Toyota showcased its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for the mass market, called the Mirai, at the 2016 San Francisco Auto Show last November.
“Once we extract hydrogen out of things, it’s a limitless source of fuel,” said Chris Petschler, product specialist at Toyota. “We don’t burn it, so it’s completely clean.”
Petschler says Toyota sees this as the fuel of the future.
“You fill the tanks with compressed hydrogen gas – pure hydrogen,” Petschler said. “Whenever you step on the accelerator, it feeds hydrogen into the fuel cell, which then mixes with oxygen, which we just get from the ambient air. We have two scoops on the front end of the car and a compressor that pushes oxygen in. The hydrogen and oxygen want to bind, but we force them through a micron thin layer of platinum. So, the electron can’t make that binding process, so it kind of goes around. We capture that as electricity, and then the hydrogen and the oxygen bind on the other side, which is H2O. All we’re left with is water vapor, that’s the byproduct. And, then the electricity of course runs the car.”
Although driving a car that emits water vapor could be a bonus, Petschler said there are still a few hurdles ahead.
“Getting the infrastructure into place, getting more pumps, that is our challenge,” Petschler said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, there are only 14 public hydrogen-fueling stations in the United States, and 11 of them are in California. Petschler says Toyota is working towards a solution.
Petschler said Toyota is working towards a solution. “We’re releasing our patents on the car and fuel cell stations. So, we have a company called First Element that’s helping us in California, Air Liquide in France.”
The Mirai accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in nine seconds, and it takes around five minutes to refuel.