Japanese auto giant Honda said Thursday it would roll out a new commercial fuel-cell vehicle in 2015, a day after rival Toyota promised a similar offering as competition in the green car sector heats up.
Honda made the announcement at the Tokyo Motor Show where automakers are showcasing their vision for the eco-friendly car market. However, the sector is yet to see a hot-selling model, with sales well below industry predictions.
Japan's third-largest automaker, Honda said it would launch the new vehicle in Japan and the United States in 2015, and in Europe at a later date.
The new model will be based on Honda's FCEV concept car, which it unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show on Wednesday.
The maker of the Civic and Accord said its fuel-cell car will have a range of more than 300 miles (480 kilometres) with hydrogen tank able to re-charge the vehicle in about three minutes, similar to Toyota's FCV concept car, a four-seater sedan which it plans to sell by 2015.
"Hydrogen energy is very efficient and friendly to the environment," Honda president Takanobu Ito said Thursday.
Fuel-cell vehicles are considered the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapour from the tailpipe and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.
The world's leading automakers have long been eyeing a big-selling green vehicle, including Honda -- which already has a fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, available on a small scale in a limited number of markets.
Ito said Thursday that Honda has teamed up with fuel-cell maker Toshiba and home builder Sekisui House on a system that would let drivers refill their hydrogen tanks at home.
"But we still have a long way to go," Ito told reporters.
"It will take time for us to build the infrastructure."
A lack of re-fuelling stations as well as limited range have hampered sales of green cars, while relatively high prices and restricted model choices have also weighed on demand despite automakers' high hopes.
Nissan Chief Carlos Ghosn has been one of the sector's biggest boosters but sales of the company's Leaf electric vehicle are way below his earlier predictions.
On Wednesday, Ghosn said that while Nissan is working on a fuel-cell vehicle with Daimler and Ford, he was "frankly amazed" at Toyota's bid to roll out a mass-market model in two years.
"It's very easy to have a prototype, but the challenge is mass market," he said.
The 43rd edition of the Tokyo Motor Show runs until December 1, featuring almost 180 exhibitors including parts suppliers from a dozen countries.