Things to Know About the Hydrogen Powered Toyota Mirai


What Is the Toyota Mirai?

The Toyota Mirai is a mid-size hydrogen fuel cell car which is manufactured by Toyota and is one of the first car sedan-like vehicles sold commercially. And was revealed at the November 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. As of December 2017, global sales totaled 5,300 Mirai's. The majority being sold in the United States and Japan. 

Under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cycle, the 2016 model year Mirai has a total range of 312 miles on a full tank. While also boasts an impressive combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 66 mpg, thus making the Mirai the most fuel-efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rated by the EPA.

Benefits of Using Hydrogen as a Fuel

When hydrogen is used as a fuel source it is commonly referred to as a Fuel Cell. Fuel cells have various advantages when compared to conventional power sources, such as internal combustion engines or batteries. The following are a few of the benefits of using hydrogen as a fuel to power your car. 

  • Fuel cells have a higher efficiency than diesel or gas engines.
  • Unlike combustion engines, fuel cells operate quietly. 
  • Fuel cells can eliminate pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The only by-product of hydrogen fueled fuel cells is water.
  • Hydrogen comes from the electrolysis of water driven by renewable energy. Thus, using fuel cells eliminates greenhouse gases over the whole spectrum.
  • Fuel cells do not require conventional fuels such as oil or gas. Therefore, there is a reduction in economic dependence on oil-producing countries, resulting in greater energy security for the user nation.
  • Since hydrogen can be produced anywhere where there is water and a source of power, generation of fuel can be distributed and does not have to be grid-dependent.
  • Unlike batteries, fuel cells have no "memory effect" when they are being refueled.
  • The maintenance of fuel cells is simple since there are few moving parts in the system.

How Hydrogen Is Produced 

Production of hydrogen to be used as a fuel for vehicles such as the Toyota Mirai can be accomplished in multiple ways. The following three methods are primarily used in the creation of the hydrogen used in the Toyota Mirai. 

Steam Reforming: It starts with liquids or gases containing hydrogen-like natural gas or sustainable biogas sourced from landfills. This fuel then reacts with steam at high temperatures in a reformer, leaving hydrogen behind. 

Gasification: The process in which organic materials, like crops and livestock waste, are converted into hydrogen. The organic materials are placed under high temperatures, which triggers a reaction that separates the hydrogen.

Electrolysis: Hydrogen can also be produced by separating water. An electrical current is run through water to extract hydrogen. The electricity can be sourced from clean, renewable energy such as wind, solar, or hydro.

Development of the Toyota Mirai

  • 1992: Toyota starts development of FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) technology. 
  • 2003: Toyota and Daihatsu begin road testing of the MOVE FCV-K-II, a fuel-cell Kei car.
  • 2009: U.S. government drops funding for hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
  • 2010: A Toyota/Hino FCHV (Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle) Bus services daily commercial routes between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and the city center.
  • 2011: Satoshi Ogiso, deputy chief officer Product Planning Group of Toyota, declares all technical problems as solved, stating “the only remaining real issue that stands in the way of fuel-cell electric vehicles is mass production cost.”
  • 2013: Reporters drive test mules of the fuel cell vehicle. Toyota demonstrates that fueling takes less than three minutes.
  • November 2014: Toyota launches a press release and photos detailing the production version of their new fuel cell vehicle, the Toyota Mirai.
  • October 21, 2015: Start sale and delivery in California.

Impact of the Toyota Mirai on the Environment

As a result of the continued growth of the world's population, an estimated 9.6 billion by 2050, there is a critical need for a more sustainable fuel source. If a new sustainable fuel source is not secured and fossil fuels continue to grow with the growth of humanity there will be dire consequences. It will exacerbate the current struggles of climate change, global warming, and air pollution.

Toyota has been working for decades to diversify the use of automobile fuels and powertrains. And they are confident that hydrogen is the technology that will bring the promise of a cleaner future. Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly energy that can be produced from a variety of raw materials including solar and wind power, biofuel, and natural gas.

