Mirai debut brings fuel cell future closer |

Mirai debut brings fuel cell future closer

The 2016 Toyota Mirai can travel up to 300 miles on a full tank and refills in about five minutes. (TNS)

As Toyota sees it, the future isn’t some fuzzy, far-off point in the distance. It’s here in the form of a midsize sedan in which the Japanese automaker made its bold bet on hydrogen.

It takes little more than a glance to understand the Mirai fuel cell vehicle is different. Whether it’s the dramatic air intakes at both front corners that force oxygen to interact with the key ingredient that generates onboard electricity, or a tail pipe that slowly drips water, the Mirai reads as a sedan while simultaneously hinting at what’s happening under the hood.

Upon opening the driver-side door and sliding into its leatherette seats, the Mirai is similarly futuristic inside. Starting at the premium price of $57,500, or $499 per month to lease, the interior fit and finish is a hybrid, so to speak, of the Prius and a more upscale Lexus. Its black interior feels modern with a swipe screen housed in shiny piano black and offset with bright blue buttons and silver trimming.

Prius drivers will recognize the two-tier dash, the top level of which displays the most pertinent EV information, such as what drive mode it’s in, how much power it’s using and, most importantly for a vehicle that is supported by only 10 refueling stations in California at present, how many miles until it’s empty.

The Mirai can travel up to 300 miles on a full tank and refills in about five minutes.

Because the Mirai’s two hydrogen fuel tanks are under and behind the rear seats, the fuel door is in the same place where it’s normally found on a gas-powered car.

The tanks’ location means the rear seat only accommodates two passengers, similar to the current-generation Chevrolet Volt. The two seats are bisected with a large cubby/armrest outfitted with cup holders and controls for the heated seats.

All four seats are heatable. They are moderately bolstered and comfortable.

The Mirai can be driven in two modes. Eco numbs the accelerator feel; power is more satisfying. It took little pedal effort to unbridle its full accelerative potential, which Toyota estimates at 0 to 60 mph in about nine seconds.

Toyota has built a production hydrogen vehicle that walks the tight rope between mainstream acceptance and a brave new world in a car that balances the familiar with the new.

Welcome to the future.

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