Why Toyota May Call Its Fuel Cell Vehicle a Prius


There are many instances where the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius has become the butt of jokes, as it did repeatedly in The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell. However, Toyota is laughing all the way to the bank with a hybrid that’s become the biggest selling vehicle in the biggest auto market in the United States. The positive association with green car technology is leading Toyota to considering naming its innovative fuel-cell vehicle a Prius, according to Auto Guide.

The industry has been buzzing about hydrogen fuel cells since Toyota and Honda (NYSE:HMC) announced they would debut vehicles powered by this technology at November auto shows. The Toyota fuel-cell vehicle (or FCV) is expected to debut in 2015 as a real production model powered by hydrogen fuel cells that activate an electric motor and produce only water vapor emissions.

Obstacles in pricing and refueling exist for the industry, yet the much greater range (over 300 miles) and much faster fueling process (less than 10 minutes) has numerous automakers betting that fuel cells will take the reins from lithium ion battery vehicles as the green automobiles of choice in the next decade. That’s why Toyota was tossing around ideas of what to call its fuel-cell vehicle. Auto Guide reports one Toyota executive sees a lot to be gained by naming the FCV “Prius.”

“People equate Prius to a lot of things, it has a positive name out there regarding technology, innovative products and environmental friendliness,” Toyota’s Bill Fay told Auto Guide at the L.A. Auto Show, where Honda and Hyundai (HYMLF.PK) also had fuel-cell vehicles on display. Fay noted that the Prius was an unknown entity when it first appeared, but it has gained significant stature, especially in the California market. Worldwide, Toyota has sold over five million Prius hybrids.

One remarkable feature about the Toyota FCV is how much sportier it is compared to the Toyota Prius lineup, which features wagon and hatchback looks that don’t impress aesthetically. The FCV has a futuristic look to its dramatic vents and bright blue color. In essence, the FCV is much better looking than any Prius on the road.

However, upgrading the style quotient of the Prius may be on Toyota’s agenda by the time the automaker produces its fuel-cell vehicle in 2015 or 2016, and the Prius’s reputation may be even better. In many ways, the FCV has a great deal to benefit from being associated with the Toyota Prius.

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