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Toyota wants hydrogen to succeed so bad it’s practically paying people to buy the Mirai

Image Credits: Toyota

Who wants a nearly free car?

If you hurry, you can get $40,000 off a 2023 Toyota Mirai Limited, a fuel-cell vehicle that retails for $66,000. When you factor in the $15,000 in free hydrogen over six years and the available 0% interest loan, the new car would run you just $11,000. That’s how much it costs Toyota to make the vehicle’s fuel cell stack alone, according to the most recent estimate. You buy the fuel cell, Toyota pays for the rest of the car.

It would be a great deal, if you can find the hydrogen to power it.

Toyota’s discount comes on the heels of Shell’s announcement three weeks ago that it's closing its hydrogen filling stations in California. Granted, the oil company only had seven to begin with (five of which had been out of order), but that still represents more than 10% of the Golden State’s stations, nearly all of which are clustered around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Of those that remain, about a quarter are offline, according to the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership.

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California was, and still is, the only state where a fuel cell vehicle makes logistical sense — if you have a filling station nearby that’s operational. And if you squint. And tilted your head.

Just don’t tell Honda, which recently found the time to convert its best-selling CR-V into an automotive equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster: a plug-in hybrid, fuel-cell vehicle.

The crossover’s 17.7 kWh battery provides 29 miles of electric-only range, and once that’s spent, the front-mounted fuel cell starts sipping hydrogen from a pair of carbon-fiber tanks. One tank sits under the rear seat, the other behind, where it takes up an inordinate amount of trunk space.

For all that complexity and compromise, what do you get? A grand total of 270 miles of range, or about the same as a mid-pack electric crossover. Except the EV isn’t restricted to driving around LA or SF.