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Toyota to start producing fuel cell vehicles in December

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Yuya Shino/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A hydrogen nozzle is plugged into a Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle during the Toyota Advanced Technologies media briefing in Tokyo on October 10, 2013. Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will go into production ahead of schedule in December instead of later in 2015.

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Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will go into production ahead of schedule, with production planned for mid-December 2014.

Sales will also begin "by the end of the year" reports Japan Times (via Autoblog), ahead of Toyota's original on-sale date some time in 2015.

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No reason has been given for bringing the car forward, but it's safe to assume Toyota's development and testing is going smoothly so far – unusual in the alternative fuel vehicle market.

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Toyota first revealed its fuel-cell vehicle as the FCV-R concept in 2012. The concept was subsequently updated in 2013, and the car was revealed in testing camouflage earlier on this year.

During that time, the car's specifications have changed according to technology constraints.

Toyota confirmed with its last update that the production vehicle will use technology derived from its familiar Hybrid Synergy Drive setup – using a combination of hydrogen tanks and a regular battery pack to supply the car's power.

Performance should be similar to that of the automaker's Prius hybrids, with a 90 kW (120 horsepower) output and estimated 0-60 mph sprint of ten seconds.

Unlike full battery-electric vehicles, refueling shouldn't take much longer than it would with a regular gasoline or diesel vehicle – around three to five minutes. Toyota's prototype has delivered a range of 300 miles on a full tank of hydrogen.

Pricing should be more or less as expected. Toyota quotes a figure of around 8 million Yen, or just under $80,000 at current exchange rates.

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That puts it among the higher end of electric vehicles on sale today in the US, and sales are likely to be small as a result.

However, if Toyota's project goes to plan, it hopes to lower the car's price to 3 to 5 million Yen by 2020, as sales and production capacity allow.