2021 Mirai image courtesy of Toyota.
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Toyota’s Fuel Cell EV Mirai Outsold Battery EVs By Most Brands In 2021

Toyota fuel cell electric vehicle is held in disdain by many battery-electric vehicle fans. The uncomfortable truth is that Toyota’s FCEVs outsold the BEVs from most brands in 2021.

The fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) being developed by General Motors, Hyundai, and Toyota are the objects of ridicule by many battery-electric fans and advocates. Like plug-in hybrids, this green vehicle solution with zero tailpipe pollutants seems threatening to the EVangelists somehow. Don’t mistake this article for one praising the idea or practice of creating fuel cell electric vehicles. Rather, let’s look closely at just how few battery-electric vehicles most brands delivered in the U.S. market by using the Toyota Mirai FCEV as our yardstick.

Toyota Mirai Deliveries In 2021
In 2021 Toyota reported strong growth of its green-powertrain-equipped vehicles. Toyota reports that among its 583,697 green powertrain-equipped vehicles it sold in 2021 Mirai FCEV deliveries accounted for 2,229 units. That’s a growth rate of over 400% in a year when most manufacturers’ total deliveries dropped drastically. Toyota is conducting quite a bit of hand-holding for the owners that it sets up with Mirais. We are not pretending otherwise. We are quite aware that you are more likely to be hit by lightning than to drive past a public hydrogen refueling station in America.

Notable BEV Deliveries In 2021
Many manufacturers made important gains related to electrified vehicles in 2021. Notably, Tesla, which continues to add manufacturing capacity by the gigas. Ford and VW both launched and delivered a meaningful, yet very small by any measure, volume of crossover battery electric vehicles. Hyundai broke the ice by delivering a handful of its new IONIQ5 cars late in the year, adding that model to the handful of Niro and IONIQ cars it delivered. Mazda also broke the ice, delivering its new MX-30 to 181 California residents. Rivian and Lucid delivered a small number of BEVs. How small? They don’t highlight the delivery numbers on their own media pages. MINI launched its Cooper SE in 2021, and we even had a chance to try one out. Include MINI in the brands that build BEVs right now. That’s pretty much the end of the good news with regard to BEV deliveries for 2021.

Electric Future Is Now Image courtesy of GM media files.

GM BEV Deliveries 2021
Here’s some bad news. GM delivered just 24,828 battery-electric vehicles in America in 2021. That’s more than Toyota’s Mirai for sure. But not in Q4. In the last quarter, GM only delivered 25 BEVs. Mirai topped that. Wasn’t GM the company that told us three years ago its all-electric future was NOW?

Related Story: Tesla Model S/X Deliveries Drop By Half to Hit All-Time Low In 2021

Toyota Mirai Outsells Tesla Model X
Tesla’s overall year was fantastic. Amazing. Fantabulous. Its progress in almost all areas cannot be overstated. Except that, by our estimates, the Toyota Mirai outsold the Tesla Model X in 2021. During 2021, one setback for Tesla was that its combined deliveries (globally) of the X/S lines fell to about one-quarter of its former peak of sales which happened five years ago. There are many good excuses for this. But… Mirai seems to have passed Model X in deliveries. We’d tell you for certain, but like some manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t want you to know its deliveries by model or market.

Hyundai, Kia, Nissan
Here’s some more bad news. Hyundai and Kia delivered so few EVs that they don’t include the numbers in their annual delivery reports. Nissan delivered about 14,000 Leafs in 2021. Nealry the exact number it sold in 2016. We commend Nisson for remaining in the game for a decade with a model that sells at a rate of less than 1,500 units per month. But with ten years of experience in the market and two and a half generations of Leafs, all of which had both customer-facing and manufacturer-facing incentives of many thousands of dollers per unit, has the Leaf proven that affordable BEVs can work, or that they can't work? It seem that is open to debate.

