In Japanese, Mirai means “the future.”
And, in California, it means the long-anticipated arrival of a mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that will roll into eight Toyota dealerships this fall, including one in the Sacramento area.
Roseville Toyota will be among a select group of California auto dealerships to receive the automaker’s groundbreaking vehicle, touted for its zero carbon emissions. The vehicle, using a mix of hydrogen and oxygen, emits only water vapor, according to Toyota.
The Roseville dealership, part of longtime local dealer John L. Sullivan’s automotive group, will take delivery of the Toyota Mirai in October, officials of Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. said Wednesday.
“It’s definitely the way the technology is taking us,” said David Rodgers, senior vice president and general manager of Roseville Toyota.
“(Toyota) is telling us this is the new Prius,” one of California’s top-selling cars in recent years. “We think they have a winner on their hands. It will take a little while to get the word out and get the infrastructure in place, but we’re very excited.”
California is the first state to get the Mirai, Toyota said, partly because the state already has hydrogen fuel stations in place or in development. A rollout in some Northeast states is planned for 2016.
Based on 20 years of research and development, the Mirai “represents a turning point in automotive history,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations in Toyota’s Torrance office.
The other Northern California dealerships that will sell the Toyota Mirai are in Sunnyvale, San Jose and San Francisco. Four dealerships in Southern California also will get first dibs on the vehicle.
Toyota officials said the dealerships were selected “based on advanced technology vehicle sales experience and proximity to hydrogen infrastructure.”
The zero-carbon emission Mirai is a four-door, midsize sedan. The vehicle combines hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity that powers the onboard electric motor. Toyota says its acceleration and performance are similar to vehicles with a traditional internal combustion engine. The car can be refueled in about five minutes and travel up to 300 miles on a full tank, Toyota said.
Golden State consumers will be able to place requests for the limited-production Mirai starting this summer at www.toyota.com/mirai. All Mirais will be sold and delivered through authorized Mirai dealers.
Toyota said it expects to produce 3,000 vehicles through 2017. The car starts at $57,500, or can be leased for 36 months at $499 a month, with $3,649 due at signing.
The biggest obstacle in the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been a lack of fueling stations. However, California has taken recent steps to bolster its hydrogen infrastructure amid Gov. Jerry Brown’s oft-stated goal to get more environmentally friendly vehicles on state roadways.
In late 2013, Brown signed Assembly Bill 8, extending until Jan. 1, 2024, existing fees on motor vehicles, boat registrations and new tires. The fees will fund programs to accelerate the turnover of older vehicles and development of advanced, environmentally friendly technologies. Officials at the West Sacramento-based California Fuel Cell Partnership hailed the measure as a landmark act in providing funds for at least 100 hydrogen stations strategically placed along major state roadways.
Last May, the California Energy Commission announced that it would invest $46.6 million to accelerate the development of public hydrogen fueling stations statewide to promote a consumer market for zero-emission fuel cell vehicles. That plan called for 13 new fueling sites in Northern California and 15 in Southern California, all strategically located along major corridors and in regional centers.
In the Sacramento region, at least one public hydrogen-refueling station is in West Sacramento at 1515 South River Road. A complete list of public stations is on the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s website, www.cafcp.org.
Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.