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Toyota forms fuel cell R&D joint venture for commercial vehicles in China

Toyota forms fuel cell R&D joint venture for commercial vehicles in China
Photo courtesy of Toyota

Six companies, which include some of China’s largest vehicle manufacturers and Toyota Motor Corporation, have signed a joint venture agreement to establish United Fuel Cell System R&D (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (FCRD), to develop fuel cell systems for commercial vehicles in China. Plans call for FCRD to be established in Beijing this year. Initially, 50 employees are to work for the company in Beijing, and by 2023 the number is expected to rise to 100.

Partnering with Chinese vehicle manufacturers China FAW Corporation Limited (FAW), Dongfeng Motor Corporation (DFM), Beijing Automotive Group Co., Ltd. (BAIC Group), Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. (GAC Group), and hydrogen energy company Beijing SinoHytec Co., Ltd. (SinoHytec), Toyota aims to develop a competitive fuel cell system that meets Chinese requirements and popularizes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the country.

Based on the belief that industry-wide efforts to build the foundation for the widespread adoption of FCEVs under an unprecedented open structure rather than measures undertaken by individual companies will be essential for the spread and firm establishment of FCEVs in the Chinese market, these six companies, which share a common vision for FCEVs, have decided to establish the R&D joint venture, according to Toyota.

Specifically, the six companies will engage in discussions to formulate product plans and create a single streamlined structure to develop a series of technologies from components including FC stacks that satisfy performance needs in China and FC system controls that support those components, to vehicle installation. The companies believe that by doing this, the lead time from development to commercialization will be substantially shortened, making it possible to dramatically increase the pace of each stage of FCEV proliferation in the Chinese commercial vehicle market. They will tackle the challenges of developing low-cost, competitive fuel cell systems and their key components with superior product strengths including drive performance, fuel efficiency, and durability that will be essential for the widespread adoption of FCEVs.

FCRD will support the proliferation of FCEVs for the creation of a hydrogen-based society in China, and by promoting and developing FCEVs, will contribute to solving environmental issues including reducing CO2 emissions and curtailing air pollution and work to facilitate the formation of an even better mobility society in China.

Dong Changzheng will be appointed chairman and Ryu Akita will be chief executive officer (CEO).

With an initial investment of JPY5 billion (USD46.3 million), United Fuel Cell System R&D (Beijing) Company will be 65% owned by Toyota, 15% by SinoHytec and 5% each by FAW, DFM, BAIC, and GAC.

The new partnership highlights Toyota’s continued ambition on fuel cell vehicles. It believes hydrogen is a high-potential future energy source and fuel cell vehicles are ecologically ideal.

“This is the only fuel cell R&D company that Toyota has set up overseas and it has important strategic significance for Toyota,” said Tatsuro Ueda, CEO of Toyota China. “The new company will focus its business on the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta first and will spread to more places.”

The FCEV market, primarily for commercial vehicles, in China is growing at a pace not seen anywhere else in the world, in accordance with the government’s Technology Roadmap for Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicles which was launched in 2016. 

According to the plan, China is to build around 100 hydrogen stations and 5,000 hydrogen fuel cell public service vehicles by 2020; 50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and 300 hydrogen stations by 2025; and, 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2030.

According to statistics from the GGII, a hydrogen electricity information provider, China produced 3,018 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in 2019, up 86.41% from the previous year.