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Toyota’s first fuel cell vehicle will go on sale next month

The highly anticipated Toyota Mirai, the leading car manufacturer’s first fuel cell vehicle, will go on sale in Japan on December 15. Consumers based in the U.S. and Europe will have to wait until mid-2015 to get their hands on the innovative car. Priced at $57,600 before taxes, the Toyota Mirai will soon directly compete with mid-range luxury vehicles worldwide.

The company’s sales target is 400 in Japan and 300 for other countries around the globe in its first year. Emissions-free and hydrogen-power are the highlights of the four-door vehicle. For now, Toyota is pioneering the fuel cell trend.

When asked about the company’s strategy, Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota executive vice president said, “In time, the fuel cell vehicle will become mainstream. We wanted to take the first step. We want to be at the leading edge.”

Other top car manufacturers such as Honda and Hyundai are expected to follow suit and have already began experimenting with new fuel cell technology. Honda held a conference earlier this week for press coverage on its fuel cell concept car.

Apart from its costly price tag, another reason consumers would want to hold off on purchasing a Toyota Mirai is due to lack of fuel. Less than a hundred hydrogen-fueling stations can be found worldwide. The company is currently working with governments in major cities to construct fueling stations, as the fuel cell market gains momentum.

Analysts speculate that it would take around 10-20 years for Toyota to reach sales in the tens of thousands range. The company is no stranger to risk, as they faced similar challenges during the launch of the Prius, which can now be found around the world.

Yoshikazu Tanaka, Toyota deputy chief engineer, said, “It was a big challenge when we first introduced the Prius, or hybrid car, in 1997. And it’s an even bigger challenge this time because there is no infrastructure, and we’re trying to lead the commercialization of fuel cell cars.”

The car company remains very optimistic in its selling strategy, as it rolls out the Toyota Mirai in urban areas where fueling stations are present. There are currently 200 pre-orders for the vehicle.