Ahead of its official launch at the Los Angeles Auto Show, CEO Akio Toyoda has officially introduced the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as the car that will change the way we think about transportation. Toyota has bet big on hydrogen over electric vehicles; is the Mirai the car that can change the way we think about green transportation?
With 300 miles of driving range on a full tank of hydrogen fuel, the Toyota Mirai will purportedly offer all the advantages of electric cars, like instant torque and quiet driving, without the limited range or long recharge times. Just how green turning natural gas or other fossil fuels into compressed hydrogen remains a subject of debate, but in an ideal world hydrogen could be produced en masse from a wide variety of renewable sources, whether that be solar power or decaying garbage.
In Japanese, Mirai means “future”, which is what Toyota thinks hydrogen fuel represents. This is every bit as big as a gambit as Nissan’s focus on electric vehicles. The Toyota Mirai will wear rally colors in a bid to prove its reliable and fun to drive, and Toyota is planning to fund a new hydrogen highway in the Northeast to facilitate sales outside of SoCal. Toyota will work with Air Liqude to build the first stations in five Northeast states, forming the basis for a network that it hopes will stretch up and down the East Coast.
The first Toyota Mirai FCVs are slated to go into production next month, though the Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell has been available for lease since late summer. On the other hand, the Honda FCV has been delayed until 2016 for unspecified reasons. While that might seem to give Toyota the upper hand, Toyota is facing what some analysts call the “first-mover disadvantage” due to the lack of supporting infrastructure and the high cost of their cars.
Is the world ready for Toyota’s vision of a zero-emissions future? Is hydrogen ready for the world? We’ll find out in 2015.