By Anne Proffit
Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan has been on sale since late last year and is meeting success in the marketplace. That acceptance has caused Toyota Motor Sales to look at increasing the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in its current Southern California home area. Having driven many hydrogen vehicles in the past including the Honda Clarity and now Toyota’s Mirai we can say unequivocally that this technology is very impressive.
Toyota invited local science teachers to its campus in Torrance, Calif. to learn Horizon Education’s approaches to teaching this technology to their high school students, and to prepare them for upcoming race competition of radio-controlled (RC) student-built, hydrogen-powered cars. Along with the teachers, there were Toyota team members and current Toyota Mirai owners on-site to offer their experiences with the road-going car’s usefulness in real world conditions.
Toyota has been vested in fuel cell technology for well over 20 years, starting their investigation into this type of vehicle propulsion in 1992, as part of Toyota’s more than $1 million investment – per hour – in vehicle research and development worldwide. Mirai is the first production hydrogen production vehicle offered by Toyota.
Operating without an internal combustion engine of any type, this sedan works with air (oxygen) that flows though the front intake grille and is supplied to the fuel cell stack at the center of the car (under the front seats). Hydrogen stored in dual tanks goes simultaneously to the fuel cell stack, which generates electricity and water through chemical reaction and sends it to the electric motor at the front of the car, thereby propelling Mirai. The sole emission is water!
The point of this meeting was to prepare educators for the Hydrogen Horizon Automotive Challenge to 20 schools and their STEM teams throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. With this program, students will build their own fuel cell RC vehicles, learning about the technology and preparing to race one another once they’ve completed their research and development, problem-solving and build-up.
This after-school program has Toyota engineers’ footprint all over it and the Toyota NASCAR pit crew, together with Mirai owners are coaches for the project. The ultimate competition for these RC team cars takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of the National Science Teachers Association annual convention, which will be held March 30-April 2 of next year. That gives the STEM students good lead time to plan their cars, construct their chassis, design and sculpt bodies to be ready for race day.