At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, Toyota launched a zero-emission, hydrogen-powered electric sedan that it plans to bring to market in 2015.
That's an aggressive deadline for a technology whose presence in the current market is barely detectable on American roads right now.
It's doubly hard to get people interested in a type of car that can only be refueled at one of 10 stations in the entire state of California.
And California is supposedly leading the way when it comes to hydrogen cars.
So how does Toyota expect to sell a car customers will have difficulty filling up? By supporting efforts to build a whole network of stations.
Toyota is part of the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CFCP), an organization whose members include automakers, energy companies, universities, and the California Energy Commission. The CFCP crunched the data to create a map with 68 existing, in development, and recommended hydrogen stations, based on where they will best serve potential drivers.
California has set aside $200 million to get the stations built. And once they're up and running, Toyota believes the fuel cell car sales will take off.
"It's really about putting the right type of coordinated network in the right locations," Matt McClory, a manager with Toyota's fuel cell vehicle group, said in an interview with Business Insider. Those 68 stations will be capable of supporting 10,000 vehicles.
That will be enough, McClory said, to cross the "valley of death." That's Toyota's way of saying that public funding is needed to jump start the hydrogen infrastructure and get it to the point where it's a safe enough bet to lure in private investors.
The 68 all-important stations are mostly clustered in the Bay Area and around Los Angeles, with a few to cover the distance between them, plus a smattering of "destination sites."
Here's the big map from CFCP:
With a focus on the Bay Area:
And Los Angeles:
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