Driving Impressions: Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai Press Briefing Tokyo - 14 - Picture Bertel Schmitt -670

While Herr Schmitto-san was learning about Toyota’s new Mirai fuel cell vehicle (FCV) by not driving it in Japan, I was busy learning about Mirai by driving it in sunny Southern California. The Los Angeles area is already ground zero for hydrogen-powered cars in the US, thanks to major investments by the state government and small-scale FCV deployment by Honda, Hyundai and BMW. Soon it will be the first market for Mirai, the first FCV to be offered for sale to consumers and Toyota’s first step into a long-awaited hydrogen future. Driving the Mirai past competitor FCVs and refueling at a station that pumps hydrogen extracted from local sewage, it becomes clear that the first steps towards Toyota’s vision of a “hydrogen society” have already been made in sun-soaked Orange County.

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Toyota’s Mirai Brings Hydrogen Technology Back Into Focus

The fuel of the future finally has a future.

The fuel of the future finally has a future.

For more than 30 years, a joke has circulated in automotive circles that hydrogen fuel cells are the future of the car… and always will be. Nearly every automaker has flirted with the technology at some point since the 1980s, either in their concept cars, demonstrator fleets or semi-secretive tests without ever coming close to actually offering a hydrogen-powered car to consumers.
That all changed this week, when the 800 pound gorilla of the auto industry, Toyota, released the first fuel cell vehicle (FCV) available for sale to consumers. Though this pioneering vehicle faces undeniable challenges, mainly a nascent hydrogen refueling infrastructure that is initially limiting Toyota’s FCV effort to targeted markets, there can be no doubt but that the Japanese automaker is fully committed to aggressively pursuing fuel cell technology. The proof is in the very name of the new car: Mirai, Japanese for The Future.

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