Toyota's got a problem, it's called Prius.
You see, after you broke the industry wall wide open and established the first and really well selling hybrid car, what do you do for an encore?
And, you do need an encore.
Because if you don't You leave the table to Chevy bolt or Tesla model 3 or in their minds, God forbid, Honda clarity.
And there is really only one direct competitor to this car, that would be Honda's clarity.
That's their fuel cell vehicle coming late 2016.
By the time you see this, it may already be on the market.
Now, automakers know that if you make a really different car, and it doesn't look different, you kinda trip yourself up.
So this looks different.
And to the uninitiated eye, both this and the clarity, and many would say, the Prius and the Honda Insight back in the day, all asked quite a bit uninitiated eye.
But that made an impression and said, I'm different.
To me, this looks kind of like a bigger Camry, crossbred with a wolverine, giving it that angrier face and meteor [UNKNOWN] I'm not going to spend too much time on the cabin of this car.
Its basically stock Toyota stuff even though it doesn't look like that way like I mean theres a whole lotta gloss piano black Flat touch surfaces in this vehicle, an eyebrow display a la Prius.
A lot of it falls nicely to the hand.
It's got a beautifully angled thing that a lot of Lexus cars do lately.
The eye brow display of course, easily suffers from the possibility of TMI on the green front.
Giving you one of these screens that shows you all about your green driving habits which most drivers, I would posit Don't care about.
Drive controls are pretty simple and pretty dainty.
This little Prius-like shift controller, wouldn't even call it a shifter or a shift knob.
Press for park, no paddles or any nonsense like that.
[UNKNOWN] drive mode, though, eco mode, power mode.
If I wanna go a lot faster, I'll step harder on the pedal.
That's all I need for power mode.
Under the armrest here we've got a standard Qi technology wireless charging cradle.
There are two major technologies out there, Powermat and Qi.
This is the one we've got in this car.
And again, all [UNKNOWN] are the same trims.
Everything I'm showing you it's Standard, and over there is an interesting button that says H2O.
That's the bladder button to be honest, since hydrogen fuels [UNKNOWN] only exhaust is water, it does pool up here and there, and if you hit that button you can empty the container before you pull into your pristine garage If you have one of those.
Now under here is a world like none other I've ever shown you in any of our videos.
You expect to find an engine, and there isn't one at all.
There is instead, an electric motor and a fuel cell stack.
Air comes in the face of the car, from these many grills.
That oxygen is combined with the hydrogen coming out of the tank, and they meet.
In the fuel cell, in the fuel cell stack.
In those plates, they have a reaction that sends off electrons.
And those electrons, some of which go directly to the front drive motor, for the front wheels only.
Some of them though go off to the battery in the back of the car.
So in a sense, this is an electric electric hybrid.
It's got two sources of electric power at any given moment that are coming to the wheels.
But it all starts with the chemical reaction that takes place in the fuel cell.
This gives you about 312 miles of range on a 5 kilograms weight based Fill up of hydrogen.
Okay fueling one of these guys looks and feels a lot like doing a regular gas car.
You pop open the door, there's a little nozzle in there.
That's your high pressure, hydrogen transfer nozzle.
Now you go to the pump Which also looks kinda familiar.
But notice it dispenses in kilograms of hydrogen, not the gallons we're used to.
Okay, which pump do I use?
This isn't regular and high-test, these are pressures.
H35 is for older hydrogen cars.
At around 5000 psi or 35 megapascals.
This is 70 megapascals.
That's about 10,000 psi.
Now the nozzle, of course, looks a little different.
This isn't your typical fueling nozzle.
It's an interlocking high-pressure connection that also does infrared communication with the car, with the collar on the [UNKNOWN] right there.
Now let me get this guy here, and I just have to sort of clip it on [SOUND] I think we're good to go.
So we're seeing our sale on top, and the amount of fuel we're getting on the bottom, and that's measured in weight.
Note that here in California, a five kilogram fill up of hydrogen costs around $75 for the Mirai.
That's pricey, compared to a $45 fill up for a V6 Camry that goes farther.
