Not Giving Up: Toyota Wants Mass-produced Mirai FCVs, Longer Range

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
not giving up toyota wants mass produced mirai fcvs longer range

Despite it being the most abundant element in the world — but one of the hardest fuels to source — automakers aren’t giving up on hydrogen. That group includes Toyota, which launched the world’s best-selling hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, in 2015.

Early this year, the 3,000th U.S. Mirai found its way to the driveway of a California customer. Cali remains the only American jurisdiction where FCV vehicles, and refueling infrastructure, are offered (though a hydrogen shortage last week saw SoCal stations dry up).

In the hopes of boosting the fuel’s prevalence and stimulating demand, Toyota plans to enter mass production with its second-generation Mirai, expected early in the coming decade.

Two must-haves for the new model are a lower entry price and greater range.

Speaking to Reuters, the Mirai’s chief engineer, Yoshikazu Tanaka, said, “We’re going to shift from limited production to mass production, reduce the amount of expensive materials like platinum used in FCV components, and make the system more compact and powerful.”

While a source claims Toyota has a range of new FCVs under development for a range of markets (including pickups, SUVs, and transport trucks), the automaker remains vague on its future plans. There’ll definitely be additional vehicles to bolster the new Mirai, that’s for sure.

“We’re going to use as many parts from existing passenger cars and other models as possible in fuel cell trucks,” said Ikuo Ota, Toyota’s manager of new business planning for fuel cell projects. “Otherwise, we won’t see the benefits of mass production.”

The automaker hopes to increase the next-gen Mirai’s range from roughly 310 miles to around 450 miles.

To date, only about 6,000 Mirais have left Toyota’s Toyota City assembly plant. There, workers hand-assemble the hydrogen-powered sedans, building a maximum of 6.5 cars a day. They’re pricey, with Strategic Analysis Inc. claiming each fuel cell stack costs $11,000. In a FCV, hydrogen, stored under pressure, flows to the fuel cell strack, where a chemical reaction generates an electric current to power a conventional electric drive motor. The only byproduct of the reaction is hot water, which can be manually discharged via a small flap below the car’s rear bumper.

The Mirai had the market to itself when it debuted back in 2015, but fuel cell versions of the Hyundai Tucson and Honda Clarity now offer competition in the vanishingly small market. Despite the new entries, LMC Automotive predicts FCVs will only make up 0.2 percent of new vehicles sales in a decade’s time.

Having driven both the Clarity and Mirai, it’s clear that, while revolutionary, the Mirai has some catching up to do in terms of refinement. It’s still a blast to drive, however. With low-drag tires on all four corners and a punchy motor, driving a Mirai is like starring in your own 1970s car chase, only with a slightly intrusive whine replacing the sound of eight roaring cylinders.

[Image: Toyota]

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  • FWD Donuts FWD Donuts on Jul 29, 2018

    Living in California, I'm subjected to the sight of these hideous things from time to time. I don't get it. Why do automobile manufacturers, with the exception of Tesla, have to make every car with an alternative drivetrain look so stupid? If I was a kid and had a Hot Wheel that looked like this, it'd be beaten flat with a hammer in 10 minutes. Seriously. Bolt? Stupid looking. Clarify. Stupid looking. Murai. Stupid looking. It's as if their research says "the only people who will buy these don't have any friends."

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jul 30, 2018

    Did Toyota hire Mitsuoka to style it?

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.