How is Toyota’s “hydrogen car”

That electrification is setting the course for the automotive industry is no longer in doubt; and that the future of mobility is electric, either. Common hybrids (HEV), plug-in hybrids (PHEV), 100% electric (EV) and fuel cell (FCEV), whatever technology they use, more and more variants are available and more and more are added to this unstoppable trend (it is estimated that by 2030 about 60% of vehicles circulating globally will do so with some type of these drives).

Toyota was the pioneer in our country in introducing alternative energies. It opened the game in 2009 when it launched the Prius –the first hybrid car to be marketed here– and then continued adding alternatives until today completing a range of six models with this type of mechanics, the widest in Argentina.

Following that tradition, a few months ago the Japanese firm brought a unit of the second generation of the Mirai, its model to hydrogen (fuel cell, fuel cell or fuel cell) presented globally in 2014, not with the intention of marketing it but as a demo car. As it is not approved and cannot be used on public roads, the proposal was to get to know it and drive it on the brand’s test track at its Zárate plant in order to have a first contact with this technology.

The interior of the Toyota Mirai, with premium quality

A fuel cell vehicle is basically an electric vehicle.. But unlike these, the energy used by the batteries to move it does not come from a previously charged reserve (battery) but is generated during the march.

How I know plays that energy? Through a chemical reaction. These mobiles have hydrogen tanks stored at very high pressure (similar to CNG); Hydrogen is sent to the cell where it mixes with oxygen from the environment, which enters through various air intakes in the front of the car. When both elements come together, and through catalysts located in that cell, this reaction is triggered that produces energy on the one hand and water on the other (by the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen). The “electricity” is sent to the engine so that it works while the water produced is stored in a container and the resulting steam is discarded through the exhaust pipe.

The excess energy, meanwhile, is not lost, but is stored in the accumulator and is available for use at any time.

The main advantage of vehicles with fuel cell is that use as fuel the most abundant, inexhaustible and renewable element in the universe: hydrogen. The second is that the only thing that is eliminated into the environment are small amounts of water vapor, so polluting emissions are equal to zero. In addition, by collecting air from the environment, it filters, purifies and expels it through the exhaust, so not only does not pollute but also cleans the air.

On the other hand, the batteries are smaller and do not need to be plugged in to recharge them, so they weigh less and take up less space. In addition, they offer greater autonomy than electric ones (it is estimated that they yield the same as a gasoline or diesel) and are easily rechargeable (filling the tanks with hydrogen takes the same time as one with conventional fuel). Hence, hydrogen could be considered to be the future of the future of mobility.

Among the disadvantages, the main one is that obtaining free hydrogen to be able to bottle it is a very expensive process and that requires an enormous and currently scarce infrastructure. The same applies to recharging stations: their construction and operation require huge investments (Toyota made an agreement with the Linde company, specialized in industrial and medicinal gases, which installed a mini to hydrogen inside the plant).

The Mirai II it is based on the platform of the Lexus LS so it has important dimensions. And unlike the first generation (which was a kind of minivan with dubious aesthetics), this second releases a sedan silhouette with elegant coupe styling and a certain sporty profilewhich is given by the fall of the fastback-style roof. In addition, the front, despite being tall and bulky, has a certain aggressiveness due to the sharp headlights and the large grill that extends and integrates with the bumper. In short, it is extremely attractive.

Leather, aluminium, wood and high-quality plastics characterize to the interior that has nothing to envy to any premium carand that it has enough space for four passengers to travel comfortably (the rear center seat was half sacrificed to be able to house the battery behind).

The Toyota Mirai fuel cell.  There, the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen takes place, which generates the energy that feeds the electric impeller.
The Toyota Mirai fuel cell. There, the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen takes place, which generates the energy that feeds the electric impeller.

The equipment, of course, offers the latest in comfort and safety technology (The only thing that is out of place are the graphics of the 11″ touch screen that do not accompany the general quality of the car).

It is powered by a 134 kW transverse rear electric motor that generates 182 hp and 30.5 kgm of torque and has a single speed transmission that brings power to the rear axle. The system is powered by a 1.24 kWh lithium-ion battery whose electricity is generated by three hydrogen tanks totaling 5.6 kg (142.2 L). With this setup you get a theoretical autonomy of about 650 km with a load.

The Mirai behaves like any electric car: It has all the power and torque available from scratch so it is expected to have very good reactions and acceleration. But in this case, as in many others, the mechanics it is designed for comfort and performance rather than sport performance (in addition to the fact that we are dealing with a car that weighs 1,850 kg). That’s why even if you feel it a little heavy when starting, then it picks up and reaches correct numbers: it accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.6 seconds and reaches a maximum speed of 178 km/h.

Yes indeed, ride comfort is superlative as is its dynamic behaviorwhere it has nothing to envy to premium cars: silent and extremely comfortable, as well as well placed on the road when driving.

Will it come to Argentina? It is not in Toyota’s plans for the short and medium term. But without a doubt, and in the future, we will see this type of vehicle circulating on our streets. For now, it remains to wait.

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