2016 Toyota Mirai: Failure To Refuel
by Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor on June 10, 2016
Attention Air Products, Inc — get your act together.
On Thursday I tried to refuel our long-term 2016 Toyota Mirai at Air Products' West L.A. station in Santa Monica, California. This being my first-ever attempt at refueling a hydrogen-fueled car, I followed the handy on-screen prompts. It didn't seem like rocket surgery. In fact, the process is virtually identical to fueling a conventional car.
With one exception — no hydrogen was delivered. The H70 pump timed-out after 20 seconds or so and prompted me to return the nozzle to the hook.
Though not included in the on-screen tutorial, I tried squeezing the lever on the dispenser a number of times at the point I thought such an action would be necessary to initiate fueling, but the lever was fixed in place. In turn, I assumed this fixed lever was standard operating procedure since what the hell do I know about gaseous hydrogen refueling? In any case, I made three attempts from start to finish to refuel the thing with no success.
I still had about 30 miles of range remaining so my situation wasn't dire. I'd just refuel on Friday at Air Products' Fairfax L.A. station near my house. So that's what I did, and it went without a hitch. Refueling the Mirai took about twice as long as refueling an average gasoline car, with a few (normal) minor pauses in delivery along the way. The dispenser handle grew cool to the touch, which is also normal (and welcome on this sweltering day). Easy peasy.
Notably, the trigger on this dispenser, unlike the West L.A. one, squeezed down the way you'd expect. Aha, I thought. A clue.
Fast forward to Monday morning. The Mirai was down to about a half-tank, but I figured I'd refuel it on my way to the office just to be a nice guy. I tried the West L.A. station again, figuring I must have done something wrong the last time. Maybe the dispenser handle had a little lockout or something I overlooked. Maybe I didn't squeeze hard enough. Maybe I'm a knucklehead. Who knows?
No dice. The trigger would not actuate; the pump would not dispense; there was no obvious lockout, and, as before, the system timed out with no fuel being delivered.
I went inside to see the attendant. He told me to call the number on the pump. I dialed the number and told the guy the pump's ID number and cross street location and that the pump would not dispense. After some time and a few on-holds, he transferred me to another tech. I again explained that the trigger would not actuate and that it was fixed in place and that no fuel would dispense.
More on-hold. He conversed with another tech. Relayed questions. Asked me if the on-site technician was present. No such technician was present. He seemed puzzled. He asked where I was again. Santa Monica Boulevard at Beloit, I repeated. "Oh," he said.
"That's the West L.A. location. I thought you were at the Santa Monica location. Yeah, the West L.A. pump is not currently working."
Note that there was no sign on the pump indicating its nonfunctional state, nor did the screen alert would-be users to this fact. Instead the entire card-sliding, code-entering, tutorial-giving, instruction-relaying, hand-holding process remained intact, except for the part that no fuel was ever dispensed. It even printed the receipt afterward.
"Well," he continued, "the technician is over at the Santa Monica station right now. When he's done there, he's going to head over to the West L.A. one. If you can wait for him, he should be over in a little while." I'd already been on the phone with them for 13 minutes. I replied that it'd be more logical and less time-consuming if I simply drove over to the Santa Monica station a few miles away and refueled there. He agreed that that made sense and apologized for the inconvenience. I hung up and went on my way.
Ten minutes later I received a voicemail from the technician. He was now over at the West L.A. station and said that he thought I was going to wait for him to show him the problem. He sounded mildly annoyed.
Because I'm swell, I tried calling him back. The call wouldn't connect. Instead all I got from the phone's earpiece was a full-volume, eardrum-shredding hiss of white noise that sounded exactly like high-pressure gas being vented.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 4,168 miles