Over the past 20 years, Toyota has been working on a sustainable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It started in 1996, when they developed the FCEV line of fleet vehicles, which were fitted with a hydrogen-absorbing alloy storage unit and catalytic reformers that extracted hydrogen from methanol. These cars led to the creation of the Toyota Prius line of hybrid vehicles, the most popular hybrid cars on the market. Designed for the environmentally conscious, the Toyota Prius has helped reduce carbon emissions by 34 million tons.
Recently, Toyota revealed a new hydrogen fuel cell concept car called the FCV and it is getting a lot of buzz. Using the Prius hybrid core as a new starting point, Toyota has added a revamped hydrogen fuel cell system that is more consumer friendly. The zero emissions vehicle will drive 300 miles on a full tank and the hydrogen fuel price will be comparable to current gasoline prices.
Some worry about the possible dangers of using hydrogen as a fuel, but Toyota’s web site states:
“Hydrogen has many positive safety aspects as a vehicle fuel – it’s non-toxic, lighter than air and less flammable than gasoline. For the FCV, Toyota’s carbon fiber hydrogen tanks have undergone extreme testing to ensure their durability in a crash, including being shot with high caliber bullets. In the event of a major accident, there are multiple safety systems in place to protect the tanks and overall vehicle.”
Alkali fuel cell technology has been proven safe for decades. Incidentally, it is the same type of hydrogen fuel that was used in the Apollo missions during the sixties and seventies. The fuel cell “generates electricity through the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to power the motor driving the vehicle. Hydrogen, which replaces gasoline as fuel, is an environment-friendly energy source that can be produced from various raw materials.”
Hyundai already has a similar vehicle on the market. Their new 2015 Tuscon Fuel Cell vehicle is also getting a lot of attention. It takes 3 minutes to fill up (unlike the three hours it takes to fully charge an electric car), and the fuel is free, which is spectacular.
One might argue that electric cars are also zero emissions vehicles. So, why would we want to shift to hydrogen fuel? The main argument for hydrogen involves the way in which we produce electricity around the world. The electricity that we use to power our homes, businesses, personal devices, and electric cars/ hybrids comes from traditional methods (i.e. coal, nuclear, wind. solar, etc.,), some of which are harmful to the environment while others are more expensive to sustain. Although only the most dedicated environmentalists will be the first adopters of the FCV, soon enough we will see these cars everywhere.
No doubt, the oil companies are shaking in their boots. The inevitable anti-fuel cell propaganda has already been prepared and the pundits, lobbyists, and attack dogs have likely been trained on all of the talking points. The hydrogen fuel fear campaign is in the works, but there is very little they can do. This technology is moving forward and the oil companies are in danger.
The only real setback to the success of these vehicles is the availability of the hydrogen fuel. It is not like you can drive to the corner and fill up on hydrogen, but this is just another hurdle to be overcome as the demand for hydrogen fuel increases. With car companies investing a lot of research into the development and success of these vehicles, the technology is clearly moving forward.