That's part of the reason Toyota pays for your first three years or $15,000 worth of hydrogen when you buy a Mirai.
It's just the beginning, right?
Shane Stevens company, True Zero, operates the pump where we tanked up.
The biggest factor is actually scale.
So today to produce the raw hydrogen Is actually very inexpensive, it's probably half or less than half the cost of gasoline.
Really where the cost is in the new methods of transporting it, the stations themselves.
We're investing a lot in new equipment and we're not at the volumes or at the technology maturity where it can get cheap.
But we're actually expecting to see hydrogen competitive with gasoline within the next Two or three years.
Within five or ten years, it'll probably get lower, if not half the price of gasoline.
And while there are a slew of gas stations on virtually every corner in suburban America, there are very few hydrogen stations right now.
We think, actually, by being strategic, even to serve the entire California population, you probably only need 12 or 15% of the number of fueling locations compared to gasoline.
The state of California targets 50 hydrogen stations by 2017.
100 around the state by 2020.
And the perception of that being enough will be helped by the coincidence, that.
At least in urban area, we're getting used to living with a lot fewer gas stations, anyway.
But Tesla's Elon Musk is among those who think hydrogen will never make any sense, no matter how many stations you build.
Hydrogen is an energy storage mechanism.
It's not a source of energy.
Tuesday I took a solar panel and used that energy from the solar panel to just charge a batter pack directly.
Compared to try to split water, take the hydrogen, dump the oxygen, compress the hydrogen to an extremely high pressure or liquefy it.
And then put it in a car and Run a fuel cell is about half the efficiency, it's terrible.
So, why would you do that?
It makes no sense.
Toyota senior exec Bob Carter says that's what they said about hybrid.
For years, the use of hydrogen gas to power automobiles has been seen by many smart people
As a foolish quest.
Hydrogen is plentiful and there are many ways to produce it.
And many of those are sustainable.
A recent paper by the respected team of Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, asserts it is possible for Fuel Cell cars to involve the least amount of petroleum used per mile measured from the well to the wheel,
Depending on the source of hydrogen used.
Okay now on the road, I really like [UNKNOWN] in an everyday sense.
One of the first things you notice is how conventional it is.
It doesn't feel like you're driving anything weird in any sense.
It's spritely, though not punishingly fast.
It doesn't have the kinda throw you back In the seat performance of a Tesla.
The ride quality is not sloppy, but it's very comfortable.
Now, when you lean on it, like I'm doing now going up a hill, accelerating pretty full tilt, you get a lot of electric noises out of [UNKNOWN].
More than I think fit with it's very refined ride quality.
You do have a slightly occluded trunk.
Not bad, but it's not a [UNKNOWN] thing.
It's got a little bit of Tightness toward the back there,and it's only a four-seat car.
You have a fixed, non-seatable center rear console.
Now this was a bugaboo for the Chevy Volt in its first generation, only would hold four in a very similar config, they address that in two, Mirai is still back on a four seat config.
As everyday cars go, I like this one.
Now, as you can imagine, with any moonshot product like this, the entry price is high, but so are the incentives.
You start off at $58,300 delivered for a Mirai, and there's only one kind you can get, loaded.
After that come the incentives.
First the IRS is gonna give you and $8,000 tax credit.
California's credit is currently $5,000, and Toyota is putting what they call a trail blazer incentive on the hood.
Another $7,500 off.
And then I'm gonna ball park $7,300 fuel savings over three years.
Compared to if you had a V6 Camry in California, driving the same miles as you would this car, that's about #30,500 now.
After all the math is done, and that's a lot much more realistic number for a lot of people.
Now you gotta buy into all the math, and you have to have all those incentives be applicable to you.
But there's another calculus that you've also gotta work on, and that is a raging, and ongoing argument.
About what makes more sense in terms of real green policy, to generate voltage that comes down a line network to charge an electric battery car, or to create and transport hydrogen to fuel one of these.
That's another Another topic.
Sounds like a Car Tech 101.
For cars driven CNET style.
Standing by now on CNETCars.com.
Click "On the Road"