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Toyota Mirai – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car 2020

Toyota Mirai, Hydrogen Fuel cell car,

Toyota Mirai :-

When Toyota announced the original Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle in 2015—”Mirai” meaning “future” in Japanese—the company was already 18 years into its grand hybrid gambit, which had paid infinite dividends. The Prius and all the subsequent hybrids from Toyota did more to further the collective awareness of alternative-propulsion drivetrains than anything that had come before. This includes pure electric vehicles to that point in 2015, other hybrids, compressed natural gas experiments, and certainly far more than fuel cell technology. But that progress isn’t stopping Toyota from driving further down the fuel cell path. The car maker just revealed the 2021 hydrogen fuel cell EV Mirai, which goes into production in late 2020.

Toyota Mirai
Image Credit – Toyota

The total EV picture – Toyota Mirai

But first, some background. Prius quickly became synonymous with hybrid electrics at a time when gasoline per gallon in the United States (as a national average) went from a low of $1 in 1998 to $2 in late 2004 before hitting about $3.25 in mid-2008 and peaking at about $3.60 in 2012. And sales of the Prius certainly weren’t hurt when Hollywood fully embraced it. By 2018, 40% of all Toyotas sold in the US were hybrids. However, as of September 2019, only 2.4% of the total US market across brands are hybrids.
Meanwhile, less than 1% of the US market consists of battery EVs. Even though there is growth and visibility largely due to Tesla, BEVs face an uphill climb for several reasons.

First, the average transaction price for BEVs is $70,000, which is expensive in anyone’s book. About 40% of those responding to a recent poll on the subject cite high cost as a challenge on the path to BEV ownership. Other impediments are range anxiety, the inconvenience and time required, plus the United States’ sporadic recharging infrastructure. Yet, even with all the attention, there are still misunderstandings about hybrids. Research shows that a very high percentage of people think they can be stranded by a hybrid when it runs out of electrical charge. (Which is false, if you had any doubt.)

Toyota Mirai
Image Credit – Toyota

The fastest move towards BEVs seems to be occurring in China. State-run companies and others have a greater incentive to invest in that infrastructure, though even the basic first wave of roads, bridges, and public transportation infrastructure is still underway. Support for BEVs is being baked into the transportation picture currently under construction; EV support is not an additional layer as it is in the United States.

Also, the auto market itself is still in an infancy of sorts in China. So as the market approaches its adolescence, eyes and minds are open to alternative powertrains.

Fuel cell development

Meanwhile, several automakers (including Toyota) have been researching and developing fuel cell electric vehicles (FCVs) for over 20 years. In fact, Toyota started on FCVs at the same time it started on hybrids, yet the car maker’s first FCV (the Mirai) only came to market in 2015. Meanwhile, the company’s first hybrid hit the road way back in 1997. Fun fuel cell fact #1: fuel cells have been around since the 1930s as stationary power units. Fun general fact #2: Toyota spends a staggering $1 million per hour on all of its R&D. [Fun fuel cell fact #3: GM built a FCV “Electrovan” in 1966, but it weighed more than 10,000lbs/4,535kg—Ed.]

And there are multiple upsides to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over BEVs. They require much less time to refuel (about five minutes, or not much longer than a petrol vehicle). They use an abundant source of energy (the US produces 10 million tons of hydrogen per year). Fuel cell stacks are supremely scalable—that scalability has been proven since 2016 by Toyota at the shipping ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For short-haul duty, those ports have been using a fleet of full tractor trailers powered by twin-connected fuel cells lifted out of a Toyota FCV application. The trailers emit no pollutants and make essentially no noise compared to a diesel, and their drivers need not turn off their engines when the vehicles are idling (as they must with diesels). This also allows the use of air conditioning for the cabs even when the vehicles sit stationary.

Image Credit – Toyota

The existing Mirai

Beneath the controversial bodywork, the current Mirai uses two fuel-cell stacks with 370 cells in each at 12lbs (56 kg) each, along with two hydrogen tanks; one tank under the rear seat and one tank under the trunk. One Camry hybrid battery provides 249 volts. It also uses a Prius power control unit, all of which is worth the equivalent of 151hp (113kW) and 247lb-ft (335Nm) of torque. The tanks themselves are pressurized to 10,153 psi (700bar, or 70Mpa) and are multi-layered using five layers of carbon-fiber plus an outer layer that absorbs sharp impacts.

Since 2015, Toyota has sold about 6,000 Mirai FCVs in California only, due to many other states’ regulations on refueling hydrogen. These regulations stem from old, rather unsafe experiences in the distant past, though those laws could be revised as soon as next year.
The vast majority of those sales are leases, though. The current car costs $59,500, not including the $930 destination charge and the California rebate of $5,000. Since the lease terms of $389/month with a $1,500 cash down payment include the cost of fuel for three years
“The performance piece of the pie is mostly emotional, and most consumers won’t [try] that,” says Toyota’s Nathan Kokes, the automaker’s Mobility & Advanced Technology Communications Manager. “For them, top-level specification is range, range, and range.”

The ’21 Mirai will also receive Toyota’s recently announced warranty on EV batteries for all 2020 model-year and later vehicles, which covers them for 10 years and 150,000 miles. This warranty is also transferrable; it cascades to subsequent second, third, fourth, and even fifth owners. We’re also assured that any early FCV cold-weather susceptibility is totally worked out as well.
Toyota expects sales of 30,000 units globally for the 2021 Mirai in the first year.

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