Brands With Little Or No EV Sales In 2021
However, beating up on companies that actually deliver a BEV is also not what this story is about. The brands above are the ones at least making a token effort (or heroic effort in the case of Tesla). Let’s talk about some other brands for just a bit. Subaru didn’t sell any BEVs in 2021. It may re-badge some Toyota BEVs this year if all goes well. Lincoln, Jeep, Chrysler, and Mitsubishi have some PHEVs for sale in small numbers, but no BEVs. Honda moved to kill off its Clarity line off due to overwhelming customer love for the car (not kidding). Volvo is all about electrification. Given the brand’s many messages about its turn to electrification, one would assume that it sold gobs of BEVs in 2021 in the U.S. Nope. 755.

Fan-Favorite Imaginary EVs
The talk around full-size BEV pickup trucks is deafening. There are frequent articles arguing over which imaginary electric truck is better. Is it the Cybertruck (zero deliveries)? Ford's Lightning (zero deliveries)? Or perhaps the Silverado (zero deliveries).

Without hurting our brain doing too much math, by our count, Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle out-delivered the combined BEV deliveries by about a dozen prominent brands in America this past year. If Mira was its own brand it would have outsold the BEVs delivered by Lucid, Rivan, Mazda, and Volvo combined based on the hazy delivery information provided to the media.

2022 may be a better year for battery-electric deliveries. It will be interesting to see how many brands’ BEVs the unloved Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle outsells in the twelve months to come.

