The 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car is entering the U.S. market.
David Dewhurst Photography/Toyota
By Kirsten Korosec
July 14, 2015

If you’ve always wanted a hydrogen car, your chance is almost here—that is, if you live in California and close to one of the 10 public hydrogen fuel stations in the state.

Toyota announced Tuesday it will begin taking orders for its hydrogen fuel cell-powered car on July 20. The cars, which have an official range of 312 miles on a single fill of hydrogen, are expected to begin delivery in October.

Toyota’s marketing video says “we’re looking for the bold and the few.” And that’s an accurate assessment of its potential customer base. Even Toyota is putting limits on who gets to place an order for the Mirai, which starts at $57,500.

Customers who plan on garaging their vehicle outside of California are not eligible for a Toyota Mirai, the company says. For those who live in California, Toyota will use an application and phone interview to confirm eligibility based on proximity to fueling stations and various Mirai fit and driving preference questions. Both eligibility and vehicle availability will be used to determine when a customer receives an opportunity to place an order, according to Toyota.

The EPA-estimated 67 miles per gallon equivalent pushes the range of the Toyota Mirai past every other zero-emissions car on the market, including the all-electric Tesla Model S P85 D. Even with this high range, the Toyota Mirai faces a potentially crippling infrastructure challenge. There are only 12 public hydrogen fuel stations in the United States, according to the Department of Energy. Ten of those are located in California, making it the only feasible market for hydrogen cars.

Toyota does have plans to build out a 46 hydrogen stations in California, according to the company’s website. The company has not publicly set its sights beyond the state border, making long-distance travel impossible for now.

In a bid to coax Californians to buy the Mirai, the company is providing customers three years—or up to $15,000 worth—of free fuel. Customers also receive three years of 24-hour customer call support and an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The perks may not be enough to attract buyers looking for a zero emissions car. Electric vehicles, the hydrogen car’s primary competition, enjoys a far more extensive charging infrastructure in California and the rest of the U.S.

The U.S. led all countries based on volumes of new plug-in electric and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles registered during the first quarter, with nearly 15,000 registrations according to last week’s IHS Automotive Plug-in Electric Vehicle Index. Market share for EVs and PHEVs in the U.S. does remain low compared to gas-powered vehicles. These vehicles account for just 0.8% of the market during the quarter, according to IHS. Based on volume, the most popular EV/PHEV in the U.S. is the Tesla Model S.

For now, Toyota seems to understand the challenges and has set a low sales bar for itself. The company says it expects to sell 3,000 units of the Mirai by the end of 2017.

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