Toyota to bring fuel-cell concept car to CES

The FCV is designed for a 500-kilometer range and three-minute refueling stops

Toyota's FCV fuel cell concept vehicle

Toyota's FCV fuel cell concept vehicle

Toyota will use January's CES to unveil its fuel-cell concept car for the first time in North America.

The world's biggest automaker will disclose its plans for fuel-cell vehicles in a news conference scheduled to take place alongside CES in Las Vegas on Jan. 6. Toyota's fuel-cell concept vehicle, called the FCV, will also be on show at the event.

The prototype FCV uses a fuel cell that converts hydrogen to electricity. Unveiled first at this year's Tokyo Motor Show, the FCV is the kind of car Toyota hopes to put on the market in 2015. The company is aiming the produce a car with a range of at least 500 kilometers (311 miles) and a refueling time of about three minutes -- close to the amount of time it takes to refuel a gasoline vehicle.

One of the advantages of such a technology is that it relies on a readily available fuel source, hydrogen, and produces only water as a by-product. The liquid hydrogen fuel is manufactured using electricity.

Fuel cell technology was once a hot topic in the electronics industry. About 10 years ago, many major electronics companies were prototyping and testing products based on fuel cells as an alternative to batteries. Typically, a squirt of methanol would provide enough power for hours of use. However, the technology never got to the mass market and many projects closed.

Some companies are still pursuing fuel cells for electronics and emergency power use.

At this year's Ceatec show in Tokyo, Aquafairy, a Japanese start-up, demonstrated a hydrogen fuel cell that it said could be on the market in 2014. The company showed several prototypes and said it would succeed where others have failed because of its reliance on hydrogen rather than methanol.

CES is one of the biggest annual electronics shows in the world, and companies use the event to set their theme for the coming year. In recent years, as cars have become more high-tech, automakers have also been appearing at CES to unveil new technologies that they hope will define the driving experience of tomorrow.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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