2021 Mirai image courtesy of Toyota. Electric Future Is Now Image courtesy of GM media files.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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That's surprising and at the same time very heartening! If one includes trucks, the big-daddys of transportation, then the FCEV industry would have a lot more to cheer about. Australian FCEV Truck maker Hyzon is on a blaze actually delivering commercial trucks to China customers!
John, Volvo USA claims that 2021 saw 22,820 sales of Recharge (EV and PHEV) models. I searched for “2021 volvo T8 sales” and 2nd hit had Volvo’s official press. As long as that’s true, Mirai missed that mark. I appreciate your comparisons and perspective in this piece though. Good things to keep in mind about just how few EVs were sold from some manufacturers/for some models.
Thanks, Justin. I appreciate the heads up. The Volvo recharge line includes plug-in hybrids. I'm glad you flagged this. I mistakenly used 100 as the number of BEV Volvos sold in the US in 2021. In fact, after I checked a second time, it was 755. I'll correct the story above to show that number. The Mirai outsold the Volvo BEV sales by more than 2 to one. Toyota's PHEV sales were about 30X what Volvo delivered in 2021 in the U.S.
Timely article, and by that I mean it is taking advantage of a time where there's a lull in sales due to new product development and the associated ramp-up in manufacturing across the entire industry to frame a story. A very well composed contrast across manufacturers using the baseline of sales though; kudos. It's no secret that despite an appetite from consumers for electric vehicles, there just wasn't any manufacturer willing to take the risk until Tesla came along. Before that (from a Toyota perspective), I always thought replacing a Prius power plant with a hydrogen-powered option would have fostered more adoption of the technology instead of packaging it in a vehicle with such "strikingly bold" styling (not that the original Prius wasn't an eyesore to most people at the time). I bought the 2001 Prius when it came out because of the technology, but I nearly didn't just because of the looks and I remember Jay Leno making countless jokes about how ridiculous it looked and how slow it was. I would have certainly tried a Mirai out for myself had I lived in a location where hydrogen technology was deployed, but the untold piece of this article's angle of view is the infrastructure required to use hydrogen-powered vehicles compared to the infrastructure battery electric vehicles require. There's simply no way to drive a hydrogen-powered vehicle home unless there are compatible fueling stations everywhere you intend to drive, and unfortunately there's not a "brew your own" way to make hydrogen at home in the quantities required (as well as the additional device and energy required to pressurize and "load" it into your vehicle). A similar capability was available decades ago and at one time I was advocating at-home fueling of natural gas powered vehicles using a system made by a company in Canada. So I can certainly foresee a time when Mirai-type vehicles can prevail (as Toyota has strategically been planning for), but only after hydrogen (or something similar) replaces the substance traveling through the natural gas pipes into homes that can power vehicles in an ecologically sound manner. Realistically, I believe wireless energy transfer capabilities will outpace "green gas" development and electric cars will be able to draw power from the road infrastructure minimizing "range anxiety". This will drastically reduce the number of batteries required in vehicles as the stored energy will only need to get you in and around areas without wireless or physical power.
Let's hope Toyota sells a million more emission free vehicles.
Nissan sold around 50k Leafs in 2021 in North America and Europe. Not sure how many were sold in China and Asia. But Nissan sells 6 or 8 different BEVs some as subsidiaries and partnerships in China.
Very interesting. Nissan reported this week it that it sold 14,239 in the U.S. market. Much lower than its previous high point for the model.
Yes I love virtual electrical vehicles so much that I put a hundred bucks with Ford for A lightning that I may be in line to get sometime in 2024. Not much will happen before then, right ? No breakthroughs like solid state lithium ion batteries. I did hedge my bet by buying something that actually works good in cold weather and with a pretty solid pedigree for reliability a Toyota RAV 4 prime. My only range anxiety regardless of temperature is my bladder capacity.
Big deal niche market for small areas that can get H2 delivered to station new infrastructure inexpensively. Maybe island of Tabago etc.? Keep H2 for ammonia and semis heavy transport not for autos & airliners. The latter could have onboard APUs where fuel cell would produce added potable water. New Chinese university report says green H2 is decades away. Overall cost to ship liquid H2 is 5 times as much as natural gas.
I agree with every point you make, Frankie. H2 seems like a big mistake for personal vehicles and almost unworkable in so many ways. Yet, it might make a great zero local emissions solution for noisy, dirty drayage trucks, ferries, and other applications. How crazy is it that this dead-end tech nobody seems to want is presently outselling the combined BEV sales from most manufacturers?
2230 is hardly worth the ink. This is joke article. Probably better to be silent than make all the noise about such low effort from world number one. Joke article.
Thanks lyibu. I agree that "ink" should not be wasted on vehicles with a meager 2230 deliveries or less. Like the Cybertruck, Roadster, Hyundai IONIQ5, Nissan Arriya, Subaru Soltera, Silverado EV, Humer EV, Rivan's products, Lucid's Air, and the combined EV efforts of most manufacturers. We should focus on real green vehicle solutions that one can buy and put to use right now.
Hyundai sells ioniqs like crazy on this planet. Where are you from?
Hyundai sold a combined total of under 20,000 IONIQ cars in 2021 in the U.S. including the BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs. Do you know how many were BEVs?
In case it is helpful, Car & Driver reported, in October 2021, the 12 highest selling EV’s in the U.S. at that point. Obviously, there were a few more months of sales not included, but it gives us at least a 75% complete picture, and numbers, for Hyundai’s EV sales in the U.S. Note, the Kona EV outsells the Ioniq EV in the U.S. too, and the HEV version of the Ioniq likely sells in higher numbers than the plug-in versions. So likely only a few thousand Ioniq EVs, perhaps over 3k, were sold in the U.S. last year, while at least 3x as many Kona EVs were sold in the U.S. in 2021. The Ioniq 5 will likely outsell both of Hyundai’s older EVs in 2022 (or so I would estimate). Check Hyundai’s sales figures if you are interested (second URL). https://www.caranddriver.com/features/g36278968/best-selling-evs-of-2021/ https://www.hyundainews.com/en-us/releases/3475
Volkswagen delivered 119,650 ID.4s globally, with 17,000 of those being in the US. This is just one of the automakers who you have not stated information for in order to make your case. Numerous BEV models outsold Marai in 2021. I have nothing against hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but they are simply not as useful as a vehicle you can charge it home while you're sleeping.
Yes, VW can sell all the ID.4s it wishes to build here in the U.S. market. You are absolutely right, numerous BEVs did outsell the Mirai in 2021. And the Mirai outsold all of the combined BEV sales from most automakers in the U.S. market.
Plug in electric is a loser...zero long term infrastructure to create electricity.. Cumbersome and kinda idiotic recharging procedures and time wastes. Hydrogen is the near future..specifically solid state hydrogen which is rapidly advancing