The 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan, Toyota’s first production hydrogen fuel cell car, has long been billed by Toyota as the next logical step in the evolution of the automobile. With Toyota firmly committed to fuel cell technology and plans already well under way for the production of its next-generation 2020 fuel cell car, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the complex, high-tech, high cost Mirai will be built by Toyota at a brand-new, multi-billion dollar production facility dedicated to the complex and costly production of its first fuel cell car.
But while Toyota says it’s invested in hydrogen fuel cell technology for the long run, the Toyota Mirai won’t be produced by robots in a full-automated green-field production facility somewhere in Japan. Instead, Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is going to be built by hand in the small LFA Works backlot facility at Toyota’s Motomachi assembly plant in Toyota City.
The facility, as the name might suggest, produced the limited-production Lexus LFA V10 carbon-fibre supercar for the two years it was manufactured between 2010 and 2012. Since then, the LFA Works has become Toyota’s go-to place for limited-production vehicles, most recently being home to production for a limited-production$10,000 Carbon-fibre bicycle sold as the Lexus F Sport Roadbike to Lexus’ elite customers.
Toyota says it has chosen the LFA Works facility as home to initial Mirai assembly because of the plant’s highly-trained workforce, who are known for their versatility and attention to detail. But while the LFA Works is known for the level of craftsmanship each of its workers posses, it isn’t a high-volume facility. During the two years that the Lexus LFA V10 was built there, only five hundred vehicles rolled off the production line. During the three months that the LFA Works was producing bicycles rather than cars, only 100 Lexus F Sport Roadbikes were built.
While the LFA Works might be the best place Toyota has to assemble the Mirai however, its artisan approach to car building means that those who order a Mirai may find it takes a considerable amount of time to arrive.
“Each unit is carefully built with utmost care. So therefore, the production volume might be limited,” said Toyota’s vice president for domestic sales Masamoto Maekawa. “During the initial stages, delivery time might be delayed.”
At the moment, Maekawa says Toyota has received around 200 orders for the 2016 Mirai, with the majority of orders coming from corporate and governmental fleets within Japan. But even with just 200 orders, Maekawa warns that anyone placing an order in Japan today for a Mirai will find themselves waiting until next summer for delivery.
That’s because initial production speed is likely to be well below the facility’s theoretical maximum capacity as Toyota and its LFA Works craftsmen acquaint themselves with the Mirai’s complex construction and unusual fuel system. Even when the facility is up to speed however, Toyota is planning to make just 700 fuel cell sedans in the first year, equivalent to just over three cars per day. Even with a theoretical maximum output of 2,000 cars per year, the LFA Works would only be producing ten Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedans every day.
While final assembly will happen at Toyota’s LFA Works however, the Toyota Mirai’s drivetrain and other components will be made at the nearby Toyota Honsha plant, where Toyota produces everything from suspension components to hybrid drivetrains and the lithium-ion battery packs used in its Prius Plug-in Hybrid. With core components being produced using more conventional production methods elsewhere, this means that Toyota should be able to move Mirai production elsewhere as and when it needs to.
Yet perhaps there’s a more pressing question that we’re keen to find an answer to: the actual cost to Toyota of each Mirai fuel cell sedan.
With the fuel cell stack estimated to cost somewhere near $50,000 and just a handful of vehicles due to be built every day by the artisans at the LFA Works, we’re guessing that Mirai build costs are well beyond the $57,500 Toyota is selling this limited-production fuel cell sedan for.
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