Toyota Mirai: driving into a hydrogen-powered future


Joining the ranks of eco-friendly cars is Japan’s Toyota Mirai: a new, zero-emission car powered solely by hydrogen fuel. This car—which was pioneered in Japan last December, and will be on U.S. and European streets by mid-2015—is a more progressive, environmentally-conscience advancement in the automobile industry as it provides a cheaper way of transportation without any exhaust and noxious chemicals. Meaning “the future” in Japanese, the Mirai is another step towards the future of clean energy cars.

Fuel cell cars are just electrical cars that have switched out the pack of batteries for hydrogen storage packs; instead of carbon emissions, they exhaust water vapor. This is one of Toyota’s biggest selling points, and is the feature that constitutes this car as a breakthrough in the automobile technology. Cars are being created that not only avoid being powered by gasoline, but are at the forefront of a new fuel cell powered car industry. There are very few of these cars in existence at the moment, but the Mirai is hoping to change that. Toyota—which has made moves in the past toward greener automobile solutions (like with the introduction of the Prius in Japan in 1997)—is hoping that this car will receive as positive of a reception as its famous hybrid model did.

The Mirai slightly resembles a Toyota Corolla: a mid-size, four-door sedan. When filled with a full tank of hydrogen, it can travel up to 300 miles and has a five-minute re-fueling time. As a new, eco-friendly car, the cost of the Mirai is high; in Japan, the price is nearly $69,000, while in the U.S. the price will reach almost $60,000. Although its high cost may mean the Mirai takes longer to get kick-started, Toyota plans on selling 400 in Japan, and 300 around the rest of the world in 2015.

There are several other complications that come with launching a hydrogen-powered car. One of the biggest hurdles is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations. California, for instance, has only nine stations. For this reason, the announcement of the Mirai was accompanied by plans to build 12 hydrogen stations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and 19 additional stations in California.

Many are also skeptical about whether or not this car will succeed.

“Hydrogen powered cars will not make it in America because Americans like their gas cars (Mercedes, BMW), because they like how they drive. After all, the American dream is to go big,” Junior Aalia Heera said.

Whether or not the Mirai experiences the same level of success as the Prius, it nevertheless has spurned the growth of a newer, greener automobile industry.