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The Mirai is Toyota's first stab at a UK production hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. What's it like to drive and does it make sense?

Our Verdict

Toyota Mirai

Toyota claims another first: Europe’s first ‘ownable’ hydrogen car

  • First Drive

    2015 Toyota Mirai UK review

    UK drive of Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai confirms its impressive characteristics but also the current limitation of our hydrogen infrastructure
  • First Drive

    2015 Toyota Mirai review

    The Mirai is Toyota's first stab at a UK production hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. What's it like to drive and does it make sense?

What is it?

There’s no doubt that the Mirai (Japanese for ‘future’) is as eye-opening in real life as it appears in photographs. The root of this extraordinary look lies in the two large (but very functional) nose-mounted air intakes which feed its fuel cell stack with oxygen.

This styling logic feeds through to the rear of the car where the front intakes are echoed by huge rear light clusters, which look like they might be extractors but aren’t.

The extended rear wheel arches, it seems, are meant to tie in with the huge frontal air intakes, relaying a sense of the air being sucked in and nothing but water being ejected from the tailpipe.

Whichever way you look at it, the Mirai doesn’t have the easy-on-the-eye futurism of Honda's hydrogen-powered FCX. The technology contained beneath, however, is no less impressive, but with its arrival on UK roads imminent, does the Mirai feel as though it'll fit in?

What's it like?

The interior is rather less extreme and in keeping with what you might expect from a hydrogen-powered car. The surface quality of the plastics seems higher than that which you'll find in the Prius and the large central touchscreen feels right when you're seated in the car, even if it looks odd in photographs.

Under the unusual skin, the Mirai has an equally unusual layout. It’s a pretty big car (4.9m long and 1.82m wide) and is fairly typical in that it is front-wheel drive with MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbone suspension at the rear. However, that’s where the similarities with conventional cars end.

In the engine bay is the electric motor, mounted transversely, with the power control unit sitting on top of it. Toyota's new, compact Fuel Cell Stack sits under the front seats and the fuel cell booster is attached to its forward end, effectively sitting between the front seats.

The Fuel Cell Stack is a matter of great pride for Toyota engineers. Compared with the company’s previous attempt from 2008, the new unit is claimed to have more than double the specific output (1.4kW/L compared to 3.1kW/L) and is a fraction over 50 per cent lighter.

It uses an all-new ‘3D mesh’ cell design, which, in simple terms, clears the waste water away from its surface, in turn improving the the flow of oxygen to the catalyst layer. The stack can also start in temperatures as low as -30deg C and is said to have the same lifespan as that of a conventional internal combustion engine.

There are two hydrogen tanks, one mounted under the front seat and the other behind the rear seat. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack sits on top of the second tank. Underneath, the car has a full-length undertray, something that’s possible because there’s no hot engine or exhaust pipe to deal with.

When you look at a cutaway picture of the Mirai, it's clear that an awful lot of tech has been packaged within what is otherwise a pretty conventional structure. However, although the rear overhang isn’t ridiculously long, the boot space is more than a token effort.

As you might expect with an electric car, there’s not much more to do than press the start button, push the short gear lever into drive and hum away.

For a keen driver that is the problem with many of the new breed of electrically driven cars. Unsurprisingly, they all have a similar character.

They all have very smooth and almost silent drivetrains, a substantial chunk of torque from standstill and pretty brisk acceleration up to the 50-60mph mark. It’s not that these cars are characterless, more that they are all surprisingly similar to pilot.

The Mirai is no different. On the brief drive we had in a production version of the car, it was everything mentioned above. It did, perhaps, feel its weight a little (the torque and power figures are on the low side for a car weighing over 1.8 tonnes), but it felt well pinned down and rode well on Japanese roads.

The low-down weight (the Mirai is well-balanced front-to-rear) does give the car a little bit more agility than you might expect and it is keen to respond to inputs at the wheel.

Should I buy one?

Taken as a large, front-wheel-drive, saloon the Mirai would be nothing more than competent. But this is a huge technological achievement. It's a practical, useable series-production hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle.

The Mirai reaches Europe this September and first year production has already been hiked from 400 to 700 units, with Toyota expecting to sell 3000 in 2017. It's a small start for the long-promised hydrogen revolution, but the energy density of the gas and ability to refuel at quickly means this technology has much going for it.

Toyota Mirai

Location Japan; On sale September; Price £56,000; Engine AC electric generator; Power 153bhp; Torque 247lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1850kg; Top speed 111mph; 0-60mph 9.6sec; Range 300 miles; CO2 and tax rating 0g/km, 5%

Join the debate

Comments
12

1 April 2015
It has to me otherwise who in their right mind would pay nearly £60,000 for a slow'ish ugly H bomb car that cannot lose sight of the hydrogen filling station in Swindon, it's about the weight of Swindon too. Worst of all for this joke concept of a Hydrogen car is the fact it costs as much to run as a petrol car and about 15 times more in fuel than a plug-in car. £60,000 no wonder they only expect to sell double figures in the UK. Can't wait to see the mpg figures which this brief review conviently chooses to ignore.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 April 2015
xxxx wrote:

It has to me otherwise who in their right mind would pay nearly £60,000 for a slow'ish ugly H bomb car that cannot lose sight of the hydrogen filling station in Swindon, it's about the weight of Swindon too. Worst of all for this joke concept of a Hydrogen car is the fact it costs as much to run as a petrol car and about 15 times more in fuel than a plug-in car. £60,000 no wonder they only expect to sell double figures in the UK. Can't wait to see the mpg figures which this brief review conviently chooses to ignore.

