First Drive Report: 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan

It’s been hailed by Toyota as the next big thing in environmentally-conscious transport, contains a $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell stack which must be made by hand at great expense to the Japanese automaker, and has a global production volume of less than 6,000 cars over the next few years.

2016 Toyota Mirai in blackAlready on sale in Japan, the long-awaited 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan has just made its official landfall in North America and Europe ahead of the start of sales on both continents later this fall. But is Toyota’s hype over its first production hydrogen fuel cell car really worth it?

We’ve been lucky enough to get behind the wheel to find out for ourselves, courtesy of an initial test drive and chat in California with Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell team.  With plenty of time behind the wheel of various hybrid and electric cars, we were keen to find out just how this all-new car compares to the cars that went before.

The Mirai is a 4 door, 4 passenger sedan that is similar in length and wheelbase to the Corolla.  The body design is unremarkable with the exception of a large scoop-like grill in the front.  The intended market segment of the Mirai seems to be drivers of already fuel-efficient vehicles, and perhaps gadget-savvy early-adopters.

The fuel cell (green) is located under the front passengers. The two hydrogen tanks (blue) are located under the rear passenger seat and in the trunk area.

The fuel cell (green in the cutaway picture) is located under the front passenger seats. The two hydrogen tanks (colored blue in the same illustration) are located under the rear passenger seat and in the trunk area. The 1.6 kWh traction battery (yellow) sits above the rear hydrogen tank.

The Mirai is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell that is located under the front seats.  The fuel cell is fed by two hydrogen tanks; one located directly under the rear passenger seat, the second located between the rear seat and trunk.  The hydrogen tanks are constructed of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, and together carry 5 kilograms of hydrogen compressed to 10,000 PSI.

In concept, the operation of the Mirai is similar to that of a Toyota Prius hybrid, with the fuel cell replacing the function of the gasoline engine.  The fuel cell combines hydrogen from the tanks with oxygen from outside air to produce electricity that is directed to the electric motor that drives the car, with any excess stored in the small 1.6 kWh NiMH traction battery.

Borrowed from the Toyota Camry Hybrid,  the tiny NiMH battery can drive the 113 kilowatt electric motor on its own for very short distances at low speeds, but in normal operation the fuel cell stack provides the majority of traction power. Just as it does when used in a gasoline hybrid system, the traction battery can provide extra power to supplement the primary fuel source when required.

Like the Toyota Prius, the Mirai has regenerative braking that stores electricity in the battery pack, and a ‘B’ mode that gently slows the car and regenerates a bit of electricity.  Because of the complex drivetrain, this small sedan weighs in at a hefty 4,080 lbs.

The interior is nicely appointed. Rear seating is cramped.

The interior is nicely appointed. Rear seating is cramped.

The Mirai has one trim level, and sales staff we spoke to made comparisons with Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus in terms of appointment.  Seats are covered with a manmade leatherette material rather than using bovine-sourced leather. Both front and back seats are divided by a center console, making the Mirai a four-seat car.

The small gear selector and park button located on the console have the same selections found in the Prius (Drive, Reverse, and ‘B’ Mode).  Two touch sensitive displays control climate, and navigation/audio.  A third display sitting below the windshield provides info on driving speed, driving range, and more.

As for space?  While the front seats are comfortable and should provide enough space for most drivers, the rear seats are better suited to children or small adults, especially with a taller driver behind the wheel.  Indeed, a 6′ tall driver up front would not leave much leg room for passengers in the rear seat.

Things are similarly cramped when it comes to cargo-carrying capabilities.  With a hydrogen fuel tank and hybrid battery pack to squeeze in, we note the trunk space is smaller than that of the Toyota Corolla sedan, despite the Mirai being far from diminutive in size.

The EPA rates the driving range of the Mirai at 312 miles and fuel economy at an equivalent of 66 MPG.  As in the Prius, the driver of a Mirai can select ‘Eco’ mode for higher mileage, ‘Power’ mode for more horsepower, or a default mode which provides something in between.  The display on our test drive model showed a range of 206 miles.  Our host said the hydrogen tanks were full, but based on previous drivers, who were presumably testing acceleration, the car was estimating decreased range.

