Posts Tagged ‘Mirai’

The Hydrogen Highway – Japan’s Bet Against Battery EVs

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, is reinforcing the government’s push for a “hydrogen highway” with it’s latest next-generation hybrid — Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese. Recently, at the New York International Auto Show, this new entry into Japan’s race to become a “hydrogen society,” was declared the 2016 World Green Car. Twenty-three countries — represented by 73 top-level automotive journalists — had to choose between eight entries, including the Toyota Prius Hybrid. Factors that the jurors took into consideration when making their selection included:

1. Tailpipe emissions
2. Fuel consumption
3. Use of an advanced power plant technology aimed at increasing the automobile’s environmental responsibility.

(Unfortunately, these journalists seem to have missed the point that many of the — very few — hydrogen refueling stations require fossil fuels for its production, and take a lot of engineering to build. Hardly very green!)

Toyota Mirai World Green Car of the Year 2016

Energy of the Future

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes hydrogen will help Tokyo find an alternative energy source to nuclear power, and reduce reliance on imported oil. Japan is the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Of course, an obvious option would be solar, wind and geothermal, which is why it is strange — except when you realize that the nuclear industry is a huge bureaucracy with deep connections to the government.

Group vice president and general manager, Bill Fay, of Toyota Division, points to three major factors about Mirai that will help lead the world in a more sustainable direction:

1. It has a per tank travel range of over 300 miles.
2. Unlike electric vehicles that can take several hours to recharge, refueling the Mirai can be done in under five minutes. Much like putting gasoline or diesel fuel in a car, a nozzle is inserted and a trigger squeezed to fill the tank.
3. Emissions consist solely of water vapor.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe; it is also incredibly powerful so Toyota has taken important steps in the design of its hydrogen tanks, which are tucked under and away from the back seats. Safety assurance is achieved through polymer-lined tanks that are carbon-fiber wrapped and multi-patented. Their three-layer structure is built to absorb five times the crash energy of steel. Additionally, the car has a unique frame design that distributes crash forces around the passenger cabin, the hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell stacks.

However, in the event of a high-speed collision, you’ll be relieved to know that several measures are in place to prevent any leaking and subsequent combustion of the hydrogen tanks.

First: Sensors stop the flow of hydrogen.

Second: Any leaked hydrogen is quickly dispersed.

Third: Hydrogen escapes safely and rapidly into the air.

Hisashi Nakai, who works in Toyota’s strategy planning department, dismisses concerns about hydrogen posing any dangerous explosion risks despite the highly volatile and flammable properties of the gas. Nakai insists that rigorous testing has been performed on the tank and that it can withstand any shock. “(Fuel-cell vehicles) appear to be the ideal green cars,” he says.

Of course, a cynic would say that with new battery tech on the way using graphene, a derivative of carbon, that will be virtually inert under impact, the fact that Toyota is considering replacing one explosive fuel (gasoiline) with another one (hydrogen) is a bit of a mystery.

Mirai Fuel Cell Anatomy

– No internal combustion (the process of burning something).
– No carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — at least at the tail pipe.
– The electric motor is from an existing hybrid Lexus (Toyota’s luxury brand).
– A Power Control Unit (PCU) decides when to draw energy directly from the fuel cell stack or use stored energy from the battery.
– Hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electrochemical reaction, which produces electricity.

The Cost of Conservation

– A comparable electric car costs 6.7 million JPY (roughly $55,000 U.S.)
– A Mirai fuel-cell car costs nearly double that amount.
– The central government throws in a subsidy of two million yen to the buyers to offset some of the purchase expense. Even though their contribution covers approximately one-fourth of the total cost of the car, the price is still very high.

Hype of the Hydrogen Highway

The Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project is dedicated to building an infrastructure network of filling stations along roadsides, aka the “hydrogen highway.” This highly-publicized project is sure to be touted at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The Japanese government said that it will subsidize half the total building expense for the first 100 locations and will bear some of the operational costs. As of March 2016, Japan had fallen 20 percent short of its target of 100 operational hydrogen stations due to the high cost of constructing them: about 400 million yen (over $3.2 million U.S.) each. Japan is not alone; slow construction of hydrogen refueling stations around the world is cramping efforts by automakers to convince the public that hydrogen is a viable option.

Japan’s Government Projections and Predictions

– There will be 4,200 hydrogen cars on the roads of Japan.

