Toyota pioneered the hybrid-electric vehicle almost 20 years ago, and hopes to do the same thing with the hydrogen-electric segment. The 2016 Toyota Mirai is not only one of the first production fuel-cell vehicles from the company, but the most technologically advanced as well.
A pinnacle of technology, Toyota spent 20 years of research and development to enable to produce the Mirai’s drive-train. The fuel cell in the Mirai is up to 30 times more efficient than one of the first ones made in 1994. After subjecting cars with similar fuel cells to a million miles of testing, Toyota has confirmed the reliability and safety of these systems. A definite success story for the future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Hydrogen fuel cells work by taking compressed hydrogen and pushing it through membranes that separate the electrons from the hydrogen. These electrons are used to power a electric motor that drives the front wheels. Then the hydrogen gets mixed with oxygen to form pure H2O (water) that comes out of the tailpipe. In theory, this system is similar to what is used in today’s plug-in hybrid models – albeit in a much more eco friendly way.
That power-plant allows the Mirai to product about 151 horsepower from the electric motor. That allows the car to accelerate from 0-60 in about 9 seconds. It can also reach a top speed of 111 mph. That isn’t blistering performance, but enough for around town peppiness. Operation is very quiet and similar to other electric powered vehicles.
Toyota says that it will take about 5 minutes to fill up the reserve tank of the Mirai. That single factor could be the success of hydrogen fuel cell systems over electric-battery powered systems. Toyota believes that the hydrogen fuel cell technology will overtake electric systems in overall cost, profitability, and demand. We agree.
The Mirai is built off of a modified Prius/CT200H platform with a number of changes that improve on performance, noise levels, and overall ride comfort. There have been changes made to the suspension, steering, and brakes to bring them up to a higher level.
On the inside, Toyota added Lexus-like luxury to the futuristic-styled cabin. While the interior may be vaguely familiar to those who drive a current generation Prius, it has been tweaked to offer the highest levels of luxury and comfort. The front seats are bolstered and feature dual tone leather surfaces. The central information cluster display is located above the navigation and sound system display. Additionally, there is another climate control display with easy to read icons. In general, the interior is thoroughly high-tech. There are luxury car features as well which include: heated seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, hifi sound, and extra sound deadening. Toyota also includes a suite of electronic driving aids: vehicle pre-collision, blind spot monitor, lane departure alert, drive start control and automatic high beams.
The 2016 Toyota Mirai will first be sold in California and later in the east coast. When the Mirai goes on sale in California there will be about 100 refueling station. Toyota is also assisting it’s partner, Air Liquide, to build 12 stations in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Toyota will sell you a 2016 Mirai for $57,500 which includes 24/7 roadside assistance, 3 years of free scheduled maintenance (12,000 miles/year), an 8 year 100,000 mile warranty of fuel cell components, and complementary hydrogen fuel for up to 3 years. Toyota claims that the federal government will give grants to purchasers which can reduce the price by up to $13,000 bringing the final purchase below $45,000. Toyota will only sell about 3,000 of the models in the next 3 years.