Hydrogen Car Shootout: Toyota Mirai vs Honda Clarity

Investments in alternative energy sources has seen a dramatic increase over the past few years. This is partly due to the mounting concern of the environment and the fast depleting reserves of oils around the world. While most manufacturers have turned to electric or eletro-petrol drivetrains, a few manufacturers have taken a different route. Car makers such as Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai have turned to hydrogen. Although hydrogen was considered a highly unstable source of immense energy back in the nineteenth century, scientists and engineers have managed to store the element within fuel cells; a far safer format. Here, we take a look at Toyota and Honda, two of the biggest Japanese automakers in the world and see how their hydrogen based products fare against each other.

Design

Toyota Mirai

The Toyota Mirai is one of the most striking sedans currently available in the market. The front plays host to sleek, sporty all-LED headlights and vertically stacked LED daytime running lights and a heavily sculpted lower bumper that sports chrome accents along the fog lamp enclosures. The sharp contours and aggressive design language remains close to Toyota’s current philosophy and provides the Mirai with an aura of sportiness mixed with futurism. The side features flared wheel arches that flow into rear and integrate with the tail lights. The singular brake light strip that runs along the width of the Mirai and its taillight cluster design brings to mind a more cyberpunk theme than that of a contemporary one.

The Toyota Mirai
The Toyota Mirai

Honda Clarity

The Honda Clarity’s exterior is far more conventional than the Toyota Mirai. However, despite the unassuming silhouette, standard bonnet and orthodox ORVMs, the front grille features a sliver accent that runs along the entirety of the Honda Clarity’s front end to integrate directly with the headlights. This atypical design style coupled with the vertically stacked LED DRLs provide the Clarity with some much needed personality. The full size sedan also features the headlight design commonly seen on more upmarket models from the Japanese car maker marketed under the moniker Acura.

Honda's Mirai rival, the Clarity
Honda’s Mirai rival, the Clarity

Winner: Toyota Mirai

Interior

Toyota Mirai

The interior of the Mirai sedan plays host to one of the most advanced dashboards ever fitted on a Toyota. With a primary display for the infotainment system and a smaller secondary display unit for the climate controls, the Mirai allows for easy access for the most commonly used features in a vehicle. Both units are controlled by capacitive touch keys while the primary display serves as a touchscreen as well. Similar to a few models available here in India, Toyota has adopted a centrally mounted instrument cluster rather than the more conventional driver side position. The instrument cluster features three separate displays. With the first display feeding the user a summary of important data such as driving mode, fuel gauge, current speed and fuel economy; The secondary display produces a “green” score indicating the efficiency of the user’s driving style while the third display is a conventional LED digital clock.

Interior of the Mirai
Interior of the Mirai

While the dashboard of the Mirai is extremely striking to look at, the rest of the cabin is far more conventional. The all black interior accentuated by silver finishes provides a sporty feel with luxurious undertones.

Honda Clarity

Similar to its exteriors, the Honda Clarity’s cabin is fairly conventional. The all black cabin features a conventional infotainment system and  digital displays for the instrument cluster and climate control. The main unit is a touchscreen system that allows control over climate control and the music system. However, unlike most manufacturers that offer in-house developed music systems, the Clarity comes with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Winner: Toyota Mirai

Under the Hood

Toyota Mirai

Powering the Toyota Mirai is a front mounted synchronous AC motor that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed gearbox. Despite its immense weight and the meager 152 hp dished out by the hydrogen fuel cell powered electric motor, the Mirai manages the 0-100 kmph milestone in an impressive 9.4 seconds.

The Mirai's produces only water as exhaust from the engine
The Mirai’s produces only water as exhaust from the engine

Honda Clarity

The Honda Clarity is also powered by a synchronous electric motor that churns out 134 hp and 189 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a single speed gearbox.

The Clarity is one of the few rivals to the Mirai
The Clarity is one of the few rivals to the Mirai

Winner: Draw

Verdict

Although the Honda Clarity fits more people in its cabin, the Toyota Mirai beats its competitor in almost every other conceivable way. The cyberpunk aesthetic, upmarket interiors and LED/projector headlights produce a feeling of luxury and a road presence stronger than even most entry level sports cars. The Mirai is a sign of a bright and interesting future.

Toyota Mirai: Hydrogen Powered

"Toyota Mirai"

Toyota has introduced the competition busting Prius back in 1997 and this vehicle was certainly a game changer for the company. This commercially successful gasoline-electric hybrid car had revolutionized the buying behavior of buyers. The company is trying to repeat history with a technology that seems straight out of science fiction. Hydrogen-powered cars are real.

