Last Week, Toyota Delivered its First Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan in Japan. Did Anyone Notice?

Usually, when an automaker launches a new car, or delivers the first ever production model to a customer, there’s a degree of pomp and circumstance which at least gets noticed somewhere by the automotive press.

But last week, just as the 2015 North American Auto Show was wrapping up in Detroit, Japanese automaker Toyota delivered its first Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan. The customer? Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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You’d think that such an auspicious occasion would warrant some column inches somewhere, but for the most part, the delivery of Toyota’s first production fuel cell sedan seems to have gone unnoticed by most of our colleagues in the automotive world.

For an automaker with its heart set on challenging the dominance of the electric car in the zero emission marketplace, that’s rather a disappointing start.

The ceremony included this comically oversized car key.

The ceremony included this comically oversized car key.

At the official ceremony last Thursday where a comically oversized ‘key’ was handed to Prime Minister Abe by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, the Toyota boss hailed the start of deliveries as an important chapter in the Toyota’s history.

“This is a historic step and I’m truly excited,” he said. “This will be a long journey, and to make this first step truly historic we will all need to work together.”

“This moment represents the daw on the age of hydrogen,” said Prime Minister Abe, adding that he felt the Toyota Mirai “accelerates well, and is truly quiet and comfortable.”

Prime Minister Abe took the car for a spin around the block before telling the amassed press he hopes his Government fleets will all use Mirais.

Prime Minister Abe took the car for a spin around the block before telling the amassed press he hopes his Government fleets will all use Mirais.

After driving the car for the press on a rainy Tokyo day, Prime Minister Abe said that he hoped all Japanese Government agencies would use the car and that it was his plan to help pass new legislation to make hydrogen refuelling stations easier to install and use.

Toyota says it already has more than 1,400 reservations for its first hydrogen fuel cell sedan. Despite generous incentives in its home market that knock up to ¥3 million off its ¥7 million sticker price, the majority of pre-orders appear to come from government and corporate fleets rather than private individuals.

Yet with incentives for hydrogen fuel cell cars not-yet agreed in Europe and hydrogen fuel cell purchase incentives now expired in the U.S., Toyota risks an uphill struggle to make the Mirai sell well outside of Japan.

Which raises the question: did we just all miss the first Mirai fuel cell delivery because we were preoccupied elsewhere, or is Toyota quietening down its fuel cell announcements in the face of growing doubt about its fuel of the future?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Darren Griffin uf8ff

    I just cannot get over how fugly the Mirai is. It looks like a boring Toyota Corolla that has been tarted up with a crappy fibreglass go faster kit. Yuck. Honda’s FCV design is so much better looking, whilst I don’t want an FCV I’d love an EV that looked like Honda’s FCV concept car.

  • Japan has a single hydrogen fueling station, which opened on Dec. 25 (I’m told by a friend who’s visited the region that it’s “in the boonies”). The U.S. has a total of 13 hydrogen stations: Nine in L.A. and one each in downtown San Fran, downtown Sacramento, Columbia, SC, and Wallingford, CT. nnnWhile less efficient than electric cars, how are fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) supposed to thrive in the States, where 16.5 million cars are sold annually (45K per day)? I guess they aren’t. Toyota is planning only 200 units in the first six months of the Mirai’s availability in the States (beginning in Sept.) and only 3,000 on roads by the end of 2017 (according to PC World, it won’t even sell to people who don’t live a reasonable distance from a hydrogen station). The Mirai appears to be more of a PR stunt or proof of concept than anything else. nnnI’m all for clean, sustainable energy. But no wonder Toyota is finding Japanese orders from only government and corporate fleets. Despite the generous incentives in Japan, you could give consumers a free Mirai and they’d still have nowhere to fuel it. I don’t see how the Mirai is supposed to succeed in either the States or Japan. The problem is simply a dearth of hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

    • BEP

      Even a couple hundreds Mirai are enough for Toyota as a beta test. It is obvious that such a technology cannot go mass market from day one. Having a production vehicle is already an important milestone. We’ll have to wait years, or even decades, to see what place battery and fuel cell vehicles will take in the automotive world.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    It’s all about Akio Toyoda’s ego!

  • CDspeed

    No I had no idea, but it was just a show wasn’t it, the Japanese Prime Minister like most world leaders is driven, and doesn’t drive himself for security reasons. I don’t think this made headlines because it wasn’t really news, it really wasn’t received by a paying customer, it was a high profile test drive.

  • Dan Westin

    The emotional and biased Gordon-Bloomfield scribbles: “For an automaker with its heart set on challenging the dominance of the nelectric car in the zero emission marketplace, thatu2019s rather a ndisappointing start.”nnSURELY Gordon- Bloomfield knows that Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles ARE ELECTRIC CARS?nnThis article is further proof that NGBloomfield and TE are simply not worthy of covering an industry, You may love Tesla (stock too?) but you shouldn’t let it get in the way of facts. Have fun now, there are plenty of other sites that are actually trying to write about new tech without the drama. Gordon-Bloomfield might as well be American with all the mis-direction and blatant negativity. How old are you anyway?nnHas it ever even dawned on you that you might just be wrong about Fuel Cells? It may become apparent after everyone has moved on. This is a disgraceful little article, piled upon lots of other childish half tries at “journalism”. Good bye and I’d say good luck but you really don’t deserve it. Instead, Good Riddance.

    • CDspeed

      Whoa, bad day at the office? She is right, this event was oddly quiet, this is the first place I read about it. Usually such high profile launches are on every news site automotive or otherwise, but it wasn’t.

    • Gordon-Bloomfield is a pro. “Emotional and biased,” Dan? Really? Transport Evolved is an excellent media outlet; it is commonly a source for research for my forthcoming book about alternative cars. Gordon-Bloomfield is an intelligent, objective, and excellent journalist. nnAnother big fan of TE and Gordon-Bloomfield is Nicolas Zart at CarNewsCafe.com (and many other auto-related media outlets). Are you going to say he’s also not worthy of covering the industry? Your negativity is your own enemy. nnAnd yes, I think Gordon-Bloomfield knows exactly how hydrogen fuel cell cars compare to BEV models, down to the technical nuances. Apparently you haven’t read enough of her content to understand that. Or you’ve been reading after forgetting to take your meds again….

    • TornyiBarnabu00e1sazIsten

      You sound butthurt. Have you invested emotionally and/or financially in fuel cell technology a lot?

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