Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell: The Future, Literally

Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell

Meet the No-Emission Future of Cars.

If you could imagine the car of the future, would you picture one so clean that it produces water as its only emission? Well that’s what the Mirai does: it’s powered by hydrogen, a key component of H2O and the only emissions it produces is water vapor.

Mirai, which is Japanese for ‘future,’ is a hydrogen fuel cell car and one of the breakthrough models in this new technology.

Available in California since last year (because that’s where fueling stations are), Toyota will roll out the model in other states as more stations are built. And, to give buyers confidence, the Mirai comes with a two-year fueling package, so buyers don’t have to foot the bill for fuel.

You’ll start to see new hydrogen cars and also, hydrogen fueling stations popping up. So what is this and what are the benefits?

Meet the Mirai: Cool, clean and luxurious

Toyota introduced the Mirai a few years ago as its first fuel cell car. While it takes some cues from the Prius, it’s built on a Lexus frame, so it’s larger and has a more luxurious feel, bucking the idea that a fuel efficient car has to be tiny, too.

We took a test drive and found it to be a smooth and quiet ride. The engine is silent, using Toyota’s electric hybrid technology, so it drives and feels more like a hybrid or EV. Inside, the cabin was quiet so it wasn’t difficult to hear the low-key tenor of Ash Corson, our Mirai tour guide.

Designed to look and feel like the future, too

Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell

The front seat of the Toyota Mirai is roomy and luxurious; the center dash features 3 screens with lots of driver information. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Mirai’s futuristic look is intentional, with carved rocket-like front and rear angles. Inside it’s familiar, roomy and comfortable with plenty of passenger luxuries. The dashboard has three screens featuring lots of information and feedback. Like the Prius, the most important information—speed, fuel usage and feedback— are displayed on a center screen at the top of the dash, not in front of the steering wheel

What it costs: Buying it and fueling it

Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell

The Toyota Mirai fuel cell has a nice bonus: plenty of trunk room! Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Mirai starts at $57,000 to purchase, however buyers may qualify for state and federal tax credits. For now fueling is included for two years with the purchase of a Mirai. And the cost of buying hydrogen? Right now, it’s about $13-$15 per kilogram, putting the cost to fill the Mirai at about $65-$75 per tank. But as demand increases, it’s expected that the cost will come down to be equal with gas. Another bonus is that it’s as fast to fuel as a gas car, much quicker than a plug in electric.

Are there downsides? Aren’t there always

While the emissions from a fuel cell are a great bonus, producing hydrogen is still a messy process and demands fossil fuels, so, like powering an electric car from a coal-burning power plant, it can be a win/lose proposition. However, investing in the future takes time and has to build momentum. If consumers adopt the technology and it grows, there’ll be incentive for hydrogen producers to find a cleaner path, too.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss