When Toyota launched the Prius hybrid in 1997, many car “experts” predicted that this technology would not prevail. We also doubted. We hadn't counted on the determination and consistency of the Japanese outside the quarterly report.
They carried out their hybrid project with serenity from the Far East and were successful with it. Today almost every car manufacturer has a hybrid in its model range. Now Toyota is moving quickly towards the fuel cell: "It is the most promising path to environmentally friendly automobility," says Toyota.
Prius sales literally exploded, initially in the United States and shortly after in Europe. If some “experts” call the fuel cell in the short and medium term not very promising or even wrong, they make the same mistake as blasphemy over the hybrid drive.
Hydrogen in the internal combustion engine was not useful
BMW presented its in-house development project "Clean Energy" at the World Exhibition in Hanover in 2000. I myself drove the 7-cylinder twelve-cylinder and the frozen liquid hydrogen in the trunk and couldn't find any difference to the petrol engine. I refueled at the BMW hydrogen filling station at Munich Airport. BMW probably made two mistakes: The efficiency of hydrogen in the combustion engine is devastatingly low. The problem of storing liquid hydrogen in the trunk at minus 250 degrees Celsius remained a real challenge. BMW has long closed the petrol station and shelved the hydrogen burner, but is still working on fuel cells like Mercedes-Benz and Audi. More of this soon at this point.
The Mirai: from the ugly duckling to the aesthetic technology swan
In 2014 we wrote about the Mirai (Japanese Future) that ugliness now has a name. We still stand by that today. Because the first Mirai actually violates all the rules of good design. But not against the rules of technological progress, as we recently saw on a test drive. It is not only after this practical experience that we are certain that fuel cell technology with hydrogen is the future in the medium to long term. Even if it will take a few more years before it is ready for the masses. However, a petrol station infrastructure is easier to set up than a network with electric taps. With hydrogen, previous fuel structures could be used almost unchanged, as Linde has already proven.
The Mirai II will be mass-produced as early as 2020
The fact that Toyota will present the very modern and pleasantly shaped Mirai second generation at the Tokyo Motor Show, which will take place in a few days, should give the fuel cell a further boost. The future Mirai, a four-door coupé with a sporty character and just under five meters in length, should come onto the market in 2020 with a tank filling and a range of almost 700 kilometers. In purely formal terms, the Mirai II actually presents the future from the outside. This is no coincidence: "We wanted to build a car with an emotional design and responsive driving dynamics that customers want to drive all the time and put a smile on their faces," explains the new Toyota Mirai chief engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka. "Customers should be able to say that they chose the Mirai because they wanted this car and not just because it was a fuel cell vehicle." In the future, Toyota plans to produce 30.000 Mirai II a year and sell it worldwide.
A range of almost 700 kilometers corresponds to customer expectations
As with the hybrid, Toyota cannot be put off when it comes to hydrogen. 10.000 Mirai I vehicles are already in use worldwide. On our test drive in the Frankfurt area, we found driving in the Mirai appropriate to driving in a conventional luxury car. Unlike in an electric vehicle, the range display did not cause any worries, because in the Mirai I it is more than 500 kilometers when fully fueled. Refueling at a hydrogen petrol pump takes just as long as today when refueling with diesel or petrol. The still thin infrastructure with hydrogen filling stations alone corresponds to the battery dilemma when it comes to charging stations.
Ferry MM Franz, director of Toyota Motor Europe in Berlin, criticizes that current peaks due to wind power often run out of steam when there is no electricity demand. With the 2017 terawatt-hours of electricity so deflagrated in 5,5, it would have been possible to generate tons of hydrogen. Franz literally: "With the hydrogen that could possibly be produced, one could have supplied 1 Mirai with an average mileage of 040 kilometers a year and traveled 000 billion kilometers."