwick, ACT, in 2021, where hydrogen is sold by the kilogram.

Toyota Hilux

Technical Specifications

The Toyota HiLux FCEV incorporates much of the same drivetrain as the second-generation Mirai sedan, introduced in 2020 and available in Australia through special customer orders, similar to the Hyundai Nexo, the only other fuel-cell vehicle sold in the country. The HiLux FCEV features an electric motor fuel-cell stack in the engine bay, powering the rear wheels via a transaxle, with a battery pack located in the rear tray. While specific technical details for the HiLux FCEV have not been disclosed, the Mirai’s 330-cell fuel stack generates 179 hp. This is comparable to the current diesel-powered HiLux models sold in Australia, which produce between 163 hp and 221 hp, depending on the variant.

The hydrogen-powered HiLux boasts a claimed driving range of over 600 km, surpassing the range of an equivalent battery-electric version. Toyota confirmed that a battery-electric HiLux will be produced in Thailand following the evaluation of a prototype in Melbourne in late 2023. However, the battery-electric HiLux has not yet been confirmed for the Australian market, with showroom details pending. Meanwhile, a mild-hybrid HiLux using ‘V-Active Technology’ was introduced in February 2024 as part of a comprehensive range update. In June 2024, Toyota Australia announced it would discontinue petrol-only models for nine vehicles, including the top-selling RAV4 SUV, where hybrid versions are available.

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