Toyota will be launching its Mirai fuel cell car soon in California in the teeth of falling gas prices.
There are only a handful of hydrogen stations up and running in California, but the California Fuel Cell Partnership has plans for 40 stations to operate by the end of 2016 and 100 by 2020. The state of California is spending about $20 million a year on the project.
Toyota is not the first to bring a hydrogen fuel cell car to market. Honda sold a handful of its FCX Clarity fuel cell cars between 2008 and this year, but it ended production with the 2015 model year. It is expected to launch another fuel cell model sometime in the next two years. Hyundai recently launched a fuel cell version of its Tucson in 2013 it has sold only about 300 so far.
The Mirai was conceived about the same time as the Prius gas-electric hybrid, in the early 1990's.
At first glimpse the car looks distinctive, and some will say, strange. The front hood is wrapping with a belt-like edge that elevates it from the grille which is highlighted by two trapezoids sitting beneath the narrow head lamp slits. From the rear Mirai appears more mainstream.
As with the Prius, Mirai is not driven by a short-term business case. It won't be sexy.