Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai is the promised future of transportation, although it seems that Toyota is struggling to deliver on that promise.

Production goals are very low compared to current electric cars and in Japan the waiting queue for Mirai is already three years long! If you order Mirai now, delivery is expected in 2018.

One of the latest articles on Mirai states that Toyota can't increase production, "even if it wants to."

Mirai Chief Engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka said:

"Both in terms of design and manufacturing technology, we need to improve. We need to achieve a drastic technological evolution."

After all those years of hydrogen fuel cell developments, they still need a drastic technological evolution, which sounds more like a call for a revolution.

In 2015, Toyota will produce 700 Mirai - 400 for Japan and 300 for the US (launch in September) and Europe (after the US launch). In 2016, production will triple to some 2,000 and then in 2017 production will reach 3,000. The problem is that 3,000 is the limit of "current manufacturing know-how".

"Part of the challenge is the sensitivity of making the fuel cell stack, the costly chemical processor that combines hydrogen and oxygen to make the electricity that runs the car.

The stack has 370 cells, each just 1.34 millimeters thick. Etching the conduit channels on each of the fragile cells is a time-consuming and complex process, Tanaka said. Going beyond 3,000 vehicles a year would require a breakthrough in the way they are manufactured."

On the hydrogen infrastructure side, Japan has 24 refueling stations ("19 are operating"). The government had aimed for 100 by the end of the year, but projects are moving slow and now the target is just 40.

One hydrogen refueling station costs up to ¥460 million ($3.86 million), which would would be enough to purchase and install 100-200 DC fast chargers (assuming $50,000-$100,000 each). It's expected that costs of stations will "halve that construction cost by 2020", but cost of DC fast chargers probably will be cut in half too.

Problems don't end there:

"Another infrastructure quirk: Japan doesn't allow self-serve hydrogen fueling. Only licensed station attendants are permitted to hook up the nozzles and hit the "refuel" button.

Hydrogen leaks, one attendant says, are the No. 1 concern: "It's very dangerous."

Source: Automotive News