Toyota’s Sora Electric Bus Concept Explores Future of Fuel Cell Technology


the presentation of the ‘sora’ fuel cell bus previews toyota’s plans to produce a model based on this concept. the japaense-automaker expects to introduce more than 100 electric ‘sora’, mainly in the tokyo metropolitan area, ahead of the tokyo 2020 olympic and paralympic games.

all images © toyota

development of the concept was guided by two ideas: to make best use of the characteristics of the fuel cell unit and to enhance the comfort of passengers. toyota’s aim is to create a bus that works for the world and for people, is kind to the environment and can contribute to communities beyond its role as a means of transport. it uses the a fuel cell system that delivers superior environmental performance, emitting no carbon dioxide or ‘substances of concern’ when operating. it is also equipped with a high-capacity external power supply system, with maximum output of 9 kW and electricity supply of 235 kWh. this allows the ‘sora’ to serve as an emergency power source, such as helping to provide relief and support in natural disasters.

because the bus is designed to be used by large and varying numbers of passengers at any given time, toyota paid close attention to convenience, safety and peace of mind. the aim was to give all occupants a pleasant experience and encourage regular bus use. therefore the interior is fitted with horizontally arranged seats with an automatic storage mechanism to provide space for pushchairs, wheelchairs or extra seating, as required. eight high-definition cameras inside and outside the vehicle provide peripheral monitoring, detecting pedestrians and cyclists in the area around the vehicle and warning the driver with sound and image alerts.

a control function suppresses sudden acceleration, so the bus pulls gently away from standstill, taking the safety of standing passengers into account. with no gearshifts required, there is no uncomfortable lurching effect. automatic arrival control detects a guideline on the road surface and uses automatic steering and deceleration to bring the bus to a halt with three to six centimetres clearance from the stop, and within a 10 centimetre range ahead of or behind the stop. this makes boarding or alighting from the bus easier for passengers using wheelchairs or with pushchairs.

bus transportation capability, speed, punctuality and convenience are boosted by vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. this is designed to support safe driving, together with systems that support bus convoys and priority at traffic signals. the ‘sora’s’ design has a stereoscopic shape that is significantly different from the hexahedron – box shape – of conventional buses. this and the use of LEDs for the front and rear lights make it instantly recognizable.