Courage is when you just tackle things. Success is when it works. Toyota will launch the Mirai in Germany in autumn, presenting the first mass-produced hydrogen-powered electric vehicle. Until then, there is time for a few thoughts on the topic.
Mirai - The fuel cell is becoming a reality
Hydrogen, fuel cells, electric vehicles. These three terms somehow belong together. Even if we have been talking about the fact that soon, soon our cars will only run on hydrogen for almost 20 years, it will take until autumn 2015 before the end customer - theoretically - buys a hydrogen-powered car from the dealer can. Why theoretically? Why did it take so long?
Even the electric car itself has a history that is almost as old as that of the automobile itself. But electricity as an energy supplier could never be packaged as well as the rather stupid idea of gasoline as an energy supplier. Or diesel. Both fossil fuels are finally coming in and that is just one of the problems. In addition, the energy density is rather lousy. If you compare the efficiency of electric drives with that of gasoline engines, then the gasoline-powered car actually has to retreat to the last corner of the underground car park and be ashamed. But still. The principle of “refueling and bunkering” fuel was the easiest to implement with gasoline and diesel engines.
Energy transition under the hood
With the Mirai, Toyota presents a full-blown sedan in the format of a Lexus GS. With a length of 4.89 meters, it offers space for five occupants and is easily recognizable as something “special” from the outside thanks to its futuristic design. The 153 hp electric motor and the power electronics of the Mirai sit under the bonnet. The two hydrogen tanks were housed in the rear of the vehicle and the 56 kg fuel cell, together with the necessary control elements, ends up under the seats in the first row of seats. Toyota expects a balanced weight distribution from this layout, which in turn benefits driving fun and handling.
The Mirai will have a curb weight of 1.850 kilograms (without driver) and with up to 178 km / h also a reasonable (German) highway speed. But probably that is more than secondary, the question will be much more important: Who buys a mirai?
And where will you refuel?
These are the questions that pioneers have to deal with. The current plans to expand the hydrogen filling station network are a little late. Instead of the planned 50 gas stations you will probably have only 2015 gas stations at the end of 23. That is manageable. Manageable is also the production planning of Toyota. 2015 will produce 700 vehicles, by the way in the same factory where the Toyota supersport LF-A was already made. In 2016 you want to build 2.100 cars and then make 2017 over 3.000. The first annual production is already sold out, according to information from Toyota and that although the vehicle was previously introduced only in the US and Japan.
The two plastic tanks have a volume of 122,4 liters and hold 5 kg of hydrogen. The Mirai should then be able to travel up to 500 km. And the only thing that comes out of the “exhaust” is water vapor. A tempting view and an exciting technology.
Bridge into the niche future?
But it is also clear that such a fuel cell is just one of many technologies for the future. The development of battery technology will show up to what range the pure electric vehicle makes sense and from when one will switch to the future “long-distance electrical engineering” fuel cell / hydrogen.
The price and the planned quantities make the Mirai look like a niche solution in the short term. The purchase price of 78.580 € contributes to the exclusivity of the Mirai as well as the blunt restriction of the numbers.
Hybrid pioneer Toyota
But if a manufacturer can clean up the market with a new technology, then it could well be the Japanese automobile company Toyota. Why not? With the long history of hybrid automobiles since the first Prius in 1997, one can see a clear success as a “pacemaker” of the automobile industry.
At the end...
Whether it is just brave or successful - that will have to be judged in retrospect. Probably not whether hydrogen alone represents the energy transition. But it sounds logical and understandable if one understands hydrogen as an “energy store” in the future. Its use is multifunctional and, above all, together with the fuel cell, environmentally friendly.