Toyota is launching a hydrogen-powered car in the United States. There will only be a few hundred, and they are certainly not going to befriend the pockets. The company has named this car “Mirai”. Officials at Toyota chose to call this car 2015 FC.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: http://www.toyota-global.com/

Fuel-cell cars use a “stack” of cells that electro-chemically combine hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity that helps propel the car. Their only emission, bar heat, is water vapor, they can run five times longer than battery electric cars, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen — far quicker than even the most rapid charger can recharge a battery electric car. The 2015 launch culminates a 20-year zig-zag quest during which Toyota first struggled to get the technology to work and then strained to lower manufacturing costs enough to permit realistic pricing. It has also been playing catch-up to rival Honda Motor Co, which has set the early pace with its FCX Clarity, a sleek, purpose-built hydrogen car.

The cost-cutting continues, though Toyota thinks it has cracked the code with incremental design improvements, such as using wider, flatter “fettuccine-style” copper in coils that make the motor more powerful, and thus smaller and cheaper. “In time, the fuel cell vehicle will become mainstream. We wanted to take the first step,” said Mitsuhisa Kato, a Toyota executive vice president, at the vehicle’s launch Tuesday. “We want to be at the leading edge.” “With the 2015 FC car we think we’ve achieved a degree of dominance over our rivals,” Satoshi Ogiso, a Toyota managing director, said in a recent interview at the group’s global headquarters. “With the car, we make a first giant step” toward making fuel-cell vehicles practical for everyday use.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: http://www.toyota-global.com

Executives and engineers at Toyota are willing to sell the Mirai at a loss for a long while to popularize the new technology. The company had adapted the same strategy with the Prius that happens to account for 14% of Toyota’s annual sales, excluding group of companies, of a boastful 9 million odd vehicles.   Let’s first understand the technology involved behind a fuel cell vehicle: Most of us know that the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen can generate fuel cell that would generate electricity that is sufficient enough to power the motor of the Mirai. As a substitute to gasoline, the motor is fuelled by hydrogen that is an environment-friendly energy source that can be produced with the help of numerous raw materials. Toyota is putting in its to create sustainable mobility a reality with hydrogen that started back in 1992. In fact, this concept started even before the launch of Prius. The year was 2002 and Toyota had begun selling the world’s first fuel cell vehicle called “Toyota FCHV” in Japan and U.S. Toyota has also made use of the same technology in developing fuel cell vehicles.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: http://www.toyota-global.com

 

Infrastructure challenge: The problem lies in the limited number of hydrogen fuel stations in the U.S and as with battery electric cars, the infrastructure required is limited to the point where it costs big dollars to build it. On an average, the cost of building a fuel station would be around $ 2 million for a single hydrogen fuel station in the U.S.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: www.forbes.com

Safety: Safety also happens to be a major concern. Hydrogen is highly flammable and requires to be handled with utmost caution. The Toyota launch pits fuel-cell technology against battery electric in a race to capture the hearts and wallets of drivers looking for engines that are easier on the environment. Automakers are under pressure to invest in so-called “zero-emission” cars as tougher rules globally demand lower harmful emissions and better fuel economy.

If proper measures are taken, the safety parameters can be examined closely to attain results. Japan currently operated 3 hydrogen fuelling stations. Japanese government, to support the commercialization of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles have set a goal to build close to 100 hydrogen fuel stations by march 2016. California has 10 hydrogen stations and the government has allotted around $ 47 million for 28 additional stations. Hence, utmost safety is taken for their upkeep.

 

Mirai Specs:

The Mirai uses Toyota’s Fuel Cell System (TFCS) that features both fuel cell technology and hybrid technology. This includes Toyota-developed components that include the fuel cell (FC) stack, FC boost converter and high-pressure hydrogen tanks. The TFCS are energy-efficient and emits no CO2 while the vehicle is running.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: ssl.toyota.com

The 2016 Mirai has a range of 502 km on a full tank and a combined city & highway fuel economy rating of 66 miles per gallon or approximately 3.6 Liters per 100 kms.

"Toyota Mirai"
Image Source: www.youtube.com

 

Costs: The sporty-looking, four-door Toyota Mirai is getting set to make the roads greener. But they will not come cheap. The Mirai will retail for 6.7 million yen of $ 57,600 before taxes. Toyota Motor Corp hopes to sell 400 in Japan and 300 in the rest of the world in the first year.