Hypermiler Wayne Gerdes has spent years eking every last mile out of whatever fuel a car might be carrying. I’ve joined him on some of his cross-country drives to maximize fuel economy and the message is always the same: how you drive has a big impact on how much energy you use.
Gerdes proved this once again during a recent drive in a hydrogen-powered 2021 Toyota Mirai. This fuel cell car has an official range of 402 miles (in XLE trim) but through careful driving, Gerdes and his co-pilot were able to get more than twice that many miles from the hydrogen on board. Even Guinness World Records was impressed, awarding the drive – which happened back in August – an official record for “longest distance by a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle without refueling.” The Mirai traveled an impressive 845 miles on one tank, which calculates out to 152 MPGe for the entire trip, which burned through 5.65 kilograms of hydrogen.
The drive involved two consecutive roundtrip drives in Southern California, each starting and ending at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Gardena. The Mirai traveled 473 miles on the first day, August 23, and 372 miles on the second day. A Guinness representative was on hand when the Mirai “had no more hydrogen left and coasted into TTC with a grand total of 845 miles driven,” and also inspected the sealed hydrogen fuel opening before issuing the record certificate.
"As a Guinness World Records adjudicator for 10 years, I've had the opportunity to witness incredible attempts, including several distance-related feats," said Michael Empric, the Guinness representative. "The Toyota Mirai's journey without the need to refuel showcases the power of fuel cell electric technology."
One of the reasons Gerdes does these record drives (this is not his first Guinness World Record) is to teach people how to drive greener in their own vehicles. While his methods are extreme, anyone can avoid quick accelerations, which require more energy. Taking off roof racks, looking ahead to avoid sudden braking and making sure tires are properly inflated will also improve efficiency, no matter what energy source moves your wheels.
There is a good reason that the test drive took place in the Golden State. While Toyota made the point that the Mirai passed by a dozen hydrogen refueling stations during the drive, a lack of infrastructure outside of California means it’s the only place where you can get a Mirai in the U.S. unless you live in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Toyota is one of several automakers exploring the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai is also bullish on the technology, but others, such as Volvo, have determined that consumer demand cannot support a business case outside of heavy trucks and commercial transport.