Can Hydrogen Surpass Electricity As the Fuel of the Future?

Electric cars are quickly becoming the mainstream choice for alternative fuels. As has been well-discussed here over the last few months, cities, countries, and automakers are committing to the elimination of gas-powered cars and the adoption of electric ones.

Toyota was among the first to introduce electricity to the masses with the hybrid Prius, but now it seems to believe the fuel of the future is hydrogen.

Could electric cars be just a stop-gap on the way to a true fuel revolution?

Toyota already sells a hydrogen fuel-cell car in California called the Mirai. It’s powered by a 1.7-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride battery that is continuously charged by a hydrogen fuel-cell stack. The stack pulls its hydrogen from tanks that hold about 10,000 psi of pressure.

The Mirai has a 312-mile range, but obviously can be refueled only at hydrogen filling stations, which are rare in California. That lack of infrastructure and the energy-intensive process of turning hydrogen into fuel are major reasons why the Mirai isn’t a mass-market vehicle. The Mirai is, however, Toyota’s proof that a hydrogen vehicle is possible.

Next in Toyota’s quest to push the hydrogen agenda is a concept called the Fine-Comfort Ride, which is essentially a luxury living room on wheels.

An article at The Truth About Cars says,

At 190 inches long and 77 inches wide, it isn’t a petite transport. However, that mass translates into a spacious cabin — with ample room for six — affixed with all the luxuries you’d want to see in the car of tomorrow. It has lavish swivel chairs, mood lighting, connectivity for each passenger, and windows that double as infotainment screens.

Unfortunately, it has the face of Droopy Dog. This may be the first time an automaker has molded a vehicle’s bodywork into jowls.

Toyota says the Fine-Comfort Ride is capable of 621 miles of range on a single tank of hydrogen. There aren’t any production plans for the concept, but Toyota could use the technology in future vehicles.

Toyota is so gung-ho on hydrogen because its only emissions are distilled water. Plus, there’s a fairly extensive hydrogen refueling network in Japan.

Hydrogen fuel cells have a long way to go, though, before replacing electricity as the future’s fuel choice. Consumer Reports has said:

This space-age technology is expensive. Acceptable range requires extremely-high-pressure, on-board hydrogen storage. Few places to refuel. Hydrogen is very expensive to transport and there is no infrastructure in place yet. Currently hydrogen fuel is made from nonrenewable natural gas in a process that creates enormous CO2 emissions.

Technology will most certainly improve enough to make hydrogen feasible, but it’s unlikely to happen before EVs go mainstream.

How long will it be until you’re driving without gasoline?

-tgriffith

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