Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, is being hailed as a turning point for the automotive industry as it’s destined to be the first mass produced vehicle powered by a fuel cell stack, which takes in hydrogen and oxygen and generates electricity to drive its motor(s). The only by-product is water.
The Mirai, first shown in concept form at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, is expected to be sold to customers instead of being leased, as has been the case for previous fuel cell vehicles like Honda's FCX Clarity. In Japan, the vehicle will be priced close to seven million yen (approximately $60,294). Pricing in other markets will be announced closer to launch.
Of course, whether hydrogen is a realistic widespread fuel source (right now it's most certainly not) and whether it's sourced from non-fossil-fuel sources (right now most of it comes from natural gas), the idea of a fuel cell vehicle is intriguing to many. To help answer these unknowns, Toyota has also announced a new commitment to drive the development of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure, with a new initiative in five northeastern U.S. states set to join the existing initiatives on the west coast.
The automaker is collaborating with a company called Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, a move similar to Tesla Motors’ [NSDQ:TSLA] rollout of Supercharger stations to help spur the adoption of its battery-powered electric cars. The states and locations Toyota picked were selected in the greater New York and Boston areas so that a backbone of a hydrogen highway for the Northeast corridor could be developed. Specific details of the collaboration will be revealed in the coming months.
The new initiative builds on Toyota’s previous support for hydrogen infrastructure development in California. In May 2014, Toyota announced a $7.3 million loan to FirstElement Fuels to support the operations and maintenance of 19 hydrogen fueling stations across the state.