Toyota says Mirai is the future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Charles Fleming
Contact ReporterThis post has been updated, as indicated below
Toyota has dubbed its 2016 fuel cell vehicle Mirai, which means 'future' in Japanese.

Toyota says its new 2016 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be called the Mirai -- which means the future in the language of its creators.

Company president Akio Toyoda revealed the name of the vehicle, which will be sold in Japan later this year and arrive in the U.S. in the middle of 2015, via video message at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

"Today we are at a turning point in automotive history," Toyoda said. "The future has arrived. And it’s called 'Mirai.' "

Toyota is putting the Mirai on the road after many years of testing it and its predecessors in controlled lease programs here and abroad.

The vehicle is expected to retail for the equivalent of about $60,000 when it goes on sale in Japan, where it will qualify for a $20,000 government rebate. It is expected to retail for a similar amount in the U.S.

Among Toyota's rivals, Hyundai and Mercedes already have hydrogen fuel cell cars available for lease in the U.S. market. Honda and Volkswagen are also expected to announce plans to field a fuel cell car.

The Mirai, Toyota says, will have a range of 300 miles and be capable of a five-minute refueling, like most of its competitors. Like all hydrogen fuel cell cars, it will be outfitted with an electric motor, driven by a hydrogen fuel stack, with only water vapor as its tailpipe emission.

Toyota boasts that the hydrogen fuel can be made from almost any "feed" stock, including natural gas, wind power or, as Toyoda said in the video, "even garbage!"

But the Mirai's popularity in the U.S. may depend on how quickly an infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations can be built.

Southern California is already home to the most extensive network of fueling stations, but to date there are only 11 such facilities currently open. That number is expected to rise to about 40 by the end of next year.

Toyota, in announcing the name of its fuel cell car, also said it had partnered with the hydrogen infrastructure company Air Liquide to begin developing a network of 12 stations on the East Coast. Designed to fill the corridor between Boston and New York, the 12 stations will be built in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The cars will be introduced into that region in 2016, the company said.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post said the new Mirai was a model year 2015 car. It is in fact a 2016 vehicle.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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