Toyota Motor Corp., off to a slow start selling its car of the future on one U.S. coast, is struggling even to get started on the other.
Hangups getting enough hydrogen fueling stations opened in California have undercut early sales of Toyota's fuel cell vehicle called Mirai, the Japanese word for "future." But states on the East Coast, including New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, are still waiting for their first stations to open at all. The automaker and partner Air Liquide SA had hoped to have a dozen ready on the East Coast this summer. Now, they're aiming for just three or four to be finished by year end.
The timeline "changes all the time," said Bob Oesterreich, director of the U.S. hydrogen-energy business at Air Liquide, which Toyota recruited to help build the stations that need to be in place before it can start selling Mirai. "We're dealing with government officials and planning boards and everyone's got their own priorities, and sometimes hydrogen refueling stations aren't at the top of their list."
The delays getting hydrogen stations opened are troubling for Toyota's wager on fuel cell vehicles over battery-electric cars. While sales of all zero-emission autos are still in their infancy, Tesla Inc., General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. are making much faster headway getting plug-ins into consumers' garages. Public charging points to replenish their batteries also have taken off far more quickly.