Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Car Tops 3,000 California Sales

That shows just how little impact hydrogen cars are having.

Toyota

The Toyota Mirai has racked up over 3,000 sales in California—the only state where it is available—since order books for the hydrogen fuel-cell car first opened in 2015. Toyota noted that the Mirai now accounts for 80 percent of fuel-cell vehicle sales in the United States. But the relatively small number of cars sold shows that fuel-cell vehicles still have a long way to go.

The Mirai wasn't the first fuel-cell car offered for sale to the general public in the U.S. That distinction goes to the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, which went on sale in the U.S. in 2014. But the Mirai was the first to be a distinct model, rather than a fuel-cell version of an existing model. The Mirai also competes against the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, and Hyundai will soon replace the Tucson Fuel Cell with a new model called the Nexo.

But Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda are fighting for pieces of a very small pie. Toyota sold over 100,000 Prius hybrids in 2017 alone, while Nissan sold around 11,000 battery-electric Leafs. Many fuel-cell cars also go to fleet buyers rather than individual customers, and all three automakers currently selling hydrogen cars in the U.S. limit sales to California.

The Golden State is the only state where you can buy a hydrogen fuel-cell car because other states lack sufficient fueling infrastructure. California currently has 31 public hydrogen stations, and Toyota expects 12 more to open this year. The automaker is also working with Air Liquide to build 12 stations between New York and Boston. That effort got off to a slow start, but Toyota expects the first of these East Coast stations to open in Boston later this year.

Despite slow sales and a parallel program to develop battery-electric cars, Toyota sees a bright future for fuel cells. The company believes fuel-cell cars will be as cheap as hybrids by 2025, and that it will be making 10 times as many by then as it does today. Toyota's fuel-cell interests extend beyond cars to buses and commercial trucks.