The 2016 Toyota Mirai Pioneers Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
Coming to the U.S. in late 2015, the 2016 Toyota Mirai is bringing hydrogen fuel technology into the automotive world. Hydrogen is an abundant, and at times controversial, resource, and Toyota thinks it’s the fuel of the future. “Mirai” translates to “future” in Japanese, making Toyota’s hopes for this vehicle clear. For this week’s Tech Tip Tuesday, here is the latest on the 2016 Toyota Mirai and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
2016 Toyota Mirai Specs
Torque: 247 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 9.0 seconds
Efficiency: 67 MPGe
Range: 312 miles
Refuel Time: 5 minutes
What is the Toyota Mirai?
The 2016 Toyota Mirai will be the first hydrogen fuel cell powered car to be sold in the United States. However, Mirai isn’t the first hydrogen car in the world. The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell began production overseas in 2013.
The exterior design of the Mirai is bold and futuristic, which is fitting for the technology of the vehicle. Interior styling cues mimic the edgy sculpting found on the outside of the car. It’s certainly one of the most modern cabins we’ve seen yet.
How Does Hydrogen Technology Work?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and it produces 0 carbon emissions. In order to power a car, the intake grille sends oxygen to the fuel cell stack. Mirai contains 370 fuel cells, and each one works to transform the chemical energy into electricity. It does this with a platinum-cobalt catalyst that splits the hydrogen into negatively and positively charged electrons. Then, the polymer electrolyte membrane allows hydrogen ions to pass through the cathode, but does not allow electrons to pass. Those stopped electrons are forced to travel an outer circuit, which creates an electric current. Finally, the ions and electrons meet with the oxygen at the cathode to form water, and it is emitted mostly as vapor.
Does it Use a Battery?
There is a power control unit that draws electricity from the fuel stack when it is needed, and during acceleration it draws energy from a battery for additional power. The battery of the Toyota Mirai stores excess energy like a traditional electric car, however it only uses this extra energy during ignition and acceleration.
Are There Safety Concerns with Hydrogen Cars?
Over the years, critics have opposed hydrogen fuel cell cars due to safety concerns. The most cited concern is the risk of fire. Hydrogen can catch fire easily, and sometimes explosively. It is far more flammable than traditional gasoline. Hydrogen flames are also extremely hard to fight, because they are nearly invisible.
Another concern is the consumption of hydrogen. While hydrogen is not poisonous, it can deprive your system of oxygen and lead to asphyxiation. Being both odorless and flavorless, it would be difficult to tell you were breathing hydrogen.
Toyota has made hydrogen car safety a primary focus while engineering the 2016 Toyota Mirai. For example, the hydrogen tanks are made of strong, layered materials that can absorb 5 times the energy of steel. The Mirai also completely shuts off the flow of hydrogen when it senses a collision.
To ensure drivers never breathe excess hydrogen, all hydrogen-related parts of the vehicle are located outside the cabin. Should hydrogen gas leak from the vehicle, it will quickly and safely disperse into the atmosphere because it is lighter than air.
When Can I Buy a Toyota Mirai?
Toyota says this car will be available to the U.S. in “late 2015,” but it’s already available overseas. At this time, it makes the most sense to buy one if you live in California. Not only because California offers huge tax incentives on zero emission vehicles like the Mirai, but also because the only hydrogen gas stations are in and around California’s major cities such as San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. There are currently 51 stations throughout California.
Looking for a fuel efficient Toyota you can buy today? Check out the Toyota Prius.