First drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai

The hydrogen-fueled Toyota Mirai will change the way you think about transportation

I have just driven the future. At least, that’s what Toyota is hoping for.

Among all the obstacles ‘green energy’ vehicles must overcome, the fossil fuel-centric infrastructure that makes the world go round is clearly the biggest.

Toyota’s all-new Mirai, which uses hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion, is a forward-thinking catalyst to change the way we move about, a dramatically-envisioned leap toward a zero-emissions, carbon neutral planet.

The car’s name means ‘future’ in Japanese, and although it’s not perfect, this vehicle is one of the biggest steps toward changing that future we’ve seen in years.

Laying the groundwork

The first thing you should know is that the Mirai is much more than a car; it’s one of the highest-profile ambassadors for what Toyota calls a ‘hydrogen society.’

The bold four-door sedan does this by simply raising awareness, but Toyota is also directly involved in the proliferation of fueling stations.

At the Mirai’s first drive press event in Newport Beach, California, the automaker announced a partnership with industrial gas supplier Air Liquide to build 12 hydrogen stations across the Northeastern United States, specifically in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

In May, the brand committed financial support to FirstElement Fuel, who plans to build 19 stations in California, and the Golden State itself will fund 100 stations by 2024. To put that in perspective, the University of California Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program has stated that 68 stations are needed to realistically serve 10,000 FCVs.

So why hydrogen? In simple terms, it’s a clean, sustainable, and efficient technology. In the Mirai, you pull up to the pump and refuel with a nozzle just like you’re used to in a conventional vehicle.

I have just driven the future. At least, that’s what Toyota is hoping for.

The compressed, gaseous hydrogen fills two carbon fiber-wrapped resin composite tanks under the rear seats in about five minutes, mingles with oxygen (sucked in by the car’s air intake), and through the miracle of chemistry, you have energy.

That energy powers the electric motor under the hood, and the waste product, H2O, dribbles out underneath the car. For those who are worried (or excited) about spraying the motorists around you, fret not: the Mirai produces only about half a bottle of water over its 300-mile range.

The system can be purged via the ‘H2O’ button located to the left of the steering wheel. I dare you not to press it.

On the road

Some expect the Mirai, given its 4078-pound curb weight, to drive like a bloated Prius. Personally, I found it felt like a distant relative of the game-changing hybrid, one that’s been working out, eating cleaner, gotten a high-paying job, and recently shopped for some new clothes.

The Toyota’s electric motor produces 153 horsepower, which propels the car to 60 mph in around 9.0 seconds. The powertrain’s instant torque makes it feel a fair bit quicker than that though, and the placement of the hydrogen equipment gives the car a low center of gravity and sporty feel.

On the road, the dramatically styled Mirai is quiet (outside of a slight whine from the electronics and regenerative brakes), and is quite comfortable. There are heated seats front and rear, a JBL sound system, and all the safety bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern Toyota. However, like the Chevy Volt, the Mirai only seats four.


There’s even an optional Power Take-Off device, a trunk-mounted plug that allows owners to funnel electricity into their homes like a mobile generator. According to Toyota, the Mirai can power the average home’s essentials for up to a week.

All this does come at a price, though. The Mirai starts off at $57,500, with federal incentives potentially dropping the price down to $45,000.

As far as filling up, Ali Hoffman, CEO of Air Liquide says that hydrogen will cost about $10 per kilo to start, which equates to about $4 or $5 a gallon. However, Mirai drivers will fill up for free for the foreseeable future, and we garnered about a 50-mpg equivalent during our short drive in California.

Up in the air

Out of all the people I talked to at the first drive event, nearly all of them found the Mirai a pleasure to drive. That said, there are still a lot of criticisms and uncertainties pertaining to hydrogen fuel cells cars, some of which I’d like to (briefly) address here.

The Mirai drives like a distant relative of the game-changing Prius hybrid.

Every time FCVs come up in conversation, somebody inevitably brings up the Hindenburg, and I struggle to suppress a sarcastic groan.

The tragic explosion happened 77 years ago, and the technology has improved tenfold since then. While the hydrogen in the Hindenburg was carried in cotton bags coated in flammable cellulose acetate and aluminum powder, the fuel in the Mirai is stored in nigh bulletproof tanks that are likely stronger than the structures surrounding them.

