The Toyota Mirai could be the car we’ll be driving several decades from now, not this actual car of course but possibly a car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, in fact, this is the world’s most advanced hydrogen fuel cell currently.
Unlike previous hydrogen fuel cell cars, the Mirai one you can actually buy (or lease) and use it every day, while it’s still a feasibility study on wheels while demonstrating a glimpse of what the future holds. The Mirai is a full production car that Toyota expects to sell around 100 off a year in Europe – the price of the future, £66,000 which I agree is expensive, but who said the future was going to be cheap.
The reason for these minimal sales figures is partially down to that huge price tag and the fact that the UK as of mid-2016 only has nine hydrogen fuel stations, the future goal is to expand this network to 65 locations by the year 2020.
The fuel cell stack, which is housed by a titanium case and weighs in at a mere 57kg, Toyota claim this fuel cell boasts a similar lifespan as a conventional internal combustion motor. Toyota expects it to provide up to around 300,000 miles of driving before an overhaul is required
One of the most challenging issues with hydrogen is the transportation and safe storage of it, Toyota has outfitted the Mirai with carbonfibre and glassfibre tanks to store the hydrogen, the first is located under the front seat and the other behind the rear seats. Combining these two tanks gives you capacity of 122.4 litres, this gives the Mirai a range of around 400 miles or so when driven carefully, and refuelling is also conventional taking around 3-5 minutes once you find a hydrogen station.
Also stored behind the rear seats is the Mirai’s 1.6kWh nickel-metal hydride battery, this is used to store electrical energy recuperated while moving and energy produced by the fuel cell stack, this tech is located above the rear hydrogen tank in the car.
The Mirai is a striking looking car from pretty much all angles; it boasts a completely flat underside, this, when combined with a low drag co-efficient of just 0.29, helps add to the styling, when you first see the car you know it’s a Toyota, the styling is easily relatable to the bloodline of Prius’s that we have seen in recent years to the current generation.
The bold styling at the front consists of a deep front airdam which undoubtedly helps with the Mirai’s aerodynamics, this continues through the design of the middle of the car with an almost wide-bodied look, at the back you get a full-width rear light cluster and reverse mounted rear lights. The front and back contain LED light clusters that merely add to the futuristic look of the car.
Whilst it’s a simple task to confirm which family the Mirai comes from, it does look like a car they would be making in 10-20 years rather than here and now in 2016.
On The Inside
The exterior is complemented by the equally futuristic interior, it all looks rather familiar if you have ever driven a Prius, and thankfully it all looks a bit more futuristic. The dashboard features no less than two TFT displays – one under the windscreen containing the speedo and power display functions, the second touchscreen sits in the centre console for infotainment. Around the interior you get various parts clearly all sourced from the Toyota parts bit, this is not a bad thing, everything feels very well made and of good quality.
The interior feels very spacious and gives has a very light feel about it, it’s a good place to be as a driver, everything in the car of the future is laid out as it should be – within easy reach of the driver with lots of information available .
The Mirai’s long wheelbase provides a ton of room in the two rear seats, it’s a strict four-seater only, and the boot space is slightly limited to 361 litres by the placement of the battery and second hydrogen fuel tank behind the rear seats.
My only real gripe about the interior was the rather silly foot-operated park brake, this should not be allowed in the car of the future as it’s a piece of tech stuck firmly in the past.
Time for a science lesson, the Mirai uses its fuel cell to turn compressed hydrogen into an amazing thing called ‘electricity; this electricity is used to power a front mounted 152bhp electric motor, any excess energy from this fuel cell or braking regeneration is channelled to a battery behind the rear seats, when you need some extra boost this battery gives it to you which is a good thing.
The Mirai is a heavy car, weighing in at 1.850kg, if you have ever driven an all-electric car, it’s pretty much the same, no drama, no fuss, and you just whir away in near silence aside from a hum from the fuel cell. The Mirai is very quiet, almost too quiet in fact; it just feels like a normal car, just a lot more silent and futuristic looking.
Plant your right foot down and a silent wave of invisible electric torque wafts you forward seamlessly, the ride is reasonable good as despite the weight the Mirai does a pretty good job of absorbing the worst UK B-roads can throw at it. The throttle is very precise and reacts to the slightest of prods, the steering and handling are somewhat typical of a car of this type, no real reaction or feeling but more than useable for a car of this type.
If you really want to buy a Mirai then you will need rather deep pockets, but you should think of this car as a glimpse of the future that Toyota will give you an exclusive preview of for the entry fee of £66,000, you can make this less painful by leasing the Mirai for £750 per month which includes servicing, tyres and all the hydrogen you can carry which is not bad at all.
Clearly, the Mirai is destined to be a rare car, it’s a production experiment of where Toyota see’s the future, if you happen to live within distance of a hydrogen station and you want to contribute to the future of car technology then the Mirai is worth a look. As a feasibility study, Toyota should be commended for making the move forward with hydrogen power, by making it available as a potential option they are trying to drive the tech forward which can only be a good thing.
Engine Electric motor, hydrogen fuel cell
Torque 208lb ft
Kerb weight 1850kg
Gearbox Single-speed fixed ratio
Top speed 111mph
Economy 0.76kg hydrogen/62 miles (combined)
CO2/tax band N/A