Toyota has been the precursor and the instigator of hybrid cars gasoline / electric, a road that began with the Prius, 20 years ago. Today, without leaving behind everything achieved with hybrids, Toyota wants to repeat the feat with cars fuel cell or fuel cell. In addition, it does marketing one of the first models to hydrogen with worldwide mission Mirai.
Future That is the meaning of Mirai in Japanese. Moreover, the Mirai is proof, with facts, that the mobility of the future can be clean and unlimited. Yes, as long as the necessary infrastructure to continue this movement. Toyota’s bet is as bold as it is the cars design.
Although Toyota is not the first manufacturer to put into circulation cell cars fuel in circulation (Honda did in 2008 with the FCX Clarity and Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell), it has been working on the engines fuel cell since 2002.
The first prototype of the brand, the Toyota FCHV, has evolved since then to become the Toyota Mirai put on sale in selected markets, such as Japan, California, Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the UK. They are markets where there is an infrastructure with hydrogen to refuel.
Still, we had to try the Toyota Mirai, although they were few kilometers, to know first what the future of mobility. We were able to do in Zaragoza, on the occasion of the twenty World Hydrogen Energy Conference.
We agree, the design of Toyota Mirai is peculiar. Rarely in the car industry got much consensus against its aesthetics. It is true that the lines are stilted and somewhat strange proportions, but focus on that point would be to lose sight ofwhat really matters Car: exists, works and is viable. Therefore, we will not talk about its design (which is so that you hits, you stay in the retina and associate Mirai fuel cell and this Toyota).
How the fuel cell works Mirai
The principle of the fuel cell or fuel cell is to use hydrogen as fuel (a very light odorless, colorless, and highly flammable) to generate a chemical reaction by attaching hydrogen atoms with other oxygen and create water. In the process, electricity is released, which can power an electric motor that will power the wheels also stored in a capacitor or a battery to be used by the auxiliary systems of the car, such as power steering or air conditioning.
The condensed water is discharged through the exhaust. In the case of Mirai stored in a small tank which is emptied by pressing a button on the dashboard. In other words, the Toyota Mirai (like any other fuel cell car) is an electric car that carries its own generator.
The fuel cell Mirai weighs 56 kg and delivers an output of 114 kW (the prototype FCHV weighed 102 kg 2008 and gave 90 kW). Composed of titanium, this new unit offers the best energy density in the world (3.1 kW / l). Thus, the Mirai can have a 113 kW engine, i.e. about 154 hp with 335 Nm of instantaneous torque. This engine is the same using the Lexus RX450h.
The Mirai has, moreover, an additional battery that helps the fuel cell in the phases of acceleration and feeds the auxiliary systems. This extra battery, nickel metal hydride batteries, recharged by electricity produced by the fuel cell and the recovery of kinetic energy when we stop.
No outdoor outlet to recharge that battery and plug -in hybrid. In versions of Mirai sold in California and Japan (earthquake – prone sites), there is an outdoor outlet. But it serves to feed a household electricity for a week if you get to stop the supply network.
Why could be the future?
Mirai autonomy is similar to that of gasoline vehicles and refueling time is between 3 and 5 minutes. In this respect, electrical cannot fight, at least for now. To recharge an electric (80%) in a rapid decision remain accurate, on average, about 30 minutes. And that’s what worries the customer when making the leap to a car other than a combustion engine or a hybrid, autonomy and time “refueling”.
The Toyota Mirai is basically an electrical generator that takes its own. However, compared to an electric extended range, the Mirai is a car without CO2 emissions and pollutant emissions throughout its use cycle. In that sense how pure electric, the car itself does not pollute. To speak of an entirely sustainable process or not depends on how you obtained the necessary hydrogen, either extracted from fossil fuels, such as methane (in a process that releases a lot of CO2), or “manufactured” by electrolysis of water (in that case, we should see where the electricity needed for it).
Despite an unfavorable energy efficiency for the fuel cell compared to pure electric, the order of 50% for the fuel cell and 70% for the pure electric (it is loaded directly from the network and not to transport hydrogen by truck to the hydrogen), the fuel cell car might be an option simply because they just change our future driving habits. Is the tank empty? Well stop, you plug the hose and five minutes later you continue your way. Of course, all this will be the day you have an infrastructure conditions. Now, in many countries, it is virtually nonexistent.
