Comparing The Tesla Model S And Toyota Mirai

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To hear Elon Musk say it, electric cars are the future and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are “bullshit.” Toyota disagrees, saying nobody wants to buy electric cars and that hydrogen is the fuel of tomorrow. But when you get right down to it, how does the Tesla Model S stack up against the Toyota Mirai? Well let’s find out.

Driving Range

The Toyota Mirai is projected to get 300 miles of driving to a full tank of hydrogen, which is 35 miles more than the EPA-rated 265 mile range of the Tesla Model S85 and nearly 100 miles more than the Model S60. On paper, the Mirai has anything from 10% to 30% more range, as long as Toyota delivers the promised 300 mile driving range.

Advantage: Toyota

Fuel Infrastructure

There are currently just a couple of dozen of public hydrogen fuel stations in the U.S., and almost all of them are centered around Southern California. Toyota has promised to create a more extensive network of fueling stations in the Northeast and all throughout California, but has made no mention of plans for a nationwide network.

Tesla meanwhile has more than 100 operational Superchargers in the U.S. alone that allow for cross-country driving, which in and of itself would be an advantage. Tesla owners can also plug in at home or at one of the thousands of public charging stations installed in the past four years. It isn’t even close.

Advantage: Tesla

Vehicle Cost

Though Toyota may be losing six-figures for every Mirai it sells, here in the U.S. the hydrogen fuel cell car will sell for $57,900, and tax credits (should they not be allowed to expire) could bring that price down to as little as $45,000.

The Tesla Model S has a starting MSRP of $71,000, but it also has a $7,500 Federal tax credit and access to state tax credits as high as $5,000 per vehicle. Technically, you could get a Model S for as little as $58,500, just $600 more than the Mirai. But if we remove all the tax credits and just stick with the MSRP, the Mirai comes out ahead by about $12,000.

Advantage: Toyota

Fuel Cost

This is a hard one. Tesla offers free fast charging at any of its many Supercharging stations, and plugging in a Model S at home rarely costs more than $10 to fully charge. However, Toyota is offering free fuel to Mirai buyers for “up to” three years, though it has publicly admitted that once it figures out how to charge for hydrogen, it won’t be cheap. At best, it will be the same cost as gasoline, or so the speculation goes, and if pressed I would say Tesla has a *slight* advantage at the moment, but it’s just too close to call.

Advantage: Draw

Exterior

The Toyota Mirai looks like nothing else on the road. The Tesla Model S looks like a lot of other luxury sedans, in its own unique way. This one is entirely subjective, but suffice to say I haven’t heard or read one positive remark about the look of the Mirai. The Model S though has won over reviewers with its simple-yet-striking design that would look at home in almost any luxury car lineup. It may not jump right out at you, but once it catches your attention it doesn’t let go.

Advantage: Tesla

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Interior

This one’s not even up for debate. The 17-inch touchscreen that serves every functionality in the Tesla Model S has been universally praised as the best in the business, and it also did wonders uncluttering the center stack. Though the Model S may not have cup holders or as much legroom for rear passengers as some people might like, the interior of the Toyota Mirai is an unmitigated disaster divided by two too-small touchscreens and far too many buttons. ANd what the hell is up with that swoopy dashboard? Awful, just awful.

Advantage: Tesla

Refueling

According to Toyota, the biggest advantage of hydrogen as energy storage is the ability to quickly refill the tank in as little as 3 minutes. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to fill a tank with gasoline or diesel, compared to the hour it takes to fully charge a Tesla Model S. While a Supercharger can deliver as much as a 80% charge in just 30 minutes, that’s still ten-times longer than it takes to fill the Mirai, and regular use of the fast charger can lead to premature battery degradation.

Advantage: Toyota

Performance

A base Tesla Model S offers about 360 horsepower and sprints from 0 to 60 MPH in 5.9 seconds, while the P85+ version could reach 60 MPH in as little as 4.2 seconds. With the new Dual Motor Drive system, the Model S P85D can offer an incredible 691 horsepower and a 3.2 second sprint to 60 MPH. Compare that to the Toyota Mirai, which offers all of 153 horsepower and a 0 to 60 MPH time of “about 9 seconds” according to the automaker. While Toyota does intend on entering the Mirai into a rally event, it’s safe to say expectations for performance are low.

Advantage: Tesla

Market Appeal

Toyota says hydrogen cars will appeal to customers more than electric cars, but just this month U.S. plug-in car sales exceeded 100,000 units. Tesla has a waiting list months long for the Model S, and demand for the P85D is supposedly “off the charts” while there are more than 20,000 reservations for the upcoming Model X SUV.

Toyota so far has just 200 reservations for the Mirai, and is already warning of production delays. It seems Toyota is keeping its expectations for the Mirai in check.

Advantage: Tesla

Future Outlook

Tesla has become one of the hottest stocks on Wall Street and the reservation list for its vehicles goes on for months and months. With the upcoming Model X and $35,000 Model III next in line, as well as construction of the battery Gigafactory, Tesla has a LOT going on for the next couple of years. It’s one of the most closely-watched companies right now, and hardly a day goes by when Tesla isn’t in the news.

Beyond the building of a fuel infrastructure, Toyota hasn’t spoken publicly about the potential for future hydrogen models. Furthermore the public as a whole doesn’t seem terribly engaged with hydrogen as an alternative to gasoline, and I’ve yet to uncover a single homemade hydrogen fuel cell conversion project, though the number of backyard EVs grows daily. This is an easy call to make.

Advantage: Tesla

Conclusion

Though the Toyota Mirai can boast of a faster refueling time, a slightly longer driving range, and a lower upfront cost, those pale in comparison to the advantages offered by the Tesla Model S. Considering that Toyota has had more than two years to study the Model S and come up with a suitable (albeit hydrogen powered) competitor, I can’t help but view the Mirai as a disappointment.

There’s just no comparison, and the few advantages the Mirai may hold over the Model S hardly seems worth all the headaches.

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Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.