By Allyson Harwood
Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle (FCV), the 2016 Mirai, offers a promising view of the automotive future. The 4-passenger Mirai doesn't require gasoline. In fact, while you fill up a tank in a similar way to what you would do at a gas station and in the same amount of time, you fill it with hydrogen and can drive up to 300 miles on a single tank. Even better, the only emissions that come out of the new Mirai are water vapor. There are other fuel-cell vehicles, such as the Hyundai Tucson FCV and Honda's upcoming replacement for the FCX Clarity, but the Mirai may be the most mainstream FCV available.
If you live near a hydrogen fueling station, the Toyota Mirai is a pleasant way to drive a zero-emissions car, with free hydrogen fuel for the first three years. Filling a Mirai with hydrogen is similar to filling up a gasoline-powered car, the range is almost as far and the driving experience is Prius-like.
If you don't live close enough to a hydrogen station, or want to take a cross-country trip in your car, the Mirai isn't for you. It's only sold in specific regions at this point, based on where hydrogen fuel is available.
The 2016 Toyota Mirai is an all-new 4-passenger car with an electric motor system similar to that of the Toyota Prius hybrid. Unlike the Prius, the Mirai doesn't use gasoline. Its fuel is hydrogen, currently exceedingly rare, but expected to become available at a growing number of stations across the United States.
Despite having such a leading-edge powertrain, driving the 2016 Toyota Mirai is a surprisingly normal experience. If you have ever driven a Prius, this is similar. The Mirai is a...
... passenger car, and basically an electric car. It has a push-button start, with a similar console-mounted transmission shifter. Once in Drive, the Mirai moves quietly, at a quick pace. Acceleration is brisk, and the ride is comfortable. While there is a screen that shows usage and range, there are familiar sights in the cabin like Toyota's Entune connectivity, air vents, and a new take on the slider-based climate control system. It is easy to forget that you aren't driving a typical electric car. The Mirai is not some weird science experiment – it's a normal car, and that may be the best way to gain acceptance.
This isn't a feature within the Mirai. Rather, it's what the Mirai can become. There is an optional PTO (Power Take-Off) device that allows the Mirai to become an electric-power generator in an emergency situation. It can power basic needs in a house for up to a week.
Toyota offers 24/7 concierge service with people who are knowledgeable about fuel cells, enhanced roadside assistance, a loaner vehicle for seven days a year for longer drives, and a hydrogen station map app, all of which can help put hydrogen newbies' minds at ease.
The Toyota Mirai's interior is similar to what you would see in the company's other cars. There is a regular steering wheel with stereo and menu controls. At the very top of the dashboard is information about speed, vehicle range and power usage. The Mirai has Toyota's Entune connectivity system, and below that are the snub-nosed transmission shifter, much like you would find in a Prius, and a combination of push-button and slider controls for the climate system.
While the Mirai's styling is intentionally futuristic, there are specific elements that are there out of necessity. Two large intakes in front pull in air to get heat out of the Mirai's three radiators. The airflow is also key to the Mirai's aerodynamics. While Toyota explained that the design theme of the Mirai is that of flowing water, with a rear end resembling a catamaran, most people will most likely be too amazed by the Mirai's looks to notice the water theme.
The Mirai comes with numerous features as standard, many of which are aimed at making hydrogen life easier. Hydrogen fill-ups are free for three years. There is 24/7 concierge service as well as 24/7 roadside assistance. Toyota Care maintenance is free for three years. Entune comes standard, along with three years of Safety Connect (including the hydrogen station map app).
With a vehicle this specialized and with a premium price, it should come as no surprise that there are relatively few options. In fact, there's only one: The Power Take-Off unit, available in 2016, could be a lifesaver in case of emergency. It turns the Mirai into a generator that can power a typical-size house's basic electrical needs for up to a week.
The Toyota Mirai doesn’t use an engine. At its heart it's an electric car, but instead of plugging into an outlet, owners fill the tank with hydrogen. That combines with oxygen to produce electricity, which powers the car's motor. The Mirai's electric motor uses an ECVT, a continuously variable automatic transmission, like the Prius.
Fuel cell stack, electric motor
247 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 67 mpge (estimated), 312-mile range
As is the case with many fuel-cell vehicles, there is an option to lease. In the case of the 2016 Toyota Mirai, $3,649 will be due at signing, and the lease is $499 a month for 36 months. Unlike other FCVs, however, you can buy the new Mirai. While buying one would cost $58,335, there are incentives of up to $13,000, bringing the price closer to $45,000.