Displaying items by tag: hydrogen fuel
The development of CO2-free propulsion technologies has become a top priority for the BMW Group. In addition to purely electric, they are now working on the development of hydrogen propulsion systems, which will first be implemented in the current BMW X5. The total power of the system will be almost 400 hp.
Like all electric cars, fuel cell models (FCEVs) use electricity to power electric motors. Unlike other electric models, FCEVs do not use energy from a battery but from a hydrogen fuel cell. In it, a chemical reaction takes place between hydrogen and oxygen, and thus a current is created that drives the engine. Thus, the use of this technology can help further decarbonization.
The BMW Group will launch small series of so-called Hydrogen NEXT models from 2022, and the new drive will be implemented in the current BMW X5, which will emit only water vapor as a by-product.
A key role in this is played by the Landshut Technology Center (LuTZ), which produces the most important components for hydrogen-electric propulsion, which will be installed in the BMW X5 models.
The system will use hydrogen and will generate up to 125 kW of electricity for an electric motor that is mounted on the rear axle. The tanks will be able to store 6 kg of hydrogen and oxygen, and the filling time is only 3 to 4 minutes.
The electric motor is the same as in the electric BMW iX3 SUV, and the total power of the system will be 275 kW, or 374 hp.
We get behind the wheel of the second-generation Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car
Toyota has learned a great deal about fuel cell cars since the first Mirai was released back in 2014 - and it shows. The new model is improved in pretty much every measurable way, and most subjective ones, too. While limited refuelling options, a cramped interior and a high purchase price mean the Mirai won’t be for everyone, it’s a rolling proof of concept that shows hydrogen will play a big part in a zero-emission future - just maybe not for passenger cars.
Dare to search out the type of pub monologue given by a person with the confidence only a few drinks can bring, and you’ll hear that the future of motoring isn’t in electric vehicles, but hydrogen.
Here, then, is the all new Toyota Mirai, powered by that very fuel that’s seemingly always been on the cusp of the mainstream. It’s the sleeker, more handsome second-generation model of the brand’s hydrogen fuel cell car, and it proves that the world’s most abundant element can play a huge part in our zero-emission future - just not necessarily for cars.
Hydrogen fuel cells: do hydrogen cars have a future?
Let’s start with how the Mirai works, because this is still, in essence, an EV. A fuel cell works by passing hydrogen across an anode, which splits the atoms into protons and electrons. The electrons then pass through a circuit to generate a flow of electricity, which in turn charges a small lithium-ion battery that, like a regular EV, drives an electric motor.
A clever chemical reaction that sees hydrogen react with oxygen from the atmosphere means the only byproduct is water, as a puff of vapour from the exhaust.
All of this magic happens under the Mirai’s long bonnet. Advancements in the tech since the first-gen car was launched mean that the fuel cell is 50 per cent lighter and physically smaller, yet it makes 12 per cent more power, so the Mirai’s motor now generates 180bhp.
Progress in the Mirai is serene. A nine-second 0-62mph time is a world away from the mind-bending speed of some EVs, but the acceleration feels smooth and linear. Put your foot to the floor, and there is a slight delay before the Mirai jumps ahead, a process accompanied by a sci-fi hum that’s distinct from any other pure-electric car.
The Mirai is set up for a relaxing drive, but that’s not to say it feels stodgy. The ride is forgiving - even on top spec Design Premium Pack trim’s 20-inch wheels - yet the car is neatly balanced front to rear, so it feels stable and predictable. At speed, the only obvious noise is the subdued tyre roar.
So what are the benefits of hydrogen as a fuel source? Well mile-for-mile, it’s significantly lighter than a battery. Whereas a Tesla Model S promises 390 miles from a battery weighing roughly 500kg, the hydrogen that fills the Mirai’s tank weighs just 5.6kg and will carry you for an official range of 400 miles. It means that, overall, the Mirai tips the scales at 1,900kg - on par with a combustion vehicle of a similar size.