Onto power and performance.  The maximum output of the Mirai powertrain is listed at 152 hp and 247 ft/lb of torque – similar numbers to that of Toyota’s last zero emission vehicle, the all electric Rav4 EV, which was sold in California between 2012 and 2014.

Having spent plenty of time with the Rav4 EV we looked forward to that grin-inducing, constant torque electric motor acceleration that makes children and adults giggle.  We selected ‘Power’ mode, but found that acceleration from a dead stop, or from 30 or 40 MPH lacked the instant torque and acceleration familiar to drivers of electric cars.

In fact, acceleration in the Mirai is average and perhaps even a little on the slow side.  While the Mirai does have enough power to drive safely on the freeway, its 0-60 time of 9.0 seconds is slower than that of a 2015 Corolla.  Unlike most electric cars, which have a low center of gravity thanks to weighty battery packs low in the chassis, the center of gravity of the 4,080 pound Mirai is higher, exhibiting noticeable lean on cornering.  While we’re making comparisons to the RAV4 EV and other zero emission cars, we found the Mirai’s regenerative ‘B-mode’ mild in comparison to many electric cars on the market today.

The passenger cabin is insulated to decrease noise, yet our test drive model was louder than expected.  The drivetrain made a distinct noise under acceleration – the Mirai is louder than electric cars on the market today.

The hydrogen fuel port and water by-product of the Mirai fuel cell.

The fuel cell in the Mirai produces about 8 ounces of water for each two miles of driving.  To prevent water leaking on the garage floor, Toyota sales staff recommended stopping on the street before reaching home.  Pushing a button labeled ‘H2O’ on the dash turns on a fan that expels water from a pipe in the rear.  We were told that the H2O produced by the Mirai is chemically pure, better than drinking water. But when we asked for a cup to try the brownish liquid dripping from the car, staff did not oblige.

There are currently two hydrogen fueling stations in California that can fill the Mirai’s hydrogen tanks.  Some of the Mirai’s 312 mile range may be used driving to fueling stations.  Toyota staff told us that hydrogen fuel tanker trucks would be deployed throughout the state for the use of Mirai drivers, putting one in mind of in-flight fueling.

Hydrogen fueling stations are still an emerging technology.  Drivers of other hydrogen powered vehicles reported problems this year, with some stations closed for extended periods of time.  Regarding this problem, the California Air Resources Board stated: “California’s hydrogen infrastructure is clearly at a transitional phase, and we recognize this presents challenges for today’s customers. Our current hydrogen station network is poised to grow significantly in the coming months as station developers build out projects co-funded by State investments.”

Flyer given out by Toyota providing details of the hydrogen fuel station operating in Northern California.

Flyer given out by Toyota providing details of the hydrogen fuel station operating in Northern California.

The hydrogen fueling station in Northern California charges $13.59 per kilogram of hydrogen.  Filling the Mirai’s 5 kilogram hydrogen tanks would be over $65 dollars.  Given an EPA range of 312 miles, that means a driving cost of 21¢ per mile, more than the average cost of 15¢ per mile for gasoline fueled travel in the U.S., and ~5 times more expensive than the driving cost for plug-in electric cars.  Toyota will defray customer expenses by providing a hydrogen station debit card good for up to 3 years or $15,000.

Toyota plans to initially sell the Mirai in California for $57,500.  California offers a $5,000 rebate for fuel cell vehicles, double the rebate available for plug-in electric vehicles.  To make up for the lack of a federal rebate, Toyota will give $7,500 cash to people who sign on to buy the Mirai during 2015.  Assuming taxes, title and fees of $4,000, the effective price for a Mirai purchased in 2015 would be about $49,000.  At the end of the test drive we were asked if we’d be trading in our all electric Toyota Rav4 EV for the Mirai.  The answer was no.

The Mirai has serious competition from plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid cars that are available at lower prices, have faster acceleration, achieve much higher fuel economy and can charge/fuel on existing networks.  The 2016 Chevy Volt is available in California at $33,995.  With a $7,500 federal rebate and $1,500 California state rebate, the effective price after taxes would be about $28,000.  The Volt’s electric driving range of 53 miles is enough to cover daily commuting needs for many drivers, and 350+ miles of gasoline fueled travel is available for longer trips.  A fully loaded BMW i3 Rex would go for a similar price as the effective price of the Mirai before rebates.  The electric driving range of the i3 Rex is 72 miles, with another 81 miles in reserve from the range extending gasoline engine.  The Tesla Model S is more expensive than the Mirai, starting at about $67,000 for the 70 kWh battery pack option, including taxes, fees, and rebates.  The EPA rated driving range of the all-electric Model S 70 is 240 miles.

The Mirai’s longer driving range of 312 miles is promoted as an advantage, but that range will be limited to the number of hydrogen stations.  In contrast, plug-in cars can be charged on a network of outlets and charging stations that tap into the established electrical grid.  Many drivers charge their plug-in cars at home, at work, and at the rapidly expanding number of public charging stations.  Furthermore the BMW i3, the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars can be charged rapidly via the growing network of DC quick chargers.  

Tesla Supercharger locations in North America as of August 2015. This network achieves long distance, cross-country, rapid refueling, zero emission driving. Today.

Tesla Supercharger locations in North America as of August 2015. This network achieves long distance, cross-country, rapid refueling, zero emission driving. Today.  Toyota states that the Mirai is the only solution for long distance zero emission driving.

Tesla’s Supercharger network has set the bar very high for long-distance zero emission travel.  In the United States, owners of the Tesla Model S can drive across the country east-west and north-south using over 250 Supercharger stations for no charge (new stations open on a weekly basis).  Worldwide, there are over 600 Supercharger locations with over 3,500 Superchargers.  Matching the scope of this worldwide network of electric car chargers, built by just one company, would require enormous investment to enable hydrogen fueled transportation.

Plug-in electric cars have an MPGe much higher than the Mirai.  The very large Tesla Model S 70 kWh version is rated at 101 MPGe, the BMW i3 at 118 MPGe.  Yet, the 0-60 acceleration time of the BMW i3 and most other plug-in electric cars is much faster, in the case of the Model S, very much faster.

Electric car charging station at a beachfront camping ground on the California coast.

An electric car charging at a beachfront campground on the California coast taps the existing electricity grid.

This author bought a plug-in electric Rav4 EV from Toyota two years ago for $33,000, after taxes, fees and rebates.  The Rav4 EV is not a Lexus, but it seats 5 comfortably and has reclining seats front and back.  Compared to the Mirai, the Rav4 EV weighs less, has brisk acceleration and an enormous cargo space for shopping trips to big box stores and camping trips.  By adding a DC quick charge port, this Rav4 EV now uses DC quick charging stations in California, Oregon and Washington for long distance travel.

A 1993 flyer published by a Sacramento utility describing the promise of alternative energy to decrease vehicle emissions.

The Toyota Mirai is a well executed vision of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell car with ample range and good amenities if somewhat lackluster performance and space. Where we struggle is in making a good case for how this car fits a family’s needs. For round-town driving there are ample zero emission cars available today at a fraction of the price, for longer range needs, there are plug-in hybrids that operate on an established refueling network. With question marks still hanging over the true ‘green-ness’ of hydrogen compared to a gasoline-hybrid we’re left wondering, who is this car for? Did it just miss its opportunity?

Proponents of fuel cell cars have long promoted the potential to decrease vehicle emissions by using renewable energy to generate hydrogen.  For now 95% of hydrogen is generated from natural gas.  Infrastructure for large scale manufacture and distribution of hydrogen is not yet ready to support transportation needs.  Meanwhile, technological advances have improved battery performance to the point that the challenge for plug-in electric cars may be deciding “how fast do you want to drive?”  DC charging has decreased battery charging time, and mass production is reducing costs.  The price for solar panels has dropped and several home energy storage solutions now allow one to essentially drive on sunshine collected on the roof of your own house.  The percentage of electricity produced by renewable sources increases yearly.  As a result, green house gas emissions from battery electric cars decrease every year and an electric car in California is now equivalent to a car that gets 95 MPG.  Through these advances plug-in electric cars are now realizing that decades-old promise of reduced emissions from driving cars on renewable energy.  Here at Transport Evolved we understand that proponents of alternative energy forms are very passionate about viable solutions for fueling transportation.  We hope for the best solution to meet our everyday transportation needs.

