back to article Toyota to launch hydrogen (ie, NATURAL GAS) powered fuel cell hybrid

Toyota will launch its all-new Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in Japan on 15 December before introducing it in the UK and other selected European markets in September 2015, with that date dictated by getting a refuelling infrastructure rolled out. Fuel cells, which produce electricity directly as they combine fuel with …

  1. Smudger 1

    substandard subheading

    "Only in Japan though - until Sept 2013"

    ...apparently, it's a time machine as well.

  2. GreggS

    Only in Japan though - until Sept 2013?

    Does it go back in time when it reaches 88 MPH?

    1. Peter Storm

      Re: Only in Japan though - until Sept 2013?

      Only if it can produce 1.21 gigawatts.

  3. Jayce and the Wheeled Chairs
    Mushroom

    "Realistic hydrogen advocates mention nuclear at this point, dreamers consider that it could all be done with renewables."

    I assume you mean nuclear fission.

    This dreamer considers that it could all be done with nuclear fusion and I don't mean the big finite one in the sky known as the sun that powers so called renewables.

    1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Fusion EATS hydrogen to make helium, leaving less fuel for the car!

      1. JDX Gold badge

        re:Fusion EATS hydrogen to make helium, leaving less fuel for the car!

        It doesn't eat very much of it though. We are not in short supply of the most prevalent element in the universe.

      2. HMB

        Fusion and Hydrogen

        Good god guys, you've had a jolly old talk about Hydrogen but that's largely irrelevant.

        While good old regular hydrogen will fuse in a nuclear reaction, my farts probably have more energy. All fusion for weapons or power production is focussed on Deuterium - Tritium reactions, which while being hydrogen, are the heavier isotopes of it, so getting it from seawater is a bit of a non starter.

        Sure you can get heavy water from regular water and you have to sift it out, but the best way of obtaining tritium is by consuming lithium. I'm pretty sure some of the Oxford JET designs have lithium around the reaction chamber in order to breed tritium from the fusion reaction's by-product of neutron radiation.

        Safer than over-running an open air breeding reactor accidentally beyond it's limits. *cough-windscale-cough*

        Maybe if they can't use a nuclear fusion reaction they can find a cloaked war bird. The trick is to look for gaseous anomalies.

        Oh and as it's been said, you don't need very much mass of fuel for a nuclear reactor. That's why you could run a breeder reactor from a little uranium harvested from the sea for goodness knows how long. It's completely backwards from a regularly fuelled plant. For Nuclear, fuel costs are tiny in comparison to regulatory, safety, construction, staffing and design costs. Completely unlike a coal station where buying f***tonnes of coal every minute are the major cost.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Fusion and Hydrogen

          "Sure you can get heavy water from regular water and you have to sift it out, but the best way of obtaining tritium is by consuming lithium"

          If you want it in the quantities needed, then you're better off using unenriched lithium in a LFTR and harvesting the tritium given off, than trying to extract it from JET.

          Fusion is still at least 25-50 years away from practicality and 25-50 years past that for commercial power generation. In the meantime we need low-carbon energy _now_.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We can do it with renewables. All we need to do is cover the Sahara with solar panels and then use the power to electrolyse sea water and then just pipe the hydrogen through all the oil-producing Arab nations that really wouldn't want to damage our pipeline at all.

      As simple as that. All you need to do is to go to war with... Pick a weak nation in the way to send a message.

      It deals with rising sea levels too. What's not to like?

      1. Chemist

        "It deals with rising sea levels too. What's not to like?"

        I assume that's a joke

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        It deals with rising sea levels too. What's not to like?

        And if we collect the water produced by the fuel cells, through the roadside drains, we can divert it to reservoirs, solving the hosepipe ban/drought problem as well.

        1. Suricou Raven

          There's a lot of everything in seawater, including gold. The problem is getting it out. Very low concentration, thus very high processing costs.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            >>There's a lot of everything in seawater, including gold. The problem is getting it out. Very low concentration, thus very high processing costs.

            Hydrogen is fairly prevalent in water on the other hand :)

            As for releasing nasty gasses you could just dissolve them straight back in, without noticeably affecting the concentrations. I'd rather suspect even in the immediate vicinity, the differences would be very small though I don't have a clue how many mega-litres of water would be processed per day.

            1. Chemist

              "As for releasing nasty gasses you could just dissolve them straight back in, without noticeably affecting the concentrations."

