It’s being billed by Toyota as the next-big thing in the automotive world, a vehicle that could be as influential as the Toyota Prius was when it first launched. Yet when it goes on sale in Japan later this month, the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan will be made by hand in limited-numbers by workers at Toyota’s highly-skilled LFA works in Toyota City, Japan.
Now however, Toyota is readying a ¥20 billion ($165 million) investment to triple domestic production capacity for the Mirai after a jump in corporate and public-sector demand for the vehicle.
As the Nikkei (via GreenCarCongress) reports, the Japanese automaker is planning to increase the number of fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks it makes at its headquarters factory in Aichi Prefecture, adding two new production lines by the end of next year. Unlike final vehicle assembly, these production lines will be automated.
Meanwhile, the facility where the Mirai is built will also receive equipment upgrades to help it increase production, but it still appears final assembly will be done by hand.
Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of orders for the Toyota Miria are from corporate and public-sector fleets rather than private customers, despite the promise of more than $20,000 worth of hydrogen fuel cell incentives from the Japanese government for early adopters.
Yet despite the increased interest from fleets, Toyota is still expecting to produce and sell just 400 hydrogen fuel cell sedans by the end of 2015 in Japan, while European sales volumes are expected to be between 50 and 100 cars per year by the end of 2016. It’s in California — where Toyota has been working with public and private entities to build a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure — that Toyota expects to sell the majority of vehicles.
Even then however, Toyota still expects to have sold around 3,000 fuel cell sedans in the U.S. by the end of 2017, equivalent to 1,000 cars per year, a three-year average of just 19 cars per week.
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