I always said I’d save my first Goodwood Festival of Speed experience for when I was a) booked to present the TV show, and/or b) asked to drive up the hillclimb.
Well, ITV4 haven’t come calling yet (although I did have a missed call this morning – might have to call that back?!), but Shell V Power did; asking me to join them in trying out the Toyota Mirai on the hillclimb track as part of the Telegraph’s Moving Motorshow.
Everything you read about motoring points towards electric vehicles (EVs) as the future, and sure enough we’re starting to see some vehicles make production, which seem to make sense in that context.
But Hydrogen is not a power source I’ve really looked into, so drving a hydrogen powered car up the famous Goodwood hill was always going to be an eye-opener. I just wasn’t expecting it to open my eyes in so many ways.
Whereas Prius means ‘to come before’, Mirai means ‘future’, and given that this car brings together all of Toyota’s investment, innovation and knowledge in one futuristic package, that’s quite fitting.
The hydrogen fuel cell in the Mirai uses pressurised hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction with oxygen, which is converted into electrical energy and powers the batteries.
The technology is still in its infancy in real terms, but when you can expect a range of 300 miles, a fill-up time and cost comparable to a petrol vehicle, and components which don’t deteriorate (aside from the fuel tank needing replacing every 20 years as it comes under pressurised container legislation), the £66,000 price tag starts to make sense.
It makes even more sense when you step inside, too. With the level of kit you’d expect from a range-topping Japanese car, and the profile of a family saloon car (albeit with some ‘Marmite’ space-age styling), Toyota have created a car we can all identify with. A car which answers the big question: “when can we realistically expect to see these cars hitting the roads?”
The answer to that question, by the way, is ‘now’.
Actually, hydrogen cars are not new, in fact the very first one was invented in 1806, and Japan and America have both been building their infrastructures since 2014. With only 8 hydrogen filling stations currently in the UK, we’re taking a bit of time to catch up. But Toyota has given us a reason to do just that with the Mirai.
Crucially for me, being a petrolhead, is that with a 0-60 ‘sprint’ time of 9 seconds, and some impressive ‘in gear’ performance, together with a taught chassis belying the weight of the car’s technology, the Mirai made for a surprisingly fun, and sporty experience on the hillclimb.
We’re undeniably early in the development of hydrogen technology for widespread use in production cars. But if the Mirai is anything to go by, I’ll be on the phone to Shell and Toyota for another go on the track when we get further down the line.
Here’s my video blog from my Goodwood Mirai experience – warning, contains unscripted Woodford! Enjoy…