In 1997, Toyota (TM) introduced its first hybrid electric vehicle, the Prius.
Nearly 20 years later, the automotive landscape has changed significantly, and hybrids have been surpassed by so-called zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) powered by either electric battery or fuel cells.
Most people are familiar with electric cars, particularly Elon Musk’s Tesla (TSLA). But fewer people are familiar with fuel cell vehicles such as Toyota’s Mirai, which happens to be the world’s only mass-marketed car of its kind.
Basically, the Mirai’s fuel cell stack converts compressed hydrogen gas into electricity, which is stored in batteries and then used to power the motor. The car must be refueled at hydrogen fueling stations. Electric cars, on the other hand, are powered entirely by batteries that must be recharged at specially designed charging stations.
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Now, for years, electric cars were the dominant ZEV of choice… but that may be changing.
On Tuesday, Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz announced an official mileage figure for the Mirai, which gets 67 miles per gallon equivalent and can travel 312 miles before refueling.
That gives the Mirai the longest range of any zero-emissions vehicle, a key differentiator. Another advantage is quicker refueling times. While electric vehicles may take a half hour or more to charge, Toyota’s vehicle can be refueled in just five minutes.
Of course, this new era of hydrogen transportation comes at a hefty cost. The sticker price for the Mirai is just over $58,000, making it 42% more expensive than the average new car in 2015.
But a combination of federal and state incentives can lower the price by $13,000, and Toyota is offering buyers three years or $15,000 worth of complimentary fuel, whichever comes first. Finally, the car comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
This fall, the Mirai will be available in California, which is one of the only states with the infrastructure necessary to keep hydrogen vehicles on the road. Do you think Toyota’s hydrogen vehicle will take off here in the United States? Tell us what you think in the comments section!