Toyota says that the Mirai consumes 0.89kg of hydrogen every 62 miles; in the UK, a refill costs about £10 per kg. Our test drive covered more enthusiastic driving than most will subject it to, and the Mirai consumed 1.17kg per 62 miles - equating to about £56 for a 300-mile real world range. That’s a similar cost to a petrol car achieving 32mpg.
Of course, filling a hydrogen car represents a stumbling block for the technology. While EV charge points continue to pop up at a relentless pace, the total number of hydrogen filling stations in the UK stands at 14. There are a couple of big stations under construction, but the fuel is definitely more scarce.
To create hydrogen, it needs to be separated from water via electrolysis, compressed and liquified and, if this process isn’t done on-site, transported to a refuelling station, where the fuel cell then uses more energy to generate its electrical charge, so it’s not the most energy-efficient process.
A full EV effectively skips the admin, taking electricity from the national grid. Of course, there are other factors, such as the sourcing of raw materials, but fuel cell vehicles still need lithium, too.
And while 5.6kg of hydrogen goes a long way, packaging the tanks needed is tricky. The Mirai has three. The largest is mounted within the spine of the car in the floor, which creates a high central tunnel inside. Further tanks are located fore and aft of that, squeezing the cabin from either end. As a result, rear legroom is barely any better than most superminis, and the boot offers just 321 litres - this in a car with a similar footprint to an Audi A7.
Otherwise, the cabin is well-finished and packed with tech. There’s a huge infotainment screen, a digital instrument panel and a 10.1-inch head-up display. All four seats are heated and cooled, while back-seat occupants get a fold-down centre armrest that houses controls for entertainment and climate functions.
Despite being more powerful, more luxurious and better equipped than before, prices now start from £49,995 - the best part of ten grand less than the first Mirai. This top spec Design Premium Pack costs £64,995. That’s still strong money for the performance, but there’s always a price to pay for being an early adopter.
By Toyota’s own admission, the Mirai is essentially a rolling research lab. It proves the tech works, though its finest application is unlikely to be in cars, but in commercial vehicles. Refuelling stations can be built at transport depots topping up lorries and buses at a speed and with a range that - currently - lithium-ion batteries just can’t compete with. The weight saving of hydrogen relative to a big battery is already significant in a car - it would be enormous once expanded to the size of an HGV.
According to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, the physics behind the use of hydrogen as a fuel for cars is unreasonable.
A new Financial Times report highlights the disagreement of several car manufacturers to continue investing in hydrogen propulsion technology.
The report comes at a time when the European Union is making huge efforts to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2050, and hydrogen is one of the key energy sources with which it intends to achieve that.
Mostly European manufacturers are the ones who strongly oppose technologies that include hydrogen, and among them are the VW Group, Stellantis, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. However, manufacturers from Asia, such as Toyota and Hyundai, continue to aggressively advocate the adoption of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.
According to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, the physics behind the use of hydrogen is unreasonable given that an additional battery of approximately 10 kW and an electric motor are needed to run the fuel cell at all.
Meanwhile, Carlos Tavares, CEO of the Stellantis Group, suggested that companies advocating for hydrogen vehicles are lagging behind in the development of batteries and EV technology.
However, not all producers in Europe are against hydrogen. Renault believes there is great potential for commercial vehicles to use this drive.
Renault’s head of alternative fuels, Philippe Prevel, wants to capture at least 30% of the market with light commercial hydrogen vehicles. In his opinion, even all trucks that would like to reach a range of more than 300 kilometers should turn to hydrogen.
Toyota's redesigned Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan brings handsome design and 400 miles of range—but only to those who live in California.
In the 1990s, Apple Computer appeared doomed as its market share dwindled and developers abandoned its platform. At the time, Microsoft's Windows could run pretty much anything, whereas Macs were known for running a few applications and games. Even though the Mac had a rabid following, the question emerged: Why buy a Mac when it doesn't run everything?
Toyota finds itself in similar situation with its comprehensively redesigned 2021 Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Although the new car impresses as a stylish touring sedan, limited hydrogen-fueling infrastructure in the United States means California is the only American market where it will be sold. In other words, why buy a car that can't be driven everywhere?
