“2016 to Present Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan”
For a Select Few the Future is Here Now
Mirai is the Japanese word for future, and the Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan is truly a car of the future that’s on sale now to a select few consumers. The Mirai is actually the first dedicated fuel cell vehicle to be available for sale rather than exclusively for lease (leasing is still an option). But it’s not for everybody. Initially, the Mirai is only available in California, but sales will likely expand to other states as the infrastructure for refueling becomes more accessible.
First of all, what is a fuel cell vehicle? A hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle combines hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity onboard, while emitting zero emissions – nothing but water vapor (it’s even drinkable). The Mirai has the highest EPA estimated driving range rating of any zero emission electric vehicle on the market, at 312 miles, and offers an EPA estimated 67 MPGe city/highway/combined.
With the Mirai’s production currently being extremely limited to 3,000 units over a three year period, vehicles will only be sold to select eligible California consumers after placing a request and completing an interview discussing ownership and acquisition procedures directly with a Toyota representative. Customers first began taking delivery in October 2015 from one of the eight designated authorized Northern and Southern California dealers of their choosing. Those selected for ownership of the $57,500 Mirai (add $835 for the Delivery fee) were referred to as Mirai Trailblazers.
In recognizing the Trailblazing customers, participating in automotive history, a select group of qualified individuals were eligible for a Mirai Trailblazer support program. This program was designed to enhance the purchase and ownership experience by providing the following choices: Trailblazer APR Support: 0% for 60 months + $7,500; or Trailblazer Purchase Support of $7,500; or a Trailblazer Lease: $499 per month for 36 months, $3,649 due at signing.
The Program was available to all qualified 2016 model Mirai customers. In addition to distinctive style, performance and zero emissions, MY16 Mirai drivers would enjoy a comprehensive, ownership experience offering a range of world-class services, including: Three years’ worth of complimentary fuel or $15,000, whichever comes first – the fuel program beginning after receipt and activation of the non-transferable fuel card, with refueling mandatory at approved stations meeting SAE fueling interface protocols; Three years of complimentary Safety Connect and Entune services, including a hydrogen station finder app; Three years of 24/7 customer call support; Mirai Complimentary Rental Experience for seven days per year for three years, with the 7 complimentary days per year expiring after each year, with no carryover of unused days; ToyotaCare® covering normal factory scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles – whichever comes first, plus two years of 24-hour roadside assistance regardless of mileage, valid only at authorized Mirai dealers in the Continental United States; Toyota’s standard no cost service plan and roadside assistance, is enhanced for Mirai offering: No cost scheduled maintenance for three years, or 35,000 miles, whichever comes first; No cost enhanced roadside assistance for three years – not including parts and fluids, regardless of mileage, including expedited towing service and trip interruption reimbursement up to a maximum of $500 per day for up to 5 days per incident with reimbursement covering interruptions requiring the Toyota dealership to keep the vehicle overnight at the time of disablement more than 50 miles from the owner’s residence; an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on key fuel cell vehicle components including the FC stack and power control unit; FC hydrogen tanks; hybrid battery pack and ECU; FC air compressor, boost converter and ECU; hybrid control module (power management control module); and hydrogen fueling ECU.
Okay, that all involves a lot of legalese, but the Mirai provides a worthwhile range on a single tank of fuel, with power being supplied by an AC synchronous motor lifted from the Lexus RX 450h and driving the front wheels, producing 151 horsepower along with 247 pound feet of torque. The motor is fed by a 1.7 kW hour nickel-metal hydride battery, also found in the Toyota Camry Hybrid that is continuously topped off by the solid polymer electrolyte fuel-cell stack. The stack pulls its hydrogen from one of two three-layer carbon-fiber tanks that hold gaseous hydrogen at roughly 10,000 psi of pressure. Fuel consumption is rated at 67 mpg-e combined, with the full-tank’s 5 kilograms of hydrogen for the claimed 312 mile range.
The Toyota Mirai comes with all the basic safety features and equipment that one would expect, such as airbags, stability control, ABS, etc. Pre-collision automatic emergency braking is provided, but the Mirai is one of only a few Toyotas that will not receive the full Toyota Safety Sense suite of collision avoidance / mitigation equipment.
Currently, early Mirai adopters will have roughly only 20 locations statewide to refuel their vehicles, compared to the estimated 10,000 gasoline stations in California. Refueling with hydrogen delivered at 10,000 psi gives an indicated 270 miles of range. Operation of the filler nozzle requires patience and a firm grip; push in, pull verifying a solid connection, then squeeze the trigger, latching the handle to the meter. The hydrogen gas is cooled to just above 0 degrees Fahrenheit to increase its density, and despite the fact that the nozzle is covered with condensation, it’s not freezing to the touch. The refueling process only takes an average of five minutes.
