Will Toyota's hydrogen vehicle be that shocking?

Written by John Dodge, Contributor

This post is about two things: a July 16 story from WardsAuto.com that claims Toyota will come out in 2015 with a "shockingly" low-priced hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) vehicle and the eternal debate about paid versus free  content.

Unrelated, you say? Not in this instance.

A tweet about the Wardsauto.com story from a blogger instantly grabbed my attention. If a Toyota "official" is saying it's coming out with a low-cost HFC vehicle even as far off as 2015, that's news. Toyota has a splendid track record of delivering on innovation. And Wardsauto.com is a credible automotive news site.

Problem is I can only get one line of the story unless I am a paid subscriber. That "economies of scale brought by mass-production" is central to that line (see below) may mean the story is nothing more than such a generalization would indicate. But when I see "shockingly" in the headline, I take notice.

What makes the story more interesting is that it flies in the face of the many hydrogen naysayers. You can find plenty of them in the 40 or so comments generated two of my recent hydrogen posts (supporters, too). Fact is genuine passion is creating misinformation on both sides of the issue.

Despite hydrogen's challenges such as storage, production, high initial costs, nonsupport from the Obama Administration (federal support may be restored) and the expensive build-out of a fueling infrastructure, I would absolutely put my money on Honda with the 200 Clarity FCXs it's leasing in Southern California and Toyota. Arguably, they are the two pre-eminent car builders in the world today.

Here's another snippet from the story from the Facebook Wall of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

“From Ward’s Automotive magazine: ‘Everyone thinks fuel-cell cars are zillion-dollar vehicles,’ Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager-Toyota Technical Center, ‘We have some confidence the vehicle released around 2015 is going to have costs that are going to be shocking for most of the people in the industry. They are going to be very surprised we were able to achieve such an impressive cost reduction.’”

PR fluff or real substance? Even though I don't know for sure that's there's something truly shocking about Toyota's efforts, I am going to invoke a Joe Namath quote about the media following the the Jets upset victory in the 1969 Superbowl. "I hope [hydrogen naysayers] all eat their pencils and pads."

As for free v. paid content, anyone who's a journalist knows someone has to pay for good reporting. And I hope the Wardsauto.com story is a shockingly good example of that.

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Such a tease! credit: Wardauto.com

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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