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This prototype shows that hydrogen fuel cell cars are nearly ready for wider use

Our Verdict

Toyota Mirai

Toyota claims another first: Europe’s first ‘ownable’ hydrogen car

  • First Drive

    2015 Toyota Mirai review

    UK drive of Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai confirms its impressive characteristics but also the current limitation of our hydrogen infrastructure
  • First Drive

    2015 Toyota Mirai review

    The Mirai is Toyota's first stab at a UK production hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. What's it like to drive and does it make sense?
22 October 2013

What is it?

It sounds like an industrial process when it drives by. And from inside, when you sink the throttle deep, it’s like hearing Dr Who’s Tardis on manoeuvres, although without the panting effect. Fuel cell Toyota?

We’ve driven these before, of course, in the Highlander SUVs used as mules for over a decade. This is a mule too, but with a difference: the innards of this car are virtually the same as those of the production fuel cell saloon Toyota plans to launch in Japan late next year. 

What's it like?

It will be among the first series production fuel cell cars to go on sale (Honda’s admirable FCX Clarity was leased in limited numbers), although Hyundai is promising a rival. The Toyota will get a fuller preview in styling terms at next month’s Tokyo motor show, where a concept version will be unveiled. This is said to be very close to the finished article. Its design will differ hugely from the three-box you see here, which is based on the Lexus HS250h. At that point Toyota will also release more technical detail.

The system’s power output is around 130bhp, and there’s plenty of the strong, effortless torque that characterises an electrically propelled car’s step-off. The acceleration dulls once the car is moving, but it remains brisk and, with no gears to shift, the power delivery is continuous.

Braking is smooth, too. With no engine-driven servo, fuel cell cars depend on electrically generated assistance to reduce braking efforts, which in the past have felt jerkily inconsistent. But there are no such problems here. 

On the small circuit around which we drove the FCV, it handled tidily and gripped well, its weight distribution no doubt aided by the fact that the stack is located beneath the front seats and the two carbonfibre hydrogen tanks are fitted under the rear seats and in the boot. This FCV is not a hugely engaging drive, but it’s certainly agile.

The source of the whooshing noise? It’s the compressor, used to push air through the fuel cell stack to purge it of the water that’s the by-product of the electricity-generating oxidising of hydrogen and oxygen. Compressors are the main NVH challenge with fuel cell cars, but the redesigned pump in this car yields far less noise.

The result is a car that’s far simpler to drive than it has been to develop, project manager Hitoshi Nomasa explaining that “a lot of work” has gone in since the Highlander prototypes. Among the many developments are the incorporation of the stack’s cell humidifiers into the unit itself, while Toyota now makes its own carbonfibre hydrogen tanks to reduce costs. 

Should I buy one?

There’s some way to go before fuel cell cars become affordable, even if the £30,000-£60,000 that this production version could cost is far less than the £625,000 of a Highlander prototype. But by the end of this decade, that price will have fallen considerably. Be in no doubt, fuel cell cars are coming, including to the UK on a limited basis in 2015. 

Toyota FCV

Price na; 0-62mph na; Top speed na; Economy na; CO2 0g/km; Kerb weight na; Engine Electric motor; Power 130bhp (set); Torque na; Gearbox Single-speed automatic

Join the debate

Comments
13

22 October 2013

Not sure what happened to this I just found it after reading this article and wanted to see how much a litre of hydrogen costs.

"British scientists are refining the recipe for a hydrogen-based fuel that will run in existing cars and engines at the fraction of the cost of conventional petrol.
With hydrogen at its heart rather than carbon, it will not produce any harmful emissions when burnt, making it better for the environment, as well as easier on the wallet.
The first road tests are due next year and, if all goes well, the cut-price ‘petrol’ could be on sale in three to five years.

The article was Jan 2011 so maybe hasn't gone well.

rxl

22 October 2013

My opinion is that electric cars with hydrogen sourced fuel will be the future , fact! it has been experienced burn hydrogen direct on a combustion engine , like Mazda RX8 but it seems not the most efficient way..

the major problem with this technology will be the cost of producing hydrogen, in nowadays it is produced using energy which is feed by the normal power grid, which runs on charcoal, petrol or nuclear... not very eco friendly... but i hope they start to use solar and wind power to produce hydrogen.

22 October 2013
rxl wrote:

... will be the cost of producing hydrogen, in nowadays it is produced using energy which is feed by the normal power grid.

It's worse even than that - they extract the hydrogen from fossil fuels (as in chemical removal) so use energy to remove the hydrogen, chuck the carbon away as CO2 then use another shed load of energy to compress, store and transport the hydrogen.

Realistically cars need to run off batteries, liquid hydrocarbons or gases that are easily compressed, stored and transported (ie CNG) - hydrogen has a ridiculously low energy density and difficult storage that is a fundamental limitation of the element and so won't be solved - in the near term - by clever chemistry/better engineering.

