What Is It?
2016 Toyota Mirai
What's New About This Model?
The 2016 Toyota Mirai is a midsize four-passenger zero-emissions electric sedan that uses a hydrogen fuel cell system in lieu of a traditional battery.
When Does It Go on Sale?
Toyota will sell the Mirai initially in select California dealers in the fall of 2015. Subsequently it will be released in the Northeast. First-year production will total 700 worldwide, only 300 of which will be available outside of Japan. Production will ramp up gradually after that, reaching 7,000 units by 2017.
How Much Does It Cost?
The Mirai has a base price of $57,500. State and federal incentives are likely to reach $13,000 to reduce the sticker shock to a more manageable $44,500. It can also be leased at $499 per month over 36 months (with a $3,649 down payment), and this option is expected to be vastly more popular than outright sales.
What Kind of Powertrain Does It Have?
A Toyota-developed fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage tanks form the Mirai's primary energy storage system. These items convert compressed hydrogen gas into electricity and water, which is the only "tailpipe" byproduct produced when operating the Mirai.
The electrons are then free to be manipulated by the car's power electronics among the electric motor, nickel-metal hydride battery and inverter, all of which were lifted more or less intact from the Camry Hybrid. Yes, a battery: This allows for regenerative braking to increase range and provides an acceleration boost when needed.
Maximum output is 152 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. With approximately 300 miles of driving range (possibly more, as Toyota is typically conservative) and a refueling time of a bit more than three minutes (Toyota says five, just to be on the safe side), the Mirai is a truly unique electric vehicle.
What Other Hardware Changes Are Included?
The Mirai's front and rear suspension and basic platform are borrowed from the Prius V, with tuning changes throughout. The floor pan is unique to the Mirai in order to accommodate the hydrogen tanks (located behind and beneath the backseat) and fuel cell stack (beneath the front seats). At 4,079 pounds curb weight, the Mirai is no lightweight.
The battery resides behind the backseat. Consequently, there is no trunk pass-through.
There is, however, an optional power take-off function that converts the Mirai into a generator for emergency use. With a full tank, the Mirai can provide all the power needed to run an average household for about a week.
Where Can It Be Refueled?
Hydrogen infrastructure is certainly in its infancy. Refueling stations are currently few and far between, though California will be building 28 stations by the end of 2016, bringing the state's total to 48 stations. Additionally, Toyota has partnered with gaseous fuel provider Air Liquide to help create a network in 2016 of 12 stations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
Toyota is providing three years' worth of free hydrogen for the initial buyers of the Mirai.
What Models Will It Compete Against?
Fuel cell vehicles are, at their core, electric vehicles, albeit with the range and refueling speed of conventional gasoline-fed vehicles. However, their refueling is so unique that in reality they are their own class of vehicles. The Mirai is the first fuel cell vehicle to be announced for sale.
The Honda FCV, another upcoming fuel cell vehicle, is reported to deliver similar range and power. It'll seat five passengers, though its release in the U.S. will be in the summer of 2016.
Should You Wait for It?
The Mirai's range and refueling speed are unmatched by any battery electric vehicle. However, hydrogen stations are currently scarce, and the car's initial rollout is limited to a handful of states. While its styling is, to be charitable, dopey-looking, the technology under the skin is truly groundbreaking.