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Toyota, Bjarke Ingels Team Up On 175-Acre 'Woven City' Development Plan

Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled plans to build a 175-acre development that will be mostly powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Dubbed the Woven City, groundbreaking on its first phase will be in 2021, but no completion date has been released.

Woven City

The small city, which will be at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, will be home to researchers who will test such technologies as robotics, smart homes and various kinds of artificial intelligence, and how they interact with each other in an urban setting.

As an energy source, hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity when atmospheric oxygen combines with compressed hydrogen gas. Since the system only produces water and heat as byproducts, carbon output is nil from the system itself, though most hydrogen is still produced as a byproduct of natural gas extraction.

The effort to create a sustainable city powered by hydrogen fuel cells dovetails with the carmarker's investment in hydrogen-powered automobiles, CNN reports

In October, the company rolled out a new version of the Mirai, its hydrogen-powered car, which it originally launched in 2014. Only about 10,000 Mirais have been sold since then, and the infrastructure to support hydrogen cars is still limited, CNBC reports.

Japan isn't the only place with hydrogen-power cities under development. In South Korea, three test cities powered by the element are planned, with completion slated for 2022. Germany and China are also mulling hydrogen power for cities, the World Economic Forum reports.

Woven City will be designed to be sustainable. To lower the development's carbon footprint, its buildings will largely be made of wood, using traditional methods of Japanese wood joinery, but also with robotic production methods. Photovoltaic panels on rooftops will generate power to supplement that generated by hydrogen fuel cells. The city will also feature native vegetation and hydroponics.

Toyota says it will extend invitations to commercial and academic partners worldwide, as well as scientists and other researchers, to locate at Woven City, which will be on the site of a former Toyota factory. The company expects that as many as 2,000 people will eventually live there, some temporarily.

The automaker has tapped Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, founder of Bjarke Ingels Group, to design the city. BIG is no stranger to high-profile commissions, which have included 2 World Trade Center in New York City and Lego House in Denmark, as well as Google’s Mountain View and London HQs.

BIG's plans call for three kinds of streets in Woven City: one for faster vehicles (all self-driving), another for a mix of slower vehicles and pedestrians, and a third for pedestrians only. The three kinds of thoroughfares will be woven together, according to BIG, into a grid of three-by-three blocks. Each grid will frame a park or courtyard.

Toyota Motor Corp. CEO Akio Toyoda is personally championing the development, which is about the size of Apple's campus in Cupertino, California, Automotive News reports. Toyoda appeared in early January at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to talk about the project.