Mar 18, 2021

2021 Toyota Mirai - A Hydrogen Lexus? For free?!


Have you ever made money buying a new car? I think I did.

Recently, I came across an awesome deal on the redesigned Toyota Mirai and couldn't pass it up. I've been itching to join the green energy revolution but pricing (and charging hassles) never made sense...until now.

If we exclude tax, I'm actually making a few hundred bucks off a brand new, $52k car!
It's crazy. Too crazy to pass up, especially when you're talking about a car that looks this good:

Front view
This car looks like a cross between the Lexus LFA (my dream car) and the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ. Dare I say it looks better than the new Supra?ðŸĪŠ

Rear quarter view (looks like Audi A7)

Right-rear view

Rear light bar & lic plate light

Power-folding mirrors and puddle light


About the car

This is the second generation Toyota Mirai. Like the first gen, this is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV). 
For 2021, the Mirai is completely redesigned. It is now a Rear Wheel Drive, 4-door sedan outputting 182HP. With instant electric torque, this thing feels pretty peppy (especially in Sports mode). Taking over someone on the freeway is a cinch.

The ride is buttery smooth (even with 19" wheels) and cabin noise is very well contained.. This car drives like it's gliding on air. This has more to do with it being an EV, but I sat in Teslas before and don't recall them being this smooth. I may have selective memory. 😊

Interior design is modern and elegant. The Soft-Tex material (faux leather) feels very good. I didn't miss my previous car's perforated leather seats as much as I thought. I've owned and rented many cars, but I've never had such a smooth and quiet driving experience.

Although the interior is smaller than my previous full-size sedan, the front seats have plenty of room. However, rear seats are a bit cramped due the battery being sandwiched between them and the small trunk, but they're decent. That middle seat can be used too, but it's not recommended. I just flip down the arm-rest and forget about that 5th seat.

The '21 Mirai is built on Lexus LS500's platform and is hand made from 100% Japanese parts in Toyota's Motomachi plant -- the same plant where Toyota's top of the line LFA and LC were made.


For more information, check out this video overview as well as this detailed introduction by Toyota

Unexpected/interesting features

  • Power folding mirrors w/ puddle lights - this is the first time I have this feature and it is oh so nice. The car knows when you're near the door (proximity key) and automatically turns on the puddle light to help you find the handles. Once you touch the handle, it auto-unlocks and unfolds the mirrors. Hovering your palm inside the handle does the same. ðŸ˜ą
    Bonus feature: you can set each mirror to have 2 positions so, when backing up, one or both mirrors can tilt down to help you see the curb.
  • Air purification - Because this car sucks in oxygen then combines it with hydrogen to power the engine, it's actually cleaning air. I'm effectively driving an air purifier around town. Toyota calls it "minus emission". I'm not adding emission to the environment, but  actually removing emission? Whoa! You can find more details here.
  • Auto-leveling headlights - Another first for me. The low beam on this car is bright and projects very far. Auto-leveling it is needed so you don't blind people facing you when going down a hill. Because the headlight is so capable, I don't miss the HID + fog light setup on my previous car at all.
  • Auto high-beam - I've been wanting this for a while. Unfortunately, this car being locked to a metropolitan area means I won't get to use it much. Edit: I took it to Rancho Palos Verdes yesterday and, going up and down those hills was awesome, especially at night. I was doing some spirited driving when a Lexus LC showed up. I know I couldn't race him so I followed him around the bends. Surprisingly the Mirai (in sports mode) could keep up quite well. I'm sure he was wondering what new Lexus was following him around. I made use of several features of the car on that drive. BR mode while going down hill and Auto-highbeam worked exceptionally well. Extra bonus: by the time I was done with dinner, we head over to the Torrance station for their sweet, happy hour H2 deal: $13/kg.
  • Surround camera is high resolution and looks awesome (much better than my 2017 Murano). Auto view makes it immensely useful. As you roll to a stop, the camera switches on to show everything around your car. This way, you can see if there's adequate gap between you and the next car/lane. It also shows how far you are to the pedestrian lane or, when navigating a tight driveway, lets you see if you have adequate clearance. Combined with front and rear sensors, you now have a lot less reason to hit anything. I'll probably hit something anyway. 😜

