Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell sedan is set to begin sales in California in October and in the first 10 days from July 20-30, Toyota reported 600 intenders stepping up.
“That’s everyone that has gone on to Toyota.com/Mirai and requested a vehicle,” said spokeswoman Jana Hartline to WardsAuto.
This is much less than a reported 2,700 reservations in the first few hours for the Nissn Leaf when it was being launched, and a 50,000-person want-list accumulated over more time for the Chevy Volt, but Toyota has broadcast the Mirai is a niche among niches to start.
Further, the Volt and Leaf were targeting the entire country’s population, all 50 states, not just a micro-market around the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles to start as is the case with the Mirai.
But true enough, 600 is less than a drop in the bucket in a 16.5-million vehicle per year U.S. passenger car market.
As it is, the automaker is actually counting 600 potential customers as solid interest, and it has projected only 3,000 total sales through 2017.
Not helping things in its first wave rollout in Northern and Southern California is these are to be centered around scant refueling stations of questionable reliability.
Some of these are considered demonstration stations and not meant to handle car after car. Toyota correctly touts the FCV can be refueled in 3 minutes, but this is only true when the pump is working, or not needing to repressurize.
WardsAuto, citing Green Car Reports says some local stations need 20 minutes to do just that. And, some in Orange County have been reported to have gone down for days or weeks necessitating Hyundai FCV drivers to park the car as this may be the one station within their orbit.
But Toyota chalks it all up to teething pains.
“The quick answer is this is sort of expected,” said Craig Scott, national manager-Advanced Technologies Group for Toyota to WardsAuto. “The stations that exist today were built many, many, many years ago, using funds that were set up to create demonstration stations. That’s exactly what these are. They were never intended for retail use.”
Scott said this is why Toyota is stepping in to build dozens of reliable pumps intended for mass public usage. It is doing so in collaboratn with First Element Fuels and Air Liquide and these are slated for both Califonia and a Northeast corridor.
“There will be a period of discomfort if you will where the growth of cars exceeds the growth of stations, and then it catches up,” Scott said “It’s just kind of normal business. I don’t think there’s anything shocking here.”
Toyota has not announced availability of the Mirai to the Northeast market, but it has told us its plan are long-range, and it is prepared to take its licks in the court of public opinion.
If EV fans are fond of saying “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Toyota is playing along the same lines although it may be running an ultra marathon.
Price for the Lexus-level Mirai is $57,500. Toyota expects 90 percent however to be leased. The rate is $499 per month for 36 months with $3,649 down, and it includes fuel and a host of benefits.
Meanwhile a large consensus within the EV community is predicting the venture to fizzle in due time. Plug-in cars are gaining range, coming down in price, and the electric grid is nationwide.
But Toyota, as one of the most wealthy carmakers, is determined and its Japanese leadership has spoken of a “Hydrogen Society” and have put their names and personal pride on the line.
On the U.S. side, Toyota is following orders, and so it is full speed ahead to float this endeavor, let the market grow over the years, and in due time, see them take off and carve greater market share.
Not hurting things is government agencies are smiling upon FCVs. Despite allegations it’s junk science, the regulators have not seemed to have gotten the memo.
The EPA’s website is now exclaiming that the FCVs are here, and encouraging consumers to check them out. You can do that starting here.