I don’t like hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) for a multitude of reasons. But if you’re going to go around like Toyota has, touting hydrogen as the next coming of Jesus H. Christ himself, then you’d think they’d invest a little more of their vast resources in getting these cars out to customers.
But as Automotive News points out, a bottleneck on production of the Mirai fuel cell could seriously hinder the great hydrogen revolution Toyota is trying to sell us. Even with a recent investment of $165 million into assembly of the Mirai at the former Lexus LFA factory, Toyota says it will only be able to produce about 5,000 cars over the next two years. Anybody placing an order now would have to wait at least that long. Model X reservations are over 20,000 at this point, and in a recent note Elon Musk said any new orders wouldn’t be fulfilled until mid-2016 at the soonest.
That’s still a whole friggin’ year sooner than Toyota, a corporation massive manufacturing capabilities spread out over an empire upon which the sun never truly sets. I may not like hydrogen cars, they may still rely far too heavily on fossil fuels, and I may think the Mirai is a boring, boring, BOOOOORING car…but damnit Toyota, if you’re going to go down this road, commit!
As AN points out, in the two years it takes to get 5,000 hydrogen cars on the road, a lot can change. Gas prices are already shooting back up in anticipation of warmer weather, and GM is the first major manufacturer besides Tesla to commit to put an affordable, 200-mile EV on the market by 2017. Ford denies a recent rumor that they’re building a similar competitor, and Volkswagen execs think the technology is within their grasp as well.
If drivers can come to expect 150 to 200 miles of driving range from electric cars, will that prove the tipping point where people start adopting EVs en masse? It seems far fetched, but remember how quickly society ditched pagers in favor of those old flip cell phones that were nigh indestructible. Now there are predictions that 80% of the world’s population will be in possession of a smartphone in the next few years. The power smartphones give us has changed society in ways that historians will parse for centuries to come, and electric vehicles could be a similarly important revolution in the great pursuit of green power. So much can change in such a short time.
…and meanwhile Toyota is stuck building hydrogen car in 2017 with technology “pioneered” 4 or 5 years earlier as cheaper and longer-range EVs start popping up on the lots of more and more conventional automakers. Maybe Apple gets in the game with an EV of its own. We already know the Google Car is powered by electricity.
Besides a few scattered players in the automotive world like Honda and Hyundai, Toyota seems to be hindering any potential momentum they could be leveraging by this unexpected increase of orders. 5,000 orders for a car available to a very limited number of people is a great start….but will those same people be as excited two years from now? Maybe. Or maybe they’ll withdraw their deposits, and go buy one of the many new EVs flooding the market.
One thing’s for sure; Toyota could use more than 13 people working on Mirai production right now.