Simanaitis Says

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FCEVS—TODAY AND TOMORROW PART 1

I HADN’T DRIVEN a fuel cell electric vehicle since the introduction of the TOYOTA MIRAI back in June of 2015. Recent news of a GEN V hydrogen refueling station being planned at the University of California Irvine prompted me to ask UCI Professor Scott Samuelsen if he might help me borrow a fuel cell car for a brief visit, long enough to profit from a refueling at the current GEN IV facility just a few miles from my home. 

Through Professor Samuelsen’s and Toyota’s kind cooperation, I offer these FCEV tidbits in Parts 1, 2, and 3, today, tomorrow, and the next day. These thoughts touch on the Mirai, soon to become a fuel cell classic, the history of UCI’s hydrogen refueling station, and my experience with both.

Mirai History. With its 2016 Mirai, Toyota became the first automaker in the U.S. to offer retail sales of a fuel cell vehicle. (Honda’s Clarity entered public hands sooner, but only in lease.)

A bevy of 2016 Toyota Mirais at their press preview in June 2015. Photo by the author.

According to carsalesbase.com, a total of 6146 Mirais were sold in California and Hawaii from 2015 through 2019. The modest number and geographic limitations are understandable: Green Car Journal No. 47, appearing in April 2020, reports, “Currently there are only 47 hydrogen stations in the U.S., with 42 of them in California.” Hawaii has had them since 2018. 

A Hawaiian Tidbit. Indeed, as noted in greenbiz.com, June 17, 2017, “On Hawaii’s electric system, hydrogen fuel cells already are being deployed to store excess energy on solar and wind generation systems. Photovoltaic solar panels on a sunny day in Hawaii collect more energy than can be used in real time. So it makes sense to store the excess capacity for use at night…. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that Hawaii is the state most actively deploying hydrogen fuel cell technology as an energy source.” 

Second-generation Toyota Mirai; less Toyota, more Lexus.

The Current Mirai Becoming a Classic. The second-generation Mirai is coming as a 2021 model. Just as the first-generation Mirai is Toyota-like, the new one is a fuel cell Lexus: rear-wheel drive, not front-wheel drive; and somewhat larger than the car it replaces.

The current Mirai’s wheelbase is 109.5 in.; its overall length is 192.5 in.; and its width is 71.5 in. Corresponding dimensions for the second-generation Mirai are 114.9 in.; 195.8 in., and 74.2 in. As noted by Car and Driver, October 10, 2019, “The new model will be a few inches longer and wider than the Lexus GS…. The hydrogen advantage is simple: EV propulsion with fossil-fuel range [said to be more than 400 miles] and five-minute refueling.”

I might have predicted the “more than 400-mile range,” based on my 2007 experience driving an experimental Toyota Highlander FCEV from Las Vegas to San Diego, 436 miles, on a single tankful. 

“My” first-generation Toyota Mirai, albeit for only a week.

A week with “my” Mirai is not likely to involve that many miles. Indeed, the first-generation Mirai is EPA-rated at a range of 312 miles. It’s likely I’ll be visiting UCI’s refueling station, the subject of tomorrow’s Part 2, for only a partial topping-off. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020 

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