2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell: Back to the Future, Again

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Review: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell

One of only two fuel cell electric cars on the U.S. retail market, the Toyota Mirai – such as the plug-in?electric Tesla – aims to marry?creature comfort and cutting-edge technology.

What you’ll like: Responsive luxury car for that long-awaited “hydrogen highway.” Super-comfortable seats, edgy look, space-age dashboard and many years of free fuel.

What you won’t like: Little use of that free fuel -?only a handful of stations, just about all in California. Pricey. Small trunk.

What you don’t know: There’s a better possibility of getting inflated by?the vehicle’s gas tank inside your car compared to hydrogen tank within the Mirai.

Price: $57,500 sticker price, $499 a month to lease – but tax incentives along with other perks bring both?down. Details below.

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What’s different about?the Mirai

There’s?been talk about the “hydrogen highway” for years, a network of hydrogen fueling stations filling up cars that emit only drops water so clean you can?drink it. Sounds great, right? But that vision of the future is Ten years away. And it is often been Ten years away.

Until now.

Toyota, together with Honda and Hyundai, is putting its money where its corporate mouth is, finally offering an automobile run by electricity generated by a fuel cell. The 2016?Toyota Mirai has become for lease or sale for those who can afford the high cost and have a feeling of adventure. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is already on sale and lease in California, and Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell is expected to go in the marketplace by the end of 2016.

The Mirai, a luxury sedan loaded with high-tech safety features, stickers at $57,500. But that prices are reduced substantially by many factors we’ll discuss later. It may travel up to 312 miles on the fill-up and takes about five?minutes to refuel from a growing network of hydrogen fueling stations around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Two “connector stations” – one along Interstate 5 and something around the 101 freeway in Santa Barbara – make it possible to drive the Mirai between L.A. and also the San francisco bay area.

The Mirai is, in this way, an electric car that will get its power from a fuel cell rather than from electricity kept in battery power. The main advantage of the fuel cell car over an electric car with a battery is faster fill-ups along with a longer range.

How it drives

The Mirai is a midsize luxury sedan with touch screens, mounted in a swoopy dashboard, that offer stats around the driving experience, including fuel efficiency and battery charge levels (yes, it features a battery to briefly store electricity from the regenerative braking mechanism, which activates an electrical generator while braking or reducing). The leather seats are comfortable and provide strong lateral support as if the car was built to be driven hard on winding roads.

A touch from the go pedal provides a surge of acceleration typical of planet. The Mirai’s drive train makes an range of soft sounds – whining and buzzing – a few of which are normal of electrical cars. Overall, the engine noise is almost silent and also the road noise is very low, delivering a good, upscale ride.

On a very short test drive, the suspension was firm but comfortable, handling potholes with ease. The brakes were spongy and unresponsive, that is usual for hybrid and electric vehicles, because of the?regenerative braking technology.

What’s included

The front-wheel drive Mirai is available in only one trim level, therefore the only decision you need to make is one kind of?the four available exterior colors. The sedan is packed with advanced safety features for example blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Additionally, it comes with several other perks:

  • Free fuel for 3 years, or up to $15,000 worth, whichever comes first.
  • An eight-year/100,000-mile warranty for that fuel cell components.
  • Free maintenance for 3 years/35,000 miles.
  • Roadside assistance for three years.
  • Complimentary car rental for trips away from network of hydrogen fueling stations (up to seven days each year).
  • Carpool stickers for that HOV lanes.

Pricing: A Nerd crunches the numbers

Leasing: Most customers will lease the Mirai, because technologies are progressing quickly, after the three-year lease has ended, more complex cars is going to be available. The lease payment is $499 a month for three years with $3,649 due at signing, totaling an expensive $21,613 for three many years of ownership. But wait – a California Air Resources Board rebate of $5,000 wipes out the deposit whilst covering almost three monthly obligations, bringing the ownership total price to $16,613 for 3 years.

And it gets even better. Compare the Mirai, with its free hydrogen perk, with?the similar-sized Toyota Avalon, which Fueleconomy.gov says has a $1,350 annual gas bill, and that adds up to a savings of $4,050. The out-of-pocket three-year total is only $12,563, or a monthly price of about $350 (excluding registration and insurance charges).

Buying: Discounts and lease deals may pop up later on. But for now, figure you’ll have to pay the sticker price of $57,500. Toyota sweetens the deal by offering 0% financing for 60 months. Furthermore, a $7,500 “Trailblazer” rebate and also the $5,000 CARB rebate bring the cost down to a still-pricey $45,000.

Knock off another $4,050 you don’t have to invest in gasoline, and you’re simply at $40,950. Some buyers could also be able to utilize the $8,000 federal tax credit, which would bring?the Mirai?for an optimistic selling price of $32,950 – about the cost of a 2016 Toyota Avalon.

Nerd’s-eye view

There are lots of unknowns in the future of the fuel cell car. Perhaps the biggest is the availability and cost of hydrogen. When the hydrogen highway expands across the country and the price of the fuel cell technology comes down, it could signal a clear alternative to gasoline-powered cars. But cheaper planet already are available, and charging stations tend to be more plentiful. So you’ve to wonder whether?the viability of?fuel cell cars will perhaps?remain?10 years in the future, after all.

Philip Reed is really a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: preed@nerdwallet.com.