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Toyota Kluger fuel-cell sprung testing in Australia

By Barry Park, 21 Feb 2017 Car News

Toyota Kluger fuel-cell sprung testing in Australia

This test mule of a hydrogen-powered, US market Toyota Highlander is a long, long way from home.

TOYOTA has been caught testing a big-nosed, fuel cell-powered version of its Kluger seven-seat SUV in Australia.

Wheels reader Glenn Milne snapped this unusual-looking left-hand-drive version of the Kluger – sold in the US as the Toyota Highlander – in Mildura, where it appears the Japanese car maker’s engineers have chased the hot weather.

Adding weight to the idea that this is a hydrogen-powered electric vehicle is the plainly visible reinforcement to the chassis – fuel cells weigh much more than conventional internal combustion drivetrains – and the lack of an exhaust pipe poking out the rear.

2017 Toyota HighlanderToyota has a specialist fuel cell development program based in the US that has spawned a fuel cell-powered version of the last-generation Highlander/Toyota Kluger.

It has also become the first manufacturer to mass-produce a fuel cell vehicle, the futuristic-looking Mirai sedan. The carmaker has imported three of the vehicles – and more importantly for our H-fuelled Highlander, a portable refuelling station – in a bid to gain government support for hydrogen as a transport fuel.

The rough-looking development mule suggests Toyota is keen to soon add an alternatively fuelled version of the Highlander to its US showrooms; a key part of its plans to have a hybrid or alternatively powered version of every model in its showroom by 2020.

Adding weight to the H-Kluger’s importance, Toyota announced this week that it is close to striking a deal with fuel retailer Shell to roll out seven hydrogen refuelling stations in California. The US state is even tipping $US16 million ($A21 million) into the project to help get it off the ground.

2017 Toyota Highlander rear

Toyota Australia has said it needs government support here to start rolling out hydrogen refuelling stations – a move that would potentially boost sales of the petrol V6-only Kluger.

Kluger’s sales in Australia are limited by the fact that Toyota doesn’t sell a diesel-engined version of the large SUV in a corner of the market where acceptance of more fuel-efficient oil-burners among buyers is high.

The Toyota New Generation Architecture that underpins the Mirai, and the soon-to-launch Toyota H-CR compact SUV, allows for a fuel cell to be built into future Toyota- and Lexus-badged cars.

Have any spy pics of your own? Fire them into wheels@wheelsmag.com.au.