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Tokyo show: Lexus committed to fuel-cell flagship

It’s a gas: Lexus gargantuan flagship concept, the LF-FC, is set to make it into production, and with a fuel-cell powertrain, at least in one variant.

Lexus LS replacement to take luxury brand into hydrogen future

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Lexus logo29 Oct 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in TOKYO

THE new Lexus flagship revealed in LF-FC concept form at the Tokyo motor show yesterday will indeed be built with a hydrogen fuel-cell all-wheel-drive powertrain, and sooner than most people think.

However, the real sales volume will come from regular petrol and petrol-electric hybrid powertrain variants, due to the worldwide shortage of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

At 5300mm long and 2000mm wide, the massive limousine is set to replace the current LS flagship, although no one that GoAuto spoke to yesterday on the Lexus stand at the Tokyo show referred to it as LS.

When we suggested to one insider that a fuel-cell version might take five years to bring to production, the response was: “No, it will be earlier than that.”

The enthusiasm for the new model was palpable at Lexus Australia, where chief executive Sean Hanley said the car “suddenly brings the future a lot closer”.

He said that the “bold, confident new look” was the latest step in Lexus’ maturing design language.

And while he declined to comment on whether the car would go into production, he said: “Lexus’ ability to bring a concept to reality is well understood.”

If the LF-FC is true to Lexus form, the production version will appear about a year from now, perhaps with an early 2017 showroom date.

At that point, it will take the fight up to its German rivals, perhaps with more spirit than ever in the 25 years of the LS.

Mr Hanley said Lexus was committed to fuel cells as a solution to carbon-free motoring, but agreed that the lack of infrastructure would restrain sales of FCVs in the medium term.

“We understand we have a role to play in bringing that infrastructure to Australia,” he said.

Mr Hanley promised that Lexus would play a “leading role” in developing the hydrogen supply chain and refuelling stations, but would stop short of owning such infrastructure.

“To do it, we will have to join together with suppliers and other car companies … whatever it takes,” he said.

Mr Hanley said that while Lexus and its Toyota parent company had led the way in hybrid technology, that did not mean that it would not explore other solutions to carbon reduction.

“We never pretended to say that hybrid was the end game,” he said.

But he was not ruling out a hybrid version of the new flagship, either.

Mr Hanley said the interior of the LF-FC owes plenty to the LF-A supercar, with loads of ambience and top-level features.

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