LOS ANGELES - Toyota Motor Corp. will supply temporary hydrogen stations to California dealerships selling its Mirai fuel-cell sedan as some buyers put off taking delivery of their cars until refueling infrastructure is set up.
Mobile hydrogen trailers from Air Products & Chemicals Inc. will serve as a stopgap until the state opens more stations, Doug Coleman, a Toyota marketing manager for fuel cell vehicles, said in an interview.
The collaboration with Air Products builds on Toyota’s efforts to support California’s nascent hydrogen fueling infrastructure, after it provided funding for closely-held startup FirstElement Fuel last year. Only four stations were open for retail use as of last month in the state, the lone place in the U.S. where Toyota sells the car that emits only water.
“Did we expect more stations to be available by the end of 2015? Absolutely,” Coleman said by phone. “We felt like this was a sensible interim step to help supply hydrogen fuel to Mirai customers that are out there on the roads right now.”
Toyota, which started a wait list for Mirai buyers in California in October, will sell about 1,000 Mirai sedans for the 2016 model year and demand for the car is meeting the company’s expectations, Coleman said. Forty-three hydrogen stations are being built or getting permits, according to the California Fuel Cell Partnership. Another six are open only for demonstration purposes and need to be upgraded for full retail capabilities.
“There are a number of customers who’ve said ‘you know, I’m going to hang on; I don’t need the car right away; I’m waiting for my station to be built and fully operational before I take the car,’ ” Coleman said. “That’s totally fine with us.”
Air Products’ mobile fueling trailers operate using battery and solar power. They’re only capable of providing half-fills of Mirai tanks, giving drivers about 150 miles of range. With capacity for about 85 kg, they can supply hydrogen to about three dozen cars.
Dealers will keep the stations on their premises or nearby for as long as it takes for infrastructure to catch up, Coleman said.
California is not alone in falling behind schedule with hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Japan missed its target to have about 100 stations operating by March, with only 81 opening as of October. Regulatory hang-ups also are delaying orders for compact fueling stations developed by Honda Motor Co. and hydrogen producer Iwatani Corp.
Buying fuel-cell cars can also take a while — Japan consumers placing new Mirai orders now may have to wait until 2019 or later for delivery.
“Customers are pretty excited. Some are more patiently waiting than others,” said April Conner, the Mirai specialist at Tustin Toyota, one of eight dealerships selling the car in California. “We haven’t had a customer say after they drove the car that they didn’t like it. Everybody loved the car.”