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by Tim Beissmann

The Toyota FCV concept has debuted at the Tokyo motor show, previewing the Japanese car maker’s first mass-produced fuel cell-powered vehicle that is nearing its final stages of development.

The FCV (fuel cell vehicle) concept provides the clearest look yet at Toyota’s forthcoming hydrogen-powered sedan, which is due to enter production around the end of 2014.

Longer but taller and narrower than a Camry and sharing a similar-size wheelbase, Toyota says the production car is expected to cost under 10 million yen ($108,000) when it is introduced to Japan’s four key urban centres (Tokyo, Chukyo, Kansai and Fukuoka) and certain regions in the US and Europe.

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The car maker says the production FCV will have a driving range in excess of 500km and a refuelling time of three minutes – figures equivalent to those of a conventional petrol-powered vehicle.

The Toyota FCV concept’s fuel cell stack uses a chemical reaction with hydrogen gas to produce electricity, which is sent to an electric motor via a high-efficiency boost converter.

Toyota claims the fuel cell stack offers a total system output of at least 100kW of power, while the vehicle emits only water vapour from its tailpipe.

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Toyota predicts widespread use of hydrogen to power vehicles from the 2020s and plans to produces tens of thousands of vehicles each year as it aims to promote alternative forms of energy.

While the FCV concept’s catamaran-inspired styling will be toned down for production, the final version is expected to retain the show car’s LED lamps, flowing body panels, and overall aerodynamic profile with heavily raked front and rear windscreens.

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb says he believes hydrogen has “enormous potential” as a fuel of the future, though at this stage there is no timeline to introduce the technology to our market.

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