A closer look at Toyota’s Hydrogen-fuelled Vehicle

Hydrogen fuelled Toyota Mirai Chrome 2016
Credit: Toyota UK Media Site

The use of the hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles is on the increase especially in countries like China, the United States, and Japan.

China boasts of the most rapid increase in the sales of Electric vehicles (EVs), even more than the United States. This enormous increase is solely due to the fact that the Chinese government is giving out subsidies to local makers of Electric Vehicles.

Japan on the other hand, in a bid to become a hydrogen-based society, has set sights on turning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into a Hydrogen production base.

A major way of achieving this, scientists say, is by extracting Hydrogen from water – the sea – found at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

China boasts of the most rapid increase in the sales of Electric vehicles (EVs), even more than the United States.

The Toyota Mirai (2016)

In a bid to achieve Carbon-free travel, Toyota Mirai was first to commercially sell a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota Motor Corporation produces automobiles, luxury vehicles, commercial vehicles, even engines. With the world’s attention on green technology increasing every second, Toyota’s recent launching of the Sedan will definitely go mainstream.

Toyota Mirai Interior
Credit: Toyota UK Media Site

In a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle, instead of gasoline, the element used as fuel is hydrogen which is present virtually everywhere. Though Hydrogen is present everywhere, it has to be separated (that is, isolated) either by Steam Reforming, Gasification or Electrolysis.

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Steam Reforming: Hydrogen is separated when Methane is reacted with high-temperature steam.
Gasification: In gasification, hydrogen is gotten by placing organic material (it could be plant or livestock waste) under high temperature which triggers a reaction that separates Hydrogen.
Electrolysis of Water: This involves passing electricity through water to decompose water into Hydrogen and Oxygen.

How the Hydrogen-fuelled car works

In Toyota’s fuel cell electric vehicle (FCV), hydrogen is stored in the carbon-fiber fuel tank. Air is delivered through the FCV’s front intake grill to the fuel sack. Hydrogen moves from the fuel tank to the fuel cell stack where it goes through a chemical reaction with Oxygen (in the air), to produce water and electricity.

When the driver puts his foot on the gas pedal, electricity from the fuel cell tank is sent to the motor. The motor converts the electrical energy to mechanical energy to roll the wheels and that is how the car moves.

The only by-product which is water leaves the car through a tailpipe at the rare. Yes, the hydrogen-fuelled vehicle does not emit greenhouse gases; all it sends out is water.

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The range for the 2016 hydrogen fuel cell Mirai is 312 miles. Unlike Electric vehicles that take time to charge, refill time for this vehicle is five minutes. The Mirai costs $58,000. Quite cheap! For this price, Toyota says you will get free fuel for three long years.

Buyers also get free maintenance and roadside assistance. Since this vehicle emits water, users have the ability to purge all the water that is generated from driving if they have to park in a cold area. This can be done by pushing the “H2O” button located to the left of the driver. You don’t want to mess around with your vehicle in winter.

The Toyota Mirai is made with an infrared data link that communicates with (Toyota) station to give them information about the vehicle on temperature and other things.

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What if the car is involved in an accident?
Hydrogen can catch fire explosively and can burn more easily than gasoline. Whenever there is a collision, the system quickly shuts the tank’s output valve to prevent hydrogen from traveling to potentially damaged systems outside the tank. Also, since Hydrogen is lighter than air any leaked Hydrogen quickly disperses.