The way Toyota spins it, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the future of mobility, and the Mirai (which literally translates to “future”) is just the beginning of an all-new hydrogen-powered economy.
There’s just one problem, and that’s production limitations. Toyota has revealed that production of the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be capped at 3,000 units per year, reports Automotive News. Even if you placed an order today, you wouldn’t get your Mirai until 2018, by which time Toyota’s “future” car could be outdated. Yikes
Despite a $165 million investment into expanding the Mirai’s production facilities, building the $50,000 hydrogen fuel stacks are a costly and tedious process requiring highly-trained engineers. Toyota has yet to develop an automated means of chemically-etching the 370 1.34 mm fuel cells in each stack, and it doesn’t expect to make a breakthrough in the next two years, limiting total production to just 5,000 units through 2017. This year just 700 Mirai are expected to be built, of which the U.S. and Europe share 300, with the remainder earmarked for Japan. The backlog of orders means new customers may have to wait three years or more to take delivery of their Mirai.
Toyota is pretty much going it alone with hydrogen fuel cell technology, as many countries and automakers have placed it on the backburner as plug-in cars continue to gain popularity. Some company CEOs have gone on record as saying that hydrogen will only be big in Japan, where the national government has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure and rebate support. Toyota is even issuing 150 million shares of select stock to raise over $4 billion for hydrogen fuel cell research, suggesting the automaker at least realizes it must move quicker to make hydrogen competitive with plug-ins.
Tesla faced its own production limitations early on too, but Toyota is one of the largest companies (nevermind automakers) in the world. I find it hard to believe that it can’t increase production of the Mirai beyond a dozen cars a day for two or three more years. More likely, Toyota is limiting sales of the Mirai because it is losing a ton of money on each one.
Toyota wants us to believe its serious about making hydrogen the fuel of the future, but if that’s really the case, why throttle production? What’s the loss of a few thousand dollars per car versus dominated the alternative fuel market for decades to come?
It the Mirai is truly the superior car, Toyota should put as many of them out there as possible to convince us non-believers. Fat chance that’ll happen though. By 2018, the second generation of electric cars will be on the road, better in every way than the cars that came before them, and able to take advantage of an international effort to put charging networks damn near everywhere. All the bullsh*t in the world can’t change those facts.
How can Toyota think it even stands a chance?