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Toyota drives future with hydrogen-powered Mirai

08:21 24 January 2016

Toyota Mirai uses hydrogen to power an electric hybrid system with the only emissions being water vapour.

Toyota Mirai uses hydrogen to power an electric hybrid system with the only emissions being water vapour.

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Toyota has launched its Mirai fuel cell vehicle which runs on hydrogen with the only emissions being water. Matt Kimberley drives this car of the future.

What’s new?

The Mirai is one of the first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, so it’s part of a huge watershed moment, but ultimately it’s a normal car with fuel contained in tanks and an electric hybrid system that sends power to the front wheels. A lot like a Prius, only running on something a lot cleaner.

The dashboard and centre console are futuristic enough without being scary and a range of drivetrain-related displays to tell you what’s going on – again, a lot like the Prius.

Toyota Mirai

Price: £66,000

Powertrain: Electric motor, hydrogen fuel cell providing 155hp

Transmission: Single-speed automatic driving front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 9.6 seconds; top speed 111mph

Economy: 1.23kg per 100 miles combined

Emissions: Water vapour

Looks and image

Aerodynamics are paramount for the Mirai, hence the unusual styling that enhances cooling systems and how the car cuts through the air. The underside is completely flat – only possible because there are no hot gases around the engine bay.

It’s not pretty but its functionality will appeal to early-adopters and the eco-minded who want to drive a revolutionary concept – a car that emits only water vapour.

Space and practicality

The 361-litre saloon boot is good enough for most needs and there’s loads of rear legroom for average-height adults. Despite the Mirai’s slender, gap-threading footprint on the road it feels wide inside thanks to liberally-applied horizontal lines across the dashboard.

While a 300-mile real-world range is easy, the limiting factor is the current availability of hydrogen filling stations.

Behind the wheel

Supreme quietness greets you in the Mirai. Squeeze the throttle hard and you’ll hear the fake whirring noise added to let owners feel a more natural sensation of acceleration – and likewise in reverse when you lift off the right-hand pedal.

Fantastically usable torque from the hydrogen-electric drivetrain makes the Toyota a dream to drive in urban areas, easily getting up to speed.

The ride is impeccable, too – settled and comfortable. It makes you wonder why all cars aren’t like this.

Three driving modes allow you to bias the system towards the electric motor, a calculated mix of that and the hydrogen, or towards maximum output.

Visibility is great and everything within touching distance feels high-quality, including the very comfortable eight-way electrically-adjustable front seats.

Value for money

Here’s the rub – the Mirai costs £66,000 on the road, or £750 a month on an all-inclusive leasing deal that covers servicing, tyres and the like. You get an awful lot of day-brighteners for that, like heated seats all round, heated steering wheel and even heated windscreen wipers. There’s no denying this will be a deeply lovely car to own or lease, but it’s a bit rich for most people.

Who would buy one?

Toyota is targeting the Mirai partly at wealthy early-adopters who live near refuelling stations. But greater uptake is expected among companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint – and to be seen doing it.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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