Casual observers might think of a car running on hydrogen as space age or exotic. But the manner in which Toyota Mirai fuel-cell cars are serviced is actually quite routine. That was made clear when the first Mirai to receive a basic service in the UK last week revealed the straightforward nature of servicing a hydrogen-powered vehicle.
The technicians at Jemca’s Edgware station in London were excited to put their fuel-cell training to work. Three of the outfit’s technical employees had participated in four days of intensive training at Toyota’s European technical facility. In that training, they learned about the essential chemistry of the fuel cell system and details about how a fuel-cell car is refueled, serviced and repaired. That training proved useful when the station worked on a Toyota Mirai, which had clocked 10,000 miles of road service since being put into service in late 2015.
“It was great to be able use all the theory we’d been taught, but in fact it was very much like a normal service,” said Peter Kelly, a master diagnostic technician.
The car in question is leased by Green Tomato Cars, a taxi company taking a stand regarding the environment by using clean and green hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The first hydrogen fuel-cell taxi cabs took to the streets of London and Paris late last year.
The service visit by the Mirai taxi revealed that everything was in top working order. After the one-hour session, the hydrogen taxi immediately went back into service.
With 300-plus miles of range—and refueling times of around five minutes—the Toyota Mirai can provide excellent service to cab driver, without compromising the ability to provide long rides and round-the-clock service, or to experience extended periods of downtime for refueling or recharging. Fleet operators have the opportunity to use centralized non-retail refueling locations to serve taxi fleets.
The servicing of a Toyota Mirai consisted of the usual checks on brakes, fluids and tires. In addition, there was an inspection of the fuel cell’s cooling system, hydrogen sensor and hydrogen fuel supply system. No special equipment is required other than a hydrogen leak detector—and a diluted hydrogen spray that is used to check the operation of the sensors.
The training of service technician follows the same process in the United States. “We’re starting with just eight dealers in California,” said Doug Coleman, Toyota’s national vehicle marketing manager for Prius, electric and fuel-cell vehicles. “These dealers signed up, agreed to all the extra training to make sure they can handle the customers and are as knowledgeable as possible.”
For the launch of a typical Toyota vehicle, such as the Camry or Corolla, Toyota provides training to regional offices, which in turn, train all 1,300 dealers across the nation. “Instead, we went directly to the dealers for four days of direct training, so they could talk to real experts about all the sophisticated things that go on with this vehicle,” Coleman said. He characterized the amount of effort for a few hundred fuel-cell cars as equal to or exceeding what’s given to a Camry. “It’s a tremendous amount of energy being spent on a per-unit and per-customer basis,” he said.
Peter Kelly, the UK master diagnostic technician, said: “If anything, it felt like there was less work to do than usual, as there wasn’t a petrol or diesel engine to work on.”