Toyota’s chairman predicted hydrogen would take over from gasoline as the primary fuel as it announced that it will begin selling hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars in Japan on 15 December, 2014, and in the US and Europe in mid-2015.

The Toyota Mirai, which means Future in Japanese, has the cruising range of a conventional saloon, can be refuelled in less than five minutes and emits only water vapour.

The Mirai uses the Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS), which brings together fuel cell and hybrid technologies. It includes Toyota’s new proprietary fuel cell stack, which has a maximum power output of 153bhp (114kW), and high-pressure hydrogen tanks. It says TFCS is more energy efficient than internal combustion engines and emits no CO2 or pollutants when the vehicle is driven.

To support Mirai’s introduction to the US in 2016, Toyota is to supply 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Last month the Department for Transport in the UK announced it is preparing the UK for the roll-out of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles with up to £11m of funding to establish an initial network of up to 15 hydrogen refuelling stations by the end of 2015 and 65 refuelling stations soon after.

Toyota are also part of the HYFive projectwhich sees ITM Power building three refuelling stations in London ready for refuelling in the second quarter of 2015. The aim of the HyFive (Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles) project is to speed up the introduction hydrogen-powered cars in Europe.

The group is a partnership of 15 vehicle manufacturing and energy providing businesses which are joining forces to help ensure a co-ordinated deployment of fuel cell vehicles, in conjunction with establishment of the refuelling and fuel supply infrastructure they will require.

Toyota, BMW, Daimler, Honda and Hyundai will be responsible for delivering a fleet of 110 vehicles to six European cities: Bolzano, Copenhagen, Innsbruck, London, Munich and Stuttgart.

At the launch, Mitsuhisa Kato, executive vice president, Toyota Motor Cooperation, said: “Toyota does not intend to enter directly into hydrogen station on its own, but if there are any areas in which to cooperate in terms of operating such infrastructure we are willing to extend any cooperation we can.”

“We would welcome good public discussion as to the best way of manufacturing hydrogen. We would welcome that very much given the depreciation of the Japanese Yen, it has caused oil to become very expensive.

“Energy policy is forcing us to look at alternative primary energy sources to produce hydrogen. So to trigger that discussion to take place more broadly we are making our own proposal, by introducing fuel cell vehicles to the market.

“We have to spend money outside Japan to buy in oil and energy which means we need to use it as efficiently as possible. We need to consider other fuels for automotive use. When we look at producing hydrogen from various primary energy sources we must be ready to embrace fuel cell vehicles.”

Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota, commented: “We are so focused on hydrogen because at its most simplistic oxygen and hydrogen makes water and power. The fuel cell vehicle is a social and economic gamechanger.

“Gasoline (petrol) has been the primary fuel of the first hundred years. Hydrogen will be the primary fuel game of the next hundred years. Our primary task is to provide our customers with fuel-cell cars at an affordable price.”

Akio Toyoda’s, CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “Today we are at a turning point in automotive history. A turning point where people will embrace a new, environmentally-friendly car that is a pleasure to drive. A turning point where a four-door sedan can travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, can be refueled in under five minutes and emit only water vapour.

“We believe that behind the wheel of the Mirai, we can go places we have never been, to a world that is better, in a car that is better. For us, this isn’t just another car. This is an opportunity – an opportunity to really make a difference. And making a difference is what Toyota is all about.”