One Toyota car could change the way Americans power their vehicles forever. The Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, is the company’s new fuel cell vehicle that can travel hundreds of miles on one tank of hydrogen , reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojoroquez.
“Basically this vehicle has a tank on board that carries hydrogen,” said Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz.
Hydrogen power itself is not new. But some automakers see it as a more practical alternative to all-electric vehicles, which are still limited by range and charging time.
“It will travel almost 300 miles on a single tank, it takes about five minutes to re-charge, and the emissions is only water vapor,” Lentz said.
But auto analysts are quick to point out hydrogen power has drawbacks too.
“It’s a fantastic idea but because of the lack of availability of the filling stations, it’s going to be some time before it’s ready for the average commuter,” Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Philip Reid said.
Currently, Southern California has fewer than a dozen hydrogen stations but Toyota expects that number to double by next summer. The company also just announced a collaboration to open 12 hydrogen stations in the Northeast in 2016.
“This is the very beginning of this hydrogen society, so you may have to start small in somewhere like California, and then grow over time and that’s what I think will happen,” Lentz said.
But before drivers embrace new technology, some say automakers need to restore consumer confidence in cars already on the road. A record 57 million vehicles across the industry have been recalled in the U.S. this year alone.
“To me, recalls means that you are very quickly finding issues with vehicles,” Lentz said. “You are fixing those vehicles quickly.”
He said before, they relied solely on their own internal data.
“Now we comb the Internet,” he said. “We look for tweets, we look for comments from customers, so that we dig for problems.”
Toyota sees the Mirai as a new chapter in the company’s history.
“It drives just like a regular car, you don’t feel like you’re in some science experiment,” Lentz said.
Hyundai already has limited numbers of its Tucson hydrogen vehicles on the road. But Toyota’s version, available next year in California showrooms, will carry a sticker price just under $60,000 and could drop as low as $45,000 with various federal and state rebates.