Toyota Mirai - The Future of Going Places
It's 2015 and we're already in the future! The 2016 Toyota Mirai, a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) which name translates to "future" in Japanese, is set to make its U.S. debut by the end of this year, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few here and there being played around with. I took a visit to see car builder Mike Vu, founder of MV Designz, because he is one of the few that Toyota has trusted to take a brand new Mirai and transform it into an amazing project car for this year's SEMA. Before we even dare to take a peek into what’s on Mike's mind for this project car, let's take a closer look at this car of the future. Mike already started taking the Mirai apart, including the entire interior, so now we can get a better look at the fuel cell technology featured throughout the sedan. These are the Mirai's hydrogen tanks, they're durable and lightweight, positioned below the rear seats and another behind the battery. These triple layered tanks are designed to never leak and store the hydrogen, a promising fuel source that's lighter than air, incredibly pure and found virtually everywhere. The second part of this equation is air, specifically oxygen in the air. Breathe easy, the front intake grills suck the outside air in and routes airflow directly to the fuel cell stack. There it will combine with the hydrogen from the tanks through a chemical reaction, creating electricity to power the Mirai. Developed by Toyota, this high-performance polymer electrolyte fuel cell has a 100+ kW output. With the Mirai juiced up with science, put your foot on the gas...I mean hydrogen pedal and let the Power Control Unit (PCU) start turning the electric motor, which is the same found on Lexus hybrid vehicles and gets the car moving forward. The PCU is able to decide when to use power directly from the fuel cell stack or power stored in the battery. This efficiency helps give this zero emission vehicle a range up to 300 miles. Speaking of the battery, which is located behind the rear seats, it allows for regenerative braking and assists during high power demands like accelerating. During deceleration the battery stores energy as well as supplementing fuel cell output during low speed acceleration. When it's time to pump/"fuel" it up, even the stations are futuristic. Hydrogen stations, currently primarily in California, have advanced pumps that are able to use infrared equipment to communicate with the Mirai's hydrogen fuel control computer. With a simple click of the nozzle, it will be able determine ambient air temperature, tank pressure and current fill levels. From empty, these stations can fill up the tanks within five minutes. What goes in must come out. Hydrogen and oxygen go into this car to make it run, so obviously the "waste" that comes out is good ol' high quality H2O! Water drips right out the rear end like mud butt, only a thousand times clearer and safe for the environment. From chemicals to powering a vehicle to water by-products, the Mirai is here. With only a limited initial release, Toyota is reviewing applications for trailblazers in California where there are currently a decent amount of hydrogen stations to refuel the Mirai. Visit Toyota.com/Mirai for more information about the trailblazer application and more about the future of transportation, like the variety of premium features it has. One such is this "power takeoff" outlet where you can plug in an adapter that can provide up to 60 kWh of power. It’s not 1.21 GigaWatts, but it is enough to power an average household for about six days. Be sure to check back to see more of the future of automotive transportation as you can bet that Mike will have something really clever up his sleeve for the 2015 SEMA Show.