Toyota Mirai Struggles to Get Started on the East Coast

Due to a weak network of fueling stations, hydrogen fuel cell cars might not be ready, yet.

David Dewhurst Photography/Toyota

The Mirai (the Japanese word for “future”) is Toyota’s first shot at a commercially available hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota and the Japanese government are betting a lot on hydrogen with some lofty goals for the fuel source like having 200,000 hydrogen fuel cell cars on Japanese roads by 2025.

Unfortunately, the Toyota Mirai is already seeing some difficulty in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. Since this and the Honda Clarity are the first commercially available cars of their kind, the infrastructure for hydrogen fuelling stations is in its infancy. They’ve been seeing hang-ups in opening fuel stations in California, the only place in the US where the car is currently available. The original plan in California was to have 44 fueling stations open by the end of 2015. Right now, there are only 28.

The story is similar in the East Coast where a hydrogen fuel cell network is supposed to be underway, but there are currently no such fuelling stations open in that region. The original plan by Toyota partner Air Liquide SA was to have 12 stations ready to go on the East Coast by the end of this summer, but now the goal is to have three or four by the end of 2017.

So, why don’t they just open more stations? The trouble is in trying to please a lot of people and jumping through a lot of hoops. Station developers, city planners, utility companies, and local and state governments all need to be onboard for these fueling stations to be built. State and local government support is no problem in California, but the East coast is a different story. Priorities are different and there are multiple states to deal with rather than just California, which is one state that’s practically its own region of the country.

So far, Toyota has only sold 708 Mirai sedans in the U.S. in the first half of 2017. That’s about one tenth of the Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) sold in the same time frame. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a bold undertaking and they still could very well be the future, but they just might not be ready yet.