Tesla Model X electric car vs Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car: CA road trip


2017 Tesla Model X

2017 Tesla Model X

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The ability to travel long distances has long been a distinguishing feature of Tesla's luxury electric cars, whose Supercharger fast-charging network now offers access to essentially every part of the 48 continental states.

But where hydrogen infrastructure exists, which can cover a long road trip faster: a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle or a Tesla?

Last fall, Edmunds set out on a road trip of almost 1,000 miles in the hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Toyota Mirai and an electric Tesla Model X to see which could do the trip in the least amount of time, refueling (or charging) included.

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The trip was designed to test what compromises are necessary to be able to step away from the crude oil derived fuels.

The Mirai completed the out-and-back race first, with the Tesla some hours behind.

But, as Edmunds noted, this victory comes with a major: caveat: this trip could only be attempted in California, where 95 percent of today's hydrogen filling stations reside.

2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, Newport Beach, CA, Nov 2014

2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, Newport Beach, CA, Nov 2014

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The website noted that finding a hydrogen filling station along the intended route, or near the destination, was the most significant challenge it faced as it drove the Mirai like a typical car.

The time required to fast-charge the Model X was its downfall in the time-focused competition between the two zero-emission vehicles.

Tesla says that traveling 300 miles requires almost 90 minutes of charging.

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The Mirai’s pair of high-pressure hydrogen tanks can be filled in about 5 minutes, providing an EPA-rated range of 312 miles.

Tesla’s Supercharger network now numbers 2,450 charging outlets across 350 U.S. sites, demonstrating its rapid growth over four years.

Traveling to an available charging port along the race route didn’t cost the Model X nearly as much time as it did to charge up.

Tesla Supercharger network, North American coverage map, Feb 2017 [graphic: Isaac Bowser]

Tesla Supercharger network, North American coverage map, Feb 2017 [graphic: Isaac Bowser]

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Both vehicles proved reliable and easy to drive during the road trip, Edmunds said.

The Mirai was quieter and a more relaxed highway cruiser, but the Tesla was certainly the faster of the two, with considerably better acceleration.

But, Edmunds concluded, either vehicle was capable of longer road trips—at least within California.

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By this point, Tesla electric vehicles likely need little introduction, with roughly 180,000 sold globally.

Fuel-cell vehicles, meanwhile, remain largely unknown to a vast majority of U.S. car buyers.

More than two dozen plug-in electric vehicles are on sale in California, while there are three hydrogen vehicles: the Mirai, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan released in December, and the even lower-volume Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell crossover utility vehicle.

— Matthew Pilgrim

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