DETROIT Jan 14 In an escalation of the auto
industry's war of words over future green technologies, a senior
Toyota Motor Corp executive singled out Elon Musk and
other rival executives on Tuesday and made a bold prediction for
its hydrogen car.
Bob Carter, Toyota's senior vice president for automative
operations, said in a speech that he believed a hydrogen fuel
cell car it plans to launch next year could eventually be as
successful as its pioneering Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.
Carter said "naysayers" who have spoken out against the
technology would be proven wrong and referred to Elon Musk,
founder of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc, Carlos
Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co, and former Volkswagen
executive Jonathan Browning by name.
"Personally I don't really care what Elon and Carlos and
Jonathan have to say about fuel cells. It's very reminiscent of
1998, 1999 when we first introduced the Prius," Carter said at a
conference held in conjunction with the Detroit auto show.
The comments underscore just how big the stakes are in the
race to take the lead in the next generation green car.
While Toyota is investing heavily in fuel cells, others such
as Nissan, Volkswagen and Tesla are betting on electric vehicles
as the next big thing while publically questioning whether
hydrogen could ever develop into a practical automotive fuel.
At the Los Angeles auto show in November, Browning, who was
then chief of Volkswagen's U.S. operations, ruffled feathers by
saying electric was a more viable technology because it was a
lot easier for consumers to find electric sockets than hydrogen
Toyota's Carter addressed the infrastructure issue on
Tuesday, arguing that the number of hydrogen fuelling stations
would grow in time, helped by private-public partnerships such
as the one established in the state of California.
By placing stations in better locations, Carter estimated
that if all cars in California were running on hydrogen that the
state's fuelling needs could be met with 15 percent of the
nearly 10,000 gasoline stations currently in operation.
Fuel cell cars convert hydrogen to electricity, emit only
water vapour and have a similar range to conventional
Toyota believes that makes them the best next-generation
technology to suceed the hybrid vehicle, of which it has
cumulatively sold nearly 6 million since the first Prius rolled
off the production line.
"Ten years from now, I have a hunch our fuel cell vehicle
will be viewed in similar terms. We truly believe it has the
same potential as the first Prius," Carter said.