Toyota Motor Corp. announced Tuesday it will start selling the world’s first commercial fuel-cell vehicle in Japan on Dec. 15.
The new fuel-cell sedan, named the Mirai, which means future in Japanese, will run ¥7.23 million including consumption tax, but that price will be offset by the government’s ¥2 million rebate for environmentally friendly cars.
“Considering the new beginning of this type of mobility and of Toyota, we couldn’t think of any better name than Mirai,” Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato said at a Tokyo news conference.
He said the Mirai represents two innovations.
“One innovation is that hydrogen cars will contribute to overcoming global warming and energy issues. Another innovation is that hydrogen energy will lead us to become a hydrogen society,” he said.
Often dubbed the “ultimate environmentally friendly vehicles,” FCVs only emit water vapor.
To take advantage of this, the government is planning to increase the use of hydrogen, aiming for Japan to become a so-called hydrogen society.
The spread of FCVs is seen as key to achieving that goal.
The cars carry fuel-cell stacks that use hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity that in turn powers the motor.
The Mirai contains two hydrogen tanks that can be recharged in three minutes at a hydrogen station. It can travel about 650 km on one charge, according to Toyota.
The company aims to sell 400 Mirais on the domestic market in the first year.
Anticipation for FCVs appears high, but they are expected to face a number of challenges.
One major hurdle will be the construction of hydrogen charging stations. Currently, Japan has just two commercial stations, both in Kyushu, according to the industry ministry.
However, there are plans to build another 100, mainly around the four major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka, by the end of fiscal 2015.
But it will be tough to find appropriate spots in busy cities and to get the understanding of locals, as some people are skeptical about the safety of hydrogen.
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