Last week, Toyota announced that it has begun selling “Sora” – the first fuel cell bus to receive vehicle type certification in Japan. Sora is an acronym for Sky, Ocean, River, Air, representing the earth’s water cycle. The development of the unique bus is part of Toyota’s “Start Your Impossible” campaign to transform the company from an automobile company to a full-fledged mobility service company.
“Toyota aims to create a bus that works for and supports society, so the Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS) has been leveraged in the Sora for its environmental friendliness and ability to serve as a power source in the event of a disaster,” the company wrote. “The Sora features human-centric universal design and functions, reflecting Toyota’s desire that when riding the Sora, mobility no longer presents an impediment to customers challenging the impossible, which helps enable them to achieve their dreams.”
In addition to fuel cell technology, horizontal seats with automatic storage and peripheral monitoring hardware, the Sora also features some composite material innovation. In November 2017, Toho Tenax revealed it developed a lightweight roof cover, made with a combination of CFRP, aluminum and other engineered plastics, for the bus. The company believes the roof cover has an aesthetically appealing surface and can be manufactured in one large piece with complex shapes.
“In the face of tightening environmental regulations worldwide, the automotive industry is developing lightweight vehicle bodies that achieve enhanced fuel efficiency while maintaining road stability,” the company wrote last year. “Since the bus carries high-pressure hydrogen gas tanks in its upper structure, lightweight body components in the top part of the vehicle are crucial.”
Toho Tenax collaborated with GH Craft Ltd., the Teijin Group’s composite structure design, development and evaluation unit, to develop the multi-material roof by leveraging Toho Tenax’s high-performance carbon fiber and mass-production know-how and GH Craft’s molding technology.
Toyota expects to introduce over 100 of the buses, mainly within the Tokyo metropolitan area, ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. As the number of fuel cell buses in operation within the metropolitan area increases, Toyota anticipates greater awareness of the vehicle among the general public.