Deadline: 2018

– Toyota, specifically, plans to boost Mirai sales to 12,000 units in Japan.

Deadline: 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

– Prime Minister Abe envisions an annual hydrogen market worth one trillion yen ($8.3 billion U.S.), which would also supply hydrogen-producing technology to 5.3 million residences

Deadline: 2030

Postscript

It is hard not to rain on this parade, but … The expense of new fueling stations. The decidedly non-green way most hydrogen is being created. The major strides taking place in battery tech. The cost reductions in batteries when Tesla’s Gigafactory comes on line. All these and more are going to make the case for hydrogen difficult (or in this writer’s view impossible) to make over the coming years.

It would not be the first time Japan has embraced a technological evolutionary dead end — remember Betamax, or MD players ? — and with the full weight of bureaucratic inertia behind it, I would not be surprised if hydrogen fuel cell cars were the same.


Toyota to Dealers: Don’t Sell Cars!

Posted by Stephen On Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Yes, this is the last thing you would expect the world’s largest car maker to say, but it’s true. And it’s nothing to do with the Takata airbag scandal either. No, the problems for the Mirai are more fundamental.

Toyota Mirai

Toyota has been advocating fuel cell powered cars more than any other car manufacturer. They have one, the Toyota Mirai. It’s an electric-powered vehicle whose primary source of power is not a battery.

Instead of a battery, it has a fuel cell that converts liquid hydrogen into electricity, which then turns an electric motor. There are times when the driver may demand more power than this fuel cell can provide. For those moments, a tiny 1kWh battery lends a helping hand to meet the demand.

In return, the vehicle has zero emissions, other than water vapor and perhaps a bit of heat. How’s that for government regulations and the public relations?

Despite Toyota investing billions of dollars into this new technology, they will only release about 300 of these vehicles between the Europe and the United States this year in 2016. Compare that number to the 10 million vehicles that the automaker sells per year, and you barely have a dot on the landscape.

That doesn’t stop Toyota from believing that hydrogen power is the way of the future. In fact, with the lobbying efforts of the Japanese government, the company appears to be betting its entire future on the technology.

It seems odd then that the company would be instructing dealers not to deliver the Mirai to customers. For a company whose slogan is, “Let’s Go Places,” the Marai sedan can’t really go anywhere.

This holds true even for the dealership that moves the most; a Toyota dealer in Santa Monica, California.
Why would Toyota do this? Honestly, they have solid reasoning.

Right now, there are 72 Toyota Mirai on the road in the US. However, these cars can’t just go to your conventional gas station to ‘fill ‘er up.” There aren’t enough refueling stations to keep the cars that are out there on the road, let alone enough fueling stations to support more cars being delivered.

Furthermore, what few stations that are out there don’t work very well. In fact, the move might be to keep Toyota and its dealers legally safe.

They are adamant to point out that they are still selling the car. What they’re not doing is delivering on the cars until more filling stations open up for the car.

Some people are quick to point out that Toyota should be building their own stations, and not rely on the taxpayer’s money to do it. They are saying that the world simply isn’t ready for hydrogen power quite yet. Perhaps in 50 years, but not now.


The Toyota Mirai: Looking A Lot Less Like Bulls–t

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

2015 Toyota Mirai

The upcoming Toyota Mirai FCV has been a car of some controversy, to say the least. On the one hand, you have Toyota officials and many others in the auto industry (most of whom are developing their own FCVs) claiming that hydrogen is THE answer to clean, renewable fuel. Others, like Tesla’s Elon Musk, say that fuel-cell vehicles are straight-up “bulls–t”.

Toyota has heard their critics, and they have answered in perhaps one of the cleverest marketing stunts of the past decade – they partnered with Morgan Spurlock to create this video, called “Fueled by Bullsh*t”. Check it out if you haven’t already seen it:

The video demonstrates how one could, if one were so inclined, extract hydrogen from cow manure. The video ends with a Toyota Mirai literally running on bull hockey. It is the first in an ongoing series of videos called “Fueled by Everything” which Toyota will use to promote their upcoming commercial FCV.

Meanwhile, first drive reviews of the Toyota Mirai are starting to roll in, such as this review from The Washington Post. WP’s Drew Harwell had the chance to ride around D.C. behind the wheel of the four-door sedan, and his conclusion is candid, but optimistic.

