2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
In contrast to most of the German auto industry, Toyota relies on fuel cell drives. But how does the Mirai fare in the everyday test? We tested the Japanese.
It's probably just imagination: But as soon as you sit behind the wheel of the Toyota Mirai, the rest of the traffic smells even worse than usual. Is it because of the low temperatures in the test weeks, which keep diesel cars in particular in a state of permanent cold starts?
Or does the Japanese fuel cell sedan simply draw in more outside air than other cars through its powerful nostrils? Or perhaps the mere idea of the sheer, pure elegance of the chemical reaction in the fuel cell, which creates nothing but distilled water from the hydrogen gas and the oxygen in the air - so clean that you can immediately tip it into the iron and iron white shirts with it is enough.
Unspectacular everyday test in the Mirai
In comparison, how dirty does the gasoline and diesel exhaust gas that swirls in broken and oxidized carbon chains look like? And even the battery electric car stuffed with lithium and cobalt looks like a rare aardvark compared to the pearly white hydrogen glider from Toyota City.
The hydrogen car is the promise of a clean future. But it is only slowly arriving in the present. The decade-long start preparation cannot be due to the fuel cell technology itself - this is already revealed by the everyday test, which is reassuringly unspectacular. The fact that the electricity for the electric motor flows from the small on-board power plant instead of from a battery can only be recognized by the occasional compressor whistle that sounds when the oxygen from the outside air is supplied to its reactive counterpart in the cell.
The seamless suit from a standing start, the linear power development and the decreasing vehemence at higher freeway speeds - the 154 hp Mirai is no different when driving than many other electric vehicles.
Range in the test at 300 kilometers
The decisive difference is only noticeable when the energy supply on board is running out. That happened in the test after 300 kilometers at the latest. The Toyota always clearly missed the approximately 550 kilometers from the technical data book - which, unlike with battery electric cars, is not a big problem, it takes less than three minutes and the tank is full again. At least if you have reached one of the almost 60 hydrogen filling stations. And if it works - which wasn't always the case during the test period. A few times there was no gas at all from the dispensing hose, other times the process stopped prematurely after a few hundred grams of fuel had been filled.
It's good that the Mirai was in an area with a relatively large number of H2 filling stations. Outside the metropolitan regions of Rhine-Ruhr, Rhine-Main, Stuttgart, Munich and Hamburg, however, the malfunction would have cost nerves. If fuel cell cars are ever to become the dominant type of passenger car, the number of filling stations would have to explode.
And that wouldn't even be enough: Currently, many fuel pumps keep their hydrogen under low pressure in garage-sized tanks and only compress it to the usual 700 bar when refueling. The gas is therefore only sufficient for 40 vehicles on average before it is refilled by truck. If more cars are to be refueled, much larger quantities of the energy source would be needed, ideally directly from the pipeline.
1.1 kilograms per 100 kilometers
In addition, today gas is not infrequently synthesized using electricity, which is only as clean as the electricity itself. If you want the maximum positive environmental effect, you have to use pure green electricity (which is currently only the case with 14 percent of fuel production). And it is precisely this environmental effect that fuel cell drives are all about. In terms of costs, hydrogen currently offers no advantages: In the test, the Mirai required just under 1.1 kilograms per 100 kilometers, which cost exactly 10.45 euros at the nationwide uniform price of 9.50 euros. A diesel can easily do that at this price.
Apart from the drive, the Toyota is only partially convincing. Despite its expansive dimensions (4.89 meters in length), the four-seater limousine is noticeably narrow inside. And also the jagged trunk, which cannot be expanded by folding down the rear seats, is at most lower middle-class standard. Both are due to the voluminous technology: The electric motor, buffer battery and, above all, the fuel cell have to find space in the engine compartment and underbody. Seen in this way, an SUV would be the better, because it is more spacious, technology carrier.
Sluggish driving experience
And there is still room for improvement in terms of driving behavior. The massive Mirai looks rather clumsy on the road, turns in tired and paws its front wheels early on even on a dry road and with careful gas pedal. In addition, there are incompetence in the interior, which actually looks high-quality, such as the conglomerate of different operating logics and key types or the lack of H2 petrol station search in the navigation system. However, that doesn't really matter, as the Mirai is more of a rolling proof of concept than a car that would have to seriously prove itself in the field of mature gasoline and diesel engines. I.
In Germany, around 400 Mirai are likely to be on the road by the end of 2019 - enthusiast cars for world savers who are ready to transfer the around 600 euros in monthly leasing payments to the Toyota Bank. Alternatively, the Mirai can also be bought, but this is not attractive for private customers who are not eligible for subsidies, given the price of 78,600 euros.
Drive concept suitable for everyday use
In comparison with the battery electric car available in parallel in the editorial team's test vehicle fleet, the Mirai has the decidedly more pleasant and everyday drive concept. This is not only due to the very comfortable refueling situation in our case, but also to its excellent winter capabilities.
Even low Central European temperatures do not interfere with the fuel cell, the range remains as large in freezing temperatures as in midsummer. And even more important: Because the reaction in the fuel cell releases heat, the inside becomes chubby extremely quickly - as a side effect and for free. And maybe that's the answer to the initial question: If you sit in the warm, you can easily turn up your nose. Especially when water just drips out of the exhaust to get that good feeling. (SP-X)
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