Let's talk about hydrogen when someone discovers/invents/puts into production a chemical process that can safely store hydrogen at refil speeds and energy densities similar to gasoline.

(EDIT: the fuel cell could be used to 'burn' CNG at lower temperatures and efficiencies, thus avoiding the production of oxides of nitrogen at the same time)

rxl

22 October 2013
gagaga wrote:

It's worse even than that - they extract the hydrogen from fossil fuels (as in chemical removal) so use energy to remove the hydrogen, chuck the carbon away as CO2 then use another shed load of energy to compress, store and transport the hydrogen.

that is why if the hydrogen wanna be a real Eco alternative they need to produce H2 from water and by renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

22 October 2013
rxl wrote:

the major problem with this technology will be the cost of producing hydrogen, in nowadays it is produced using energy which is feed by the normal power grid, which runs on charcoal, petrol or nuclear... .

...and has been for some years, manufactured by anaerobic digestion for one (A friend of mine was doing it in the UK).

However, it's expensive - for now - so the take up as an alternative to fossil fuel produced hydrogen was never there.
Some of the larger players (Linde, Air Liquide) are also experimenting with "green" production so at some point in the not too distant future, the H2 planets may align...

Liie the idea of whoosh!

22 October 2013

1) £60,000 for a car that'll can't be filled up in 99% of petrol stations
2) the goverment will be able to tax hydrogen to the same tune as petrol so there'll be NO running cost savings.
3) If every car was a Hydrogen powered would the roads be wet or icy all the time in a traffic queue?
4)You burn Fossil fuels to create hydrogen so just how clean is it

The first two points alone is enough reason keep to petrol or better yet Eletric and/or Petrol range extender.

p.s. saw adverts for a i3, Audi A3 Electric and a Nissan Leaf. All in one night

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

rxl

22 October 2013
xxxx wrote:

1)
3) If every car was a Hydrogen powered would the roads be wet or icy all the time in a traffic queue?

well that is exaggerate!! they produce water, but not in an amount that looks like you back exhaust turns in a fire hose!

22 October 2013
rxl wrote:
xxxx wrote:

1)
3) If every car was a Hydrogen powered would the roads be wet or icy all the time in a traffic queue?

well that is exaggerate!! they produce water, but not in an amount that looks like you back exhaust turns in a fire hose!

Who mentioned a fire hose? you're exaggerating

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

22 October 2013

blank

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

22 October 2013
xxxx wrote:

1) £60,000 for a car that'll can't be filled up in 99% of petrol stations
2) the goverment will be able to tax hydrogen to the same tune as petrol so there'll be NO running cost savings.
3) If every car was a Hydrogen powered would the roads be wet or icy all the time in a traffic queue?
4)You burn Fossil fuels to create hydrogen so just how clean is it

The first two points alone is enough reason keep to petrol or better yet Eletric and/or Petrol range extender.

p.s. saw adverts for a i3, Audi A3 Electric and a Nissan Leaf. All in one night

My dear xxxx - I'm not sure what terrible trauma set you on this one-man tirade against the the potential of hydrogen as a long term replacement for organic fuels, but I fear it's made your view a bit blinkered.

1) The unit price will be high - it's a very low volume production run, with pioneering production technology (don't worry yourself, they're not going to be knocked out for £10k and replace your beloved but ultimately obsolete technology just yet) and the lack of refuelling infrastructure is a known barrier to mass adoption, but this Toyota is another important step along the road, and with Honda ploughing a lone low volume furrow for many years, it's very welcome that another manufacturer is beginning to move things along.
2) You're way ahead of yourself here - only when the technology gets a significant foothold will the Treasury start seeing the potential revenue; until then, they're likely to give it tacit support to help buff the Government-of-the-day's eco credentials (producing hydrogen with renewable power and no nasty emissions is pretty cool and desirable, as well as a vote winner, isn't it? but I'll come back to that...)
3) Is this what you're actually so scared stiff of? You're worried that the roads will be become canals or, worse still, ice rinks, and you can't swim/skate?! All this time I thought you harboured a hidden insight into the evils of hydrogen propulsion, but it turns out you're just aquaphobic. Right - fuel cells emit water vapour, which is rather more pleasant than CO2, particulates and other noxious stuff engines chuck out by the bucket load.
4) No, no, no. You don't HAVE to burn stuff to make things go. There's a massive abundance of free energy pumped in by the sun every daylight second - that's what Honda's home hydrogen stations lap up all day. Better than burning oil/coal/badgers and piping the electricity (or at least the amount that makes it to your socket) down the wires to charge up your electric vehicle, and in reality better even than burning a small amount under the bonnet of your car whenever you want to go anywhere, with or without electrical assistance (although hybrids can be part of a medium term solution).

I will pray for you, xxxx, in the hope that you may one day be able to embrace a new technology that offers a genuine, utopian solution to a massive and growing problem. And I shall ask the congregation to start a collection on Sunday to buy you some water wings, in case your deepest fears are indeed well-founded.

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