              No, sorry. Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen (~35 times as much by weight of course)- it's the basis of chlorine, sodium hydroxide ( and hence hypochlorite bleach) production. Generating significant amounts more of hydrogen from brine would overwhelm the environment with chlorine and probably sodium hydroxide.

              1. JDX Gold badge

                re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                Wikipedia claims seawater is about 3.5% NaCl by mass. Since NaCl is heavier than H2O, that means the molar ratio i.e. the volume of gasses produced is surely lower than 3.5%, not higher?

                But none of that even matters. If you fully electrolysed 10% of a volume of water and dissolve chlorine/sodium back in, the remaining water's salt content is only increased by 10% regardless how much chlorine you have in terms of pure volume.

                That's assuming you can dissolve the Cl+Na back in once they've been decomposed, of course.

                1. Chemist

                  Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                  Oh no, I'm afraid not. The electrolysis reaction is :

                  2NaCl +2H2O -> H2 + Cl2 + 2NaOH.

                  So to get 1 mole of hydrogen you also get 1 mole of chlorine - it doesn't matter what the concentration is. The volume of hydrogen produced is exactly the same as chlorine.

                  You can't just dissolve the chlorine back - it's a nasty, nasty reactive & toxic gas - it's not the same as chloride ion.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

                    1. Chemist

                      Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                      "Ultimately you get HCl and O2,"

                      You don't . Potentially if you allow the chlorine to react with the sodium hydroxide you get a mix of NaCl and NaOCl. NaOCl is hypochlorite bleach and environmentally very damaging

                      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                        Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                        My mistake. I realised that and deleted the post before checking whether you'd responded. Whoops.

                        1. Chemist

                          Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                          Potentially hypochlorite can be decomposed to NaCl and oxygen but the overall problem is the proportion of the energy budget being used to produce a high energy unwanted material.

                2. Chemist

                  Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                  Why bother with seawater anyway - pure water + several other electrolytes just gives hydrogen and oxygen directly

                  1. JDX Gold badge

                    Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                    So if you try to electrolyse sea water this just happens, you can't prevent it as a by-product?

                    So if we wanted to use sea-water (I suppose only because there is so much of it) we'd have to desalinate it first? Is that feasible or would situating the plants near major rivers/lakes make more sense?

                    1. Chemist

                      Re: re:Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                      "So if you try to electrolyse sea water this just happens, you can't prevent it as a by-product?"

                      There's some work on-going into selective electrodes but usually what happens with electrolysis is that at low current density selectivity might be achieved (depending on the characteristics of the competing ions) but at the sorts of current density required for production the selectivity is lost again.

                      In cases where fresh water supply isn't a problem then that is likely to be a preferred option. Even then I suspect that fairly pure water will be needed. I haven't worked it out but the energy cost of distilling water to purity it is much lower than the energy cost of electrolysis which (at 100% efficiency !!) is ~280kJ/mole - so 280kJ for 2 grams of hydrogen. With the real efficiency factored in the energy costs are ~~20 MJ/m3 of hydrogen gas + water costs + compression costs.

                      Usually in electrolysis of brine to manufacture chlorine they use pretty pure solutions which are much more concentrated than sea-water. The membranes used to separate the anode/cathode compartments are very expensive and prone to blockage/poisoning as are some electrode materials.

                      A possible non-electrolysis route is thermal decomposition of steam at high temperatures in the presence of a material that will capture the oxygen. The capture material must itself be capable being regenerated in a separate step. This is still at very early stages AFAIK

              2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                > Electrolysis of brine produces as much chlorine as hydrogen

                These are chemicals used elsewhere in industrial use (and, as you mentioned, in household bleach). So this just becomes the means for us to get those chemicals already being used.

                Besides, you could do evaporative water purification first ("solar still", perhaps) to start with a more freshwater source? The brine would then be primarily solid.

                1. Chemist

                  "So this just becomes the means for us to get those chemicals already being used."

                  I think there are more than enough already. This usage would massively increase the output. As already mentioned using sodium chloride solution as the electrolyte in electrolysis is terrible way of producing hydrogen. There are far more efficient electrolysis methods that don't produce any nasty by-products. For example using sulphuric acid - the acid isn't consumed in the process and is left in the cell with just more water being added as hydrogen and oxygen are produced

            2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              > As for releasing nasty gasses you could just dissolve them straight back in, without

              > noticeably affecting the concentrations.