I’d also like to kindly remind you that gasoline, something most people have no issues driving around on, is also a dangerous, flammable liquid, and one that has the tendency to catch fire. Let’s not act like we’re going from the padded room to the front lines here.

There are valid criticisms of the technology out there, one of which being the ‘moving the tailpipe upstream’ question. Steve Chalk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, admitted that Toyota’s endeavor does just that, but explained that synthesizing hydrogen from a source like natural gas creates half the carbon emissions than gasoline overall.

Moreover, it’s a domestic source of power, and ‘green’ hydrogen can be siphoned from water through electrolysis and even bio-waste. California law says that 33 percent of the fuel from state-supported fueling stations must come from renewable sources like these.


The Mirai, and hydrogen vehicles in general, are on the proverbial razor’s edge. If they’re a huge success, the world as we know it will undoubtedly change. If they turn out to be a dud, it was a lot of money, research, and hubbub about nothing. Realistically, I find that to be unlikely.

The ‘future’ goes on sale in California in fall 2015.


  • Environmental peace of mind
  • Comfortable interior
  • Low center of gravity/sporty handling
  • Optional Power Take-Off device can act as mobile generator


  • High starting price
  • Love it or hate it styling
  • Lack of hydrogen fueling stations available outside California
Emerging Tech

Georgia is paving the way for a high-tech, sustainable highway

A consortium of government, corporate, and non-profit entities have come together to build a “smart” highway in Georgia. See how this 18-mile route is setting an example for future constructions.

Apple Car may make its debut in the middle of the next decade

Apple likely won't become a full-fledged manufacturer like General Motors or Ford, but the tech giant is diving into the auto industry pool. Here's everything we know about the company's automotive efforts.
Product Review

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback lets you have your 444-hp cake and eat it, too

Audi expanded the RS 5 family with a high-performance sedan named Sportback. It stands out from rivals like the BMW M3 with a shapely fastback-like silhouette, and it surfs the downsizing wave with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 in lieu…
Product Review

2019 Chevrolet Silverado is the biggest and best Silverado ever

There’s a lot to tell in our 2019 Chevrolet Silverado first drive review, from new engine options, new chassis and suspension design, new bed and tailgate features, new trailering tools, and new trim levels. Dive in and learn.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

How autonomous ridesharing will reshape our cars, cities, and lives

Ridesharing is a growing phenomenon, and it’s closely linked with developments in autonomous and connectivity technology. In the coming decades, shared mobility will even change the way cities around the world develop.

You don’t need to go autonomous to make trucking safer

Long haul truckers are very good at their jobs, but they face long hours and unpredictable conditions. Autonomous tech may be coming, but here’s how lidar technology companies are working to enhance trucking safety today.

NHTSA investigating Ford F-150 seat belt fires, may recall 1.4 million trucks

The NHTSA is investigating reports of fires in five Ford F-150 pickup trucks. The NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigation is exploring whether seatbelt pretensioners caused the fires during crashes and if a recall is necessary.

2019 Honda Civic sedan and coupe add more standard driver-assist tech

The 2019 Honda Civic compact sedan and coupe get a handful of updates to stay fresh, including exterior styling tweaks, standard Honda Sensing driver aids, and a new Sport trim level.

Danny Thompson just set a land speed record in a 50-year-old car

Danny Thompson, son of the late racing legend Mickey Thompson, has just taken his dad's Challenger 2 streamliner to a breathtaking speed of 450 mph. The feat makes it the fastest piston-powered vehicle in the world.

Porsche goes rallying, and it’s not with the model you’re thinking of

Porsche channeled its racing heritage to turn the 718 Cayman, not the Cayenne, into a rally car. The GT4-spec model was built as a fully functional concept, and it will participate in its first rally during August.
Product Review

You don't want a 360-degree dashcam, and this is why

What can 360° video do for your car? In the case of the new Waylens Secure360 dash camera, it watches for intruders and attempts to provide a complete picture of both the interior and exterior of your ride.

2019 Ford Ranger online configurator launched, pricing revealed

The 2019 Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck starts at $25,395, but a fully loaded version can top $40,000. The Ranger is making its return to the United States after a seven-year absence.

Tesla board waits for Musk’s plan to go private as Saudi Arabia stays silent

Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk asked more questions than he answered when he declared he could take Tesla private. The money allegedly comes from Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich nation and Tesla investor, but officials have stayed silent.