What is the Toyota Mirai?

2021 Toyota Mirai front
The Toyota Mirai is a fuel-cell electric vehicle

The Toyota Mirai is an electric vehicle that doesn’t store electricity in a battery pack. Instead, it houses it in the chemical form of gaseous hydrogen. This works by combining hydrogen with oxygen from the air to create electricity using a fuel cell. Hence, the name fuel-cell electric vehicle.

Since its 2014 release, the Mirai has featured a sedan body style with a design and amenities rivaling Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. Despite being such a futuristic vehicle, Toyota sold only 18,000 units worldwide, with nearly half those sales in North America.

The Mirai reached its second generation in 2020, which is a complete overhaul of the first iteration as far as the powertrain is concerned. You can only purchase or lease the Toyota Mirai in areas where hydrogen infrastructure is present, and oftentimes you also get a $15,000 hydrogen value card to refill the Mirai out of the deal.


2021 Toyota Mirai profile


How the Mirai Differs on the Exterior and Interior

Toyota did everything at their disposal to make the Mirai look special and unique, and they certainly succeeded because the Toyota Mirai doesn’t inherently present itself as a Toyota product, and not as a Lexus product either. What’s more commendable is how well they blended the unique look into a refined and non-intrusive design. The result is a sleek and modern exterior, with long sweeping lines and carefully picked design accents to make the Toyota Mirai stand out.

On the inside, the Toyota Mirai looks luxurious but composed. Comparing it to other Toyota products, the Mirai is thoroughly refined and, in select situations, quite mellow. Moreover, most complaints that people have about interiors have been eliminated. There’s no tablet screen as seen in the Prius. Just a decently sized infotainment system that has a myriad of useful features. All the buttons are physical and accessible to the driver. Overall, a lot of emphases has been put on overall ergonomics and feel.

Why the Toyota Mirai has a Special Powertrain

The Toyota Mirai has a unique architecture, even in the world of fuel cell electric vehicles. The car is rear-wheel drive, and the electric traction motor is placed in the rear of the car.

The motor has a maximum output of 182 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, resulting in a 0-60 mph time of 9.2 seconds. It is not fast by any stretch of the imagination.


2021 Toyota Mirai profile


This electric motor is powered continuously by the fuel cell stack found in front of the vehicle, with a maximum power output of 171 horsepower. The same fuel cell stack also recharges a small traction battery with an energy capacity of 1.24 kWh, used for acceleration, driving at maximum speed, and similar situations. This fuel cell stack combines hydrogen stored in the tanks with airborne oxygen to create water and electricity.

Speaking of hydrogen, it is stored in three distinct tanks as a highly pressurized gas. The net capacity measures 5.6 kg (12.35 pounds). One of the tanks is placed in the driveshaft’s tunnel, which creates an awkward hump inside the cabin. They are manufactured out of carbon fiber composite and withstand a pressure of 70 MPa (700 bar or 10100 PSI) and are highly resilient. The chance of mechanical puncture in case of a crash is minimal, thus significantly smaller than lithium-ion batteries, and infinitely smaller than regular gas tanks, as shown in tests developed by Toyota, Hyundai, and the US Military.

How hard is it to live with a Toyota Mirai?

As stated by multiple reviews, the Toyota Mirai is a joy to drive, and could easily replace regular cars in terms of convenience and driving range. The comfort is apparent, the handling is adequate, and the space is plentiful. Granted, the Mirai isn’t a speed demon, but that’s not its goal. The Toyota Mirai was developed to ease people into buying fuel cell electric vehicles, as they did with hybrid vehicles with the critically acclaimed Toyota Prius. Refueling the car takes a few minutes, and the resulting range is an impressive 402 miles.


2021 Toyota Mirai profile


The problem is with developing a hydrogen infrastructure, which at the current time is a significant nuisance. There aren’t hydrogen stations all around the globe, most of them being in select regions of North America, Asia, and small areas of Europe. Thus, traveling anywhere else with a Toyota Mirai is, sadly, impossible at the time. Moreover, they aren’t maintained nearly as well as regular gas stations, rarely receiving station-wide top-ups. This uncommonly results in finally getting to a hydrogen station and only receiving 1 kg of hydrogen instead of a fuel-up because the station is empty.

Is the Toyota Mirai THAT Special?

Mirai stands for “Future” in Japanese, and we can certainly see why. Developing such an architecture is a bold maneuver from Toyota, but thankfully, this whole “experiment” does incredibly well and sets standards for what a hydrogen future could be. What’s more impressive is that multiple other companies started following suit, from Honda which worked side-by-side with Toyota, and Hyundai, to Stellantis, Bosch, and even Siemens.


2021 Toyota Mirai rear


References


Toyota (n.d.). 2022 Toyota Mirai Specs & Options.

AUTO TV. (2020, December 16). 2022 Toyota Mirai Interior Cabin [Video]. YouTube.

Hyundai NZ. (2020, June 29). Part 4: Hydrogen, Is It Safe? [Video]. YouTube.

Toyota USA. (2016, March 14). Tank Safety: Hydrogen Tank Gunshot | Toyota [Video]. YouTube.


See AlsoThe U.S. Army Aims for Net Zero

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Cristian Puscasu
Author: Cristian Puscasu
Cristian Pușcașu started loving cars and wanted to become a “racing driver” thanks to some computer game that lit the fire almost two decades ago. Since then, he came to his senses and decided that becoming an automotive engineer is more sensible, and pursued such a degree in his home country, Romania. Cristian decided to try writing about what he learned, in an attempt to correct certain misconceptions and to use his degree a bit unconventionally.

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