Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle Concept previews production version due for release around 2015.

Making its world debut at the Tokyo motor show on 20 November will be the latest version of Toyota's Fuel Cell Vehicle Concept - only this time it's more of a preview, since Toyota is planning to release the production version "around 2015" - which some industry insiders are translating to "as early as next year".

Toyota's ongoing development of hydrogen fuel-cell technology has given this version (yes, it's a runner) a range of at least 500km on a full tank and a refuelling time of about three minutes - roughly the same as for a petrol or diesel vehicle.

The difference being that you can drink what comes out of the FCV's tailpipe - it's pure water vapour.

FLOWING PROFILE

The concept, a little bigger than your average compact sedan, is 4870mm long on a 2780mm wheelbase, 1810mm wide and 1535mm high. Its styling represents how a fuel-cell car works, with bold air intakes emphasising the instant acceleration provided by its electric motor, while the transformation of air (hydrogen and oxygen) into pure water is expressed by the flowing profile of the doors, a wave motif on the filler cap and a rear treatment that Toyota would have us believe was inspired by the stern of a catamaran.

HIGH PRESSURE

Hydrogen is carried in a pair of high-pressure (70mPa) hydrogen tanks under the body, while the aforementioned transformation happens in a compact, lightweight fuel-cell stack that was developed in-house to achieve a power output density of 3kW per litre - more than twice that of the previous FCHV-adv concept - and deliver a maximum output of "at least 100kW".

By using a high-efficiency boost converter to increase the voltage, Toyota has been able to make the motor smaller and reduce the number of fuel cells in the stack, increasing performance making the system lighter, more compact and cheaper.

Driving aside, Toyota claims that an FCV with two full tanks could provide enough electricity - 10kW/h - to power an average Japanese family home for a week.