Meet the new Toyota MiraiToyota’s newest car may seem like it’s from the future – the name “Mirai” even means “future” – but it’s here right now.
The Mirai is the world’s first large scale production car to exclusively use a hydrogen fuel cell, which means it not only produces no carbon dioxide when in use but emits no pollutants at all – the only product is water vapour.
Toyota has been researching this technology since the early 1990s, resulting in the Toyota Fuel Cell Stack found in the Mirai. This takes compressed hydrogen gas from carbonfibre fuel tanks and combines it with oxygen from outside air to produce electricity which powers the car. The Mirai is essentially an electric vehicle that consumes fuel.
Thanks to a complicated formula that measures the energy contained in a kilogram of hydrogen compared to that contained in a gallon of conventional fuel, the Mirai even has an official ‘miles per gallon equivalent’ rating of 66mpg in the USA, the best ever achieved by a hydrogen fuel cell car.
Filling the Mirai with the hydrogen it uses is very little different from filling your regular road car with petrol. Although there’s a limited number of hydrogen fuel filling stations in the UK – only 13 at present, with 3 in London – it’s simply a matter of plugging the pump into the car and locking it as you would with LPG and the tanks are topped up in around 5 minutes. Filled with hydrogen the Mirai will travel up to 300 miles before you need to fill it again.
While the extraction of hydrogen itself requires electricity – leading to concerns that the carbon dioxide emissions are merely moved from the car to a power station – zero emission filling stations are starting to open in the UK, such as the one in Sheffield that uses a wind turbine to provide power. There are plans to have 65 hydrogen stations across the UK by 2020.
With a lot of advanced technologies required to create the Mirai, the construction is handled by Toyota’s Motomachi facility – the same factory that used to build the £300,000 Lexus LF-A supercar. The Mirai should be significantly less expensive though, at around £55,000 when it becomes more widely available in the UK in 2016.
The factory has already had to increase output after demand for the Mirai in Japan increased significantly over initial projections – 1,500 orders in the first month of production there. This should lead to an improved supply for Europe too, with the car launched in the UK, Germany and Denmark.
In many respects the Mirai is recognisable as a normal car. The fuel cell outputs the equivalent of 155hp, resulting in a brisk 0-60mph time of just over 9 seconds. There’s a good sized, 380 litre boot along with seats for four occupants and the usual selection of gadgets – including a reverse parking camera and the Toyota Safety Sense suite of emergency driver assists.
It’s only the technology underneath the Mirai that’s extraordinary – but like the Prius 20 years ago it might become normal before too long.