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  • Great assessment of the new type of ZEV. As you stated, it is difficult to see the logic in Hydrogen. It is also amazing that they are losing so much money on each sale which makes me wonder if Toyota has a higher authority inventing them to make a car that uses a similar fuel supply chain as gasoline.

    • Michael Thwaite

      I repeatedly ask for someone, anyone to give me a good, compelling reason why this is a great idea but, crickets. It’s very odd.

      • JohnCBriggs

        It is a good idea because it can run on lemonade,… apparently.

      • Chris O

        Indeed. Which begs the question: why would anybody buy one? Looking at the total lack of upsides and some very clear downsides from a (green) car consumer perspective it seems to me HFCVs would have to be offered at prices that are substantially lower than their gas powered counterparts to get a substantial market share but even the hydrogen lobby doesn’t suggest that’s ever going to happen.

      • Raffi256

        Basically, the Japanese government wants to promote the development of methane hydrates off their coast, and fuel cell vehicles will help provide the demand.

        • Michael Thwaite

          That makes some sense, thanks. It seems to match the notion that hydrogen fuel stations will continue to create demand and employment for fuel tankers and drivers and the delivery network which if suddenly displaced by a wires-in-the-ground delivery network, that’s a lot of people looking for work. I wonder if there’s a study on where those displaced people would go. Would they become parts delivery drivers for all the extra cars on the road or line men working for the power delivery or generation companies.

  • vdiv

    Somewhere someone made a comparison between the Honda FCX Clarity (made almost 10 years ago) and the Toyota Mirai with the main point being that FCEVs are making progress. The Mirai had a longer range between refueling and was more refined as a vehicle.

    Whatever happened to the Freelander FCEV prototypes…

  • Erocker

    (several home energy storage solutions now allow one to essentially drive on photons that are collected from the roof of your own house.) I think that it is electrons that are changed in electricity. Proton changes involve nuclear energy.

    • JohnCBriggs

      I’m sure you already know this but… he said photons, not protons.

    • Stephen Noctor

      Photons. Photons from the sun start the whole process. 🙂

    • Stephen Noctor

      Yes, thanks for pointing that out. We’re aware of the distinctions and this was simply another way of saying “driving on sunshine”.

  • TonyWilliamsSanDiego

    I drove my 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV from San Diego to Santa Rosa, California, a distance of nearly 600 miles / 1000 km in one day… just because I could with DC charging throughout the west coast of the U.S.

    Presumably, after our state allocates $100 million in tax payer funds, a hydrogen car will be able to do that in the future, but at CO2 output near that of a gasoline burning Prius (some reports say even MORE CO2 output).

    In addition, I can drive effortlessly through Oregon, Washington state, and into the Canadian province of British Columbia, today. With amazingly low CO2 output from widespread wind and hydro-electric, plus the very capable and well done West Coast Electric Highway.

    All at a cost FAR below the cost of hydrogen, if it were even available.

  • Dave Atherton

    After a test drive, my observations were about the same. The H2O purge was cute resembling a dog peeing on the ground. Perhaps, with limited H2 stations, a better introductory car might be a PHEV with a substantial traction battery to charge at home and a smaller HFC system as the range extender. The optional power output port (on the 2017 Mirai) would be useful and I wish that some BEVs had that feature.

    • Chris O

      Why bother with a $50K range extender that couldn’t be fitted in a theoretical big battery version of the Mirai anyway if cheap, compact ICE range extenders are available that can be filled up everywhere at a fraction of the cost?