How Can a Fuel Cell Vehicle Contribute to a Better Environment? 

A Fuel Cell Vehicle runs on hydrogen instead of gasoline or diesel. More specifically, it runs on a motor powered by electricity generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell. The only by-product of a Fuel Cell Vehicle in operation is water vapor. That means it does not emit harmful substances such as CO2, SO2, and NOx. In addition to producing zero emissions when driven, they also have an impressive cruising range and are refueled very quickly.

Hydrogen, an Environmentally Friendly Energy Carrier

Hydrogen can be generated using a wide range of natural resources and man-made by-products, such as sewage sludge. It is also created from water using natural renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. When hydrogen is compressed, it has a higher energy density than batteries and can easily be stored and transported.

Recycling

The recoverability rate of the Mirai exceeds 95%. As the Mirai's fuel cell stack uses the precious metal platinum, Toyota created the world's first stack collection and recycling network. Toyota in Europe has set itself the challenging target of aiming to collect 100% of batteries. Realizing that raw materials are finite, Toyota is continuously stepping forward to a resource efficient economy.

How Safe Is the Toyota Mirai?

At Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji Technical Center, the Mirai has been subjected to extensive crash testing. The purpose of the testing is to evaluate a design specifically intended to address frontal, side and rear impacts to provide excellent protection of vehicle occupants. A high level of collision safety has also been achieved regarding the fuel cell stack to ensure that no body deformation will occur to the high-pressure tanks. Hydrogen sensors provide warnings and can shut off tank main stop valves in case of emergency or damage to the fuel cell tank. The hydrogen tanks and other hydrogen-related parts are located outside the cabin this is to ensure that if hydrogen does leak, it will dissipate easily. Overall, the Toyota Mirai has been thoroughly tested to ensure complete occupant safety for both accidents and potential fuel cell damage. 

Pros and Cons of the Toyota Mirai

PROS: 
  • Emissions: FCVs emit nothing from their tailpipe except water vapor.
  • Fast Fill Up: A FCV can refill in 3-5 minutes with enough hydrogen to run 200-300 miles.
  • Long Driving Range: 11 pounds of hydrogen can drive your Toyota Mirai over 312 miles.
  • Cheap Fuel Source: Projected to cost $20.00 to fill up your Toyota Mirai.  
  • Heavily Subsidized: California offers $13,000 in total subsidies, dropping the price tag for the Toyota Mirai from $58,325 to $45,000.
CONS: 
  • Not Really Zero Emissions: FCVs in California are required to use 33 percent renewably sourced gaseous hydrogen. The rest comes from natural gas which is anything but zero emission.
  • Limited Infrastructure: There are currently only a handful of stations in California, and it will cost billions to build out a nationwide network of reliable hydrogen stations.
  • Hydrogen is Expensive: Current hydrogen prices are sitting at $50-60 for a full tank.
  • A lot of Uncertainties: There is no infrastructure, there is a lack of secured renewable hydrogen, and it currently is very expensive to fill up your Toyota Mirai.
  • Unproven Technology: The technology in production FCV’s is currently untested. There simply has not been enough time to know how durable these systems will be.
  • The Toyota Mirai is Still Expensive: With leases sitting around $500 per month or purchases of upwards of $60,000 are double the average new car price.

Where to Buy a Toyota Mirai

Currently, the only place to purchase a Toyota Mirai in the United States is California. There are a few other FCV’s produced by other auto designers such as Honda and Hyundai, their vehicles are also only available in California. The only hydrogen fueling stations in the United States is also found in California, so if you would like to buy a Toyota Mirai, it looks like you will be moving to California. The Toyota Mirai is the only FCV available for purchase and can be purchased through certified Toyota Dealers in California. Both Honda’s and Hyundai’s FCV’s are currently only available for lease. The future will be powered by electricity or hydrogen, which side will you choose?

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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