"Toyota is a prism. Shine light through it and you can see a spectrum of automotive colour. As the company celebrates eighty years of automobile production, we thought we'd highlight some of the most towering achievements. 1973: HiLux (2nd Gen) There's "
Toyota Mirai x Hydrogen: the world’s first mass produced HFCV
Toyota break ground again: the Mirai takes us back to the future
Remember the future? It was a clean, uncomplicated place. Things were easy. Things were rendered in primary colours. And everything was great. Toyota can remember the future, too. That’s why they brought us The Mirai – the first mass production Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
You can blather all you want about the beauty of the internal combustion engine. You can drone on all you like about the untrammelled gorgeousness of the sound of a throbbing V8 engine. Thing is, in the next few decades these things are going to be specialist items of part-time excitement – edge-dwelling guilty pleasures reeking of dinosaur bones.
Toyota has had a track record of bringing us particularly sensible versions of the future. When it emerged between 1995 and 1997 the Prius was, visually at least, possibly the dullest car design in the history of car design. But now look at its success. Suddenly, the Prius was everywhere. And even the earliest versions are still out there, doing their job. Moving people. This is the most obvious example of the innovation that’s threaded through the company’s fibre. Often, they have boldly gone where it mightn’t have seemed sensible for a car brand to to go.
No one fell in love with the Prius instantly. And not many will swoon for the Mirai, though the design is certainly intriguing. It shares many cues with the latest version of the Prius – but it somehow more extreme. A few years back now we saw a white Mirai on the streets of Tokyo and it stopped us in our tracks. The blue version we spent some time with is more muted – but the sweeping lines and angular edges all whisper of an appropriately striking vision and slippery aero.
In the cabin (which is very alluring – a bit light an Art Deco cocktail lounge), you feel as if you’re sitting up high – perkily poised rather than leaning like a gangster. As you’d expect there’s an opulent feel and the interface is full of information and ergonomically exact. There’s something appropriately Jetsons-like about the whirring waft you get as you pull away. Push the right foot to the floor and you get the sense of a coil unfolding, propelling you forward with the sustained urgency that you get in any electrically motored vehicle. Anchor up and take a line in a corner and there’s a little front end wash out but not annoyingly so – though the rough Sussex and Surrey country roads we’re on make the chassis rattle a bit.
At the moment, Hydrogen fuel stations are relatively few and far between – so, currently, ownership isn’t for everyone. Many owners are companies, local authorities, and some Über drivers. For the latter, the lease price makes a lot of sense when you consider that the agreement includes service AND fuel. So theoretically once you’ve picked up your Mirai, the only other outlay for a few hundred thousand miles will be insurance.
The whole point of the car, however, is that it emits nothing – well, nothing naughty. This year and going forward, air quality is going to become more and more of an issue. Emitting nothing, then, will become more and more of a selling point – and a requisite for sustainable motoring.
We won’t say, however that it emits nothing. It emits water, rather limply, from a pipe prompted by a button emblazoned H2O in the cabin. While it piddles on the pavement it makes a whirry noise. It’s not exactly inspiring. But whether we like it or not – the point in about this car is that it emits nothing harmful from its daily use.
Those Hydrogen fuel cells are incredible bits of kit in themselves. They are bomb-proof pieces of carbon fibre tech garnered from Toyota’s eighty year history – and that is a story that evolved from loom weaving machines in the inter-war twentieth century. Apparently, you can shoot them and they won’t bust. You can also load them with 140 tons of concrete and they won’t buckle.
These facts are just easy-to-imagine bits of info. But this product is bristling with open source patents that I couldn’t understand if I tried. Toyota wants the world to share its tech – and they have made much of the clever bits and pieces available to all and sundry to copy. The Mirai sits at the centre of a constellation of visionary futurism – and it’s the sort of world view that has to include us all if it is to mean anything.
Toyota have created in the Mirai a truly practical zero-emission vehicle that you can imagine setting the tone for all that comes after it. Like the Prius – it won’t set your emotions motoring – but that little bit of you that admires the intent of green technology will become more cogent as the years go by.
Bravo Toyota. Could there be a better way to mark the start of the company’s ninth decade?
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