With a starting price higher than any other model in its lineup, the Toyota Mirai hydrogen car may have made more sense as a Lexus. According to Motoring.au, Toyota execs agree, and there are already plans to install the hydrogen fuel stack drivetrain into a new Lexus LS model.
But don’t expect a dirty swap from the Toyota to the Lexus, as the new model is likely to be positioned above the current range-topper, the V8-hybrid powered LS 600h. So rather than the weaksauce 153 horsepower electric motor found in the Mirai, engineers will fit a 295 horsepower motor to give the hydrogen Lexus extra oomph. It’ll need it to, because the LS is a lot larger and heavier than the Mirai, and engineers are going to have their work cut out for them as the chassis layout is more friendly to conventional drivetrains.
Pricing is likely to be north of the $120,000 LS 600h, and Toyota is projecting that by 2020 the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be approaching 50,000 units annually. That’s a bold bet given the inherent disadvantage hydrogen has to electric vehicles, and a six-figure hydrogen Lexus isn’t likely to move the needle much in favor of hydrogen cars. Even with an upgraded drivetrain, the hydrogen Lexus will still make almost 100 horsepower less than the base Tesla Model S, but will cost nearly twice as much. Don’t expect an all-electric competitor out of Toyota anytime soon.
At $57,900, the Toyota Mirai may have simply been better marketed as a Lexus to begin with. Chevy ran into similar issues with the Volt, which stickered at $40,000 when it first debuted, higher than any other Bowtie model except the Corvette. Then again, Toyota is already adding extra production to keep up with demand, and the hydrogen Lexus follow-up could hopefully be a more compelling case for FCVs than the Mirai.