Later this year, Toyota’s first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — the 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan — will go on sale at just eight dealerships in California.
Due to go on sale for $57,500 and offering an expected range of around 300 miles per fill of its dual fuel tanks, the Toyota Mirai is being marketed by Toyota as a direct competitor to the electric car, offering a what Toyota claims is all the benefits of an electric car — smooth acceleration, instant torque and zero tailpipe emissions — while having a super-quick refueling time.
To convince car buyers that its costly hydrogen fuel cell car is better than an electric car and that its Mirai really is the car of the future today, Toyota has invested heavily in a series of short online videos called “Fueled by Everything,” in which it shows the various places hydrogen can be gathered to power the four seat sedan.
The first — which we told you about back in April — featured the innovative yet energy-intensive process of harvesting methane from cow manure, then steam reforming it into hydrogen.
Yesterday, Toyota released the second video, focusing on how it’s possible to produce hydrogen from the electrolysis of water.
The place chosen to demonstrate such a process? Oil Creek, Titusville, Pennsylvania, where oil was first discovered in large amounts in the U.S.
Toyota wants buyers to associate its first production hydrogen fuel cell car with renewable sources of hydrogen. So far, that’s included cow poo and water.
Covering the history of Oil Creek Toyota takes great pains to illustrate that a place once associated with the mining of oil, a non-reenable energy source, can now be associated with the start of what it hopes will be a hydrogen fuel cell revolution.
The key word here of course, is renewable. While the majority of hydrogen today is produced through the steam reforming of natural gas — a non-renewable fossil fuel — Toyota wants buyers to associate its first production hydrogen fuel cell car with renewable sources of hydrogen. So far, that’s included cow poo and water.
In this latest video, Toyota enlists the help of local AP Chemistry students in Titusville, as well as Larry Moulthrop, Chemist, Engineer and co-founder of Proton Onsite.
For those taking notes, Proton Onsite happens to produce a range of industrial-scale hydrolysis equipment designed to produce hydrogen from water on an industrial scale.
Like the video before it, this particular video from Toyota fails to mention the amount of energy used to electrolyze the water into its constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen, but does enthuse that of the 150 gallons of water collected from Oil Creek, enough hydrogen can be produced to fill 12 Miria Fuel Cell Sedans.
While electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen fuel is far better from an environmental point of view than steam reforming natural gas, it takes a lot of energy to separate the covalent bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water.
In fact, the last time we checked — and we admit there may be more energy-efficient ways — it takes 9 liters of water and 56 kilowatt-hours of electricity to make one kilogram of hydrogen fuel.
If we extrapolate that into the 150 gallons of water collected at Oil Creek by Toyota, we’re left with a total required energy of 3.65 Megawatt-hours to split all that water into oxygen and hydrogen.
While there’s theoretically plenty of free solar energy to go around, that’s a lot of electricity for just 3,600 miles of zero emissions travel.
And until a more efficient way of making hydrogen is found, that’s going to be a thorn in Toyota’s side — no matter how much it enthuses that its car will really run on anything.
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