A Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car last month took first place at the inaugural Monte Carlo e-Rally, an event created to showcase the capabilities of zero-emission vehicles. The Mirai beat 34 other cars across the finish line of the 620-mile course, which started at the Palace of Fontainebleau and ended in Monaco. The course followed the historic route of Rally Monte Carlo, a race that was established more than a century ago.
“We are thrilled to have won because it is the first time in history that a rally of this size has been organized for zero-emission cars and we have achieved a world first with a hydrogen powered competition car,” said Artur Prusak, one of the drivers. He was joined by Thierry Benchetrit. The duo are currently world champions of the Alternative Energies Cup, an event managed by Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the official governing body of major motorsports events such as Formula One.
For the Monte Carlo e-Rally, most of the racing teams—representing nine nations—campaigned pure battery-electric cars including a BMW i3, Citroen Berlingo, Kia Soul EV, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S, Volkswagen E-Golf and Volkswagen E-Up.
The winning car was one of three Toyota Mirai hydrogen-powered vehicles that entered the race. They finished first, sixth and 11th among 31 cars that finished the race. There were also three battery-electric Renault Kangoo vans that used fuel-cell technology—a fuel-cell range extender from Symbio Fcell, a manufacturer of fuel-cell system kits based in Fontaine, France.
Toyota said the race represented the longest distance ever travelled by a hydrogen-powered car in France. “The Toyota Mirai ran perfectly for the whole circuit. It is comfortable, powerful and performed as well on the motorway as it did on the winding roads,” said Benchetrit. “We found its driving range can exceed 500 km (310 miles).” To complete the course, the Mirai was supported by a mobile hydrogen refueling station provided by Air Liquide, a French supplier of industrial gases.
The zero-emission Mirai has participated in several previous motorsports events including the Gurston Down in Wiltshire, UK, in June. The Gurston Down hill climb speed trial is one of motorsport’s oldest and most traditional events—a 1,000-yard sprint rising 140 feet along narrow windy roads. In addition, in November 2014, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president and chief, drove a Mirai prototype—dubbed “FCV”— at the Japanese Rally Championship. It was the first time that the FCV—which was equipped with a roll cage, racing seats and modified suspension—was taken on public roads. “I don’t want you to think of this car just as an eco-car, Toyoda said. “It’s a car that’s also fun to drive.”
The other two Mirai crews at the inaugural Monte Carlo e-Rally included one piloted by George Marsan, the mayor of Monaco. It finished in sixth place. “We really enjoyed ourselves with this Mirai, which showed that sustainable mobility can also be synonymous with performance,” said Marsan. The Toyota Mirai, which is sold in Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and The Netherlands—as well as Japan and the United States—produces 150 horsepower. The third Mirai crew, which finished 11th, was run by a crew of French journalists, who reportedly faced challenges with navigating the route.
The Monte Carlo e-Rally, which is compliant with FIA regulations, is organized by the Monaco Automobile Club.