Toyota Reconsiders How To Proceed With Hydrogen FCV’s After the Mirai’s Lackluster Run

Mirai

While much of the automotive industry is rushing, pedal to the metal, full speed ahead with electric vehicle (EV) development, Japanese automotive icon Toyota has decided to tread a different path in their quest towards a future of alternative fuel vehicles.

They unveiled the Mirai, Japanese for “future,” at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, the world's first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle (FCV) to be sold commercially. However, the Mirai’s sales numbers have not shown the vehicle to be the “future” that Toyota was hoping for.

It’s been hard for hydrogen FCVs to catch on when setting up fueling stations for them has been so difficult (even in California, which has invested A LOT of money in the fledgling technology), even more so than with EV charging networks, and those have had many issues.

However, Toyota Still Has Hope for Hydrogen

In an interview at the Tokyo motor show, Hiroki Nakajima, Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer, indicated that the company plans to pivot in its approach to the future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the wake of the Mirai not being “successful.”

Instead of giving up on the technology, Nakajima shared that the company intends to repurpose it for commercial vehicle use, “For mid-size trucks, it's easy to deliver a refueling network, as it's mainly A to B. Huge numbers of trucks go from A to B so that you can operate stations with more stability. Commercial vehicles are the most important area to try to proceed on with hydrogen.”

However, this shift towards a more commercial focus doesn’t mean that Toyota will turn away from developing hydrogen passenger cars entirely. He stressed that the company was looking for ways to streamline and “downsize components” to make the technology viable for various cars.

Smaller Is Better For Batteries

Indeed, the Japanese automaker seems to be looking towards a future where next-gen battery packs, such as the one that will power their recently announced Land Cruiser Se (which is rumored to have over 600 miles of driving range while taking up way less space due to a downsized fuel cell stack), utilize a “design language” that’s encapsulated by “downsizing.”

From a technological perspective, this is considered a potential “game-changer” because it means that battery electric vehicles could be produced cheaper due to smaller batteries weighing less while taking up less space, hence the vastly improved driving range of the above-mentioned Land Cruiser Se.

However, Nakajima also (if not unsurprisingly) stated that these new batteries would be “very expensive,” meaning they would likely only be seen in “high-performance” vehicles at first.
Nakajima stressed that his company wants to foster a “fun-to-drive image” for all their new vehicles “as much as possible.” Toyota even intends to offer an “imitation” manual transmission for their future “fun” EVs.

Regardless of what someone might think about Toyota’s ideas of a “fun image,” there’s no denying that if their purposed next-gen “downsized” batteries pan out – it will be a breakthrough for alternative fuel vehicles.

Author: Jarret Hendrickson

Title: Writer

Expertise: Automotive Industry News, Film, Drama, and Creative Writing.

Bio:

Jarret Hendrickson is a writer. He got his start when he was accepted into San Francisco State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in 2018. While earning his degree, his short plays, The Captain (2019) & Fight Night (2020), were performed at San Francisco State University's annual Fringe Festival. His feature-length play Bill & Jenna (2021) was selected for the 2020 Greenhouse Professional Play Development Workshop at Z Space in San Francisco. While studying dramatic writing and screenwriting, he concluded that Se7en is the perfect modern screenplay. He received his MFA in the fall of 2021. In addition to his interest in writing and movies, Jarret also has a long-standing interest in automotive news, which dates back to his picking up a copy of MotorTrend when he was ten. His interest in all things automotive really blossomed at age 15 when he test-drove the 1994 Volvo SE that would accompany him for the next decade. His ongoing interest in cars helped him secure his first freelance writing job when he was hired to cover automotive news for axeladdict.com, where over 1,000 of his articles were published. You can find him on X (the social media platform formally known as Twitter) @jarrethsfpa and on Linkedin. Jarret currently covers the daily ebb and flow of the automotive industry for Wealth of Geeks.