Craftsmanship and high technology board
With 4.89 meters long, the Mirai is 34 longer than the latest generation Prius cm, but visually it does not seem such a big car. Perhaps it is due to the huge front air intakes that call-necessary attention both in air to feed the fuel cell (remember, the chemical reaction of the battery requires oxygen) – that we lose sight of the proportions of the car.
The rear and the rear lights are very close in appearance to the Prius, but the Mirai is a 4-door, when the Prius is a 5-door. The trunk offers a volume Mirai correct charge of 361 liters. It is 80 liters less than a Prius shorter than 40 cm. The presence of the two hydrogen tanks (up to 5 kg in total to 700-bar pressure) and battery above the rear axle limit the depth and prevent the back of the rear seats are folded down. In addition, the fuel cell located in the middle of the chassis involves the presence of an imposing central tunnel, which limits the passenger compartment 4 seats.
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Despite its 4.89 m, the Toyota Mirai does not offer a spacious cabin. Behind, the legroom of passengers is just right, even ahead, as usual, greatly improves. The materials used give a quality feel almost premium, especially with leather upholstery. In fact, the perceived quality of the finishes is higher than the Prius, no doubt a consequence of artisan car mount. Moreover, it is that the Mirai is manufactured by hand in the same factory Motomochi and by the same technicians who produced the extraordinary Lexus LFA.
The only point where it approaches the Prius is the disparity of plastics, shades and touches on the dashboard (and that’s not so premium …). Something, which, moreover, is reflected in its design. The instrument cluster is in the center and the base of the windshield, multimedia touch screen in the center and -tctiles- settings under the knob climate change.
Silence? Then circle
Driving a Toyota Mirai is like driving a car 100% electric. The 154 hp and 335 Nm announced by Toyota does not seem to be much to move a car of 1,850 kg -in vac-, but as its engine is electric, delivers 335 Nm just by caressing the accelerator with the right foot. And that gives a liveliness to nearly 100 km / h surprising. Toyota announces a 0 to 100 km / h in 9.6 seconds, an honorable time for a comfortable saloon like this, and a time of 3 seconds to go from 40 to 70 km / h, downright good lap.
I will not be surprised if I tell you that the address transmitted absolutely nothing and do not feel what the front wheels. And in the Mirai, premium comfort over any other consideration. The suspensions are soft, marking roll and seats not hold anything. In return, the Mirai offers comfort and quiet running almost impossible to reach for a combustion engine car. Although I must admit that sometimes (throttle, for example), the Mirai shown slightly louder than a conventional electric.Even at constant highway speed, silence reigns on board is amazing. And if you get tired of silence, there is always the JBL audio equipment that is part of the equipment.
The Toyota Mirai offers two driving programs: Eco and Power. These act only on engine response to the accelerator. Obviously, the Power mode is the one that offers the best answer immediate accelerations in Eco mode. It also has the Brake mode on the automatic transmission (epicyclic train) that, as in the Prius, offers some engine braking and optimizes the recovery of kinetic energy.
Toyota announces a consumption of 0.76 kg / 100 km (hydrogen is a gas, so measured in a unit mass). With the two deposits of 5 kg, Mirai autonomy would be 650 km, although the manufacturer prefers to talk about a range of 500 km. Due to the brevity of our making contact with the Mirai, we have been unable to measure actual consumption. Indeed, as a curiosity, Mirai engulfs the air 22m3 per 100 km and emits 7 liters per 100 km of pure water.
Circular with an electric car without the restrictions of autonomy normally associated with this type of car (with Mirai are 500 km) and similar to that of a gasoline or diesel refueling, the Toyota Mirai is a nice promise for the future. However, with an embryonic infrastructure and a very high price, the moment will remain just that, a hope.
The annual production of 700 units Mirai round and yet, according to Toyota’s offer is far below demand (this year provide for manufacture 2,000 units). Yet another test, if necessary, that Toyota remains a precursor when it comes to designing or deploying new propulsion modes.