The 2021 Toyota Mirai I drove a couple of weeks in the past provides to the hydrogen conundrum of the previous a number of years—that there can exist some actually great-driving autos accessible in a small area in just one state. Sure, California and its 44 or so hydrogen stations. 

Because the Mirai was heading away from Portland on a truck, looking for extra high-pressure hydrogen that was maybe a whole lot of miles away, I tried to digest the inspiring hydrogen-powered automobile and the best-driving sedan in Toyota’s lineup—framed towards the infrastructure that nearly isn’t.

My thoughts strayed to the dialog I had with chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka greater than a 12 months in the past. Tanaka summed up the mission behind the entire undertaking with: “Inside the limitations of the refueling construction… how interesting of a automobile may we create?”

2021 Toyota Mirai

Tanaka-san promised a handsome, sportier driving Mirai that additionally would have the “the wow issue” of a 400+ mile vary, and he delivered on all of these targets. And the one issues that didn’t add enchantment have every little thing to do with the extra awkward method that hydrogen must be saved—in cylindrical tanks, in a cumbersome ‘T’ form. 

With the 2 new battery electrical autos now confirmed as headed to the U.S. later this 12 months, it’s simple to see a bit extra of Toyota’s future within the Mirai—not particularly within the Mirai’s platform, however within the decisions it is made round every little thing electrical, downstream of the gas cell.

The identify “mirai” means “future,” and right here it rings true in a number of methods. Toyota may see hydrogen gas cells as a part of future mobility, in lots of respects, however the actuality is {that a} restricted infrastructure and the prices of supporting it’s going to stay points for a few years—as will the problems round procuring actually “inexperienced” hydrogen with out added carbon baggage. On the identical time, lots of the core parts in a fuel-cell automobile—outdoors of the hydrogen and fuel-cell stack—carefully parallel what is likely to be utilized in EVs, huge battery apart. 

One of the best-driving fuel-cell automobile but?

The Mirai is a unbelievable drive—one thing I certain wouldn’t and haven’t stated in regards to the Prius-like first-generation mannequin. The 2021 Mirai isn’t sport-sedan fast, with a 0-60 mph time of about 9 seconds; however its experience is agency and refined, its dealing with and physique management are balanced, and a exact really feel governs every little thing from steering precision to monitoring and accelerator inputs. 

2021 Toyota Mirai

2021 Toyota Mirai

The zero-latency really feel to any accelerator-pedal inputs makes it really feel like a a lot faster automobile than it’s under about 50 mph. 

It’s sporty on the skin, mature and refined inside, and playful whenever you need it to be. It may function a template exhibiting that Toyota could make a compelling battery-electric mannequin that gained’t be shoehorned into eco-geek cliches. 

The 2021 Toyota Mirai is powered by a single electrical motor on the rear wheels, making 182 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, whereas a brand new, extra compact technology of Toyota’s fuel-cell stack makes 172 hp and retains the facility flowing at various charges—with a 1.2-kwh lithium-ion battery pack appearing because the buffer and booster when extra energy is all of a sudden wanted. 

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

A part of what helps give the Mirai its vivid really feel regardless of the dearth of great firepower is that it’s an enormous sedan—the scale of the Tesla Mannequin S—and but it weighs 4,300 kilos, in comparison with about 5,000 for the Mannequin S.

Actuality test on the real-world usability

There’s one critical disappointment within the Mirai, although, and that’s its lack of inside area and cargo area. Sure, it has an extended hood and a low roofline, however psychologically it’s a troublesome promote {that a} sedan so massive on the skin can have so little area—headroom particularly—within the again seat. It’s a no-go even for six-footers. Trunk area is simply 9.6 cubic ft. There’s no flipping ahead the rear seatbacks; no frunk both. 

That’s as a result of the fuel-cell stack is packed beneath the hood—with its personal crash construction—whereas this time round, the Mirai has three hydrogen tanks. Two of these tanks are transverse, beneath and behind the rear seat (with the battery pack additionally within the neighborhood), whereas the opposite is longitudinal, alongside what can be the drive tunnel in a gasoline rear-drive automobile. 

Toyota has no intent to make use of the Mirai’s platform for an electrical automobile, however when its EVs do arrive, issues shall be completely different with the flexibleness of battery packaging beneath the ground. 

Though Toyota took a step again from the sci-fi look and Prius nods of the earlier Mirai, it didn’t do as a lot because it may to scrub up the interface, and—outdoors of the interface to indicate the way it’s cleansing the air—to easily present what the delicate powertrain is doing energy-wise. The infotainment system itself feels complicated and obtuse, with a number of methods to get to unintuitive submenus.

Air purification displays - 2021 Toyota Mirai

Air purification shows – 2021 Toyota Mirai

Air purification displays - 2021 Toyota Mirai

Air purification shows – 2021 Toyota Mirai

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

My take a look at automobile, as an example, was exhibiting a 49 MPGe tank common. I had lined about 60 miles—a wildly assorted mixture of sporty driving plus some calm cruising—and regardless that the Mirai carries a variety score of 402 miles the journey pc appeared to assume {that a} full tank of 5.6 kg of hydrogen would equate to one thing simply over 200 miles of vary. 

It’s additionally completely ridiculous that the driving force of a automobile that’s fueled with hydrogen and makes use of electrical motors and kilowatts for propulsion would need to convert its effectivity to miles per gallon equal—or discover MPGe helpful in any method. 

Similar to its predecessor, the Mirai will basically produce water on command—purging its gas cell with a sudden burst of water out the tailpipe. No, it’s not fairly potable, as years of fuel-cell displays might need recommended, but it surely’s a celebration trick. And in case you don’t purge alongside the way in which, the Mirai will basically accomplish that whenever you shut down the automobile—producing billowing steamy clouds on the 45-degree F temperatures at which I drove the Mirai. 

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

The Mirai additionally has the aptitude to proactively dump its gas—quick. The T-shaped array of three hydrogen tanks has pyrotechnic units that in a short time open valves to vacate the hydrogen in a collision. 

Trying past the Mirai, to the mirai

Whereas these components aren’t going to translate to a battery electrical automobile, loads of goodness from the Mirai may. As an illustration, it’s constructed to provide backup DC energy. Whereas it didn’t seem that my take a look at automobile had this, it’s talked about in Toyota’s worldwide brochures for the Mirai, and its tanks of hydrogen may energy a home for days. 

Likewise, the gas cell enhance converter that controls gas cell output and boosts voltage for the high-voltage drive system is one thing with know-how experience overlapping to EVs and the high-efficiency inverters required to get a number of vary and effectivity out of battery packs. That is Toyota’s first use of energy MOS transistors, which use next-generation silicon carbide semiconductor materials.

2021 Toyota Mirai - Portland OR

2021 Toyota Mirai – Portland OR

I’ll place my bets on a few of this know-how additionally arriving in Toyota’s yet-to-be-detailed e-TNGA platform for devoted EVs. Because the Mirai reveals, typically simply sketching out one future reveals us that one other one is simply across the nook.