The Tokyo Motor Show is a place where Japanese motor manufacturing regularly meets art in an array of concepts that we can pretty much always expect to entertain.
Though it seems that Toyota have taken the (deliberately?) obtuse approach with the Fine-Comfort Ride. Without beating about the bush, it’s not the most sleek or attractive ride out there, and in an area of design where the ‘concept vehicle’ will often forgo practicalities and give us a car that is beautiful just for the sake of it, Toyota have given us – an oblong box. Setting looks aside for a moment, let’s look at what the Fine-Comfort Ride offers.
This is a fuel cell car and as such, each fuel cell battery is hydrogen powered and feeds an electric motor that looks after each individual wheel. Toyota claim a range of 600 miles, which is great news, but considering that at the latest count only 36 hydrogen fuel stations currently exist in the USA, a decent mileage is a minimum requirement. More are planned of course, not just in the USA but also across Europe and Japan, but I can’t help being reminded of the similar issues that LPG faced in the early 2000s.
The Fine-Comfort Ride frees up a fair bit of interior space putting the motors at each wheel, and with a wider set and infinitely adjustable seats, the saloon is clearly aiming for the roomy, luxury family car market.
Toyota isn’t new to the fuel cell car game though, with the Mirai currently in production. But at a cost of around £66,000 to own, Toyota expects to only sell around 100 Mirai a year across Europe. At the time of the Mirai’s release, only Hendon, Heathrow and Swindon could provide refuelling facilities in the UK.
Negatives aside, the hydrogen fuel cell car is a great idea, producing emissions of pure water. Recently in February, the first M25 hydrogen refuelling pump was unveiled at Cobham services. Filling up only takes a couple of minutes at such high tech pumps as opposed to around 30 for a traditional electric vehicle; though there is still only a handful of these pumps available in London in 2017.
I guess we are fast approaching the critical point that LPG didn’t quite reach; where there needs to be a commitment to a notable number of fuel cell refilling pumps to make buying (and producing) fuel cell cars a viable option for the public.