At least, that's what you might suspect if you know how modern hydrogen cars work and don't immediately conjure up fears of the Hindenburg. These cars, perhaps more than other vehicles on the road, are crash and stress tested within an inch of their lives. Or maybe a half inch. We heard one story of an automaker putting its H2 fuel cell vehicle into a giant room capable of generating "lightning storms" and letting the bolts hit the hydrogen tanks. They survived just fine, too.
Of course, at some point in the roll out of fuel cell cars, terrible accidents will happen, just like they do with gas and plug-in cars. But if they're all like what happened to Shaffer, then there's no need to worry. Here's his story:
Last year, I was brought into early conversations about the Toyota Mirai and its marketing strategy. I love cars, new tech, and the future of propulsion. Plus, I wanted to get the white sticker to use the California HOV lane. Months went by and I was contacted by one of my friends at Toyota to test drive the Mirai at their The Turning Point California Tour. Since we have most of the consumer hydrogen stations in the US, the Mirai will first be available in California.
So the day finally came for me to get my chance to drive the car this past Saturday in Huntington Beach, CA. I invited my brother and dad to also get their impressions. I know I'm interested in this car, but I wanted to hear their opinion. The event was very well prepared and the pre-drive presentation was informative. Afterwards, we all went outside and asked a few more questions about the vehicle. At that moment one of the representatives let me know the exteriors of these cars still might have a few minor changes (i.e., these where prototypes, and very expensive).
I got into my sparkling pearl white Mirai, which was the first of three available for the test drive. Each car had a professional Toyota driver who, prior to letting us drive, taught us everything about the car. That wasn't totally necessary, though, since, essentially, it's like almost any car from the inside.
After reviewing everything about the car we were off on our ride around Huntington Beach. My brother and dad where behind me in the second Mirai and another couple behind them in the third. The Mirai felt good to drive and to me was a step up in comfort from my Toyota Prius Plug-in. We made one stop for the drivers from the other cars to switch and then we started heading back (in all, it was supposed to be a 15-20 minute test drive). Since it was just me in the first car I did not make the switch and lead the group.
We were heading down to the beach when it happened. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black, '90s-era BMW 5 Series smash into my right rear-tire panel. The Toyota driver also saw it out of his eyes and was hoping she would just miss us. She had a stop sign but either didn't see me or was trying to shot the gap between me and the other Mirai. End result, at about 15 mph (best guess) she hit my Mirai right in-between the two Hydrogen tanks and directly into the main battery.
Completely not my fault and I was only hit at about 15 mph but it was an early 90's BMW 5 series so it still pushed me far.
Good news is it his exactly were the hydrogen tanks are located and it didn't blow up. It's interesting though since they made the car so secure around the tanks instead of "absorbing" the crash I was pushed (the wheel is now a little bent underneath the car).
I have been in accidents before and the Mirai is made to be so tough around the tanks and battery that the car was "moved" intact. Nothing fell off the car and it felt like I was just in a normal accident in a normal car. To be honest, nothing really happened and it's what I expected. Now don't get me wrong. I had to get into another Mirai and the back wheel was bent under a little and the panels had a few dents. But, I didn't get hurt and the next day did a 60-mile bike ride. Plus, as a father with a 4-year-old whose car seat would have been right where I was hit I know he would have been completely safe in that accident.