“Riding this, it really feels like something that could be the future, but until there’s that hydrogen infrastructure, it’s really going to be hard to see this getting in everybody’s garage, at least in the short-term,” Harrell said at the end of his review.

The Toyota Mirai will go on sale for $57,500 when it launches in California later this year, and Toyota only plans to sell 3,000 units in the US by the end of 2017. For that price, you’ll get a completely emissions-free car with a 300-mile range – more than any plug-in electric vehicle currently on the market – and a 5-minute refuel time, just like petrol. Harrell was adamant that the car itself is a blast to drive with great steering and responsive acceleration, along with all the creature comforts one could ask for in a modern-day interior.

Meanwhile, the Toyota Mirai and FCVs in general still have plenty of critics. For example, Clean Technica points out that even though the Mirai itself may be emissions-free, the processing and transportation of hydrogen – the well-to-wheel emissions, if you will – still requires lots of natural gas. But, Toyota isn’t just thinking about the next five years or even the next decade… They really believe the FCV will be the car of the future; the car we’ll still be driving in 100 years.

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Realistically, most of us won’t have access to the Toyota Mirai for several years yet. We’re stuck with plain old hybrid cars like this 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid until the hydrogen infrastructure is more widely adopted around the world. But, there’s nothing wrong with that – the Camry is a great car that needs no introduction.

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid rear

This Japanese car auction find is particularly reminiscent of the Toyota Mirai with its pearl white paint job (which is one of only two colors we’ve ever seen the FCV depicted in), but of course it is a much more affordable car, even new. The Camry is reliable, fun to drive and has great fuel-economy… All things you probably already knew, since it is after all one of the most well-known and beloved cars of all time. For a detailed rundown of this specific car’s auction sheet, keep reading below:

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid auction sheet

Interior C, exterior condition C, first registered May 2012, Hybrid G Package, DAA emissions code, FAT, AAC, first time in auction, HDD navigation system, rear view reversing camera, TV, smart entry and start, original navigation system, original TV, ABS, airbag, original alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, FAT, AAC, console scratches, carpets have medium stains, interior grime, scratches under bumpers, front windscreen stone scratches, marks as per map


Toyota News: LC 500 Name Trademarked, Increased Mirai Production

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Things are happening at Toyota this week… Big things! Chief among them are two breaking news stories:

First, last week we learned that Toyota already had an astounding 200 pre-orders for their Mirai fuel-cell sedan, and this week we’ve learned that Toyota is devoting an extra $165 million to the car’s initial production.

Second, the avid users over at Lexus Enthusiast – a popular Lexus-themed blog and forum – also found out this week that the premium Japanese automaker has filed trademarks for the Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h nameplate in several countries.

You can read more about both stories below:

Increased Toyota Mirai Production

2014 Lexus LF-LC Concept

The word from a popular Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, has informed us that Toyota plans to invest something in the ballpark of ¥20 billion – about $165 million – to more than triple domestic production. Toyota will reportedly deliver 700 Mirais (instead of just 200) by the end of 2015. Apparently, demand is so strong that even with this increased production capacity, Toyota still won’t be able to meet production demands.

As a reminder, the all-new Toyota Mirai goes on sale in Japan next Monday, December 15. Then, it’ll go on sale in the US and Europe in the summer of next year.

Along with the news of increased production, Nikkei also gave us an updated breakdown of exactly how many Toyota Mirai FCVs the Japanese automaker intends to sell in its first three years on the market. They want to sell:

  • 400 units in the Japan by the end of 2015
  • 50 – 100 units per year in Europe by the end of 2016
  • 3,000 units per year in the US by the end of 2017

Lexus Trademarks LC 500 & LC 500h Names

2016 Toyota Mirai FCV

Remember the Lexus LF-C2 Concept from last month’s LA auto show? So do we – it’s a hard car to forget. Thanks to the investigative users at the popular Lexus blog, Lexus Enthusiast, we’ve learned that the premium automaker has filed trademarks for both LC 500 and LC 500h in the US, Canada and Australia.

This means that the Lexus LF-LC and the LF-C2 Concepts were never meant to herald new RC F models or revived SC coupe models… Instead, it looks like the Lexus LC 500 and 500h will mark the beginning of a totally new nameplate for Toyota’s sub-brand. Furthermore, we can now assume that the Lexus LF-LC and LF-C2 production models will be the “exciting new cars” we were told to expect at next year’s Detroit Auto Show, and that they’ll run on the Lexus RC F’s 467hp 5.0L V8 engine.


