Back in June, we told you it was likely that Toyota would be using the Mirai nameplate for its first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car. Today, we can confirm that Mirai will be the name the five-seat sedan will be sold as worldwide.
What’s more, while most had initially though California would be the fuel cell sedan’s only market in the U.S., Toyota has announced its intentions to expand Toyota Mirai availability to the U.S. Northeast in 2016.
Made twenty-four hours ahead of Toyota’s official press briefing on the Mirai, the Japanese automaker released an official three-minute video in which Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda proudly proclaims the 2016 Toyota Mirai ready for production. Seated in an all-white chair in front of the camera with a dark blue Toyota Mirai behind him, Toyoda details the ten years and millions of miles of testing that has gone into the development of the car, along with the extensive testing that it has been put through to ensure it is safe for everyday use.
“This is a car that lets you have it all with no compromises,” he says. “As a test driver, I knew this new fuel cell vehicle had to be truly fun to drive – and believe me, it is. It has a low center of gravity, which gives it very dynamic handling.”
Unlike electric cars, which can refuel wherever there’s a household outlet, the 2016 Toyota Mirai requires drivers to refuel at dedicated hydrogen refuelling stations, which is why the Mirai won’t be available nationwide when it goes on sale early next year in the U.S. In fact, at launch, the Toyota Miria will only be available in a few select cities in California, where there’s already a fledgling hydrogen fuel cell refuelling network thanks to California’s drive towards zero emission vehicles and its Air Resources Board ZEV mandate.
Even then however, the number of hydrogen refuelling stations available to early Toyota Mirai owners will be so small that owning and operating a hydrogen fuel cell car will only be practical in and around Los Angeles, with refuelling stations in Long Beach, Torrance, downtown LA , Riverside and Palm Springs. (Despite there being two hydrogen refuelling stations further north in San Francisco and Sacramento), the distance between them and Los Angeles makes these two additional Californian refuelling stations a moot point.)
With so few hydrogen refuelling stations in operation, Toyota has already committed to work with the state of California and the U.S. Department of Energy to help increase the number of hydrogen refuelling stations int he Golden State, and has actually loaned more than $7 million to FirstElement Fuels to specifically support the operation and maintenance of an additional 19 hydrogen fuelling stations in California.
Now it appears Toyota is happy to do the same in the Northeast of the U.S., with the announcement that it is working alongside Air Liquide to develop and supply a network of hydrogen filling stations across New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island to support what it terms a “hydrogen highway for the Northeast corridor.”
Consisting of twelve hydrogen refilling stations across the five states, Toyota says the ‘phased network’ of refuelling stations will allow it to bring the Toyota Mirai to market in the Northeast some time in 2016, expanding hydrogen fuel cell sales outside of California for the first time.
Of course, it’s worth noting that four of these five states — New Jersey being the exception — signed a pact earlier this year to adopt California’s tough ZEV mandate requirements for automakers and bring a total of 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on their roads by 2025. As a consequence of adopting these requirements and mandates, these states now require automakers like Toyota to produce and sell a specific percentage of zero emission vehicles in order to avoid tough penalties and a sales ban.
In other words, Toyota’s move into the Northeast is likely influenced by legislative requirements as much as it is by anything else, which cements the Toyota Mirai firmly in the ‘compliance car’ category for now. For those unfamiliar with that term, ‘compliance car’ refers to vehicles made and sold specifically to meet ZEV requirements.
Of course, we’ll find out more from Toyota on the 2016 Mirai when it receives its official press launch in Tokyo early on Tuesday morning, and we’ll bring you the latest news as we have it.
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