CES 2020: Toyota plans hydrogen fuel cell-powered city of the future

Toyota Hydrogen City

Toyota Motor Corp. will build a 175-acre hydrogen fuel cell-powered city of the future at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, populating it with employees and their families, retirees, scientists, and researchers, the automaker said at CES 2020.

Called Woven City, the undertaking will be a fully connected ecosystem. The name Woven City harkens to Toyota’s early 20th-century origin as a manufacturer of automatic looms.

This is the company’s latest move toward advancing hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

Toyota is partnering with Paccar Inc.’s (NASDAQ: PCAR) Kenworth Truck Co. to build 10 Class 8 fuel cell trucks for demonstration use in Southern California. It also plans to use up to 100 hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses to ferry visitors among venues at this summer’s 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Living laboratory

Woven City is envisioned as a “living laboratory” that would be home to residents and researchers testing and developing autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment.

“With people, buildings and vehicles connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected artificial intelligence (AI) technology,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda.

Toyota is inviting commercial and academic partners to work on their own projects in what Toyoda called “this one-of-a-kind, real-world incubator.

“We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all,” Toyoda said.

Danish designer

Toyota has commissioned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who designed 2 World Trade Center in New York and the Lego House in Denmark, to create Woven City.

“With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies, we believe we have a unique opportunity to explore new forms of urbanity that could pave new paths for other cities to explore,” Ingels said.

Streets and buildings

The city master plan includes three designations for street use: faster vehicles only; a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians; and a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. Together, they would weave an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city’s buildings will be made mostly of wood, using traditional Japanese wood joinery combined with robotic production. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.

Native vegetation and hydroponics will be woven throughout the city as part of a sustainability plan.

Residences will be equipped with in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health and take care of basic needs. Transit throughout the city will be aboard fully autonomous, zero-emission vehicles.

Autonomous Toyota e-Palettes will be used for transportation and deliveries, and for changing mobile retail.

Toyota plans to populate Woven City with Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners. The plan is for 2,000 people to start, adding more as the project evolves.