Toyota Mirai – The car of the future?

ToyotaToyota are charging into the new year with a bold claim. Toyota chiefs have claimed that their new Mirai will be as influential as the Prius.

This is a huge claim to make, but if one company knows how to change driving culture, it’s Toyota. In 2015, their revolutionary new car will hit the market. It’s called the Mirai and it’s powered using hydrogen fuel cell technology. It’s the next step in eco friendly driving, going above and beyond the hybrid cars of today.

Toyota have always referred to hybrid technology as a bridge to the future. The Prius itself and hybrid technology was simply a stepping stone to something more sustainable. With the Mirai, Toyota believe they have found that future. However, this will be no walk in the park for Toyota. The Prius itself took 25 years of development. More specifically, it took ten years for it to make a cultural impact. Toyota are well aware of the uphill battles they face in changing public opinion.

The Mirai presents an entirely new culture of driving. The Prius, on the other hand, held true to traditional car concepts. You still had a fuel tank, you’d still fill it with petrol at the pumps. Now, they’re turning the tables. The Mirai guzzles nothing but hydrogen. What they are proposing is a revolutionary change in motoring infrastructure. They had a hard enough time convincing the public to move to hybrid. Now they need to convince governments and private companies to switch to hydrogen infrastructure. If they pull it off, it will be a defining moment in motoring history.

The legacy of the Prius is certainly something special. Toyota were brave enough to envision a new future for driving. They were all too aware of the draining resources on the planet. We simply can’t rely on fossil fuels and someone had to make the change. Toyota took that first step and introduced the Prius. It featured a hybrid engine that mixed a traditional combustion engine and an electric motor. The combustion engine played a different role to a traditional car here. It supplemented the electric motor instead of driving the entire vehicle. It would be used to recharge the battery or power the car when the electricity ran out.

It was a bold move from Toyota who introduced the Prius to the Japanese market first. It later came to the USA and the UK but sales were slow. It took a long time for the Prius to make its mark. In fact, many experts predict that they didn’t make any money from the car for ten years. This was not just a new car, it was an entire shift in the driving dynamic. At first, the technology was relatively weak. The cars couldn’t travel far on the electric motor and speed and power barely registered. However, over the years, the technology developed and moved forward.

We are now at a place where almost every car manufacturer in the world has a hybrid model. Visit and you’ll find a bevvy of hybrid options. The Toyota Prius changed the world. It changed the way we think about driving. It changed the way manufacturers made cars. The technology is now fast and powerful. We’re even seeing the technology in supercars and SUVs. The fastest road car around the Nurburgring has a hybrid engine! But, what many are calling the future, is just a stepping stone for Toyota.

They have turned their sights to a new project, the Toyota Mirai. The trouble with hybrid cars is that they still rely on a combustion engine. They still burn fossil fuel, contribute to global warming and emit CO2. The Mirai presents an entirely different future. The car runs solely on hydrogen and its only emission is water. It’s a true move away from fossil fuel reliance. So, how exactly does it work?

A hydrogen fuel cell car features a complex chemical reaction process. Essentially, there is a hydrogen tank at the heart of the vehicle. The gas is poured into the tank via hydrogen pump stations. Much like a traditional engine, the car guzzles air through the intake grill at the front. The hydrogen and the oxygen in the air run through a fuel cell stack where a chemical reaction takes place. You may recall this process from your school chemistry lessons! This reaction splits the electron away from the proton in the hydrogen atom. The remaining electrons now constitute an electrical current. This is fed into the electric motor to power the car. The remaining protons combine with the oxygen to form water. The water is passed through the exhaust and out through the tailpipe.

It’s a beautiful feat of efficient and clean engineering. However, it’s not without its downsides. The biggest test when it comes to hydrogen cars is the infrastructure around it. Our entire driving culture is centred around petrol, diesel and oil. Petrol pumps dominate our roads and mechanics are skilled in combustion engines. For the Mirai to force a true cultural change, the infrastructure must come with it.

That means complex hydrogen plants. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet, it can’t be simply plucked from the air. It must be harvested, requiring a huge investment into this area. Similarly, there needs to be huge investment into hydrogen pump stations. There are very few around the world, making the reality of driving very difficult. Toyota themselves are pouring money into getting this infrastructure off the ground. They’re not alone this time, however. Honda are also set to release their first hydrogen fuel cell car next year.

The Toyota Mirai paints an exciting picture of the future. It presents the greenest solution we have ever seen when it comes to driving. The zero emissions promise much but we will have to see whether the Mirai can deliver. They have already laid the groundwork with the Prius. They have changed public opinion and started the ball rolling. The true test will be whether they can complete that bridge to the future.

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