The deal (+ other financial tidbits)

  • $52,504 (XLE trim + premium paint + tech pkg & floor mats, etc)
  • - $20,000 Toyota financial rebate (taxable)
  • - $5,004 dealer discounts and other incentives. Your mileage may vary here as it took a lot to get to this discount level. Most people will be at around $2-3k discount, especially now when the Mirai is selling like hotcakes. 
  • = $27,500 (car price before tax)
  • - $8,000 Federal tax credit
  • - $4,500 CA rebate
  • = $15,000
  • - $15,000 Toyota fuel credit card (use over 6 years)
  • = $0 (before tax, titles, docs)
    *Note: my deal is actually better than this (hence I "made money"). I felt I had to give something back so I bought the extended warranty & paint protection package. I plan to keep the car for 6 yrs so these are worthy spends.
  • 0% interest financing for up to 72 months. Depending on your credit, this means an extra $4k to $5k saving.
    • First, financing charges for $0 down on a deal like this (roughly $33k OTD) is around $4k (that's with low interest). With typical interest rates, it's more like a $5k saving. 
    • Second, your money is worth more now than in the future due to inflation so, being able to spread $33k over 6 years for free is a great deal. Considering we're about to enter a hyper-inflationary period, this is an even bigger deal.
  • Referral bonus: If you're going to take advantage of this deal, email me your first and last name and I will set you up with a referral bonus worth up to $400. Details of the referral program is available here. Toyota matches the name and email address on your purchase to the referral so please use the same info you'll use on your purchase.
Note: This deal expires at the end of March has been extended to May 4th, 2021.

Extras

  • HOV sticker that expires in 2024. As we emerge from pandemic, freeways are going to be packed again. In fact, 405 traffic is already back to where it was. Being able to use the carpool lane with one driver is a big plus. Many people bought EVs expressly for this purpose. For me, it's a nice icing on and already sweet cake.
  • Included maintenance for 3 years. This usually costs around $1,500 for the first 3 years. For a Mirai, it may be more as parts and things that need maintenance are different (more expensive?). 
  • All of the items below:


What's the catch?

The car is amazing, but you have to deal with hard to find and expensive hydrogen fuel.
  1. Fueling stations are rare - Finding a station is a challenge. You also have to contend with occasional downed pumps and exhausted stations. Fortunately, I live near 3 stations, and a few more are between work and home so I'm pretty well covered. Here's how to find a station near you.
    More stations are expected to come online by end of 2021 (64 total in CA).

  2. Hydrogen is still expensive - Even though it has gone down in price, Hydrogen (or H2) is still around $16.8 per kilogram. This car has a tank capacity of 5.6 kg, giving it max range of 402 miles (more like 340). In comparison, my 2017 Nissan Murano (23mpg) holds 19 gallons for a real-world range of 380 miles. Here's a fuel cost comparison:

    Mirai: $16.8/kg x 5.6kg / 340 miles =  27. 7 cents/mile.
    Murano: $3.97/gal x 19gal / 380 miles = 19.8 cents/mile.
    So, we're looking at a roughly 28% premium over gasoline.
My goal is to max out that $15k fuel card (probably in 4.5 years) while putting wear and tear on the Mirai (saving maintenance costs on my other car), then relegate it to secondary status for weekend/leisure driving.
Once the Mirai learns your eco driving pattern, you'll see a range in the 330+ miles, closer to that published 402. Note: 8% of the tank is hidden so you aren't ever stranded when remaining range hits zero. In 4 days, my range already crept up to around 320, even though I'm still in "new car mode" and hitting that acceleration fairly often. Average for me should be around 340 per tank.

Hydrogen is more expensive, but not that far away. As you do more eco driving, overall cost goes down. If you find cheap hydrogen (I later found 2 stations that provide H2 at $13/kg), you're saving even more. Don't forget, you're also saving on maintenance (3yr included) vs your gas car.

Why is Toyota doing this?

It's obvious that the Mirai is Toyota's loss leader. It is meant to get people into hydrogen cars and to drive demand for a hydrogen infrastructure. But Toyota has been in the FCEV game since 2015 (1st gen Mirai), why offer so much discounts on a brand new version? Discussions I've read about Toyota clearing out these Mirais make no sense. That's a lot of R&D and investments to just liquidate and give up on hydrogen. I think the answer is just the opposite: Toyota realized their mistake with the original Mirai and is rectifying it by making a hydrogen car people actually want to drive. Offer a crazy incentive to get people in and get a whole new generation of buyers to talk about it. I don't know about you but that strategy worked on me.
Here's a few other points I found in my research:
  1. EV market is exploding and will only continue the upward trend to replace ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars. While other automakers are in various stages of rolling out EVs, Toyota chose to focus exclusively on Hydrogen as their EV play. So, the Mirai is their Tesla fighter. It now makes sense that the new Mirai looks so good and performs so well. 
  2. All automakers operating in climate-conscious states like California are required to have carbon credits to offset sales of their gasoline cars. For now, the Mirai is Toyota's carbon offset, but they are heavily invested in hydrogen, from an R&D perspective as well as infrastructure. Rumor has it that Lexus will introduce a hydrogen car later this year or next. Some say the Mirai was it, but it seems to have inspired some people at Lexus. Actually, the new Mirai is built on a Lexus platform, in a Lexus plant, but they kept it under Toyota badge as it is their "green halo" car.
  3. By introducing a sexier, more robust Mirai, Toyota is making hydrogen more acceptable, even desirable, to the masses. This means more hydrogen cars on the road, which will push up demand for more hydrogen infrastructure. At the very least, more hydrogen cars makes it easier for infrastructure builders to justify their investment. It will also help convince governmental entities to further invest in H2 infrastructure.
  4. Japan is betting big on hydrogen economy and Toyota is leading the way. It's no longer just Toyota driving the hydrogen conversation.  On the automobile front, Huyndai now has the Nexo and Honda has the Clarity as their hydrogen offerings. Mercedes is going to introduce a hybrid gas & hydrogen SUV soon. In addition, due to its energy scalability in a moving vehicle platform (lugging larger and heavier batteries around to extend range isn't going to work), hydrogen is vastly superior for commercial trucks, buses, vans, and long haulers. Those markets will help, if not drive, rapid concstruction of hydrogen infrastructure.
As you can see, the new Mirai makes a lot of sense for Toyota. They're hoping it makes sense to you too.

Conclusion

This is the most expensive car I've ever purchased ($52.5k), but it's also my least expensive car.

All in all, I'd like to think of the Mirai as a $5k Lexus (tax, title, licenses). 
I'm refueling once a week at the 40% mark. That's around $50 a week. At that rate, $15k would last about 5.7 years. Every mile of use after the $15k card is gravy.
Hopefully H2 would be cheaper by then. I really think H2 could make it as a reliable alternate fuel. For now, I'm happy to be a guinea pig. I need to carbon offset my SUV anyway 😁.

Yeah, H2 harvesting/processing isn't that green, but greener than gasoline, and getting better.

TL;DR: There's a lot of caveats to owning this car so it won't make sense for most people. Make sure you are OK with the caveats before buying.

Fueling experience

Here's what my first refueling experience looks like. This was at an Arco gas station in Long Beach, right off the 405.

I used H70 (denser hydrogen gas). This is recommended.

This brochure picture is of my real car 😁

Easy to understand instructions
 
The fueling nozzle after connector removal. It ices up because compressed hydrogen is very cold.


The damage. You can see the price per kg of H2.

Hydrogen is roughly twice as expensive as gasoline but, since it's more efficient, you're paying about 25% more per mile. Here is about 55% of my tank, or the cost of about 180 miles. Mind you I've been hitting the pedal pretty hard so, over time, these numbers will improve. Also, hydrogen gas cost will gradually decrease too.
Of course, I'm putting this on my $15k gas card. 😉

The pump was pretty nice but, as it was pumping hydrogen, it leaks water. Perhaps that's an expected byproduct due to condensation? ðŸĪ”

ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast

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