Toyota revealed its zero-emissions hydrogen-powered car, the Mirai, this week. As one of the first attempts to create a mass-market vehicle that emits only water vapor, the Mirai (Japanese for “future”) is another step forward from the same company that introduced the now widely-popular Prius. The company has some lofty plans for the Mirai, with their President and CEO Akio Toyoda calling it “a turning point in automobile history.”
Unlike the Prius, the Mirai is not a hybrid and will rely entirely on hydrogen fuel cells for its power. Compressed hydrogen gas is converted into electricity with a waste product of water. The first commercial models are estimated to have a range of about 300 miles with refueling times of approximately five minutes. The engine delivers about 150 horsepower, with a less than sporty acceleration time of about 9 seconds for 0-to-60. Nonetheless, Toyoda has said the vehicle will be fun to drive with its “low center of gravity” and “very dynamic handling.”
The Mirai will test Toyota’s strategy for rolling out a brand new technology without a previously existing infrastructure to support it. The first commercial models are set to be released in Japan by the end of this year, but Americans won’t be able to get their hands on one until the fall of 2015 and exclusively in California. So far, Toyota has begun investing in hydrogen fueling stations in California with plans to also create an extensive network in the Northeast, specifically between New York and Boston. Additionally, early adopters of the Mirai will receive three years of free hydrogen to fuel their rides within the price of purchase.
Though the Mirai is not the first hydrogen fuel cell car to be released, it does represent a significant effort to bring alternative-fuel vehicle technology to mainstream consumers. Hyundai and Honda have released their own models of fuel cell powered vehicles, but these have remained in the hands of pre-selected buyers in limited locations. The Mirai is slated to be within Toyota’s core vehicle line-up, promising to become a more regular feature on roadways across the planet. Pricing for U.S. consumers is expected to begin around $57,500, which includes 24/7 concierge service, 24/7 roadside assistance, free factory maintenance for up to 12,000 miles annually, and an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the fuel cell components. . With this amount of consumer-courting, there just might be enough early-adopters to justify Toyota’s grand ambitions for the Mirai.