In a world’s first for a production fuel-cell electric vehicle, freelance Japanese automotive journalist Mitsuhiro Kunisawa will driving a Toyota Mirai at this weekend’s German round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) – the ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
But before you start imagining a Mirai doing rally-style jumps across crests, note that this Mirai will only be used as a ‘zero car’ to open the rally stages and will not be in competition with other participating cars.
It is interesting to note that this Mirai WRC is not made by any factory-backed team, but is a private initiative by Kunisawa himself, using his own personal Mirai.
He did however managed to convince Toyota to provide some form of support for his entry. Toyota is supplying Kunisawa with a mobile hydrogen refuelling unit that can fill up the Mirai’s hydrogen tanks in three minutes, good for over 500 km of normal driving but since this is a rally stage, the range is going to be a lot shorter.
Kunisawa is not new to rallying. The former editor of Japan’s ‘Best Car’ magazine have previously competed in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and in WRC Rally of Japan.
His privately-owned Mirai has been significantly modified for motorsports use. The cabin is now protected by a roll cage and all unnecessary trims and fixtures have been removed. Also fitted to the car are competition tyres and uprated brake pads.
The standard car’s 113 kW hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain however, remains unchanged. The engine bay remains identical to a standard Mirai.
Intrigued by this Mirai fan’s initiative, Mirai’s chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka is currently in Germany to observe Kunisawa’s progress with driving the Mirai on rally stages.
Tanaka said, “It is our dream that one day our fuel cell vehicles will be able to compete in WRC. Therefore, we will continue to develop this technology with great ambition. Spectators at the Rallye Deutschland will have to get used to this noiseless premiere at Trier, but they’ll experience the art of an almost pollution-free future.”