CM – Toyota’s groundbreaking new car has been tested

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This is what « buyers » pay under a leasing contract for the Mirai, the brand’s new hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.

Only 20 have arrived, and Toyota is talking to fleets about leasing them for $ 1,750 a month for three years and $ 2,693 for maintenance to cover the 60,000 km limit, which includes fuel.

As with the Hyundai Nexo, the Mirai runs exclusively on hydrogen and only emits water from its exhaust gases.

The technology isn’t cheap, however, and there are currently only two public gas stations – one in Melbourne and one in Canberra – which severely limits its usefulness.

Mirai buyers are returning the cars after three years so Toyota can monitor the tech and make sure the cars are driven vaguely close to where they can be refueled.

Like the Prius hybrid that launched in 2001, the Mirai is expensive and far from mainstream.

However, Toyota believes hydrogen could be big business by 2030, especially in large all-wheel drives like the LandCruiser and HiLux. With a length of 4975 mm and a width of 1885 mm, the Mirai is longer and wider than a Camry and offers more space between the front and rear wheels.

The proportions and the coupe-inspired silhouette are reminiscent of Lexus and the attention to detail is more like a premium brand.

The Mirai is also the first rear-wheel drive Toyota sedan in Australia since the Cressida bowed to the Camry in the early 1990s.

This is because the electric motor is at the rear and the fuel cell, which carries out the chemical reaction to generate electricity, is housed in the hood. There are three hydrogen tanks hidden under the floor, which together transport 5.6 kg of gas, which is supposed to transport the Mirai about 650 km between refills.

During our short drive, the car used around 1.1 kg of hydrogen per 100 km, which suggests a realistic range of closer to 500 km.

This is good for an electric car, which takes about five minutes to refuel with a specially made nozzle similar to a gasoline pump.

The performance is respectable without the need to rewrite benchmarks. A slow fluff or gasp accompanies hard starts as hydrogen pulsates through the system. The 134 kW / 300 Nm electric motor switches things with little effort.

What it lacks in proper momentum, it makes up for with almost instant reactions and a usable climb.

The Mirai occasionally flushes water out of its exhaust pipe between the rear wheels. There is also an « H20 » button if you want to manually wet the floor.

Shifting the drive to the rear reduces the risk of tire screeching when punching out of a side street or a tight curve. Comfort is the order of the day elsewhere. Well-supporting seats complement the plush ride.

There’s also a generous selection of kits available, including 19-inch alloys, a JBL 14-speaker sound system, digital instrument cluster, and 12.3-inch infotainment screen.

A sunroof, a head-up display and the charging of the cell phone are missing, however, and the seat trim is made of synthetic leather.

There are other compromises as well. The rear seats do not fold and the trunk has a modest 272 liters, and there is no spare wheel.

The rear ones have to deal with a huge tunnel in the middle of the floor, which means minimal space for the legs.

And what looks like a deep center console is flat (again, to blame for a hydrogen tank), although the USB plugs at the front and rear are youth-friendly.

Whether the Mirai will have the long-term effects of the Prius remains to be seen, but Toyota appears to be heavily involved in a technology it believes could shape Australian roads in the future. The Mirai is proof that fuel cell vehicles can work well – provided you can find a place to refuel.

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