Toyota’s Latest Toyota Mirai Informercial Shows Hydrogen Generated From Electrolysis

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.

In its latest infomercial, Toyota shows how you can electrolyze water to produce hydrogen.

In its latest infomercial, Toyota shows how you can electrolyze water to produce hydrogen.

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.

Toyota enlists the help of a local high school AP Chemistry class.

Toyota enlists the help of a local high school AP Chemistry class.

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.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have great potential -- but there's some issues to be resolved over H2 efficiency and Generation

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have great potential — but there’s some issues to be resolved over H2 efficiency and Generation

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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  • socrateos

    The point of Toyota’s message is the fact that energy can be retrieved from elements that are everywhere in abundance. Now, how to get it efficiently is another matter. There is a risk for an automaker to start investing in it now. But there is also a risk not to start now, the risk of getting into the game too late. Toyota, unlike many others, made their decision clear.

    • Joe Viocoe

      “Toyota’s message is the fact that energy can be retrieved from elements that are everywhere in abundance”

      And THAT right there, is a perfect example of Toyota’s miseducation campaign to confuse people.

      There is ZERO “energy” derived from the water. Toyota wants to focus on the water, but the “energy” comes from the grid.

      And this propaganda piece is doing a good job promoting scientific IL-literacy. They know they cannot compete on facts, so they are getting quite desparate

  • Michael Thwaite

    I’m pretty confident that this campaign will backfire. Unless it serves its purpose to delay people purchasing normal battery-electric vehicles, when people visit the dealer to discover that there are no cars and no re-fuelling infrastructure, it’ll only serve to damage the reputation of Toyota.

    Who gains from this misinformation?

    • CDspeed

      I’d think the misinformation will only delay automotive evolution. If they manage to turn people off electric cars, and don’t exactly have a hydrogen car to sell them, people will just stick with gasoline. Which oddly seems to be what Toyota is really trying to do. Why else would they work for year on hybrids, which introduces electrification, and then abandon what they’ve learned for something completely different? I hate conspiracy theories, but it does seem like the work of the oil industry here.

    • D. Harrower

      No one gains.

      I think this is a case of Toyota trying to do as much damage to the reputation of EVs as it can (basically, undo everything Tesla has done in that regard) since a reduced EV market will greatly benefit Toyota if they ever come up with a viable way to produce hydrogen.

      It’s a if-I-go-down-you’re-coming-with-me mentality.

  • BEP

    It’s clear that in the future our energy will come from the sun… the only question is: how will we store our energy? Will we put it into batteries or will we use it to produce hydrogen? The answer isn’t known yet.

  • D. Harrower

    One would think a “Powered by Everything” campaign would apply to EVs far more than to FCVs.

    Just consider how many more ways there are to produce electricity than there are for hydrogen.

    Hydrogen production REQUIRES electricity, not the other way around.

  • Pingback: The Fuse | Understanding the Battle Between Electric and Hydrogen Vehicles()

  • Electric Bill

    I am conflicted! My Prius saved me thousands of dollars on gasoline before I was able to start driving my EVs, but I hate that they play these shell games. Which is worse– what Marchionne is doing with Fiat & Ferrari, or this smoke – and mirrors with Toyota?

    Karma’s poised to bite all three in the butt big time: while Tesla, Porsche and BMW confidently steamroll past Ferrari, and dozens of other car makers proceed to do likewise at Toyota’s expense, it seems inevitable that they may be running a most unwise gamble– they may go the way of Oldsmobile, DeSoto, Rambler, Nash, AMC, and so many others that could not see the forest for the trees.

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