Toyota has taken a brave step into the future, and the relative unknown of the hydrogen-powered vehicle market. A market, where vehicles will not come cheap, but will offer a significantly greener alternative to motorists looking to clean up their city air.
There won’t be a huge selection of them – the manufacturer hopes to sell 400 in its native Japan – and it will rack up a heady cost around the mark of $57,600, but those lucky enough to be blessed with one will not be short on technology features. Hydrogen cars are expected to become a more economical choice as time goes on, with lower running costs than your traditional diesel and petrol engine, and with Governments across the world pushing for the hydrogen alternative, many have been supporting the development of more charging stations. The Japanese Government has plans to provide a £2m yen platform for those who buy fuel cell cars, to add to the patchy selection of charging stations that currently exist worldwide.
Fuel cell vehicles run on compressed hydrogen air, often stored in tanks fitted to the vehicle. In the Mirai’s case, they are stored beneath the vehicle. There is no exhaust, and while it will not be as environmentally friendly as your typical electric car, it represents a step in the right direction for alternative fuel advocates. The hydrogen fuel cell phenomenon remains a grey area, and any predictions of how quickly hydrogen vehicles may take off is largely open for debate. There are no firm answers – Toyota deputy chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka forecasted a timescale of ten, to twenty years for the Mirai to start making serious waves. However, the Toyota Prius is a prime example of a gamble paying off in a short space of time, and the auto giant will be hoping for similar successes with its hydrogen exploits. The Mirai is certainly building for the future, an incredibly futuristic design is its defining exterior feature, and the vehicle bears a striking resemblance to the Tron car in its exterior, and interior design.
The Japanese manufacturer is arguably the fulcrum of the motoring world – a manufacturer whose annual revenue outstrips every other competitor – and so it seems almost fitting that they should make the first initial steps into what remains a largely untouched market. The success of the Mirai, will ultimately offer the most important indication of how successful alternative fuel sources will be, and we can't wait to find out the result.