              I would think if you built the electrolysis plants near the output of various sewage treatment plants (NYC, etc) that discharge back into the ocean, you could readily be bringing that water's salinity, etc back to what it should be, and keep the atlantic conveyor working.

              1. Chemist

                "I would think if you built the electrolysis plants near the output of various sewage treatment plants (NYC, etc) that discharge back into the ocean, you could readily be bringing that water's salinity,"

                Except ( and forgetting the previously mentioned severe environmental effects ) you'd merely be putting back the sodium & chlorine that you took out in the first place !

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. southen bastard

        electrolyse sea water ??? that's going to produce a lot of chlorine, toxic and bad for lining things

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Assumptions.

        "All we need to do...."

        What's this "we", white man?

        In case you haven't noticed, the Sahara is in Africa, a continent whose inhabitants are quite rightly pissed off about past exploitation of their resources and they won't look kindly on Europe doing it again when there's at least as much energy demand south of the Sahara as north of it.

        That's apart from the issue of this pesky stuff called "sand" and its tendency to form "dunes", which are constantly moving about.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fission is renewable.

        There's enough thorium in mining tailings to do it for the next 1000 years and it's not as if those piles are getting smaller, given they're leftovers from rare earth extraction.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fission is renewable.

        The problem with using uranium is that you have to use an inordinate amount of energy to concentrate enough U235 to be useable in a nuclear pile - and all that leftover U238 (chemically toxic) is just dandy for tank killing bullets (It burns fiercely once inside the tank, incinerating the occupants but more importantly spreads uranium compounds all over the local environment) or wrapping around nuclear bombs to make even bigger nuclear bombs (Teller-Ulam process, aka "H-bombs")

        Nuclear waste issues are overblown. The _real_ storage period is a few hundred years. After that the old rods are a low-radioactivity source of plutonium for new reactors, but before that the rods can be dissolved in flouride salts and burned up in LFTR reactors (including all that annoying U238, but the primary fuel for a LFTR once started is Thorium)

  4. Blitheringeejit

    Dreaming

    If research into hydrogen-powered vehicles eventually results in a massive uplift and cost-drop in hydrogen storage and management tech, doesn't that have some potential to solve the storage problem which besets renewable leccy? So rather than building massive tidal lakes or pumping water up mountains with spare capacity when it's windy/sunny, you just electrolyse water and store the hydrogen locally, then fill your car up (or run your central heating) when you need to?

    Just askin' ...

    1. Adrian Harvey
      Boffin

      Re: Dreaming

      Yes, because you've built a 'battery' where the charging and discharging parts can be separated. But don't underestimate how hard hydrogen storage is. Not only can't it be realistically stored as a liquid (far too cold), which means that energy density is fairly poor vs the weight of the storage system [As an aside here, in NZ we used to have CNG (natural gas{=methane}) run cars with a filling network at petrol stations throughout the North Island, and *it* suffered from energy density issues. Now only LPG remains. LPG is much denser as it is liquid under storage, so you get a lot more in a tank.] But Hydrogen atoms are so small that quantum effects become a factor. It can quantum tunnel across solid barriers and so escape barriers which aught ordinarily to contain a gas under that pressure. This requires ensuring areas Hydrogen is near are well ventilated so that an explosive quantity of gas can never build up.

      None of this should stop us trying, but we need to invest lots in other technologies to use in the interim because it's going to be a long time until this is really workable tech for normal car use...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Dreaming

        The energy density is pretty low compared with diesel but then the efficiency of 'combustion' is nearly 3 times higher. A hydrogen car of today can far outstrip the performance and range of a car from 50 years ago.

        Ledswinger:

        Hydrogen conversion (electricity->hydrogen->electricity) was over 85% efficient in the early 90's - so better than nuclear at 40%.

        Also underwater balloon storage looks pretty efficient - and remarkably cheap.

        One thing about using cars and hydrogen - and 'personal' wind/solar power - is that there are so many potential unit sales that there is a good reason for people to do research.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

          "Hydrogen conversion (electricity->hydrogen->electricity) was over 85% efficient in the early 90's - so better than nuclear at 40%."

          You don't know what you're talking about.

          I know the numbers on production plant because my employers operate some of the most advanced power plants and power storage systems in the world, including power-to-gas, AD, CAES, clean coal, the single most efficient production CCGT in the world, and a whole host of other clever stuff.

