Back in 1997, Toyota rolled the dice on a new technology. Its Prius hybrid was odd-looking, and it sold tepidly at first. Now, it's one of the most profitable vehicles in the company's line. Six million have been sold.
Act Two, the Mirai. It means "future" in Japanese, and Take Two's auto critic, Susan Carpenter, says Toyota is doubling down, this time on hydrogen. That's the fuel used to power this mid-size sedan, which uses fuel cell technology to convert the hydrogen, along with oxygen in the air, into electric power. The result is a car that runs 300 miles on a fill-up, and produces zero emissions.
Toyota will begin with a limited roll-out of 700 cars late next year. Priced at about $57,000, the car will be eligible for state and federal credits that will bring the out-of-pocket cost down to the mid-forties. Toyota is also offering a lease at $499/mo.
Buy or lease, the company is throwing in the hydrogen fuel for free, along with a 24/7 concierge service that will help out with any problems.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in nature, but it's also very explosive. Toyota says it's done extensive crash testing to insure safety, and the Mirai's fuel tank is wrapped in carbon fiber.
Toyota has plans to invest in infrastructure, both in plants that extract hydrogen, and in service stations that will supply it to drivers. They're focusing on California, where the state has already committed $200 million to construct as many as 100 hydrogen filling stations.