      • Dave Atherton

        Good question. While not as convenient as continuing to use gasoline ICE, the HCF range extender would ease the transition for early adopters of H2. It might also accidentally convince some H2 advocates that charging at home is preferable to the always-go-to-the-filling-station mindset. The first stations will usually be inconveniently far from home and so, any way to reduce the number of trips to the station would make the product more tolerable.

        • Chris O

          Cost, fill up- and packaging problems aside: good luck finding a person who would pay a massive premium for a plug-in that comes with an H2 range extender that has no upside whatsoever from whatever perspective.

        • Julian Cox

          Dave. The problem with a Hydrogen plug in hybrid is that there is even less sense in building hydrogen filling infrastructure. This whole thing is driven by the fossil fuel industry, the entire purpose is to recreate consumer entrapment at the fuel pump, not to provide fresh freedoms to minimise dependency.

      • Julian Cox

        Chris

        The nonsense of the Mirai design is that throwing out the entire fuel cell system and just extending the battery to make up for it would make for a far cheaper and far better car and solve all of its fuelling and environmental problems.

  • Chris O

    Great article that puts this hydrogen vehicle in a proper perspective despite the author probably being expected to only say nice things about it having been the guest of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell team.

    Still some nitpicking though: Mirai isn’t actually similar in size as Corolla, it’s actually 11 inches longer (Mirai: 4,890 mm (192.5 in) Corolla: 4,620 mm (181.9 in)). It’s also 1200 lb heavier than Corolla despite being just a 4 seater with less luggage space. Not too fast as a result.

    This to further demonstrate the sort of packaging problems that come with low powerdensity hydrogen drivetrains.

    • Michael Thwaite

      Wow, nice, I’d always considered water freezing in the fuel cell to be an issue at startup in cold climates but never thought about the energy required to heat the entire emissions system to stop if from freezing nor, the impact of ice on roads. I love how these things just keep appearing – group think at its best.

  • Raffi256

    I’m normally not too risk averse, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near one of these cars. A huge tank of H2 compressed to 10000 psi? Even if it was inert gas, if that tank ruptures the pressure would annihilate everything with super-sonic shrapnel.

    • Michael Thwaite

      That’s a lot of stored energy… energy that can’t be used to propel the vehicle either. Just another loss in the system.

  • David Ayers

    You can drive hydrogen from wood, and run an internal combustion engine with it. Wayne Keith has Proven that. I don’t know how or whether you’d scrub your hydrogen. Keith and his friends scrub theirs with bales of hay. They scrub it well enough to coax eighty out of pickups with 460 cu inch engines. You can make a fuel cell. It’s been done for a century. Some low tech garage band is going to come up with a good answer for me.

  • bytrain

    Good article, but two small nits: (1) the Chevy Volt only qualifies for a $1,500 rebate from the State of California (pure battery electric vehicles, and the range extended BMW i3 qualify for $2,500), and (2) commenters express concern about wintertime H2O emissions. Fuel cell vehicles emit no more water than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Similar to ICE vehicles, the majority of water is emitted as vapor and evaporates in the atmosphere.

    • Stephen Noctor

      Thanks for catching that! Correction made.

    • Michael Thwaite

      Ah yes, I remember seeing hydrogen busses in Scandinavia emitting plumes of steam.

  • Surya

    It seems like they made an H2 car which demonstrates little advantage compared to BEVs.
    – The ‘huge’ battery is less intrusive in most purpose built EVs than the FC stack in this car it seems
    – Even with the huge weight of it’s ginormous battery, a Model S weighs less
    – Performance doesn’t seem great.
    – They didn’t even make it as silent as an EV. I can’t imagine why they didn’t work on this more.

    All of this makes me think they where comparing this car against ICE cars when developing, not against other ZEVs, which will be it’s main competition in the first years at least.

  • Eletruk

    What the author seems to fail at recognizing, the RAV4 EV, although sold by Toyota, employs a Tesla designed and built drive train. Whereas the Mirai drivetrain comes from Toyota, who brought us the Prius. So why would someone expect a Toyota designed electric drivetrain vehicle to have good performance? And why did Toyota go with NiMH batteries? Is it because they are used to using them in the Prius? Using Lithium ion batteries would have saved weight and given better performance.

