A milestone has lately been passed in the grand story of British motoring, but due to the modesty of the company whose efforts are responsible for its passing and the tiny volumes of the car that has achieved it, few have noticed.
It is now possible to walk into a Toyota showroom and walk out the owner of a fully productionised hydrogen fuel cell car.
The Toyota Mirai proceeds where, seven years ago, the Honda FCX Clarity feared to tread, by not only bringing fuel cell technology to Europe but also by making it available for sale rather than on short-term lease or loan.
Those few with the means and vision can now own a slice of history.
The Mirai – which translates from Japanese to English as ‘the future’ – will be available in very small numbers: 12 cars in the UK last year, 15 this year.
It is priced from £66,000 – a figure almost as ambitious-looking as the car itself – but it can, in effect, be hired at a cost representing slightly better value to the end user.
Much about its performance and function is entirely ordinary. And yet, by consuming only the compressed hydrogen gas in its tank and the oxygen in the air and emitting absolutely nothing but water, it gives its owner a preliminary stake in a totally clean and sustainable vision of the future for personal transportation – a vision free of harmful gasses and particulates and a reliance on fossil fuel, power-generating capacity or charging cables.
The Mirai is a trail-blazer in a revolution that could ultimately give the car its innocence back.
If almost any other car maker had created a vehicle of such significance, you’d have heard more about it. But so casual is Toyota’s attitude to its capacity to innovate that the occasion is at risk of passing unrecognised.
So, this test sees the future of the car meets the oldest, most thorough assessment in the business.