Every year car manufacturers gather at various auto shows around the world to show off the latest and greatest technology and concepts that will shape driving for years to come. From the first roadsters, to electric and hybrid vehicles, to self-driving cars, automakers continue to come up with new ways to make cars cleaner, safer, and more powerful with each model year that goes by. While hybrid cars have burst onto the scene over the last decade, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are poised to bring about the same change to the industry. Learning about this sustainable technology and how it can positively impact the environment and economy will help you the next time you visit your nearest Toyota dealership to see the newest cars on the lot. As Toyota and other automakers begin to make hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available, they will be sure to drastically reduce the world’s dependence on existing energy options.
What Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
To understand hydrogen fuel cells, it is first important to look at the make up and properties of these units as a whole. The use of hydrogen as a source of energy is not new. In fact, Renewable Energy World notes that NASA has been using liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel shuttles into space and power its electrical systems while in orbit. The reason for this is that hydrogen is high in energy, yet produces almost no pollution when burned. In addition, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, making it an ideal source of energy.
A fuel cell joins hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity that will power a vehicle. While fuel cells work best with pure hydrogen because they never lose charge and the resource is widely available, they are also put to use with natural gas, methanol, and gasoline. In these instances, the alternate source of fuel is reformed in order to extract the hydrogen levels needed to power the car. As long as hydrogen continues to be supplied to the fuel cell, it will continue to produce energy. In essence, a hydrogen fuel cell system will never lose its charge, making it a lasting technology that goes beyond the current battery solutions in place in other electric vehicles.
How Do Hydrogen Fuel Cells Work?
As the technology has become refined, hydrogen fuel cells have begun to make their way into more practical and everyday applications. This is due to the energy source’s adaptability to vehicles, in addition to home and business power. According to DriveClean, a buying guide for clean and efficient vehicles created by the California Air Resources Board, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are zero emission and run on compressed hydrogen from a fuel cell “stack.” This stack contains the hydrogen source as well as the equipment needed to convert it into energy for the car. As such, your local Toyota dealership will soon offer hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to consumers that produce fewer emissions and deliver higher efficiency.
A fuel cell stack is a collection of fuel cells, each with an anode, a cathode, and a proton exchange membrane. Hydrogen is stored in a tank onboard the vehicle and is sent through the anode side of a fuel cell. Oxygen from the surrounding air is then pulled into the fuel cell through the cathode side. As the hydrogen meets the proton exchange membrane, it is split into an electron and proton. As the electron then continues to the car’s circuitry to power the motor that propels the vehicle, the proton continues on and combines with the oxygen. The result is water, which is the only resulting emission from the tailpipe.
The fuel cell energy structure will continue to power the car until the hydrogen source is depleted. This means that, similar to a combustible engine, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will need to be refilled. However, DriveClean reports that a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle can be up to three times more efficient as a combustion vehicle, due to the accuracy and ability of the engine to convert up to 60 percent of its hydrogen source into usable energy for the car.
How Is Toyota Using Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
With hydrogen fuel cell technology starting to make its way into more everyday applications, you expect brands you trust to adopt the energy source. Making the switch to alternative energy supplies helps reduce your footprint, and the country’s collective dependence on fossil fuels and those that are not sustainable over the long term.
Toyota is one of the few automakers offering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to its customers beginning this summer. The all-new Toyota Mirai, the company’s upcoming hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, will make its way to select locations in California this October. Chosen for the state’s forward thinking and proactivity when it comes to reducing environmental impact and preserving natural resources, California is the perfect place for drivers to experience the future of automobiles.
Although set to release in the fall, the Mirai can be in your driveway earlier if you take advantage of Toyota’s summer application process. It is important to note that production of the Mirai is limited, planned for approximately 3,000 vehicles nationwide until the end of 2017. Therefore, Toyota will place Mirai with select, eligible customers. To help promote the launch of Mirai, Toyota has teamed up with award-winning filmmaker Morgan Spurlock for a series of online videos showing all of the ways Mirai benefits the environment and how the car is powered.
In addition to tanks carried by the car, hydrogen can also be produced using high quality bovine dung, solar power, wind, and biogas from landfills. The best way to learn more about the Mirai and all that the company is doing to further research into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is to visit your nearest Toyota dealership. You’ll be able to get more details on release dates, as well as the benefits of hydrogen fuel cells compared to a combustion engine. Contact a representative at North Hollywood Toyota at 800-800-6730 today for the next steps.