Visually, there are colleagues who have expressed disdain for the Mirai’s exterior styling, which bears some resemblance to the new Prius, calling it ugly, but I personally disagree. It appropriately displays an edgy, futuristic design form in keeping with its mission statement. If you’re a fan of the new Prius, you’re likely to be enamored with the Mirai fuel cell sedan that seats four comfortably.
Sliding into the interior, occupants are treated to a cozy Prius-like cabin accommodating four adults comfortably. A unique button-less touchpad area positioned between the front seats is an innovative way to operate climate functions, while carbon-fiber accents provide a nice touch. The infotainment screen sits atop the dashboard, with a digital instrument cluster recessed more deeply, serving up a multilayered look. Similar to the standard Prius, various graphs that measure driving efficiency in real time, while an eco record makes a log of your miles. The Mirai provides a driving score for every trip taken. The score out of a possible 100 measures how efficiently one accelerates, decelerates, and coasts. If a score in the 40s or below is achieved, there is a prompt to improve one’s driving skills. Menu options of the infotainment system are laid out clearly on the home screen; with maps providing current traffic incident info, and the system unfailingly recognizes voice commands consistently.
Performance-wise, The Mirai is not the fastest green vehicle on the road, but it accelerates quickly off the line, attributable to the rapid delivery of torque, and it is highly maneuverable in crowded traffic situations. But with only 151 horsepower propelling a car the size of a Camry that weighs over two tons, it doesn’t fall into Tesla territory.
The 17-inch Michelin Primacy MXV4 rubber and well-tuned suspension provide a positive steering response and body roll is minimal, being well damped. The Mirai stops quickly as well, but with a traditional slight regenerative braking pulsation. The ride quality is both smooth and comfortable.
A few things to consider – Hydrogen happens to be the third-most abundant of the Earth’s elements, making up 90 percent of the atoms in our universe. It melts at 434 degrees F, and boils at 423 degrees F.
Is the Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell sedan the wisest investment? That depends on a variety of personal factors. Leasing may be the best way to go, because once the free three year fuel supply has been consumed, the cost of hydrogen currently ranges anywhere from $10.00 to $16.00 per kilogram. Due to the limited refueling infrastructure, the Toyota Mirai may best be suited for technological savants and ECO-philes with unlimited funds. In the final analysis however, the Mirai, for the most part, drives and handles like a conventional gasoline powered vehicle.
SPECIFICATIONS: Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan 2016 to present
Base Price: $57,500.
Price as Tested: $58,335.
Engine Type and Size: Toyota Fuel Cell System – Fuel Cell Stack type –solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell with humidifier-less internal circulation system.
Power Output: 153 (114kW) Max.
Output density: 3.1 kW/L by volume / 2.0 kW/kg by weight
370 single-line stacking cells in one stack with 3D fine-mesh (cathode) flow field.
Electric motor: AC synchronous electric generator.
Power output: 151 HP (113 kW) Max
Peak Torque: 247 ft./ lbs.
Hydrogen tanks: Two high-pressure Carbon Fiber tanks – Type-4 Three layer structure: Inner layer: plastic liner (prevents hydrogen leakage)
Middle layer: carbon fiber reinforced plastic (structural element)
Surface layer: glass fiber reinforced plastic (protects outer surface from abrasion)
Fuel: Compressed hydrogen gas
Max filling pressure – 87.5 MPa
Normal Operating Pressure – 70 MPa (approx. 10,000 psi). Storage Density (Capacity) – 5.7 weight %
Hydrogen Storage Mass: Approx. 5.0 kg
Refueling Time: About 5 minutes
Drive Battery: Nickel-metal hydride
Fuel Cell Boost Converter – 4 phase / 650V (MAX) / 13L
Power Take Off Option: DC Power Output – 9 kW (MAX) / Energy Output – Approx. 60 kWh
Transmission: Single Speed automatic Direct gear drive with Reverse.
Drive Train: Front mounted motor / Front-wheel Drive
Suspension: Front -Independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers.
Rear – Double wishbone with coil springs, trailing arms, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with Star Safety System™.
Tires: Michelin Primacy MXV4 – P215/55 R17 mounted on 7-spoke alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches
Length Overall: 192.5 inches
Width: 71.5 inches
Height: 60.4 inches
Curb Weight: 4078.5 lbs.
Turning Circle: Not listed
EPA Mileage Estimates: 67 MPGe city / highway / combined / EPA Est. Range=312 miles
Drag Coefficient: 0.29
0 – 60 mph: 9.0 seconds / Top speed – 111 mph.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.