The 2021 Mirai starts at $50,455—some $9090 cheaper than its predecessor—and rides on Toyota's GA-L platform. With an electric drivetrain powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, drivers get the dual benefits of a zero-emissions vehicle with a conveniently short refueling time similar to a traditional internal-combustion powertrain—provided you can find a hydrogen station. Under the hood of this freshly designed four-door is a smaller and more efficient fuel-cell stack that generates 172 horsepower, which is an increase of 19 horses over the first-generation Mirai. Range is up 30 percent to a quoted 402 miles on the base XLE model. The range increase is due partially to the new Mirai's three cylindrical hydrogen tanks (one more than before) situated under the cabin and trunk that can hold 5.6 kilograms of hydrogen when compressed at 10,000 psi, which is 12 percent more capacity than before. Working together with the fuel cell is a 1.2-kWh lithium-ion battery to power a 182-hp electric motor that sits behind the rear seats.
The result is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a nearly 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, which is something the previous front-wheel-drive model couldn't claim. Toyota's reasoning for the switch from front- to rear-drive boils down to more efficient packaging of the updated fuel cell in the new chassis. We'd say it was a good move, as the Mirai is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. Its well-balanced chassis feels refined and composed. The previous car's strut-type front and torsion-beam rear suspension have been replaced by multilink arrangements fore and aft, which soaked up most of the ruts and bumps we encountered on the mountain roads of Northern California. The bulk of the hydrogen tanks and battery do make the Mirai feel heavy in corners, but not enough to make it unwieldy. Jabs of the accelerator produce a quick hit of force that will be familiar to anyone who's driven a conventional EV. However, with the electric motor's 221 pound-feet of torque tasked with moving about 4300 pounds of Toyota, the run to 60 mph is a lazy one at an expected 9.1 seconds.
The Mirai's premium feel on the road does seep into its relatively spacious five-seat cabin, although some elements of the interior are not quite up to the standard we'd expect to find in a $50K-and-up vehicle. For example, its front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the quality of Toyota's SofTex synthetic leather upholstery looks cheaper than it should. Some drivers will find it a stretch to reach the climate controls, thanks to the swooping design accent across the Mirai's dash. And while the standard 12.3-inch touchscreen for Toyota's Entune infotainment system supports Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay connectivity, the system is not as attractive nor as intuitive as we'd like.
Unlike the ungainly first-gen model, the new Mirai makes its best impression from the outside. Its long hood, sleek greenhouse, and clean body lines all work to give it presence as arguably the best-looking Toyota sedan. Whether its sharp styling was conscious decision to help lure potential buyers into a hydrogen-powered future is up for debate, but it certainly should draw eyes in Toyota showrooms, at least those in the Golden State.
And that's the Mirai's Achilles' heel: Its goodness is trapped in a geographic area. Without plentiful hydrogen stations, even the new car's increased range matters little outside of California. Toyota has and still relies on outside sources to establish a hydrogen infrastructure in the U.S., which leaves the Mirai's future largely to the whims of corporations and government bureaucracy.
The stylish iMac computer eventually helped Apple turn itself around after nearly declaring bankruptcy. It sold more computers, wooed developers to its operating system, and eventually introduced the money-printing iPhone. Apple made sure that the style it sold was supported by the right technology, which helped it blossom into the powerhouse that is today. Hydrogen vehicles have yet to achieve a similar cult status, but Toyota's much-improved Mirai is a compelling step in the right direction.
We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the second-generation Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car
Disregarding the fuel cells beneath its bonnet, the Mirai is up there with ‘normal’ luxury saloons for the suave way it goes down the road. More than that, it’s a fantastic showcase for Toyota’s increasingly efficient and affordable hydrogen tech. Sadly it’s still teeth-suckingly expensive next to ICE alternatives, and is likely to remain a niche corporate purchase for a while yet. But with hydrogen cars this good on the market, the infrastructure surely can’t be far behind.
