Typically when someone says “green vehicle”, a battery electric vehicle or a hybrid pops into mind. However, a cleaner and more eco-friendly vehicle is the second generation Toyota Mirai. This is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can deliver up to 647 km (402 miles) of range and take less than 5 minutes to refill. So why aren’t there more fuel cell vehicles on the roads?
Fuel Cell – To put it simply, a hydrogen fuel cell uses one of the most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen, and combines it with oxygen in the atmosphere to produce electricity. The only “emission” that comes out of the tailpipe is H2O; water. The electricity that the fuel cell generates is delivered to a rear electric motor that produces 182 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque (136 kW & 300 Nm). This doesn’t make the Toyota Mirai a very fast car but it gets going at a reasonable pace.
Compared to other Toyota hybrid vehicles, the Mirai has a bit of a kick when setting off from a stop. But the acceleration begins to taper off after approximately 70 km/h. The hydrogen fuel cell can only produce so much electricity at a time. When you’re flooring it, a 1.24 kWh battery supplements the fuel cell in providing a bit more juice to the electric motor for brief periods. So technically speaking, this is a hybrid. The primary power supply (fuel cell) is aided by the battery just like in a traditional gasoline powered hybrid vehicle.
But while this type of technology won’t be winning drag races at a race track, the air that is going into the fuel cell is dirtier than when it comes out. This car will actually clean the air as you’re driving along. That’s something that traditional gasoline powered and electric vehicles can’t claim.
Fuel Economy – The base XLE trim of the Mirai is rated for up to 647 km (402 miles) of range. This Limited trim is rated for 602 km (374 miles) of range. The cost of hydrogen is one of the big problems with current hydrogen vehicles. At the time of writing, hydrogen costs approximately $13 CAD/kg. The 2022 Toyota Mirai’s tanks can hold 5.6 kg of hydrogen. So with some simple maths, the Mirai will cost roughly $73 CAD to refuel. That’s roughly the same as a gasoline powered vehicle so for those looking for savings at the pump, this is not the answer.
During my time with the Mirai, the car used hydrogen at a rate of 0.97 kg/100km. Refilling with hydrogen is as fast as refilling a gasoline powered vehicle. The nozzle needs to be clamped onto the car because hydrogen is stored at high pressures but the whole process takes less than 5 minutes. Much better than even the fastest level 3 DC fast charging EV stations.
However, finding a hydrogen filling station is the biggest problem for these types of vehicles. Here in Vancouver, there are currently only 3 stations in the entire city. This is why the Mirai is only sold in British Columbia & Quebec for the Canadian market. In the United States, it’s California and Hawaii. One thing worth mentioning for American customers, you get a complimentary $15,000 hydrogen fuel credit that is valid for up to 6 years. This is unfortunately not available for Canadian customers.
Braking – The Mirai has strong brakes that will effortlessly stop the 1,966 kg (4,334 lbs) body in emergency situations. In mundane everyday traffic, the brake pedal has a bit more travel than I was expecting but it is smooth and firms up nicely the more you push on it.
The car also has regenerative braking for the small 1.24 kWh battery. By default, the regen braking mode is the same as lifting off the throttle pedal in a gasoline powered vehicle. The stronger regen braking mode slows the car down a bit more but it’s not strong enough to provide a one-pedal driving mode.
Handling – The Mirai is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle but it does not have any sporty aspirations. It was never designed for that. This is a city vehicle and it excels at being one. Steering is light and on the slow side. But again, this does not need fast, sports car steering response. The suspension allows for a bit more body roll but the car maintains its composure. Overall, driving a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is like driving an EV but without the long charging times.
Ride Comfort – The 2022 Toyota Mirai rides like a Lexus and that’s because it uses a modified Lexus LS platform. Though this Limited trim has 20-inch wheels, the thick tires and well tuned suspension give the car a plush but not floaty ride. You can feel that the car drove over a small pebble, for example, but it’s not a harsh transition into the seat.
Interior Space – While the Mirai is a physically large vehicle from the outside, the interior space is not as generous. Front occupants have a lot of leg space but headroom is a bit on the tight side. I had to lower the seat to the bottommost position. The rear seats though are even worse. Legroom behind my 6’4” driving position is very tight and the same is true for headroom. Legroom and headroom are doubly worse for whoever has to sit in the middle. There is a large hump in the center due to one of the hydrogen fuel tanks and the center seat is slightly higher up than the two outboard seats. But if no one sits in the middle, the armrest can drop and reveal controls for the radio, climate, and heated & ventilated rear seats as well as a rear sunshade control.
The trunk is equally small at just 272 L (9.6 cu-ft) of space. The lithium-ion battery sits just behind the rear seats which is why there is no passthrough nor any sort of mechanism to drop down the back rests. As well, there is another, smaller hydrogen tank below the trunk floor which prevents underfloor storage.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Because the Toyota Mirai drives like an EV, it is as quiet as one. You may hear the fuel cell make a “wooshing” noise under hard acceleration but it’s not overly intrusive into the cabin. Neither is wind and road noise. There’s a faint whisper of wind noise at highway speeds from the mirrors but most of the sound is tire noise which is not too loud.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not cheap but Toyota has managed to offer the Mirai at a substantially lower price than the Hyundai Nexo. The 2022 Toyota Mirai starts at $54,990 CAD ($49,500 USD) for the XLE with this Limited trim costing $76,750 CAD ($66,000 USD). By comparison the Nexo starts at $71,000 CAD. Also, the Mirai (and the Nexo) are eligible for government rebates and tax incentives.
Gadgets – This fully loaded Mirai has everything from built-in navigation to wireless phone charging, to a head-up display, and even rear ventilated seats. With all the features that it has, I’m surprised it doesn’t carry a Lexus badge.
The infotainment system is an older generation Toyota system but it works just fine. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto are compatible but they have to be wired. The only major complaint that I have with this older generation system is how it looks. It doesn’t match the technologically advanced feeling of the rest of the car.
Interior Design – The interior is a cohesive design with a lot of contrasting materials and colours. There’s white leather on the dash that is contrasted with piano black plastic and copper accents. I’m not the biggest fan of piano black but at least most of the controls are not covered in this material.
Exterior Design – The 2022 Mirai has a sleek fastback design. The rear portion of the roof slopes into the trunk but it is not a hatchback opening. The front reminds me of a fish every time that I look at it. That could also be because of the vivid Hydro Blue paint colour.
Safety – The 2022 Toyota Mirai is equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. This includes forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep, lane tracing, blind spot sensors with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and surround view cameras.
In case you’re wondering, the hydrogen tanks are made of a carbon fiber and fiberglass reinforced polymer material. Toyota says that the tanks are designed to withstand up to five times the crash energy of steel.
Warranty – The 2022 Toyota Mirai is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km basic and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. The Hydrogen fuel cell is covered by an 8 year / 160,000 km warranty while the lithium-ion battery is covered for 10 years / 240,000 km. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on American warranty, click here.
Conclusion – So in 2022 is it worth it to get the Toyota Mirai? Well if you really care about the environment and don’t mind paying $70-ish to fill up and you live in a city like Vancouver with a few hydrogen fuel stations, the Toyota Mirai is worth the money. But for the vast majority of people, hydrogen cars are not the answer… yet. If more Governments and auto manufacturers invest in hydrogen technology along with hydrogen infrastructure, then I truly believe that hydrogen vehicles are the way of the future. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and there’s no need to dig for rare Earth materials like Lithium or Cobalt to produce batteries. Hydrogen cars are the future but that future is not here yet.
Thank you to Toyota Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Toyota.ca