    • Stephen Noctor

      The author is quite aware of the Tesla drivetrain in the 2012-2014 Rav4 EV because he owns the car, drives the car every day, has written about the car and its Tesla drivetrain here at Transport Evolved before, and even has a ‘Tesla Inside’ sticker on it! Toyota made everything for their original, legacy Rav4 EV (’97 – ’03) and those cars have proven to be very, very durable. I drove a 2002 with 150,000 miles on it, very impressive! We hope the ’12 – ’14 version holds up as well!

  • Bob Saget

    Just a heads up: The Model S gets 89 MPGe according to the EPA. https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32557

    • Stephen Noctor

      Yes, thanks. The 101 rating is for the 70 kWh version mentioned here.

  • johnbl

    Great articles..reinforced my original impression of the foolishness of promoting this technology with what is available today and in the near future for BEVs. Just think of how far they could have taken EV technology with the money that is being squandered on the Miari.

  • Zdenka Micka

    Tesla wins. Faster, more power safer, more storage, more torque, require no gas

  • Julian Cox

    WOW. This is a breakthrough! An review of the Toyota Mirai that is not absolutely bought and paid for by Toyota. Congratulations to the courage of the authors and editors! Take note “Green Car Reports, Inside EVs, national newspapers etc that are willing to carry advertorial for this environmental scam that makes VW’s transgressions look relatively tame.

    At 16.58 KG CO2e per Kg of Hydrogen, hydrogen is simply a highly refined fossil fuel with massive well to wheel emissions, easily exceeding gasoline at 11.3Kg CO2e for the equivalent energy content. It is MUCH greener to take a Prius to a gas pump (39% greener in the case of the 56mpg 2016 Prius which is an immediately available showroom alternative with very similar performance and one extra seat). The Prius PHEV destroys the Mirai wth no looking back and of course any BEV does so too. At $49,000 net of marketing and government subsidies you have to be an idiot to buy this if stretching to $60,000 is the last straw that is going to break the bank (Tesla S 70 net of tax rebate and state subsidy).

    The most sad and most remarkable thing however is that Toyota is only targeting, and blatantly targeting current and prospective BEV owners with this faux-green nonsense (not gasoline and diesel vehicles). It is not BEVs that urgently need replacing for the environment is it. Not unless you are an ICE maker that is scared to death of losing market share to a rapidly evolving BEV technology.

    Hydrogen and this Mirai is a pure anti-green-car promo funded by oil gas and internal combustion interest. The limited production is a result of the marketing budget for Toyota’s financial losses per car. This promo is estimated to be costing Toyota $100K per car in losses, plus the marketing and lobbying costs to undermine electric vehicles at the state and national level around the US and the world.

    “At the end of the test drive we were asked if we’d be trading in our all electric Toyota Rav4 EV for the Mirai. The answer was no.”

    Astonishing.

    • Chris O

      Toyota’s insistence on a hydrogen future is totally baffling to me. There just aren’t any compelling upsides for the consumer nor the environment. One can estimate hydrogen’s market potential by looking at that other way of natural gas powered motoring: CNG. It has similar drawbacks like big tanks that crowd out interior space, poor performance, limited range, long fill up times and questionable environmental benefits and it was good for less than 20K cars sold in 2014 in the US. So that’s the sort of adoption Toyota can expect for hydrogen except…. only if the price of the cars and the fuel comes down to CNG levels (50-80% reduction needed) and if it has similarly build out infrastructure, 1000 stations up from a few dozen now.

      So basically large scale adoption of HFCVs is *never* going to happen.

      Yet Toyota insists it’s the future somehow….baffling.