The development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HEVs) has been stuck in a chicken and egg debacle for many years now. Which comes first – the cars or the infrastructure?
Given that there are currently 14 hydrogen filling stations in the UK, despite the fact that there have been two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available (albeit at prohibitive cost) on sale over here in the shape of the Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai, it looks like the car is going to have to come first.
So here is Toyota’s latest effort to further the hydrogen cause; the all-new, second generation Mirai. This is an early pre-production model but, with the car now based loosely on a Lexus LS platform, the Mirai has become rather suave and dashing in an understated kind of way.
Unless you were looking for the tell-tale badges on the outside, you’d never know that a fuel-cell stack sits beneath its bonnet, which in turn drives a 180bhp electric motor mounted on the rear axle. In the middle of all that sits three T-shaped hydrogen tanks that can take 5.6kg of hydrogen – the equivalent of 142.2 litres, giving an estimated driving range of around 500 miles between fill-ups (which take no longer than in a petrol or diesel car).
In practice, the serene-feeling new Mirai is a revolution to drive compared to its predecessor. The steering is light and, while far from precise, feels direct and predictable. Ride comfort is truly exceptional, too. There’s quite a bit of pitch and heave as the sizeable body (which roughly splits the difference between a BMW 5 Series and 7 Series) shifts about, but it’s well controlled and unobtrusive, not to mention worth living with for the pillowy way the Mirai rolls over scruffy surfaces.
This comfort, and the near silent, seamless power delivery are the defining characteristics of the Mirai’s newfound luxury ambience. A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is still driven by an electric motor so you get the same continuous, uninterrupted stream of acceleration that is becoming familiar with normal battery EVs. There’s no discernible noise at all from the fuel cells as they putter away mixing hydrogen from the fuel tanks and oxygen from the atmosphere, to create electricity for power, and a small amount of water as the only bi-product, which you can purge by pressing a tempting ‘h2o’ button just next to steering wheel.
This powertrain is quiet and refined by its very nature, then, and in the Mirai it’s cosseted in a car that’s been given all the refinement treatment you’d expect of a top-notch Lexus. But for a distant burr of wind and tyre rush, noise and vibration in the Mirai is virtually indiscernible.
Even the interior, which is stuffed with high quality leather, chunky armchair-like seats, a huge touchscreen resplendent with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as factory-fit nav, feels befitting of a limo-class car despite the odd cheaper-feeling switch and panel finish. There’s luxurious amounts of room to stretch out in the back seats, too.
The only thing about the Mirai that isn’t luxurious is the performance. It doesn’t feel as lazy as the 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds suggests; there’s decent pick up even from middling speeds to motorway speeds, but for a big, plush car – environmentally minded or not – it’d be reasonable to expect better performance. Toyota maintains that it can put a more powerful motor in fairly easily, but with efficiency and range the chief priority with the Mirai, engineers stuck with stately rather than sporty performance.
As it is, it’s really rather lovely to drive in a big, wafty, almost eerily quiet fashion. But more importantly it represents a host of incremental gains that could help to make hydrogen a feasible solution for mainstream vehicles.
The fuel cells are now lighter and more efficient, and the fuel tanks aren’t just bigger, they’re made of a new, lighter and more affordable carbon fibre. More than that, with these gains factored in and Toyota’s increasingly refined hydrogen fuel cell production line, the company can now punch out a hydrogen fuel cell in a matter of seconds - and for usefully less money than before.
Having said that, the Mirai still may not even be available as a normal retail purchase. List prices are yet to be confirmed, and while it’s expected to be more affordable than before, you’ll probably still have to find around £65,000 – or a monthly lease payment (the previous generation cost £750 per month) is also a likely option.
That’s cheaper, yet a million miles from cheap. Even without the extreme limitations of the hydrogen charging infrastructure, being able to get an Audi A6, BMW 5 Series or otherwise for some £20,000 less makes the Mirai, well… Let’s just say it’s hard to recommend. Even so, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it is, by any measure, lovely to drive and – most importantly – a superb showcase for hydrogen fuel cell technology.