The zero-pollution city car will be ready for preview drives in less than two years, and perhaps as early as the second half of 2012, after a long-running fuel cell development program in the USA. Toyota is running a small fleet of hydrogen-powered Kluger SUVs and has now completed the essential work needed to transplant its knowledge into a showroom car that's similar in size to the Yaris.
"It's going to happen," Craig Scott, manager of the advanced technologies group at Toyota in the USA, reveals to Carsguide. He is convinced hydrogen is the fuel of the future, even if there are only a handful of filling stations in the USA and none yet in Australia.
Honda already has a limited number of its Clarity fuel cell cars on the road in Japan and the USA, Mercedes-Benz is well advanced with a program using its B-Class - and has just completed a round-the-world promotional tour - and GM is also running Chevrolet SUV trial cars in California on hydrogen.
Scott says hydrogen will eventually take the place of gasoline, overtaking recent gains in battery-powered plug-in cars.
"I'm a believer. I think there will be a very limited role for batteries (inside 50 years), they will be second or third cars." He says it will be easier to convert to hydrogen, despite the existing power grid for plug-ins.
"If everyone plugs their car in at home in the same street the local transformer will blow. If you upgrade the local one, then next one will blow. There isn't enough capacity," Scott says. "Electric-vehicle infrastructure will be more expensive to instal than hydrogen infrastructure."
He only hints to Carsguide about the coming production car but points to a much smaller vehicle thanks to advances in the fuel-cell 'stack' - which generates electricity - and high-pressure tanks that use a combination of plastic and aluminium. Comparing with the Kluger - officially called the Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle - he points to several advances.
"The new car will be nothing like this. The powertrain is considerably larger than the production model," says Scott. "This is an engineering experiment. We've had a lot of learnings. Previously we needed a vehicle of this size for packaging, but not now."