      • Julian Cox

        The secret to understanding Toyota’s true motives is seen in their reference to Hydrogen as the fuel for ‘The Next 100 Years’. This is in direct reference to Methane Hydrate reserves located on the costal shelf at the centre of the Japanese archipelago. These are coincidentally estimated to contain enough methane to power the Japanese economy for 100 years. Methane hydrates are only stable at low temperatures and high pressures. If you stick a pipe in them what you get is wet methane (Hydrogen SMR feedstock). However if you drill and dredge them or in any way expose them to warm water, or destabilise the sediments on the shelves where they lie then most of the methane content will lose containment and float directly into the atmosphere at a rate of 164 cubic metres of methane gas per cubic meter of hydrates.

        Mirai with the ‘clean zero emission message’ is therefore THE BIGGEST MOST DANGEROUS LIE in human history. Forget VW and its clean diesel cheating. Japan intends to start disturbing Methane Hydrates in 2016. If they get away with it, mankind’s bid to escape death by global warming is over.

        The disturbance of Methane Hydrates which will fizz Gigatons of methane into the Earth’s atmosphere is referred to as the Clathrate Gun (referencing methane hydrates in ‘clathrates’ as ‘the smoking gun’ – the most likely cause of the Permian extinction (12 degrees centigrade of global warming that resulted in 4% of life on Earth making it and 96% of death) and the explanation if one be needed for CO2 rise trailing temperature. Atmospheric Methane is the killer (it decays to CO2 over a period of 500 or so years) and Japan has the Clathrate Gun pointed directly at the head of mankind right now. The Mirai is the standard bearer of that deceit.

        It absolutely must be universally rejected. This is not a joke.

        • Chris O

          Dangers of digging into the methane hydrate bounty aside (do you have a link to substantiate those dangers BTW?), sitting on a century worth of methane is in itself no reason to advocate HFCVs. The concept of cars powered by pressurised fuels has always proved to be unpopular among consumers even if there is cost benefits compared to liquid fossil fuels, let alone if there is massive cost disadvantages as will always be the case with highly complex HFCV technology.

          The way to “capitalize” on a century worth of NG just waiting to be turned into CO2 for transport applications would be to use it to generate electricity to power electric vehicles that do have the potential for mass market appeal once cost comes down and range is up, which is happening pretty quickly with affordable 200 mile EVs less than a year out.

          Those affordable 200 mile EVs will kill most of the case for HFCVs and PHEVs with compelling AER the rest so I remain baffled by Toyota’s big bet on HFCVs, except for my sneaking suspicion that it really is just a big bet on milking the ICE age for all it’s worth by confusing policy makers with a supposedly superior alternative, provided they are willing to give it time, loads of money and a favourable regulatory framework at the expense of plug-ins.

          In other words: a red herring.

  • Israel Navas Duran

    «The hydrogen fueling station in Northern California charges $13.59 per kilogram of hydrogen.»

    — It’s a scam. It costs less than a US dollar to produce a kg of H2 by means of hydrogen steam reforming and pressure swing adsorption process (PSA) [page 20]:

    $385 / 104.5 kmol CH4
    $31 / 461.1 kWh
    (104.5 kmol CH4 + 461.1 kWh) / 263 kmol H2
    $416 / 263 kmol H2
    1 kmol H2 / 2 kg H2
    $416 / 526 kg H2
    $0.79 / kg H2

    — John Jechura. Hydrogen from Natural Gas via Steam Methane Reforming (SMR). Colorado School of Mines. Updated January 4, 2015.
    http://inside.mines.edu/~jjechura/EnergyTech/07_Hydrogen_from_SMR.pdf

    The energy cost of H2 compression to 70 MPa doesn’t justify that price either:

    1 kg H2 / 0.5 kmol H2

    Vo ≈ n·R·T/Po
    Vo/kg H2 ≈ (500 mol H2 * 8.3144622 JK^-1mol^-1 * 298.15 K / 1.01325e5 Pa) / kg H2 =
    500*8.3144622*298.15/1.01325e5 m^3/kg H2 ≈ 12.23 m^3/kg H2

    Po = Patm = 1.01325e5 Pa
    To ≈ Tf
    Pf = 70 MPa

    Vf = Po * Vo / Pf
    Vf / kg H2 ≈ (1.01325e5 Pa * (12.23 m^3 H2 / kg H2)) / 7.0e7 Pa = 1.01325e5*12.23/7e7 m^3 = 1.770e-2 m^3 H2 / kg H2