Toyota Mirai to Be Hand-Built Through 2017; Already 200 Sold

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Barely more than a week after the Toyota Mirai’s worldwide debut at the 2014 LA Auto Show, the Japanese automaker has already received 200 advanced orders for their all-new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Not only that, they’ve also revealed that the Mirai will be built in the same factory that built the limited edition Lexus LFA supercar.

Toyota Mirai Already Selling Out

2016 Toyota Mirai FCV

Toyota only intends to sell a meager 3,000 Mirai units in the US units by the end of 2017, and only 700 of those will hit dealership floors in 2016 (the model’s first full year in the US). Toyota’s VP of domestic sales, Masamoto Maekawa, told Automotive News that most of those orders are going to government and corporate fleets, but a few commercial orders have been placed too.

There are two big reasons that Toyota is slow-rolling their commercial FCV:

First, they’d rather err on the side of over-demand than over-supply. This is a very big venture for them, and in situations like this, a little bit of exclusivity is a powerful long-term marketing tactic.

Second, Toyota intends to manufacture only a maximum of 10 units per day through 2017, and each will be built completely by hand in the most advanced manufacturing plant at the Japanese titan’s disposal. Which nicely brings us to…

Toyota Mirai to Be Built at LFA Works

2012 Lexus LFA Supercar

Lexus would tell you that their specialty LFA Works facility is where dream cars are made, and in the case of the Toyota Mirai, they’re absolutely right.

The plant originated in 2010 when Lexus first began manufacture of their limited-edition LFA supercar, which was built completely by hand. Only 500 of the carbon fiber, V10-powered sports cars were manufactured over 2 years, which is a rate of less than one per day. Since the LFA project’s expiration in 2012, the plant has been mostly used for hand-built Lexus F Sport Roadbikes, which took advantage of the facility’s advanced carbon fiber capabilities.

Now, the advanced craftsmen at LFA Works have a new task: to build every single Toyota Mirai by hand. Eventually, Toyota hopes that their LFA Works engineers will be able to output a steady 10 units per day, but in the meantime, some production delays are expected.

If you were to order a Toyota Mirai today, you wouldn’t get it until mid-summer of 2016 at the earliest. And that date is only moving backwards as they get more and more fleet sales. Remember, 200 units might not sound like much, but that’s over the span of one week since the car’s LA debut, and two weeks since Akio Toyoda introduced us to the Mirai via video.

Honestly, though, we are perfectly happy with some production delays. The Lexus LFA was one of the best cars – and one of the coolest – that Toyota ever built. If those same masters of the automotive craft are to build every single Toyota Mirai for the next three years, all the more reason to get on-board now!


LA Auto Show – 2015 Prius C, V and Scion iM Concept

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

2016 Toyota Mirai

There’s no two ways about it – the new Toyota Mirai (above) was the spotlight premiere for the brand’s LA Auto Show booth. However, while the automaker’s production-ready fuel-cell car certainly stole the show, Toyota’s other noteworthy green vehicle showcased several new changes for the 2015MY. And of course, there’s also the Scion iM Concept we’d previewed a couple weeks ago.

2015 Toyota Prius C

2015 Toyota Prius C

First up, Toyota’s entry-level subcompact hybrid hatch continues to set the bar for non-electric vehicle mpg. You’ll get 53 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway for a 50 mpg combined. That’s thanks to an all-around lightweight design, including a small-size engine and battery pack specifically tailored for the C.

Of course, you’re only going to get 99 hp out of the compact hybrid system (73 hp with just the engine), but we’re guessing that most Prius drivers aren’t prioritizing 0 to 60 speeds anyways.

Outside, you’ll notice that next year’s Toyota Prius C is getting a minor facelift. The grille is a bit larger and can be fitted with a classy piano black finish depending on the trim. 16-inch alloy wheels are also available in the Prius c Four trim. Inside, the cabin has seen some minor updates, with improved materials as you move up the trim levels. Most notably is the updated Entune Media system, which includes a 3.5 inch TFT screen.

For more detailed information, you can get the full press release here.

2015 Toyota Prius V

2015 Toyota Prius V

The larger 2015 Toyota Prius V gets similar updates to its smaller brother, which means a minor facelift and improved amenities. Toyota has added several new color options to help personalize the car for each driver – Attitude Black Metallic, Absolutely Red and an intriguing Toasted Walnut Pearl. They’ve re-sculpted the front bumper, expanded the grille, integrated new fog lights, and built-in new LED projector headlights.

