Will sexy exterior styling convince buyers to go hydrogen?
The Toyota Mirai is not your typical car. Yes, it has four wheels and a steering wheel but its powertrain is quite different. It's not a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or an EV. Internal combustion? Please. No, the Mirai is the first mass-market hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, meaning it's powered by the same element used for rockets. It is zero emissions (water vapor doesn't count) and has an EPA-rated range up to 312 miles. It even has a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 66 mpg equivalent rating. Impressive.
Believe it or not, this November will mark five years since the Mirai was first shown at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. While nowhere near as strong a seller as the Prius (don't even ask how it compares to the Corolla), the Mirai has managed to sell a total of 4,644 units through 2018. So far this year 1,187 Mirais have left dealership lots. Obviously that's peanuts compared to any mainstream vehicle but the Mirai is not exactly a mainstream vehicle.
Despite these low sales figures, Toyota plans to reveal a redesigned Mirai next year. The news was confirmed by Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, via Reuters, earlier this week in Tokyo. There's no doubt the current Mirai is a brilliant example of fuel cell technology, but we sincerely hope the 2021 (or 2022) model will feature better exterior styling. It doesn't have to look mainstream, but something along the lines of a four-door coupe design would be awfully nice.
The Mirai's current funky looks are a bit of a distraction given its powertrain. It'd be smart for Toyota to add some sex appeal given that it expects the price of fuel cell vehicles to match those of hybrids within a decade, as Automotive News Europe reported.
Another reason why Toyota is continuing to invest in hydrogen fuel cell cars is because Asian nations, specifically China, Japan, and South Korea, have set ambitious targets to add millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on their roads within a decade.
The goal is to further curb carbon emissions and fuel cell vehicles simply have the cleanest energy source. What's lacking not only in Asia but everywhere else is a refueling infrastructure. Toyota, along with Hyundai, is working to build more hydrogen refueling stations and Asian governments are anxious to help them.