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Toyota Mirai hydrogen car hits Australia

Toyota's first mass produced hydrogen car has arrived in Australia, but don't rush to showrooms for a test drive just yet.

Forget hybrids and electric vehicles, is THIS the car of the future?

Toyota's first mass-produced hydrogen car has landed in Australia.

It can travel 550km between refills -- and be refuelled in the same time as a petrol car, about three minutes -- and yet it emits only water vapour from the tailpipe.

There is just one catch: Toyota's hydrogen car is not on sale in Australia because there is only one refueling point -- owned by Korean rival Hyundai in Sydney's Macquarie Park -- even though it's about to arrive in showrooms in the US, Japan and Europe priced about $60,000.

Although it's not the most attractive car to grace our roads, it's called the Mirai -- Japanese for "future" -- and Toyota believes it's the next big thing after hybrid vehicles, of which there are now more than 8 million on the road globally.

While several brands have experimented with hydrogen cars before -- including Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz -- the Mirai has at least one unique feature.

It has a James Bond-style button that will dump water on the road behind you. But it's not designed to help you outrun villains, the purge button has been installed so the tailpipe doesn't leave a puddle when the Mirai is parked in your garage.

The Mirai is in Australia for a global conference on hydrogen cars in Sydney from October 12 to 14.

It will be joined by the Hyundai ix35 family SUV powered by hydrogen which has been testing on Australian roads since June 2014.

A brief ride-along in the Mirai (Toyota is preserving the tank of hydrogen for its one-month visit) shows that it drives like a normal car, except for the slight hum of the electric motor.

There is no short term plan for the vehicle to go on sale in Australia

News Corp Australia drove Hyundai's hydrogen car for 900km across Germany last year to prove you could cover the equivalent distance from Melbourne to Sydney without using a drop of petrol.

Hydrogen cars use a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity, which in turn is used to run the electric motor which drives the front wheels.

It can do the industry-standard 0 to 100km/h dash in 9.6 seconds, about the same speed as a regular Toyota Corolla.

"There is no short term plan for the vehicle to go on sale in Australia … our intention is to show what could be the future and give you a sense of where Toyota is headed," says Toyota Australia's director of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb.

"The great thing about this vehicle is that it gives you the convenience of a conventional petrol engine, in terms of distance travelled between refills and the short time it takes to refill."

Toyota says it is prepared to work with rival car makers to give energy providers the boost they need to start building hydrogen refuelling points.

"Clearly infrastructure is the key … at this point in time there is no infrastructure in Australia," says Cramb.

"It's going to take more than one manufacturer to get involved … so it's terrific to have Hyundai and anyone else working on hydrogen vehicles."

It's part of the mobility puzzle that all the manufacturers are trying to put together

Toyota says Australia's vast coastline and inland deserts make us well placed to use solar, wind or wave power to generate electricity to create hydrogen.

"That's why this technology should be of interest to Australia, if we could generate hydrogen using solar, wind or wave power we could become more self sustainable," says Cramb.

But even Toyota believes hydrogen cars are not the only answer to future mobility.

"We don't see this as the sole solution, it's part of the mobility puzzle that all the manufacturers are trying to put together," says Cramb.

Toyota says it is still committed to petrol-electric hybrid technology but sees hydrogen as the next step.

Introduced in 1997 it took 11 years for Toyota to reach 1 million hybrid sales, and 2012 was the first time Toyota sold 1 million hybrids in a calendar year. There are now more than 8 million on the road.