It appears that Toyota's hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles plans encompass more than just passenger cars.

The Japanese automaker plans to begin selling fuel-cell buses in its home country next year, with an eye toward deploying them at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In a press release announcing the buses, Toyota said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government already plans to use two buses on specific routes.

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Toyota plans to ramp up its activities from there.

It hopes to deploy a fleet of 100 fuel-cell busesmostly in the Tokyo areaby the time the Olympics kick off less than four years from now.

While these buses will be sold under the Toyota brand name, they incorporate lessons learned from experiments with fuel-cell commercial vehicles conducted by the carmaker's Hino truck division.

Toyota FC Bus hydrogen fuel-cell bus

Toyota FC Bus hydrogen fuel-cell bus

The first buses will be delivered early next year, with the pace of deliveries increasing in 2018, according to Toyota.

Each bus can carry up to 76 passengers, including 26 seated and 50 standing.

An onboard fuel-cell stack powers a pair of 114-kilowatt (152 horsepower) electric motors, with a nickel-metal hydride battery pack providing supplemental power.

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Toyota also notes that buses can discharge power at a rate of 9 kilowatts, allowing them to be used as an emergency backup power source.

This capability for both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell cars has been emphasized by Japanese manufacturers in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, which led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Toyota Mirai showroom and hydrogen fueling station, Tokyo, Japan, May 2015

Toyota Mirai showroom and hydrogen fueling station, Tokyo, Japan, May 2015

In response to those disasters, the Japanese government has sought out alternatives to nuclear power and expensive imported fossil fuels.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed a "hydrogen society," where fuel-cell are used to power buildings and infrastructure as well as vehicles.

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For its part, Toyota has been very vocal about its preference for fuel cells over batteries to power zero-emission vehicles.

Just as the low-volume Mirai sedan is pitched as a competitor to battery-electric cars, Toyota's fuel-cell buses will potentially compete against the battery-electric buses currently offered by a handful of manufacturers.


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