Any independent collision repairer who’s kept up to date on modern automotive materials should be able to fix the hydrogen fuel-cell Toyota Mirai — so long as designated dealerships check the powertrain for leaks first.
“It’s pretty uneventful,” Toyota Collision Repair and Refinish Training assistant manager Eric Mendoza said Friday.
For shops possessing the knowledge and equipment to repair with OEM procedures a body incorporating higher-strength steels and aluminum panels, “they’re not gonna have any trouble with this,” according to Mendoza.
“They don’t need any (Mirai) special training or special equipment,” he said.
For collision repair, there’s no such restrictions, he said.
There is one caveat, and it’s one collision repairers, towers, insurers and first responders must understand. The Mirai must be towed to one of the designated dealerships to check the “tank” for leaks following a collision, Mendoza said. If the owner still is covered by ToyotaCare, which was expanded to offer additional perks to Mirai buyers, the tow is free, according to Toyota.
Those dealers have special hydrogen bays and leak detectors, and they know how to remove the tank if necessary, Mendoza said. If the collision repair requires the fuel tank be removed, those select dealerships must handle that part.
Leaks are actually less of a threat than skeptics might think, according to Toyota.
The Mirai has countermeasures in place to detect leaks and shut off the hydrogen flow, and the tank has been reinforced to the point where Toyota had to use high-caliber bullets to test crash resistance. (Which to anyone with an inner child ought to sound like the most awesome testing in the world.)
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Hydrogen actually has many positive safety aspects, from a vehicle fuel perspective: 1) it’s lighter than air, and disperses quickly clearing the fuel from the area of the vehicle, 2) if there is an ignition source that lights the gas on fire, the gas will “flare” very quickly into the air, which is beneficial because it removes the fuel rapidly reducing time to cause damage or harm.
In the case of Mirai, the Toyota-designed carbon fiber reinforced hydrogen tanks have undergone extreme testing, including being shot with high caliber bullets, to ensure their durability in a crash. In fact, during testing, engineers had to move to high caliber bullets in their efforts to puncture the tanks to help determine the force they can take. In the event of a major accident, there are multiple safety systems in place to protect the tanks and overall vehicle.
But body-in-white crash energy management also has a role in protecting the tank, according to Toyota — and that’s where body shops would of course have a responsibility to ensure this crashworthiness is restored.
“The frame is designed to distribute crash forces efficiently throughout the vehicle frame and numerous components and materials, reducing cabin deformity to protect vehicle occupants and minimizing body deformation around the fuel cell stack and high-pressure hydrogen tanks,” Toyota wrote.
Regardless of all these safety protocols, the car must be checked by a dealer following a crash. Then it’s all yours for the body work.
The Mirai (“Mee-rye,” in case you were curious.) debuted in 2016, and Toyota on Tuesday announced pricing for the 2017 model. The car costs $57,500, but a buyer has a crack at $13,000 in federal and California incentives and can drive solo in what Toyota calls the “coveted” California carpool lane. Plus free “gas” and seven days of rental cars a year for three years.
Toyota also has cut the Mirai lease price from $499 to $349 a month, which might make the car more likely to capitalize on recent leasing popularity.
Mendoza called it a “really awesome car,” likening it to “buying a Lexus with a Toyota badge on it.”
The car, seen at the Anaheim, Calif., NACE is for now limited to the West Coast, and Toyota’s only sold 641 in its entire lifetime. Technically, owners aren’t supposed to take it out of the range of the infrastructure.