TOKYO -- Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor plans to commercialize a hydrogen-powered fuel cell motorcycle, with plans to start testing it on public roads next year.
Japan's transport ministry is expected to write safety and environmental standards for fuel cell bikes as early as January; they would be the world's first such regulations. Once approved, Suzuki will begin test-driving the cycle on public roads.
Fuel cells are considered a trump card for automakers trying to make vehicles that don't belch exhaust. The Mirai fuel cell vehicle, developed by Japan's Toyota Motor, is the latest example of the zero-emission technology. Suzuki hopes to turn its fuel cell two-wheeler into one of its major products.
It already has a joint venture with Intelligent Energy Holdings, a U.K. venture company, that will produce a Burgman fuel cell scooter. The high-pressure hydrogen tank is small enough for a motorcycle. The first Burgman scooter will be based on Suzuki's existing 120cc model.
Suzuki also intends to develop compact four-wheel vehicles that run on hydrogen.
While Toyota's Mirai has already hit roads around the world, safety and other standards have yet to catch up. The Japanese transport ministry will set terms for safety concerns specific to fuel cell motorcycles, such as requiring makers to design the bikes so that their hydrogen tanks are protected, even in accidents. Suzuki plans to commercialize its motorcycle once it receives ministry approval.