According to Toyota, the future is here. While we still don’t have the hover boards promised to us by the second installment of the Back to the Future trilogy, Toyota recently unveiled an innovative new vehicle that represents a turning point in human mobility of another kind. The groundbreaking Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, offers performance that competes with traditional internal combustion engines, but is powered without the use of gasoline or diesel fuel.
The combination of innovative fuel cell electric drivetrain and hydrogen technology are seamlessly integrated to offer a pleasurable and environmentally sustainable ownership experience. Unlike its EV counterparts, it is capable of traveling up to 483 kilometres (or about 300 miles) on a single tank of hydrogen and can be refuelled in as little as three minutes.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this four door midsize sedan is that the only emission it expels is clean water vapor. The Mirai will also be offered with an optional power take off (PTO) device that enables Mirai to operate as a mobile generator should the need arise, offering the ability to power an average home’s essential utilities for up to a week.
Performance by the Numbers
Rather than utilizing a large battery, the Mirai’s fuel cell stack combines hydrogen gas from tanks with oxygen to produce electricity which powers the electric motor. As far as the driving experience is concerned, it operates just like a battery-powered vehicle – only without the range anxiety. Not only does this proprietary fuel cell stack offer one of the world’s best power outputs at 3.1 kW/L, but it is also small enough to fit under the front driver and passenger seats. Power is rated at 153hp, boasting 0-100 km/h time of nine seconds and a passing time of 3.0 seconds from 40-65 km/h.
Putting the Technology to the Test
Toyota has been developing and improving fuel cell technology since the early 1990s, logging more than a million kilometres and subjecting them to varied altitudes, extreme temperatures and torturous conditions, including cold weather testing in Yellowknife, NT. This intense testing process also focused on the safety capability of the vehicle, subjecting it to extensive frontal, side and rear crash testing. Testing of all components was also crucial to ensure strength and durability of carbon fiber hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell stack in the event of a collision. The Mirai will also feature a host of safety technology, such as a vehicle pre-collision warning, blind spot monitor, lane departure alert, drive start control and automatic high beams.
Unveiled before the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, global head and grandson of the company founder, Akio Toyoda was not shy about the impact such a vehicle could have on our society.
“For us, this isn’t just another car. This is an opportunity – an opportunity to really make a difference. And making a difference is what Toyota is all about,” said Toyoda.
Redefining the Ownership Experience
Limited numbers of the 2016 Toyota Mirai will be available to California, Japanese and European residents as of fall 2015. Availability in other markets will be dependent on hydrogen refueling infrastructure but Toyota expects more than 3,000 units to be on the road by 2018.