Hydrogen goes into the second round

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Hydrogen goes into the second round

While battery electric drives are becoming more popular, hydrogen remains a niche product. Can the new Toyota Mirai change that??

The new Toyota Mirai.

The car market is preparing for the future: the market shares of battery-electric drives are constantly increasing; the course seems to have been set in favor of the battery as an energy store.

Hydrogen as the fuel of the future has only led a shadowy existence for years. The production is too complex, the expected sales too low; it is simply not worth operating an expensive hydrogen filling station. And without refueling, there is also a lack of supply and demand for the corresponding cars. But that could now change bit by bit.

Heavy traffic turns out to be a driver for hydrogen mobility. The routes can be planned well here, so that the filling stations can be placed in sensible locations – and then they can also become profitable through good utilization. With the arrival of the first hydrogen trucks in Switzerland, the network of filling stations has also grown. The sixth location in Switzerland was recently opened in Rothenburg LU; Hydrogen will also soon be available in Geuensee LU and Bern.

Hydrogen goes into the second round-hydrogen

Fill up with hydrogen at the new filling station in Rothenburg.

Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis; electricity splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. In the vehicle, this process is reversed in a fuel cell: the hydrogen reacts with oxygen from the ambient air to form water. This generates heat and electrical energy. The water is discharged as exhaust gas, so to speak.

By converting the electricity twice, the hydrogen drive is less efficient than a battery-electric drive, where the electricity can be stored in the car without being converted. On the other hand, the energy in the form of hydrogen can be stored and transported better – and in compressed form, such as hydrogen is also used in trucks and cars, the energy density is even higher than with petrol. This is also evident in the new Toyota Mirai. The tank, which can be filled in just a few minutes, holds 5.6 kg of hydrogen, which is pressed into the tank at a pressure of 700 bar. According to the factory, this is enough for a range of around 650 kilometers.

Hydrogen goes into the second round-goes

The tank holds 5.6 kg; a filling costs 70 francs.

Everything new at the Mirai

The second generation Toyota Mirai that has now been launched is a completely new development. While the first generation (from 2014) was still rather pragmatic, the second edition wants to cause a stir at first glance. The Mirai now comes as an elegant, four-door sedan with sporty lines. And that despite the fact that the new Mirai has become almost 30,000 francs cheaper. Prices now start at 59,900 francs, which makes the Japanese currently the cheapest fuel cell vehicle on the market. The Hyundai Nexo is significantly more expensive at 89,900 francs. The fact that prices remain high is mainly due to the still exotic technology, which is only produced in small numbers. The hydrogen drive is suitable for everyday use with the growing network of filling stations. On the first test drive, the drive used a little more than 1 kg/100 km, with a high share of the motorway. This means that a range of 500 to 550 kilometers is also possible in winter and on the motorway. Hydrogen currently costs 1.25 francs/100g. So 100 kilometers with the Mirai costs 12.50 francs; the fuel costs are therefore about the same as for a petrol engine, which consumes around 8.4 l/100 km.

Hydrogen goes into the second round-goes

Well finished cockpit in the Mirai.

The good range of the new Mirai matches the comfort-focused tuning of the hydrogen car. What is particularly noticeable is the silence in the interior, which is maintained not only by the almost silent drive, but also by the sound insulation, which effectively absorbs wind and road noise. The suspension is also consistently trimmed for comfort and dispenses with sporty ambitions. This is how the Mirai glides quietly and gently over the autobahn – and encourages a cautious driving style. So it doesn't bother that the hydrogen drive with 182 hp, which hits almost two tons of curb weight, looks sovereign, but not particularly lively. As a nice detail in the cockpit, the Mirai offers an air purification display. Because the fuel cell needs very clean air in order to be able to work – the Mirai emits cleaned air as a side effect of propulsion – and thus ensures a little cleaner air, especially in busy cities. In this way, you can drive with an even better conscience – and with the latest developments, hydrogen is again given better future prospects. But this also requires a broader range of vehicles. Because with only 300 liters of luggage space, which cannot be increased by folding down the rear seats, the Mirai is not a family car. In addition, it is only available with rear-wheel drive. But with a growing network of filling stations, hydrogen propulsion is likely to become increasingly interesting for buyers and manufacturers.

Hydrogen goes into the second round-goes

The elegant sedan shape ensures little air resistance.

Toyota Mirai

Engine: E-machine, FCEV

Power: 182 hp/300 Nm

Drive: auto 1-speed, RWD

L×W×H: 4975×1885×1470mm

trunk volume: 300L

Weight: 1975kg

0-100km/h: 9.2 sec.

Vmax: 175km/h

Range: 650 km

Price: from 59900 francs

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