The folks at Toyota in Japan can be pretty blunt about electric-vehicle technology prospects as a viable transportation alternative to the internal combustion engine. Here in the states? Slightly more sanguine.

Toyota global head of research and development Mitsuhisa Kato, according to Automotive News, discounts the potential of substantial EV sales in the near future because the appropriate technology that provides comparable driving distances and fill-up times relative to conventional vehicles doesn't yet exist. While Toyota has been conducting testing programs with shorter-commute-distance EVs in countries such as Japan and France, its only production EV in the US is the RAV4 EV, and Toyota sold just 546 of those in the States during the first half of the year. Toyota is much more excited about the debut of its first hydrogen fuel-cell production vehicle, in both Japan and the US, next year.

Toyota Motor North America spokeswoman Jana Hartline was a little more charitable when discussing the EV's prospects in an interview with AutoblogGreen. "For shorter range, EVs serve a really great purpose, but as far as having equal mile range to an internal combustion engine, there's going to need to be some serious breakthroughs," Hartline said. "And that where the fuel cell comes in."

Last month, Toyota said its fuel-cell sedan that will debut in Japan next April will be priced at about $69,000, though the company emphasized that it shouldn't be assumed it will be priced similarly in the US and Europe. Toyota hasn't released many performance details, though the sedan is expected to have a full (hydrogen) tank range of about 435 miles, or about five times that of a Nissan Leaf. Read here for Autoblog's First Drive of Toyota's fuel-cell sedan.


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