Originally posted on CleanTechnica
At the Los Angeles Auto Show the Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) made its world debut, promising a future of clean and affordable fuel for all. While that future may be more hype than reality, the Mirai is still an important car for Toyota’s sustainability image, and it recently delivered its first production model to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Indeed, Japan may be the one place where hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may work en masse, as the government is offering huge financial incentives and investments in infrastructure to make FCVs work. The government may even give away a few FCVs just to get the ball rolling, and the investment doesn’t stop there. A total of 13 automakers and energy (mostly oil) companies are working to build a viable hydrogen highway up and down the main island, and along with Toyota Honda has also rolled out a hydrogen car concept that it intends to bring to market next year.
Toyota is well ahead of Honda though, as orders have already exceeded initial demand, and Japan’s prime minister can now count himself as one of just a handful of hydrogen FCV drivers. Outside of Japan though, FCV vehicles are going to be a much harder sell, as many national governments are pulling their support in favor of plug-in cars, which are finally penetrating the new car market in a meaningful way.
If the Toyota Mirai is to survive, never mind thrive, the automaker is going to have to build a large (and costly) fueling network out of its own pockets. It’s also going to have to give away hydrogen fuel for the first few years, at least until it reaches price parity with gasoline…something that’s going to be much harder now that prices are under $2 a gallon in many places. Plug-in car sales, on the other hand, seem unaffected by low gas prices.
All the pomp and circumstance aside, Toyota still has a huge mountain to climb if it wants the Mirai to become more than just a showpiece for politicians.