The 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan — Toyota’s first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — has received an official combined gas mileage rating of 67 MPGe and an official range of 312 miles per fill by the U.S. EPA ahead of its U.S. market launch in California this fall.
Announced yesterday by Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen Colorado, the gas mileage rating makes the Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedan far more energy efficient than 50 MPGe combined fuel economy of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson CUV fuel cell vehicle — the only other hydrogen fuel cell vehicle currently available to buy in the U.S. Like the Mirai, the Hyundai Tucson FCV is only available in select parts of California: the only part of the U.S. where publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling infrastructure exists.
For those unfamiliar with the Toyota Mirai, it is a limited-production hydrogen fuel cell sedan powered by a 114 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell stack fed by hydrogen from twin 70MPa carbon fibre reinforced plastic fuel tanks. Power from the fuel cell stack is sent to a 113-kilowatt front-wheel drive electric motor, with any excess power fed back into a small 1.6-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride battery pack for later use.
As Toyota is keen to note, the official EPA range rating of 312 miles per fill of its twin tanks of hydrogen makes the Toyota Miria fuel cell sedan the longest-range zero tailpipe emission vehicle you’ll be able to buy when it goes on sale in California this fall, beating even the mighty Tesla Model S 85D and its EPA-rated range of 270 miles per charge.
That’s great news for Toyota, which has been keen to set its hydrogen fuel technology as being the logical, sensible choice over battery electric vehicles, arguing that poor infrastructure, slow recharge times and limited range means that battery electric vehicles can’t be the transportation choice of the future.
But while Tesla’s high-end Model S can be recharged for free at any of Tesla’s expanding network of Supercharger stations across the U.S. and around the world, the U.S. department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Centre still lists just twelve public hydrogen filling stations in the whole of the country — most of them in the state of California.
Add in private stations, and that figure rises to 41 locations, mostly spread across east and west coasts. Take into consideration the number of hydrogen filling stations planned in the near future, and that figure more than doubles to 93 sites.
The same database lists 9,912 electric vehicle charging stations and 25,716 dedicated electric vehicle charging outlets in existence today, rising to 11,894 and 30,225 respectively if you include private stations and planned future developments.
That’s more than four and-a-half times than the numbers of filling stations for other alternative fuels combined.
Nevertheless, Toyota is still confident that the range advantage the Mirai has over cars like the Tesla Model S will help encourage more customers to opt for a hydrogen electric vehicle over a battery electric vehicle.
At the moment, there are just twelve public hydrogen filling stations in the U.S.
“Toyota realized in the early 90’s that electrification was key to the future of the automobile,” said Lentz in an official press release yesterday. “Just as the Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly twenty years ago, the Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation.”
Priced at $57,500, the Mirai will be available at just eight California dealerships when it launches this year, and comes with a specialized ownership package designed to make ownership as easy as possible.
In addition to offering seven days per year of complementary vehicle rental for longer-distance trips beyond the coverage of a hydrogen filling station, Toyota says it customers will be given no-cost maintenance on their Toyota Miria hydrogen fuel cell cars for the first three years or 35,000 miles of ownership.
In addition, Toyota said that it will offer no-cost ‘enhanced’ roadside assistance for three years, regardless of mileage, including expedited towing service and trip interruption reimbursement at a maximum of $500 per day for up to 5 days per incident. As with other zero-emission cars in California, the hydrogen fuel cell system — including its fuel cell stack, power control unit, hydrogen tanks, battery pack, ECU, fuel cell air compressor boss converter and hybrid control module will be covered by an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
But what caught our eyes for the first time in Toyota’s press release is some detail pertaining to Toyota’s promise to offer customers free hydrogen fuel for the first there years of ownership. While we’ve known this has been part of Toyota’s marketing strategy for the Mirai for some time, we note the small print in Toyota’s latest press release.
Complimentary fuel for 3 years or $15,000 maximum, whichever comes first. Fuel program starts after receipt and activation of fuel card; fuel card is nontransferable. Fueling must be done at approved SAE certified stations.
Until fairly recently, hydrogen has been given away free of charge to hydrogen fuel cell drivers in California due to a lack of official certification — known as California Type Approval — for hydrogen fuelling stations. The lack of approval was in turn caused by a lack of an accurate metering system to measure how much gas had been delivered to a customer at the pump.
Now fueling stations can start to charge for filling up, it’s now a question of just how far that $15,000 of free fuel will go.
Last year, Toyota’s Senior VP of North America Bob Carter, talking at the JP Morgan Auto Conference, claimed that the cost of filling up a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle like the Toyota Mirai would initially be somewhere around $50 per tank., falling to about $30 per tank as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become more popular and economies of scale comes into play.
At $50 per fill, Toyota’s $15,000 credit will be good for 300 refills. Using the EPA’s range estimate, that’s equivalent to driving 93,600 miles over the first three years, 31,200 miles per year — or about 600 miles per week.
That’s assuming the price of hydrogen fuel doesn’t go up, of course.
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