Toyota branded the Mirai hydrogen-fueled car as a technology turning point. And for good reason. The Mirai is a technology wonder. This article profiles my test-drive of a car that stunned me with its speed and handling.
But does the Mirai represent a disruptive technology? Will it win the emerging market share war between electric cars and today’s gasoline cars? Or will the real disruptive technology be autonomous vehicles?
Accelerating the Mirai is great fun. Stomping down on the fuel pedal will drive you back into your seat. This is a car that can compete with gasoline-powered vehicles up the highway ramp.
The Mirai also handles like a sports car. It has a suspension that makes twisty roads a fun experience. And it delivers this fun with a luxury-like smooth ride.
The following is a 90-second video of my test-drive experience. In a word: The Mirai is a turning point in how I think about hydrogen cars.
What stopped this technology’s commercialization was the challenge of sourcing hydrogen in quantity, at competitive prices, with a lower-than-gasoline emissions footprint. Here’s what my analysis found on sourcing hydrogen:
There are incentives that make buying a Mirai attractive. The car's base price is $57,500. The federal government offers a tax credit that works out to be about $8,000. California offers its citizens a $5,000 cash rebate. Toyota is offering a $7,500 price discount for a limited time period. All of these incentives drops the Mirai’s price point to around $37,000.
But for the Mirai to succeed, the challenge of fuel supply has to be figured out. The closest hydrogen refueling station to my Oceanside California home is a 20- to 30-minute drive. Who wants to commute to fill up?
The bottom line is that the Mirai is a great piece of technology seeking a fuel solution. For it to be a disruptive technology, there needs to be an affordable, clean and convenient supply of hydrogen. Achieving that milestone would truly be disruptive.
Image courtesy of the author
Editor's Note: This post was updated on July 20, 2016, to correct terminology related to natural gas reforming. For more on this method of hydrogen production, check out Energy.gov.
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