First Drive

Toyota Mirai 2021 UK review

When Toyota talks about the Mirai, it frequently references larger vehicles: trucks, trains and more. The Mirai may be a hydrogen fuel cell car, but it’s only part of Toyota’s ambition.

This is the second Mirai but Toyota’s ninth FCEV. It started work on them in 1992, and it wasn’t until its fifth that it homologated one.

The first Mirai, introduced in 2015, sold modestly. Around 11,000 found owners, some 180 of them in the UK and 829 across Europe. Toyota aims to increase that tenfold this time, so still small volumes for a company of its size, but it makes clear that it’s working towards something else.

The smaller the vehicle and the shorter its intended range, the more appropriate battery-electric tech seems. So for a scooter you would look to nothing else; on a ship the size of a small county, not so much.

Cars and vans are, depending on their size and what you’re going to do with them, where I think Toyota imagines the crossover. No, not that sort of crossover. If you’re going to drive long distances, pull big loads or operate in poor conditions, perhaps you will want a hydrogen fuel cell, so you can refuel quickly and not have to carry heavy batteries. If Toyota is right (and China’s investment in the tech suggests it’s in influential company), the infrastructure could grow enough that what has been seen as ‘the fuel of the future’ might lose the joke ending ‘and always will be’.

We will see. For now, to this Mirai. It’s big, based on the platform that underpins the Lexus LS. It’s all but five metres long, which is handy, because while the fuel cell stack is much smaller than before, the system still takes up a lot of room. Sitting under the bonnet, the stack has 330 power cells, rather than the 370 of its predecessor, yet makes 172bhp (up from 153bhp) and weighs 50% less.

The new Mirai is rear-wheel drive, and between the bonnet and the rear wheels there are three hydrogen tanks rather than a drivetrain: one in the central tunnel, one under the back seats and one in front of the boot. Between them, they hold 5.6kg of the liquefied element.

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