    Wrev (Vo -> Vf) = – n · R · T · ln(Vf / Vo)

    Wrev / kg H2 ≈ – 500 mol H2 / kg H2 * 8.3144622 JK-1mol-1 · 298.15 K * ln(1.770e-2 m^3 H2 / 12.23 m^3 H2) = -500*8.3144622*298.15*ln(1.770e-2/12.23) = 4.468e7 J / kg H2 = 8.104 MJ / kg H2

    Wact = Wrev / 0.70 = (8.104 MJ / kg H2) / 0.70 = 11.58 MJ / kg H2

    (11.58 MJ / kg H2) * 1e3 kWs * (h/3.600e3 s) / MJ = 11.58/3.6 kWh ≈ 3.217 kWh
    3.217 kWh * ($31 / 461.1 kWh) = $(3.217*31/461.1) ≈ $0.22

    $0.79 / kg H2 [Patm]
    $0.22 / 2.501 kWh
    (1 kg H2 [Patm] + 2.501 kWh ) / kg H2 [70 MPa]
    $0.96 / kg H2 [70 MPa]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_compressor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_compressor

  • Israel Navas Duran

    «The hydrogen fueling station in Northern California charges $13.59 per kilogram of hydrogen.»

    — It’s a scam. It costs less than a US dollar to produce a kg of H2 by means of steam methane reforming and pressure swing adsorption process (PSA) [page 20]:

    $385 / 104.5 kmol CH4
    $31 / 461.1 kWh
    (104.5 kmol CH4 + 461.1 kWh) / 263 kmol H2
    $416 / 263 kmol H2
    1 kmol H2 / 2 kg H2
    $416 / 526 kg H2
    $0.79 / kg H2

    — John Jechura. Hydrogen from Natural Gas via Steam Methane Reforming (SMR). Colorado School of Mines. Updated January 4, 2015.
    http://inside.mines.edu/~jjechura/EnergyTech/07_Hydrogen_from_SMR.pdf

    The energy cost of H2 compression to 70 MPa doesn’t justify that price either:

    1 kg H2 / 0.5 kmol H2

    Vo ≈ n·R·T/Po
    Vo/kg H2 ≈ (500 mol H2 * 8.3144622 JK^-1mol^-1 * 298.15 K / 1.01325e5 Pa) / kg H2 =
    500*8.3144622*298.15/1.01325e5 m^3/kg H2 ≈ 12.23 m^3/kg H2

    Po = Patm = 1.01325e5 Pa
    To ≈ Tf
    Pf = 70 MPa

    Vf = Po * Vo / Pf
    Vf / kg H2 ≈ (1.01325e5 Pa * (12.23 m^3 H2 / kg H2)) / 7.0e7 Pa = 1.01325e5*12.23/7e7 m^3 = 1.770e-2 m^3 H2 / kg H2

    Wrev (Vo -> Vf) = – n · R · T · ln(Vf / Vo)

    Wrev / kg H2 ≈ – 500 mol H2 / kg H2 * 8.3144622 JK-1mol-1 · 298.15 K * ln(1.770e-2 m^3 H2 / 12.23 m^3 H2) = -500*8.3144622*298.15*ln(1.770e-2/12.23) = 4.468e7 J / kg H2 = 8.104 MJ / kg H2

    Wact = Wrev / 0.70 = (8.104 MJ / kg H2) / 0.70 = 11.58 MJ / kg H2

    (11.58 MJ / kg H2) * 1e3 kWs * (h/3.600e3 s) / MJ = 11.58/3.6 kWh ≈ 3.217 kWh
    3.217 kWh * ($31 / 461.1 kWh) = $(3.217*31/461.1) ≈ $0.22

    $0.79 / kg H2 [Patm]
    $0.22 / 2.501 kWh
    (1 kg H2 [Patm] + 2.501 kWh) / kg H2 [70 MPa]
    $1.01 / kg H2 [70 MPa]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_compressor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_compressor