HYDROGEN-POWERED SEDAN: The Mirai is available in Japan, Europe and the United States and there are currently no plans to introduce it in South Africa. Image: Quickpic
Melbourne - Toyota Australia has unveiled a mobile hydrogen refueller that will enable its three Mirai fuel-cell sedans to go anywhere that a conventional car can be driven.
This breakthrough, which has been developed by the company's local engineers and partner suppliers, represents a clever temporary solution to counter the current lack of a refuelling infrastructure in Australia for fuel-cell cars.
However, the Mirai itself represents a turning point in the automotive industry, introducing a new age where electricity is generated on demand using hydrogen as a fuel.
Future of mobility
Mirai – its name is Japanese for "future" – is designed to diminish the world's dependence on oil and reduce harm to the environment. Named 2016 World Green Car, Toyota's Mirai is a remarkable zero-emissions car with all the convenience of today's conventional vehicles.
Toyota Australia's fuel-cell project sponsor and senior executive adviser to the board Bernie O'Connor believes the mobile refueller will be instrumental in demonstrating the significant benefits of owning a Mirai.
As an interim measure, Toyota's mobile refueller incorporates a generator and a compressor mounted in a purpose-built trailer attached to a Hino 700 series truck.
Hydrogen, delivered to the refueller in bottles, is cooled and pressurised to the required 70MPa (700bar) before being pumped into the three Mirai sedans.
The refueller can also be used to deliver hydrogen to other fuel-cell vehicles, such as buses and forklifts, as well as being capable of transporting a Mirai.
O'Connor said: "The decision to invest in a mobile refueller demonstrates Toyota's commitment to maintaining its leading role in developing flexible and personal mobility solutions for the next 100 years. This is a practical and necessary measure to enable people to learn about and experience first-hand, the game-changing Mirai and its ground-breaking technology."
O'Connor added that Toyota will continue to work with governments, industry and other key stakeholders to fast-track the development of the refuelling infrastructure required to support the widespread sale of fuel-cell vehicles.
Mirai offers a driving range of approximately 550km when its two on-board tanks are filled with about 5kg of compressed hydrogen. Refuelling from a commercial site takes just 3 to 5 minutes. The only tailpipe emission is water vapour.
Hydrogen is as safe as any other automotive fuel and, unlike fossil fuels, it does not contribute to global warming during vehicle operation. It is the most abundant element in the universe and can be produced from almost anything – including sewage sludge – by using a vast array of primary energy sources such as pollution-free solar and wind power.
Mirai is also fun to drive, delivering punchy performance while offering the convenience and driving pleasure of a conventional car. It also achieves maximum power above 110kW from its fuel-cell stack through the electric motor. Mirai utilises the same hybrid technology developed for Toyota's hybrid synergy drive systems, replacing the petrol engine with a fuel-cell stack.
What about SA?
The Mirai is available in Japan, Europe and the United States and there are currently no plans to introduce it in South Africa. There are also no plans to offer the car in Australia ahead of the development of an appropriate hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure.