By on September 27, 2021

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI have become accustomed to running into the unexpected during my junkyard travels, finding everything from a JDM Nissan Fairlady Z to a bullet-riddled Cadillac from a Mythbusters episode to a British tank. That said, I never expected to find a four-year-old hydrogen fuel-cell car, more than a thousand miles from the only state in which they were sold that year. This becomes the newest junkyard car I’ve documented, taking the top spot from the now-second-place 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage.

I might never have known about this car in a Denver-area yard, because it isn’t listed in U-Pull-&-Pay’s online inventory (probably because there’s no Mirai in their data-entry application) and the distinctive grille is missing from the car, making it resemble hundreds of other 21st-century sedans at a glance. However, Grumpy Cat Racing of ’50 Dodge pickup road-racer fame suffered a broken Cadillac-sourced steering column at the High Plains Drifter race in Colorado, earlier this month, and they sent a crew 50 miles to Aurora to find a replacement column out of a Prius (which, allegedly, has a stand-alone electric power-assist assembly built in).

When you race a 1950 Dodge pickup, you become skilled at junkyard improvisation, so I wasn’t shocked when I learned that the team had installed a Toyota electric-power-assist column in their truck. What did startle me was the news that the column came from a Mirai Fuel Cell.

I’d reviewed the 2019 Mirai Fuel Cell for Autoweek, and at the time I’d learned that these cars could be bought only in California and that nearly all were leased. Just as well, because all of the public-accessible H2 fueling stations in the United States are in California, with the exception of one in Hawaii (there’s also one in Québec). With a range of 312 miles per tank of the universe’s most plentiful element, you’d have a tough time driving a Mirai to Denver.

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSupposedly, there will be a hydrogen fueling station operated by Colorado State University in Fort Collins real soon and more such stations may appear in other Front Range cities by the end of this year. We’ll see.

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, fuel filler - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDenver car shoppers feeling optimistic about the possible profusion of Stop-n-H2 stations soon can head over to Davidsons Motors on Colfax and buy this ’17 Mirai with a mere 56,478 miles on the clock. I enjoyed driving the Mirai (and the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell) on California trips, since a fuel-cell-equipped car is at heart an EV with a very long range and the ability to refuel as quickly as a gasoline-fueled car… but I’m not going to be the one to buy that local Mirai, despite having a source of junkyard parts nearby.

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, engine compartment - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe hydrogen tanks, electric motor, and batteries are long gone from this one. So much for my plans to build a fuel-cell-powered Joseph Abboud Edition Buick Regal!

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe dash was completely gutted, though much of the upholstery and trim remain.

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe white SofTex seat fabric gets dirty in a hurry and holds onto the dirt well, but these seats don’t look so bad (considering where the car is parked).

2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf I had to guess about the means by which this car got to Denver, I’d speculate that perhaps some engineering company bought it in California, shipped it eastward for research use, then sold off the valuable bits before calling for a junkyard to haul off what was left.

While it seems that the rapid improvements in battery-powered EVs coupled with the difficulty in obtaining clean hydrogen (and moving it around) might make fuel-cell cars a marketplace dead-end, Toyota isn’t giving up on the technology.

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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    So, I guess this ugly little beast that looked like it would scare children isn’t a go then

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      My guess is Toyota wanted to make it distinctive enough so everyone knows you’re saving the planet, much like they did with the 2nd gen Prius. The Gen 1 Mirai and Honda Clarity are both hideous….

  • avatar
    ajla

    “an EV with a very long range and the ability to refuel as quickly as a gasoline-fueled car”

    That sounds pretty good but even if the battery revolution doesn’t happen I don’t see them being able to overtake BEV momentum.

  • avatar
    Kyree

    Boy, these sure were ugly.

    Fortunately, the new Mirai is much more attractive, and is actually on a shortened instance of the Lexus LS’ RWD-based TNGA-L platform. More specifically, it’s a restyled version of the Toyota Crown, but is of course also an LS relative.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The 15-year expiration date on the car was a shock to me.

    Another dirty secret about H2-powered cars, I guess. Maybe they don’t trust the 10,000 psi fuel tanks to last beyond that, or maybe the fuel cell croaks by then?

  • avatar
    Mustangfast

    These are the biggest white elephants, I’m shocked Toyota keeps going down the hydrogen rabbit hole. My friend in SoCal shares the ads, they can’t give these away. What I learned is that 300 mile range costs about $70 to fill up, so it’s 3x as costly as gasoline, and even more so than electricity. No prospects of using these outside of LA/SF metro areas, people buy these for the included hydrogen fuel cards and once those are used up the car may as well be scrapped.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. Nobody talks about the operational cost being equal to a Hellcat.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Zack Lappman from TST tried to use one of these to road trip from LA to the Bay and back with hilariously bad results. It included an unreliable and inconvenient fuel station network where pumps were often out of service, and topping off when you could find a working one took an extra 30 min for the distribution tank has to repressurize (though the messaging on the pump display is very cryptic about what is going on). Zack ended up getting stuck at Coalinga overnight (it’s the only station on the 5, which is the main highway between LA and SF so ~300mi between stations otherwise) because the station was out of fuel. When the fuel truck showed up the next day, it took another 2.5 hours for him to get refueled because there were a couple cars in front of him that had to go through the repressurization cycle multiple times. He ended up spending hours and hours on the phone with tech support and talking to the guy driving the fuel truck, who was the only person who understood the technical issues involved with refueling.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        It could have gone worse:

        https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nel-blast/norway-fines-nel-units-3-million-over-2019-blast-at-hydrogen-fuel-station-idUSKBN2AG2N4

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Edmunds had a similarly bad refueling experience with their long-term Mirai:

        https://www.edmunds.com/toyota/mirai/2016/long-term-road-test/2016-toyota-mirai-failure-to-refuel.html

        Granted, this was 2016, but it sounds like things have not improved.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    The dealer in Aurora lists the car and fuel type as electric. Hopefully they’ll explain or I can just see some local happily Hindenburg his new ride at the first charge.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It looks kinda beat up, so I wonder if it was bought out a junkyard in California and shipped to Colorado. Also, I lol’d at the “CNG GAS” in paint marker on the right rear window.

    I’d like to see fuel cell vehicles make it (I like them more than BEVs for several reasons), but they won’t unless there’s some kind of moon shot breakthrough on producing hydrogen fuel.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    I’ve seen a few of these on the road here in SoCal and I’ve always wondered, given all of their usability drawbacks, what could possibly motivate someone to own (or lease) one.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Interesting theory on how it arrived at the yard.

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