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IN THE PAST two days here at SimanaitisSays, we’ve talked about the “classic” Toyota Mirai, its 2021 second-generation version, and four generations of its hydrogen refueling at the University of California Irvine. Today in Part 3, lets drive the Mirai all around Southern California’s Orange County and then treat it to a UCI refueling.
Entertainment includes a visit to a Googie middle school, a pointless pang of range anxiety, a faux pile driver along Pacific Coast Highway, and encouraging instruction from the Mirai on how I might improve my ECO driving.
The Basics. The Mirai could well be mistaken for a Toyota Camry wearing swoopy trim. It’s a four-door sedan, about Camry size and shape, with that current Toyota styling of aggressive nose and extended angularity.
Despite its advanced hydrogen fuel cell propulsion, the Mirai’s only driving giveaway is its pure EV nature. Push the start button (with the remote key in your pocket or wherever), and it quietly comes to life. Move the shift lever to D and you motor away, with nary a bit of internal combustion.
Having read only portions of the Mirai’s 528-page Owner’s Manual, I can report on the basics of operation (utterly conventional) plus a few of the Mirai’s special features. One of the latter is its Multi-information display.
For example, a couple of clicks can post an ECO Diary with daily or monthly updates of distance driven and average fuel consumption. Another option is a Power Meter, showing output power and regeneration levels of the fuel cell system.
There are two propulsion choices: ECO or POWER. Being an economical sort (and, besides, I’ve already trolled for unsuspecting BMWs with a previous Mirai), I selected ECO and set off for the Mirai’s photo shoot.
A Googie Delight. These days, I have a great photo location just around the corner from home: McFadden Intermediate School’s wonderfully Googie Space-Age architecture is accompanied by an (at the moment) empty parking lot, complete with solar panels if I prefer shade.
Inland Beyond Orange County Suburbs. My tour began with a sprint down the 405 freeway, on which the Mirai easily kept pace with typically over-the-limit traffic. The Mirai did so, by the way, at 55 mpge (the “e,” gasoline-equivalent) while matching the flow at around 75-80 mph.
After about 15 minutes of this rebellious activity, I exited and headed inland. Eventually, suburban sprawl (with gas stations seemingly at every corner) gave way to country not yet developed. Imagine that: undeveloped Southern California!
Memory of all those gas stations brought a pointless pang: They would be worthless to “my” Mirai. But not to worry, its dash includes a Miles to Empty display, reading near 200 at the onset of the day’s tour.
A Faux Pile Driver. Eventually sated of this pastoral spender, I pointed the Mirai southwest back into People’s California. A perfect description for Laguna Beach along Pacific Coast Highway, though its “No Masks, No Service” signs are a wise addition.
From there, I headed south along PCH, which often runs adjacent to the ocean, with occasional cliffs on its inland side. Along one such stretch, I thought I heard a faint, rhythmic kerplink kerplink sound of a pile driver. Something taking place on the ridge to my left?
No, it was immediately on my right: A Coaster Commuter Rail locomotive came even with the Mirai and then gently drew ahead on its way to San Diego.
Never Too Old to Learn. Back home, with more than 100 miles worth of hydrogen yet unused, the Mirai’s Multi-information display had the last word: It gave me a Score of 46/100 and told me that I could “improve my ECO driving with steady accelerator use.”
The UCI Fill. UCI Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, joined me at the refueling center.
Refueling couldn’t have been easier: Flash the credit card, enter zip code, and select the fill pressure, a “traditional” H35 (350 bar) or H70 (700 bar). The nozzle is actually easier to use than its gasoline counterpart.
A Fuel Cell Summary. All in all, my Mirai tour encompassed 92.9 miles of Orange County at an average 55.3 mpge, and left enough hydrogen for another 135 miles. After a five-minute fillup, the Mirai’s new range read 242 miles. Not bad for an EV, don’t you think? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020