Toyota Mirai: Fuel cell vs hybrid has only one winner
Deciding between a hybrid gas-electric car and a hydrogen fuel cell car is like deciding whether you should floss on a daily basis, or whether you should get a root canal.
Such is the issue that many drivers will soon face as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles come on the market.
And the Toyota Mirai is the first of a possible onslaught of fuel cell cars, part of a new trend that will shape the future of our roads.
Hybrids have come a long way since they were first introduced several years ago. Toyota was a champion of the the gas-electric models, beginning with the Prius.
It looked awful, like an origami creation missing a few folds. It drove slowly too. But it was a statement, not just for the motor company to launch it, but for its drivers.
They didn’t mind looking like a goof, if it meant that a good ‘ol polar bear wouldn’t lose its home to global warming caused by fossil fuels.
Over time, Toyota’s hybrid drive system expanded to more models, including SUVs. I spent several days trying out a Lexus hybrid SUV and a whole week trying out the Camry hyrbid. When you put your foot down on the pedal, those vehicles went fast. And if you drove like a grandpa, you could really save fuel.
But the vehicles seemed heavier than their gas-only siblings and the you end up losing a bit of trunk space, and the driving dynamics are usually not the same as a gas-only equivalent.
That’s where hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are different. And the first of the different vehicles is the Toyota Mirai.
But the benefits are endless.
There are no emissions. The only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water.
How does a hydrogen fuel cell car work?
Fuel cell cars run on gas – not the gasoline we fill up with at Shell or Esso – but hydrogen gas. Yeah, you’re sure as hell not going to find that at the pump anytime soon.
The Mirai, like hybrids and electric-only cars, is moved thanks to the work of an electric motor. But there are no heavy batteries to weigh things down or take up space.
Electricity is provided by the power unit, which combines hydrogen with oxygen. The electricity from there powers the engine, which in the Mirai’s case is a 153 hp motor.
Zero to 100 km/h is achieved in a calm 9 seconds. That’s not impressive, but this is a family sedan we’re talking about.
On a single fill of hydrogen, the Mirai will be able to travel for about 483 km, Toyota says. Volkswagen’s diesel engines aren’t going to be scared of that figure, but this is the very first production hydrogen fuel cell car out there. Things are bound to improve.
Mirai Canadian launch date
Don’t hold your breath – Toyota hasn’t said exactly when we’ll see this on the roads here. Drivers in California get their first shot at owning the Mirai in fall 2015, “with additional markets tracking the expansion of a convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure.” The Mirai will likely hit showrooms with a price around $57,500.
So, when there are some hydrogen fuel cell stations in Canada, maybe then we’ll be able to buy it.
What’s it like to drive?
I haven’t been behind the wheel of a Mirai. Nor do I know exactly how to say it’s name. (Like Mirage?)
Regardless, Driving.ca posted a road test which you can read here, and it sounds like their reviewer thinks its the future.