Toyota Tells Dealers: Stop Mirai Deliveries!


More than any other car maker, Toyota has been a strong advocate for fuel cell powered cars. What is an FCEV? It’s an electric car that does not use a battery as its main source of power. Instead it has a fuel cell that converts liquid hydrogen into electricity, which is then used to turn an electric motor. The Mirai has a tiny 1 kWh battery to help out when demand for electricity is greater than the fuel cell can provide. The beauty of the whole hydrogen scenario is that emissions consist of nothing more than water vapor and heat. You can’t get any greener than that, can you?

New Toyota Mirai Video Is Inaccurate

Toyota has invested billions to develop its first fuel cell car, the Mirai. Toyota expects to deliver a total of 300 of the cars between the United States and Europe in 2016. Compared to the global automobile market of nearly 50 million vehicles, that is an infinitesimal amount, no more than a fly speck, really. But Toyota is convinced hydrogen power is the future. With considerable urging from the Japanese government, it has bet virtually the company’s entire  future company on hydrogen power.

But Nagoya, we have a problem! According to Inside EVs, Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America, has instructed the dealers who handle the cars, including its highest volume dealer located in Santa Monica, California, to stop delivering cars to new customers. Why? There just aren’t enough hydrogen refueling stations available to for the 72 Mirai sedans that are already on the road . The ones that do exist don’t work very well, either. Toyota advertising for the Mirai carries the slogan “Let’s Go Places.” But right now, there are precious few places a Mirai driver can actually go.

“It is not a stop-sale, we have just asked (the dealers) not to make deliveries until we have a station open,” Lentz told the press at the Detroit auto show. “There are fewer stations than we would have preferred right now.” The California Energy Commission had projected there would be 53 hydrogen stations open in the state by the end of 2015. Instead, there were only five and one of those is out of service most of the time. The others had various issues that have kept them from actually pumping hydrogen. As a result, Toyota had to hastily install temporary refueling stations to meet the demand from Mirai drivers.

Even those were only able to fill the hydrogen tanks on board the cars half way and drivers had to make an appointment to get their hydrogen. That left drivers with only 150 miles of range before they had to go through the whole agonizing process again. None of this zipping in for a quick fill up like Toyota promised.

“I’m pretty confident by the end of the year we’re going to get to 48. It’s just growing pains,” Lentz says. What he doesn’t say is who will foot the bill for those stations. A hydrogen refueling station costs between $1 and $3 million to construct. Clearly, Toyota expects the taxpayers of California to pony up the money needed to build more.

What Toyota is left with is a hydrogen fueled car that is as homely as a mailman’s behind, as my old Irish grandmother would say. It can only go about 150 miles on a half tank of fuel and requires the driver to show up when scheduled. Oh, it’s also slower than a battery electric car and has the handling prowess of a 1948 Hudson. What’s not to like?

If the taxpayers of California have any sense, they will tell Toyota to build its own damn refueling stations, just like Tesla is building its own SuperCharger network. Maybe 50 years from now, the world will run on hydrogen power, but right now, this is the wrong technology, at the wrong time, and the wrong price.


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • AaronD12

    “It’s an electric car that has no battery.” Incorrect. The Mirai has a battery. It’s used for buffering high-demand usage that the fuel cell itself cannot produce quickly. The battery capacity is around 1kWh, or about the size of many hybrid batteries.

    • Steve Hanley

      Well, then. I stand corrected, Aaron. Or sit corrected, in my case.

      Thanks for that information. Appropriate modifications have been made.

  • Rick Danger

    “If the taxpayers of California have any sense, they will tell Toyota to build its own damn refueling stations”

    Plus 1000!

  • eyerhyme

    Can’t get any greener? How is hydrogen produced? Currently using fossil fuels from what I understand and Japan is going all out for their 2020 olympics with hydrogen buses, etc. but not being upfront as to where they’re getting the hydrogen. I’ve heard that the plan is big tankers transporting it from Australia. This isn’t green! Perhaps the future will be better for hydrogen but now I don’t see it.

    • Steve Hanley

      Apparently my sarcasm did not translate for you, amigo. Most of the commercial hydrogen in the US is derived from natural gas, which we get through the magic of fracking — which is arguably dirtier than coal when it comes to methane emissions and environmental damage from earthquakes and polluted ground water.

      Fear not. We are not as clueless as you have been led to believe! ; – )

    • Dr. Dean Dauger


  • Matthew Fensterwald

    So for 57000 you can buy a car that can barely get its fuel, I saw this brick at the Sacramento car show, and the guy there was just blowing smoke. If you want an emission free driving experience in California buy a used Tesla and put solar on your roof. Why would you go to a station to refuel when you can do it at home for almost free.

  • Ash45

    Seeing the Mirai’s rough debut is like watching a ship that’s about to collide with an iceberg.

    Though they were given plenty of warnings about it, they seem to be going full speed ahead anyway, and hoping that they hit said metaphorical iceberg on the side rather than head on and sinking.

    Meanwhile other automakers are coming out with increasingly better plug-in vehicles, at a much lower price than the Mirai. Sure, they still have limitations, but I can live with long charge times since it’s plugged in my garage.

    At least I don’t have to worry about finding a hydrogen filling station, and then hoping it’s in working order when you arrive there in the hydrogen equivalent of gas fumes.

  • Clean-burning, such that the vehicle doesn’t emit poisonous gas like, in your face.

  • Atanas

    Toyota Mirai – Let’s go and find hydrogen station which is ready for fill up.

  • ROBwithaB

    Perhaps it’s time for a follow up to this article.
    How is the “rollout” of hydrogen stations coming along?
    Who is investing in the infrastructure?
    How are Mirai sales coming along?

    Are any “normal” people buying a Mirai. From what I could work out, they were mostly being bought by industry insiders.

  • Mammie Krup

    Creative comments – I was enlightened by the facts – Does anyone know where my assistant might grab a sample MO DWC WC-G-11 document to edit ?

    • Vanna Gustin

      Greetings Mammie ! I got a sample a form version here