One of the most interesting cars I have driven in recent months is the hydrogen powered Mirai from Toyota, which is now in its second generation. The first generation model was launched in November 2014 at the Los Angeles Motor Show and California has become an important market for this FCV. It’s no surprise to learn that the US and Japan are amongst the main markets for this Toyota model.
My recent Test Drive was not my first taste of hydrogen power, a few years ago I tried a BMW 7 Series, which quietly seemed to disappear and more recently a small KIA SUV in South Korea where a number of buses use hydrogen. Taking its name as Mirai, it was well chosen. In Japanese it means future and with this name the future you could say is now. During my time with the Mirai, I did experience a refuel which took around the same time as a conventional petrol or diesel car, not like an EV where the wait can be long and frustrating and the Mirai has an excellent range, around 644km (400) miles. A recent economy run saw one cover 1,000km (620 miles) on a single tank full. However, there is currently a downside as currently in these islands there are just 12 hydrogen stations and to install they are very expensive. In my opinion, once the infrastructure improves, hydrogen powered vehicles will prove very popular.
Behind the wheel of the Mirai and there is a very decided Lexus quality. In fact, it uses the same platform as on some Lexus models and this permits an extra tank to be added, hence the excellent range. The first generation model was perhaps too futuristic for its time, the second generation model is more mainstream and it is rear wheel drive as opposed to the earlier model with front wheel drive. A motor is powered by electricity generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell, the only by-product when a fuel cell electric vehicle is driven is water vapour. It does not emit any harmful substances such as CO2 or SO2 and NOx and in addition to producing zero emissions when driven, the Mirai is highly practical. The quality of drive is most impressive, high FC stack output and battery power assist and is transformed into drive power by the motor, with maximum torque provided the moment you press the accelerator. Acceleration is smooth and powerful, rest to 100kph (62mph) from a standing start takes 9.6 seconds and top speed is 174kph (108mph). You almost glide along in the Mirai, free from engine vibration and noise and full sealing of all body parts and the use of sound-absorbing and sound-insulating materials around the cabin help deliver outstanding quietness. Other measures include; acoustic glass used for the windscreen and door windows, foam-type sound-insulating materials are used inside the body frames, sound absorbing materials are deployed around the bonnet and front wings, the position of the door mirrors and the shape of the front pillars have been defined to help reduce wind noise; it is very much like being behind the wheel of a Lexus. My test car was the Design Premium Pack and as you would expect it came with the highest standard of equipment and the single option, pearlescent paint.
Riding on chunky twenty inch alloys, it really looked the part with its bi-tone paint finish with a black roof. Moving to the interior, it’s extremely well appointed with the focus very much on high tech, all very user friendly.
Amongst the highlights were a large full colour display screen, colour head up display which I greatly favour, a superb JBL premium sound system and for added entertainment, multimedia with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and there is a digital rear view mirror. There is a high attention to safety with the Toyota Safety Sense package, so yes, the Mirai is a very complete and highly enjoyable car to drive.
Now all we require is more fuel stations; accomplish that and I see the FCV vehicle a real threat to the EV.