2019 Toyota Mirai Review: One of Several Possible Futures
As new electrified vehicles continue to sprout on the automotive landscape, it’s understandable that people wonder what else fuel-cell technology can really bring to the table, either on a global scale or closer to home here in Canada.
And yet, there are at present at least three big automakers with hydrogen-powered vehicles on their roster, somewhere. Honda has the fuel-cell version of its Clarity (found only in select American states), while Hyundai has its Nexo utility model available in Canada. And then there’s Toyota, which has been selling the Mirai in Japan since 2016, and in Quebec since 2018. Most recently, since July of this year to be exact, British Columbians can now also acquire a Mirai.
Needless to say, I was eager to try out the Mirai for a short stint courtesy Toyota Canada; exceptionally, I was to pick up the car at the company’s regional HQ in a suburb of Montreal. The reason for that is simple: hydrogen might be the most abundant element found in the universe, but it’s still exceedingly difficult to find from a commercial pump. In fact, even the refilling pump located at the automaker’s local offices is temporary, which helps explain why my tester’s range between visits for a top-up was a mere 250 km. No matter, I was happy to try out one of the oddest cars to travel on a Canadian road in 2019.
How does a hydrogen fuel-cell car work?
Before we get into the meat of the test drive, it’s worth taking a moment to understand how a futuristic system like this works in a vehicle (the word Mirai means “future” in Japanese). The basis of the system is in fact an electric motor, which helps deliver an output of 151 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, sent to the front wheels. This of course explains the extreme quiet of the motor when starting up or leaving a stop.
Though the motor is fed by a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery (notably for starting up and to support more-muscular accelerations), another set of batteries – this one of the fuel-cell kind – takes over as soon as startup is completed. In case you were wondering, you don’t feel any of the transition when at the wheel.Read more