Toyota Mirai: hydrogen fuel cell vehicle lands on Australian roads

- shares

Correction: 07/10/15 — The video mentions that the Mirai is Australia's first proper hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. That honour in fact goes to the Hyundai ix35 FCEV, which you can read about here.

Toyota Australia has given the first local example of the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle a special welcome at an event in Melbourne. The vehicle is the only road-going Mirai in Australia, making stops in Melbourne and Sydney before the 6th World Hydrogen Technologies Convention during October.

Built primarily as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Toyota Mirai additionally uses a hybrid drivetrain with a battery pack and generator to recoup energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and coasting.

With a range of around 550 kilometres, the hydrogen-powered vehicle takes around five minutes to refuel and uses advanced technology to ensure the refuelling process is seamless and safe.

Arguably, the best part about the Mirai is that it emits only water and water vapour, making it yet another option for drivers seeking a zero-emission vehicle.

The Mirai's hydrogen and electric drivetrain produces a combined 114kW of power and weighs in at a portly 1849kg, making it good for a respectable 0-100km/h time of just over 9.0 seconds.

Aside from its space-age exterior design, the interior is nicely appointed and comes with all the regular creature comforts.

On the road, it also feels just like a normal car. If anything, you could liken it to a hybrid vehicle in terms of the noises it makes while on the move — remembering that it also features an electric drivetrain to assist with jolts of torque under high-throttle applications and to regain energy that would otherwise be lost during braking or coasting.

The Mirai is the culmination of years of research and development, which Toyota started in 1992 with the company's first serious look at hydrogen fuel cell technology.

More commonly known to drivers around the world is the Toyota Prius, which was released in 1997 and arguably pioneered the hybrid revolution. It took the company some 11 years to sell one million hybrid vehicles, but that trend changed in 2012 when Toyota sold over one million hybrids in a year. That trend continued through to 2015, where the company has sold more than eight million hybrids worldwide, in total.

Currently sold in Japanese, European and North American markets, the Mirai isn't expected to be available for sale in Australia any time soon.

The unique challenge faced by Toyota and other companies is that hydrogen filling stations currently don't exist locally, and won't exist until the government or stakeholders take action.

Toyota Australia president David Buttner told a group of journalists that, "Hydrogen is a promising alternate fuel for the future and the Mirai is the exciting technology that Toyota is offering globally.

"As Australians, we want to eventually be part of that."

"Of course, we acknowledge that we are a fair way off being in a position to introduce this technology in Australia, as we first need the relevant infrastructure.

"However, with a well-developed implementation plan towards the future, we believe this vision would be an ideal way to introduce Australia to this exciting new technology and pave the way for the eventual roll out to the private sector."

We asked Buttner whether there would be scope to look at hydrogen from a commercial sense where a vehicle would refill from a single depot within the company to overcome the cost obstacle.

"The biggest issue for the technology to really be adopted in a robust and wholesome way is going to be the development of the infrastructure. The first issue we have is the sequestration of the hydrogen, but then you have the storage of it and the ability to distribute it, Buttner said.

"From a commercial point of view, there are great opportunities. Most commercial vehicles return to a depot at the end of the day, either in their home town or state, or interstate somewhere. So therefore the initial infrastructure and refuelling requirements are great, so I think it would be a great place to start and shows great potential.

"Over time, we can start adopting more infrastructure so private buyers can enjoy the same benefits.

From a commercial sense, the perfect vision would be a Hino truck (a company with majority Toyota ownership) that runs entirely on hydrogen. We pitched the question to Buttner to see if that was on the cards for the future.

"I don't think we should ever take anything off the agenda. While we don't always have a definitive plan for each and every item, if we keep our eyes and our mind open, that's the best way. There's a whole host of possibilities out there for the future, Buttner said.

Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the Toyota Mirai by Tom Fraser.

Are you excited about the future of hydrogen cars?