A Toyota spokesperson says that at this stage Toyota had no plans to financially support further refuelling stations, however “we will not rule out future partnerships if a collaborative approach will speed up infrastructure and the uptake of FCEVs. We will continue working with government and industry partners to support the further development of the hydrogen economy.”
Toyota Australia general manager of product planning Rod Ferguson says there is “definitely potential” for Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-cell tech to be used in other applications beyond the Mirai sedan, such as light and heavy-commercial vehicles. “We are launching this type of car now, but the potential exists across a range of heavier vehicles, or light trucks or trains or buses, definitely. It’s technology well suited to back-to-base or quick refuelling.”
Toyota and its truck arm, Hino, are currently developing hydrogen-powered light trucks for Japan and heavy-duty trucks for the US market. Industry leaders, including Hyundai Australia’s Scott Nargar, have predicted that everything that runs on petrol today will be battery-electric-powered in the future, while what is diesel-powered today will one day be hydrogen-powered. So we can envisage a future where passenger cars and SUVs will be battery electric, while pick-ups and rugged off-roaders run on hydrogen. Toyota hasn’t confirmed it, but we could see future HiLuxes and LandCruisers using hydrogen power.
While Sean Hanley is confident the Mirai will be available for wider sale through Toyota’s dealer network within three years, he won’t be drawn on pricing for private buyers. He adds that hydrogen will be one part of Toyota’s eco-car strategy alongside battery-electric and hybrid vehicles.
“When we launched Prius 20 years ago it wasn’t a cheap car. Let’s not hide from the fact that this is not cheap technology. This is expensive technology. But like hybrid, as it evolves, as infrastructure expands, it scales up, prices come down, and it will be more competitive.
“To what level over what timing? Again, we will have to wait and see. But right now we see it as a clean, good alternative future in the electrification space, but not in isolation. There will be other alternatives as well.”
The Mirai powertrain features a 330-cell fuel-cell stack, three compressed-hydrogen tanks, a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor. The fuel-cell stack draws in air that is purified and fed into the fuel stack where the oxygen combines with hydrogen in a chemical reaction to produce electrical energy. The energy is stored in either the battery or the motor and the Mirai’s only emission is water vapour.