          If it were possible to even remotely approach the efficiencies you claim, then all peaking grid power would be produced by this method. If you actually read my post you'll see why the real world differs from what might be achieved on paper.

          And "cars/hydrogen/personal solar"? What? A domestic PV installation supplies a fraction of the household's current electricity demand. Adding personal transport to the domestic energy budget will at least double the typical electricity demand. And that's before the green twerps insist everybody has electrically driven heat pumps for water and space heating (double the demand again). Again, you simply don't know what you're on about.

          1. Chemist

            Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

            ""Hydrogen conversion (electricity->hydrogen->electricity) was over 85% efficient in the early 90's - so better than nuclear at 40%.""

            Absolute garbage- and I've got some electrochemistry patents to my name. Even electricity> hydrogen is ~~60% efficiency.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

            "A domestic PV installation supplies a fraction of the household's current electricity demand"

            Ha! I have 10kW of PV on my roof today which produces ~12,640 kWh/year (2-year average). This PV output covers not only 100% of my home's power needs but 94% of my car's as well (and I drive 15k heavy-footed miles per year).

            The 43 panels my roof hosts cover a mere 64 square meters (688 square feet) of roof space. Even a modest (as in half-sized) American home's roof is more than adequate to produce an equivalent amount of power.

            Looked at another way, a standard two car garage easily has enough roof space on the South-ish facing half to power an EV (13 220W panels, good for 12k miles/yr with average US insolation, 10k miles/yr with average UK insolation).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

              "Even a modest (as in half-sized) American home's roof is more than adequate to produce an equivalent amount of power."

              It has evidently passed you by that this is a UK based web site, and the discussion centres on UK issues. Here homes are smaller than the US, so any PV arrays are smaller, and insolation levels are far lower than most US states. What is considered in the UK to be a large domestic PV array is a 4 kW system producing 3.4 kWh, and that would cover most of a medium sized half-roof pitch.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

                Plus it depends where you live. The UK has probably got more cloud and less daylight hours than where the commentator lives. Either way the problem for Solar is that even if it did cover the "house" usage it isn't always produced at the time when the house is consuming or at the rate the house is consuming so you need a grid which can send it to where it's needed in sufficient quantity as well as store it until it is needed.

                On the other hand an industrial solar or wind farm which is used to produce hydrogen could work even if it wasn't that efficient. The efficiency doesn't matter too much (it's not like we're going to run out of Sun next week) and it's a good match for a power source which isn't constant. You produce hydrogen when the Sun is shining or the wind is blowing and you keep sufficient hydrogen in storage that the supply to the end user isn't interrupted.

          3. Dr Zoidberg

            Re: Dreaming @Tom 7

            "A domestic PV installation supplies a fraction of the household's current electricity demand."

            "It has evidently passed you by that this is a UK based web site, and the discussion centres on UK issues."

            It has evidently passed you by that you are on the internet. Just because you live on a tiny island that is permanently cloudy and wet, doesn't mean everyone else does. I am also pretty sure the article is about a car that was designed and built in Japan, which hardly qualifies as a 'UK issue'.

            Where I live, the solar panels on my roof cover my family's domestic usage and then some. We export over 15kWh to the grid on an average day (and get paid for it).

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Dreaming

        Binding the hydrogen makes it a lot easier to store and transport - metal hydrides being one solution with an energy density much higher than that of liquid hydrogen.

        Binding it with carbon is even easier because you don't have to "recharge" the metal. There's a lot more hydrogen in a litre of diesel than in a litre of liquid hydrogen.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Dreaming

          Binding it with carbon is even easier because you don't have to "recharge" the metal.

          Right. If we're producing enough electricity that we're considering storing hydrogen on a large scale, it's probably better to synthesize propane from the hydrogen and the waste carbon we have lying around everywhere (e.g. in landfills). It's a lot easier to store, and we already have all the infrastructure for storage, transport, distribution, and consumption. Existing IC gasoline engines can easily be converted to use it. Propane-fired home generators are available off the shelf.

          We could synthesize other hydrocarbons, but propane's something of a sweet spot both for technical and economic reasons (all that existing infrastructure).

