Tokyo, February 25, AZERTAC
How exactly is Toyota’s hydrogen-powered fuel-cell car made? Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda puts it this way: “You might imagine a very advanced plant but in reality, it’s far from that.”
Instead, the process heavily relies on the gloved hands of a workforce of 13. Manufacturing the Mirai, Toyota’s fuel cell car, is intended to serve as a kind of a dojo, or training studio, for craftsmanship.
The production of the vehicle, which runs on hydrogen and emits water and heat, started late last year at a special zone in the Motomachi factory near Toyota headquarters. The team of 13 workers makes three Mirai cars a day, according to Mitsuyuki Suenaga, an assistant manager involved in the vehicle’s production.
Car plants usually have conveyor belts to carry around vehicles being built. That’s not the case for the Mirai.
The pressing and welding of the metal sheets that make up the Mirai’s body and the painting of the vehicle are done in a separate section of the Motomachi plant. Once the painted body arrives at the zone, the work falls into the hands of the 13 who were selected for their experience and potential.
They load the hydrogen tank and the fuel-cell stack onto the vehicle, testing to ensure that no hydrogen leaks. They also attach more traditional components like the instrument panel and the bumper onto the car.
These workers will dedicate two years to learning how to assemble much of the car by hand, said Mr. Suenaga. “These are people whose skills we want to nurture for the future,” he said. Some of these workers were also involved in building the Lexus LFA, a high-performance two-seater, in the same zone, he said.
The Mirai carries a fuel-cell system that generates electricity from compressed hydrogen. The fuel-cell stack is made at the Honsha plant, located at the Toyota headquarters.
This year, Toyota plans to make 700 Mirai cars. That will be boosted to 2,000 next year and 3,000 in 2017, according to the company.