Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that fuel-cell cars will remain a niche proposition until at least 2025, when they will account for 0.5 per cent of global sales. IHS Automotive, a research group, predict conventional electric vehicles will be at 1.3 per cent by then.
First released in Japan in December last year, Toyota this month began handing over the Mirai to the early adopters, business leaders and public agencies in Europe that it hopes will spread the word and start building the ecosystem.
To foster the production of rival cars, the company released its fuel-cell patents in January, echoing a similar move by Tesla on electric vehicle patents.
Recent weeks have seen the likes of Porsche and Audi launch luxury challengers to Tesla’s electric cars, and many carmakers are also pushing into hydrogen technology.
“Car manufacturers are betting on red or black,” says Mr Palmer. “Almost everybody has hedged their bets.”
Hyundai’s fuel-cell car, the ix35, started production in 2013. Honda, which has been collaborating with General Motors, plans to release a competitor next year. A Nissan vehicle, jointly developed with Daimler and Ford, is expected in 2017.