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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.