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Tesla Has Nothing to Fear From Toyota's Fuel Cell Sedan


Toyota announced launch details for its latest alternative energy vehicle.

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This morning, hybrid car leader Toyota (NYSE:TM) announced launch details for its hydrogen fuel cell sedan.

The car will go on sale in Japan before April 2015, and in the US and Europe in the summer of 2014.

The price in Japan will be 7 million yen, or about $69,000 at current exchange rates. The cruising range will be 700 kilometers, or 435 miles, and with a refueling time of just three minutes.

Initial sales are limited to regions with hydrogen refueling stations in place.

The initial media reaction has been to make comparisons with Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S, but I'd be surprised if Tesla took even a tiny hit from Toyota's fuel cell sedan.

Toyota's entry appears to have just two advantages over the Model S -- range and refueling time.

The Model S has a maximum range of 306 miles per charge with the upgraded 85 kWh battery, and 30 minutes at a Supercharger station will give you just 170 miles worth of charge.

So unless the main use of the car will be regular extended driving trips, Tesla's Model S is a superior proposition.

The Model S is vastly better-looking, can be plugged in anywhere (including at home), and has a sheer sexiness factor that the Toyota can't match. Electricity is also much, much cheaper than hydrogen fuel.

The Toyota fuel cell sedan just looks like a wacky version of a standard compact car.

It doesn't look like it's worth $69,000, while the Model S could easily be mistaken for a $100,000+ car:

And don't underestimate the power of the word hydrogen. Some people hear hydrogen and they illogically think bomb.

If this were a snazzy-looking high-performance Lexus and there were a bigger hydrogen refueling infrastructure, Tesla might have to worry.

For now, it doesn't.

On a related note, Harley-Davidson's (NYSE:HOG) Project LiveWire electric motorcycle is getting a pretty decent amount of buzz.

Traditional motorcycle riders miss the classic Harley roar, but this is a smart move for the future.

Harley has a major demographic problem -- its customer base is aging, and the company needs to reach/create new riders. A modern, high-tech, energy-efficient bike could do the trick.

And don't underestimate the potential for a halo effect. The rise of the Prius in the 2000s was a huge boost for Toyota as a whole, and Harley could use LiveWire as a platform to reinvigorate its brand.

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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