The Los Angeles Auto Show is unofficially considered the green car show in auto circles. Because of that distinction, every year manufacturers showcase their upcoming environmentally friendly vehicles for the world to see. This year Toyota was at the forefront of the latest revolution in fuel efficiency—hydrogen with the 2016 Mirai.
Toyota unveiled the Mirai—which is Japanese for future—to North American media and consumers last week to great fanfare. Mirai is a good-looking sedan that is about the size of a Camry, but that is where the comparisons stop. Mirai’s stark design resembles nothing else from the brand. The lines are clean and bold, making it stand out from other zero emission vehicles. The interior is understated and as modern as you’d expect from a technologically advanced autoganic vehicle. Plus you can drive for 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen.
Despite recent recalls, Toyota is widely appreciated because of safety as well. Hydrogen is known to be a highly combustible element, but Toyota has done some serious testing to ensure that Mirai drivers are safe and comfortable behind the wheel. The fuel tank is designed to withstand practically everything that the driver or the elements can throw at it. To test that theory, Toyota struck the tank with lightening multiple times and shot various caliber ammunition at it to prove its durability. In case you were wondering, it took a .50 caliber bullet to pierce the tank.
Americans and particularly people of color buy Toyota vehicles in droves because of reliability, so the obvious question is can we trust a Toyota sedan with new fuel cell technology. The Japanese automaker put the Mirai through years of testing in a variety of elevations and temperature elevations from Alaska to Death Valley, and in many scenarios the hydrogen powered vehicle outperformed its EV and combustible engine counterparts.
Now if you thought finding EV charging stations was challenging, that is nothing compared to existing hydrogen stations. Yet again, Toyota has partnered with First Element on the west coast and Air Liquid on the east coast to build several stations over the next two years. In September of 2013 California approved assembly Bill 8, effectively setting aside more than $200 million in funding through the California Energy Commission, for as many as 100 new stations; 20 by the end of 2015 and 40 by 2016.
Those who purchase the vehicle at $57,000 or lease it for $499 per month will have the bonus of free fill ups for three years. Toyota also predicts that buyers will earn combined state and federal incentives of $13,000, dropping the sticker price to under $45,000.
Another selling point for Toyota is the PTO system which allows Mirai drivers to use the vehicle as a mobile generator to power a home’s basic electric essentials for up to a week.
California will be the first state to get the Mirai in mid 2015 with the Northeast region to follow shortly thereafter. As evidenced by the amazing success of Prius, Toyota clearly knows how to market green cars to the general public. They are starting slow with Mirai, with only 300 units planned for a U.S. release. Will you be one of the first to give this fuel cell technology?