          While we're tossing around blue-sky schemes, how about a big thermal-solar plant in the Sahara, HVDC transmission to the coast (pick one), a combination desalination and electrolysis plant there, and a propane-synthesis plant with a gas terminal at the nearest big harbor. Start moving Europe's gas-burning infrastructure from CNG to LPG and weaken Gazprom's influence on European energy markets.

        2. Ed_UK

          Re: Dreaming

          Alan Brown said:

          "Binding it with carbon is even easier because you don't have to "recharge" the metal. There's a lot more hydrogen in a litre of diesel than in a litre of liquid hydrogen."

          Brilliant! All we need to do is burn coal to make electricity, use it to electrolyse water, combine the hydrogen with more coal to produce big molecules, say octane. Then use THAT for running the car.

          It's no dafter than using hydrogen as a fuel.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dreaming

      "doesn't that have some potential to solve the storage problem which besets renewable leccy?"

      Only with some breakthroughs that will make the discovery of the semiconductor small beer. That's because electricity to hydrogen back to electricity involves multiple conversions plus intermediate physical storage.

      So state of the art at the moment is about 60-70% efficiency on large scale prototype electricity to gas plants - that's being done now, and is a hugely impressive achievement. Mainly that efficiency is a result of the dissociation of water to get the hydrogen. You'll only improve that if you can magically improve the dissociation technology, and I'd be surprised if we'll see major progress on that. A big part of the problem is that you only want the H, not the O, so the energy embodied in the dissociated oxygen is lost when it is vented. Technically you can capture and store the O, but the problem is that it's economic value is lower than the marginal cost of storing and distributing the oxygen to those who want it.

      You then have problems of compression and decompression of hydrogen (uses perhaps 2-7% of embodied energy), the higher of those where you either have multiple compression/decompression cycles (eg distribution and transport use), or where you have to heat the compressed gas to decompress it (as you will in industrial scale plants).

      If you can use the stored hydrogen in a grid-scale fuel cell, what energy efficiency might you hope for in practice? Let's plump for 50%, you can improve this by running in CHP mode, but that adds heat output, not more electricity, and requires a heat distribution network (the efficiency of large scale fuel cells is only marginally better than a modern gas turbine). All the talk of fuel cells as 90% efficient ignores the fact that they produce heat and electricity, and to be that efficient you need to be able to use both outputs in their entirety. In the case of heat that's very difficult in the real world.

      So here's the rub: For every 1 kWh that goes into the power-to-gas plant, you get 0.3 kWh of electricity out of the fuel cell. So you need three times as much generating capacity upstream of the power-to-gas plant, and that's expensive; You need a power-to-gas plant, they don't come cheap; and you need in my example an expensive grid scale fuel cell (and an expensive heat distribution network if you want to raise the efficiency to a still middling 70%).

      So the problem is that you need lots more capital intensive plant, and I can't see R&D materially bring the costs down by much. You *might* reduce the storage costs for hydrogen with nanotech. You will only improve the efficiency of the fuel cell if you come up with a miraculous recovery system for low grade heat (and nobody's done that economically despite a century of looking).

      Technically storing (say) wind power as gas is easy - you can visit plants doing this today. What you can't do is magic away the problems of low grade losses in the various conversion stages, nor the need for multiple volumes of kit that cost huge amounts of money. If your dream is renewable power storage, then the problem becomes one of suitable sites for renewables.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Dreaming

        The issue of making use of low-grade heat is a great research topic for university under-grad and grad programs. I've always thought that using the heat output of thermal power plants to add heat and even CO2 to a large adjacent green house facility might make a load of sense. Especially in colder climates and in the winter. Imagine growing bananas or other tropical fruits in Scotland in December.

        I'd like to see a pilot hydroponic plant set up that utilizes a very high CO2 fraction and low grade heat for crops such as lettuces. I haven't had a chance to talk with an entomologist to find out if the high CO2 might help eliminate pests, but it sounds like it might.

        1. MaxNZ

          Re: Dreaming

          In New Zealand there is a prawn farm situated near a geothermal power plant, using the waste heat from the power plant to warm the water for the prawns. A bit like your idea of bananas in Scotland.

  5. HarryCambs

    Hydrogen advocates forget to mention the obvious

    The obvious problem of hydrogen that is always over looked, intentionally, is the fact that hydrogen extremely inefficient to produce with electricity due to high conductivity of water where most of the energy is lost in heat. Its why hydrogen is currently is mostly produced from fossil fuels. It is also extremely expensive to transport. All of this makes hydrogen cost 10 times as much as petrol!

