Toyota is Serious About the Hydrogen-Powered Mirai
Toyota is talking hydrogen, but is the Mirai viable for the average consumer?
Everyone knows about hybrids. Cars like the hybrid Toyota Prius, and full-on electric vehicles, like the Prius Prime (when it’s charged up) have gained ubiquity among consumers. However, less commonly discussed are cars propelled by hydrogen. Using a hydrogen fuel cell, these vehicles power an electric powertrain. They come with a party trick, too, as their only tailpipe emissions come in the form of water. H2O. When the spent hydrogen exits the tail pipe, it mixes with the oxygen in the air and turns into water. It’s a pretty fancy engineering feat.
But where do you find hydrogen? Well, in the state of California at least, hydrogen filling stations are already out there. In fact, your local gas station may also sell hydrogen. And more are on the way, thanks to manufacturers like Toyota pressing forward with the technology.
That brings us handily to the Toyota Mirai. This hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is on sale now in certain states, like California. So, it makes sense that Toyota would have a big showcase at the annual Los Angeles auto show to tell consumers all about it.
Wait, wait, wait, how does this crazy water-powered car work?
I touched on it briefly above, and would love to dig deep into it (the tech is fascinating), however, Toyota did one better. They dissected a Mirai, put it on a rotisserie and labeled things with simple descriptions. Check it out!
Click on the images for full-size resolution. Being masters of hybrid and fully-electric powertrains, Toyota has managed to pack in the electric powertrain and hydrogen fuel cell quite tidily into the compact Mirai. That’s the packaging, and the hardware. Here is how it all works:
There’s the technobabble, but what about the practical stuff? I mentioned that hydrogen fueling stations are already out there. But, where are they, and is there one near you? Well, let’s take a look:
Here is a map of the greater Southern California area, from just North of the Mexican border, all the way up to Santa Barbara on the far Western coast. Hydrogen fueling stations, which co-exist with regular gas stations, are lined up across the I-405, I-5, and the 101, among other main freeways.
Toyota claims that refilling the Mirai is just like an ordinary gasoline-powered vehicle. It takes about 5 minutes, and full tank of hydrogen is good for a claimed 312 miles. Also, read the fine print: buying a Mirai allows HOV lane usage, and Toyota is offering 3-years of pre-paid fueling for Mirai buyers. I’m not in Toyota’s marketing department, but assuming the cost isn’t stratospheric, the downsides sure do seem limited for a car, and brand, trying to save the planet. And can you imagine the street cred you would have with your other hippy friends? “Tesla-schmesla, I’m even more green thanks to hydrogen power.”