What matters is what comes out at the back, a German Chancellor is said to have once said. It couldn't be formulated more appropriately for the Toyota Mirai. It is the purest water that the Mirai escapes from its exhaust pipe. No harmful nitrogen oxides, neither soot nor other pollutants. If anything, the wet element in the form of water vapor is the Japanese’s only waste product.
Toyota has been loyal to hydrogen technology since 2015. As long as Hyundai. Otherwise it looks pretty poor. Although Mercedes dared to venture with the GLC F-Cell, it was thrown out of the program in the spring. Incidentally, you will look in vain for other German carmakers, only Honda still has a production model up its sleeve. The Japanese just lacked the courage to establish their Clarity with us. It is only available in isolated quantities in North America and Japan.
Inside and outside finally with a pleasing design
So it is apparently like when Toyota launched the Prius in 1997, the first hybrid on the market. The rest of the automotive world didn't want to know anything about a drive concept consisting of a gasoline engine and an electric motor and had ridiculed the Japanese for their eco models. Today, for environmental reasons alone, partial electrification is indispensable. This is apparently also the case with the fuel cell. While others ponder for a long time, Toyota is already launching the second generation of its Mirai. Now also in beautiful. The new edition of the four-door mid-range sedan starts at the beginning of April and does a lot better than its predecessor. It starts with the design, which with its coupé-like lines is much more harmonious than the strongly polarizing old model.
What is more tempting, however, is the price. At 63.900 euros, the Mirai is 20 percent cheaper than before. In addition, there is a subsidy of 7500 euros, which finally makes alternative fuel cell technology affordable. The Mirai stands on a new platform and has therefore grown in size to almost five meters. Technology has also evolved. The fuel cell stacks with their 330 cells are more compact, yet they have a higher energy density. In addition, the stacks that were previously installed under the front seats were moved into the engine compartment. This further lowers the noise level when driving. The electric motor is also located under the hood and has more power with 182 HP (134 kW); Nevertheless, the drive works more efficiently and economically.
The electric motor offers 300 Newton meters of torque from a standstill
Larger tanks and the more efficient drive also increase the range. While the old Mirai was still a good 500 kilometers, the new one should now be a proud 650 kilometers. Conventional electric cars still cannot keep up. Unimpressed, the fuel cell Toyota pulls past them and simply leaves them on the right. At 175 km / h it's over. You don't have to make any major changes with the Mirai. Driving (in the still slightly camouflaged pre-production vehicle) turns out to be extremely uncomplicated. Simply press the start button, then move the small joystick to D and off you go. The electric motor develops its maximum torque immediately and sends 300 Newton meters to the rear wheels.
Accordingly, things are progressing quickly. If necessary, the Toyota would easily win traffic light sprints, and if you press the accelerator all the way down to the floor pan, you can sprint to 100 km / h in 9,2 seconds. The maximum speed, however, is limited to 175 km / h. That must be enough. Overall, the Japanese offers its passengers a pleasant ride and is audibly quieter than its hissing predecessor. He has also gained in driving fun, as the weight distribution is balanced at 50:50. Toyota has also improved its responsiveness in the cold. The cell now starts at temperatures of up to minus 30 degrees, that is the promise.
Completely redesigned inside
Toyota has completely redesigned the interior. The instruments are no longer far away under the windshield, but are now arranged directly in front of the driver. The digital instrument cluster is easy to read and the operation of the switches through to the touchscreen monitor is self-explanatory. No more comparison to its completely overloaded predecessor. On the other hand, there is light and shadow in terms of space. That’s okay in the front seats, but in the rear it’s noticeably narrower. Tall people in particular want more knee room and, above all, more headroom. The capacity of the luggage compartment is also small. Toyota has not yet given details.
After our first visual inspection, we estimate just over 350 liters, but after two suitcases and two travel bags stacked on top of each other, it's over. The reason for the narrow space from the second row onwards is obvious. The three high-pressure hydrogen tanks are built into the vehicle floor and take their toll. In addition, the battery is located under the rear seats, but its size is almost negligible as it has a low current of 4,0 Ah. The lithium-ion batteries in a fuel cell like the Mirai do not need more capacity. In contrast to a purely electric car, they only serve as an intermediate energy buffer and not as a power-giving drive.
An espresso instead of liters of coffee
Despite its slight lack of space, the Mirai has considerable advantages over purely battery-powered e-mobility. Example charging stop at a motorway parking lot. While the driver of an electric car has to pour in the coffee by the liter in order to bridge the long waiting time, the Mirai owner only needs an espresso until his vehicle is ready for use again. The hydrogen is injected into the tanks at a pressure of 700 bar, so refueling does not even take five minutes. The fuel consumption is less than one kilogram of hydrogen per 100 kilometers. The price is the same for all public H2 filling stations at 9,50 euros per kilo. The fuel costs therefore remain manageable.
But fuel cell drivers have a different problem: the filling station network is few and far between, there are just under 100 stations in Germany, but the infrastructure is under construction. Compared to our European neighbors, however, we are still doing very well. Other countries have just over two handfuls of hydrogen filling stations each. And if you want to go south by car, you also have to severely restrict your radius of action. Shortly before Milan, the hydrogen supply is already over. It remains to be seen to what extent the development will progress. But what did our former Chancellor say? What matters is what comes out at the back. (ampnet / Guido Borck)