Inside, the Prius V also gets an updated interior with the same Entune Media system that’s in the C. The driver in particular will enjoy increased comfort and convenience thanks to a new “8-way power driver’s seat” with customizable lumbar support, which means you’ll be able to drive both economically and ergonomically!

The Prius V is a bigger vehicle, so fuel economy losses should be expected. However, the V still sets a high standard with 42 MPG combined, and you’ll enjoy 60% more cargo space than you’d get in the Prius C. Here’s the press release, if you’re interested.

Scion iM Concept

2014 Scion iM Concept

Finally, Toyota topped off their booth with the all-new Scion iM Concept, which previews a new compact hatchback from the automaker’s youth-targeted sub-brand. We’d already seen a pretty revealing preview of the iM Concept, but we got a much better look at the 2014 LA Auto Show.

We were anxious to learn more about Scion’s first lineup addition in recent memory. Fortunately, Toyota satisfied our cravings by telling us to expect not one, but THREE new Scions to hit the road in the next three years, with the production Scion iM to make its debut at the 2015 New York Motor Show and go on sale next summer. You can read more about Scion’s new product plans here.


Toyota Officially Names Their Upcoming FCV the Mirai

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

2016 Toyota Mirai

As of today, we finally have a name to refer to when talking about Toyota’s upcoming hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. No longer is it simply the “Fuel-Cell Vehicle Concept”; now it’s the Toyota Mirai. Interestingly enough, “Mirai” actually means “future” in Japanese – a fitting name for a car that Toyota believes holds the key for the future of environmentally conscious driving.

If you’d like to see the news straight from source, check out Mr. Akio Toyoda introducing the Mirai in the video below:

As you can see, Mr. Toyoda has given us a full rundown of what we can expect from Toyota’s first-ever commercial hydrogen FCV. Heavily based on the FCV Concept, this modern-looking four-door sedan will be both fuel conscious and fun to drive. It’ll be able to travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, refill in about 3 minutes, and the only emissions coming out the tail pipe are two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen… In other words, water.

You don’t have to be an expert to see the implications of a car like the Toyota Mirai. If hydrogen fuel-cell cars take off the way that Akio Toyoda envisions, this could be the first step towards a world without automotive pollution. In both form and function, the Mirai will feel nearly identical to a conventional petrol car. However, instead of relying on limited fossil fuels, hydrogen can be made from almost anything – even garbage, as Toyoda excitedly points out in the video.

The official naming of Toyota’s FCV is only part of the news, however. In addition, NA Toyota CEO, Jim Lentz, informed us in a press release that Toyota has made a new commitment in the Northeastern Corridor – Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts & Connecticut – to build a viable hydrogen refueling infrastructure by 2016.

The new Northeastern infrastructure will come via a partnership with Air Liquide. There will be at least 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations available by the time Toyota launches the Mirai in 2016. In combination with the 19 hydrogen fueling stations that will be available in California alone, Toyota is pretty well setup to start closing in from both borders as the rest of the US inevitably adopts the technology over the coming decade.

This is a timely announcement for Toyota, as their new Mirai is set to make its global debut later this week at the 2014 LA Auto Show. Sales of the Mirai are expected to start in California by summer of 2015.

Auction Find – 2013 Toyota Prius G

2013 Toyota Prius auction find

The Mirai isn’t the first time that Toyota has led the way in the automotive industry with breakthrough, environmentally friendly technology. For over a decade now, the Toyota Prius has defined the hybrid market, and continues to lead the way in both sales and influence. By May of this year, the Prius had already sold 70,000 more units than the second best-selling hybrid in the US, which was the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

This particular find is a 2013 model year in fresh-off-the-floor condition. By now, you probably already know exactly what to expect from a Toyota Prius, so we won’t spend a ton of time telling you all the awesome perks of the model. Instead, if you’d like to learn more about this specific Japanese car auction find, just read below the auction sheet for a full translation:

2013 Toyota Prius auction sheet

“Interior B, first registered February 2013, G model, DAA emissions code, AT, AC, power steering, power windows, original TV and navigation system, first time in auction, rear view reversing camera, AT, AC, service book, console scratches, dashboard scratches, door mirrors scratched, scraped under front bumper, light scratches under rear bumper, marks as per map”