Toyota’s hydrogen-powered car, the Mirai, launching next month

Toyota has announced it is set to enter the hydrogen-powered automobile market with a launch scheduled before the end of the year.

The firm’s new fuel-cell sedan, the Mirai, is set for release in Japan on 15 December, with US and European launches due in the second and third quarters of next year.

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The vehicle will be priced at $57,500 in the US and €66,000 (£52,000) in Europe.

Toyota’s decision to stick with hydrogen cell technology while rival companies invest in other eco-friendly innovations, demonstrates the uncertainty at the heart of the automobile industry. Tesla and Nissan, for example, have opted to develop battery-powered electric cars.

The Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity and should take just three minutes to charge. It is claimed that a full tank will provide up to 500km of travel.

Toyota’s executive vice president, Mitsuhisa Kato, believes that the new vehicle is the company’s most forward-thinking car yet.

“The innovation in Mirai will be greater than our Prius (hybrid),” he said. “This is the start of a long, long path ahead.”

Industry experts, however, have indicated that the mainstream adoption of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will continue to be hindered by high costs and a lack of refuelling stations.

Consultancy firm IHS Automotive estimates that FCVs will account for just one per cent of the worldwide automobile market by 2022, and Toyota has taken this into account with its sales estimates for the Mirai.

The Japanese firm hopes to sell just 700 units globally in 2015, increasingly that figure to more than 3,000 by the end of 2017.

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Toyota’s decision to launch the Mirai suggests the firm is now on more stable ground after restructuring its manufacturing processes following financial difficulties.