Plenty of people pay £60,000 for a luxury car that costs more to run than a normal car and can be dismissed as fancy seat coverings and plastics that feel a bit nicer. Right now it's being sold as a luxury object to those interested in having something different, in ten or twenty years time it might be competitive with a £25k car.

Generic safety concerns are silly. Petrol and High voltage electricity can kill you just as easily.

I'm not sure if I want hydrogen cars to succeed or not. They are missing several advantages of batteries like easy energy recovery (regenerative braking) and the ability to charge up at home with minimal infrastructure (an electric wall box is likely to always be cheaper and more durable than a home hydrogen generator).

1 April 2015
EndlessWaves wrote:
xxxx wrote:

It has to me otherwise who in their right mind would pay nearly £60,000 for a slow'ish ugly H bomb car that cannot lose sight of the hydrogen filling station in Swindon, it's about the weight of Swindon too. Worst of all for this joke concept of a Hydrogen car is the fact it costs as much to run as a petrol car and about 15 times more in fuel than a plug-in car. £60,000 no wonder they only expect to sell double figures in the UK. Can't wait to see the mpg figures which this brief review conviently chooses to ignore.

Plenty of people pay £60,000 for a luxury car that costs more to run than a normal car and can be dismissed as fancy seat coverings and plastics that feel a bit nicer. Right now it's being sold as a luxury object to those interested in having something different, in ten or twenty years time it might be competitive with a £25k car.

Generic safety concerns are silly. Petrol and High voltage electricity can kill you just as easily.

I'm not sure if I want hydrogen cars to succeed or not. They are missing several advantages of batteries like easy energy recovery (regenerative braking) and the ability to charge up at home with minimal infrastructure (an electric wall box is likely to always be cheaper and more durable than a home hydrogen generator).

You right with points like plenty of people do spend £60,000 on a luxury car, and, being sold as a luxury object. But the problem is this isn't a luxury car it's just a folly. BMW think so do and recently came out with statements to say so in the press

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

7 April 2015
xxxx wrote:
EndlessWaves wrote:
xxxx wrote:

It has to me otherwise who in their right mind would pay nearly £60,000 for a slow'ish ugly H bomb car that cannot lose sight of the hydrogen filling station in Swindon, it's about the weight of Swindon too. Worst of all for this joke concept of a Hydrogen car is the fact it costs as much to run as a petrol car and about 15 times more in fuel than a plug-in car. £60,000 no wonder they only expect to sell double figures in the UK. Can't wait to see the mpg figures which this brief review conviently chooses to ignore.

Plenty of people pay £60,000 for a luxury car that costs more to run than a normal car and can be dismissed as fancy seat coverings and plastics that feel a bit nicer. Right now it's being sold as a luxury object to those interested in having something different, in ten or twenty years time it might be competitive with a £25k car.

Generic safety concerns are silly. Petrol and High voltage electricity can kill you just as easily.

I'm not sure if I want hydrogen cars to succeed or not. They are missing several advantages of batteries like easy energy recovery (regenerative braking) and the ability to charge up at home with minimal infrastructure (an electric wall box is likely to always be cheaper and more durable than a home hydrogen generator).

You right with points like plenty of people do spend £60,000 on a luxury car, and, being sold as a luxury object. But the problem is this isn't a luxury car it's just a folly. BMW think so do and recently came out with statements to say so in the press

Well, with a signature like yours I don't think anyone was expecting a balanced response. A bit like BMW really: Having sunk billions into battery and range extender technology do you really think they were going to sing the praises of a viable competitive technology?

Hydrogen is expensive at the point of refuelling infrastructure, but unlike fossil fuels and the raw materials required for ICE and batteries, it is everywhere and the waste product is just water. Therefore each hydrogen powered vehicle on the road liberates a bit more fuel for petrol powered performance cars to remain relevant and useable. It's about time keyboard warriors like the type that pipe up on here within 10 seconds of an article going up remembered that, instead of wasting time and space with one eyed Luddite opinions that have no place in 21st century motoring.

1 April 2015
No surprise from xxxx considering his signature :p

I don't like the look of the car, but this is a start in the right direction. It is massively cheaper than anything that has went before it, and has potential. Of course it is only for early adopters and those with more money than sense, but it has to start somewhere. Personally, I would have a Tesla over this

1 April 2015
I wonder with this technological marvel, Toyota is setting another benchmark for the other car makers to catch up to in the coming years - as it did with its trend-setting Prius? Or other power trains such as electric and hybrid too established to beat?

1 April 2015
Hang on, what do you mean "It's a real car."? Just look at it, for goodness' sake! Who says Toyota doesn't have a sense of humour?

2 April 2015
However laudable the tech, (and this is in doubt...), why does it have to be so fricking ugly?!?!

2 April 2015
Jeremy wrote:

However laudable the tech, (and this is in doubt...), why does it have to be so fricking ugly?!?!

Maybe the person who designed the Pontiac Aztek has a new job?

2 April 2015
...this is an april fools. Most of its been said above. There appears to be something wrong as everything appears to be under the front seat.

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