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HERE ARE 10 tidbits about the 2016 Mirai FCV, Toyota’s production fuel-cell car appearing in California showrooms this October. These tidbits are gleaned from my taking part in what amounted to a Press Trip for One.
This pleasure arose, at least in part, from my Fairbanks-Vancouver and Las Vegas-San Diego drives of Toyota FCV prototypes back in the old days of fuel-cell history, 2007. Recently, I was a panel member at a Toyota seminar for personnel of its eight California dealerships getting the initial Mirais.
Tidbit 1. These dealerships are Longo Toyota, Roseville Toyota, San Francisco Toyota, Stevens Creek Toyota, Toyota of Sunnyvale, Toyota of Orange and Tustin Toyota. Toyota expects to sell or lease 200 Mirai FCVs by the end of this year and perhaps 3000 through 2017.
Tidbit 2. This latest Toyota has an all-new fuel-cell design. As is generally known, a fuel cell merges oxygen in the air with hydrogen to produce its electricity, giving off a tad of heat and water. In contrast to a previous ribbed design, the latest Toyota fuel cell uses 3D fine mesh flow channels to bring about this electrochemical magic.
Tidbit 3. This cell geometry and other advancements have cut costs by 95 percent compared with those of the FCV prototype that I drove back in 2007. In retrospect, that prototype’s value was considerably pricier than another of my automotive adventures, driving the Benetton B-186 Formula 1 car (listed in the R&T data panel at $300,000 in 1988).
Tidbit 4. The Mirai’s fuel-cell stack produces about a cup of the purest water for each mile traveled. The system purges the water automatically while driving and after shutdown. There’s a dashboard Water Release Control to keep a garage floor free of its shutdown purge.
Tidbit 5. The Mirai FCV’s hydrogen tanks are manufactured by Toyota itself, unique among automakers. Reflecting its heritage as a loom manufacturer, the company devised technology for filament-winding these components.
Tidbit 6. The Mirai has a pair of tanks, total capacity around 5 kilograms, one beneath the rear seat, the other aft of it . Each holds gaseous hydrogen compressed to 70 MPa (10,000 psi).
Tidbit 7. A fuel cell is extremely efficient, approximately two to three times better than internal combustion. Think of a kilogram of hydrogen as equivalent to a gallon of gasoline.
Toyota cites the Mirai’s range at about 300 miles; I’d guess the company is being conservative. The 2007 prototype carried around 5.6 kg, wasn’t as efficient with it, yet went 436 miles, from Las Vegas to San Diego and then some, on a single fill.
Tidbit 8. Fifty-eight percent of the hydrogen produced in the U.S. today is used in the refining of gasoline. Among other things, it’s also used in food-processing, toothpaste, fertilizer and laundry detergent. The 10 to 11 million metric tons of hydrogen produced annually is enough to power 20 to 30 million fuel-cell cars.
Tidbit 9. A Power Supply System is in the works for the Mirai. This trunk-mounted power outlet could automatically provide home electricity for as much as 60 hours.
Tidbit 10. A Mirai FCV order form has little to ponder. There’s a single model, with dark blue/black interior and only four exterior color choices. There’s Nautical Blue Metallic, Crystal White, Elemental Silver or Celestial Black. To me, the car’s unorthodox styling is better rendered in the darker hues.
Come this fall, a Mirai can be had for $57,500 or a 36-month lease at $499/month. Being a California Zero Emission Vehicle, it qualifies for the state’s $5000 rebate. The federal tax credit for such cars expired December 31, 2014; Congress has yet to renew it.
Bonus Tidbit. A Mirai drives like the proper electric car it is. (FCVs are just EVs that make their own electricity.) My drives of two different examples showed plenty of available torque making them quick from the traffic light (where day-to-day competition is won). Toyota cites a 0-60-mph time of 9.0 seconds, though I believe they’re being conservative about acceleration just as they are about range. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015