    1. dogged

      Re: Hydrogen advocates forget to mention the obvious

      > All of this makes hydrogen cost 10 times as much as petrol!

      So since "green" taxation wouldn't apply, at the pump it would probably cost about the same.

      1. HarryCambs

        Re: Hydrogen advocates forget to mention the obvious

        http://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/oct/30/research.science1

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Hydrogen advocates forget to mention the obvious

      "The obvious problem of hydrogen that is always over looked, intentionally, is the fact that hydrogen extremely inefficient to produce with electricity"

      Steam cracking is probably the way forward and powering it with a LFTR nuke plant would be the obvious cheap energy source.

      Hydrogen from electrolysis is never going to be efficient, the only way to make hydrogen cracking cheap is to use waste heat from another process - like the "cold" side of a power station powered by the above-mentioned LFTR

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder why whenever we hear about a hydrogen powered car the author of the article always has to mention that the hydrogen comes from natural gas which means CO2 is released but when mentioning electric vehicles no one ever seems to point out that most electricity is made by burning coal?

    It seems to me that it doesn't really matter what we power our car with the important first step is to make vehicles not burn carbon containing fuels. Once we have that situation it's much easier to start talking about decarbonizing the power generation system.

    Personally, I think the ultimate car would be a combination of battery (or more likely super capacitor) and fuel cell. The fuel cell would provide the base load power and fast refuelling and the battery / capacitor would fill in the power spikes. I can't think of any car with this design though so perhaps it's uneconomical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We'd probably reduce CO2 more by using the excess heat from power stations to heat all of the local schools, factories, shops and houses

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "We'd probably reduce CO2 more by using the excess heat from power stations to heat all of the local schools, factories, shops and houses"

        You would. But in the UK context, that wouldn't come cheap. Take Ratcliffe on Soar coal power station. Waste heat from that is roughly equal to the space heating requirements of nearby Nottingham. It's a no brainer, isn't it? Free heat for all!

        Except that the costs of a heat recovery, backup heat systems and a distribution network would cost something of the order of £10 billion (around £15,000 per house served), and even if you're a believer in the official climate change religion, that's a very expensive way of reducing CO2 emissions. And the real problem is that in the context of UK energy policy, CEDD hope there will be no large scale fossil plants reliably running by 2030, and the scheme would take around fifteen years to complete.

        The most important thing to remember about UK and EU energy policy, is that it is driven by gesture politics, not by common sense. So windmills all round, and shiver in the dark in winter!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      If we're going to assume an efficient, magic, carbon-free way to make hydrogen, why not just invent one that creates alcohol instead? Then we could use the existing engine and filling station networks largely unchanged?

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "No one ever seems to point out that most electricity is made by burning coal?"

      That depends where you are

      http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/france/ shows that 80-85% of french power is nuke-sourced.

      1. HMB

        Nuclear Proportions

        France isn't very representative of the entire world. It's also supposed to have had much cheaper electricity than over here, but my checks just now seem to suggest we're roughly level.

        For worldwide production of electricity, coal does indeed seem to be at #1 with a healthy lead.

        However I found this article very interesting:

        http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-generating-the-most-nuclear-energy-2014-3?op=1&IR=T

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      The other thing that is rarely mentioned is how much electricity goes into refining crude oil into gasoline, again, mostly using coal. Electric cars have the advantage of being oblivious to how the electricity going to power them is being generated. As the grid gets cleaner, so does the electric car. Granted, petrol and diesel cars also get a bit cleaner, but they will never get anywhere near zero emissions.

      FC cars do have a battery pack. The fuel cell would have to be unusably large if it had to have enough peak output to accelerate the car from a standing start up to highway speeds in less than 15-20 minutes. Once up to speed, a very large cell would be overkill for the requirements.

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    Got to start somewhere

    I doubt even Toyota see this vehicle as selling in huge numbers but it might whet the public's appetite and reveal the practicalities of fuel cells. Personally I'd envisage the future as being a hybrid with either a fuel cell or a micro turbine that provides power to batteries or directly to a drive train.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Got to start somewhere

      Until the first H2 filling station fire, then they'll wish they only had unintended acceleration to worry about. Brave of them to try, though.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Got to start somewhere

        If petrol stations can safely store propane, lpg, petrol and diesel then I don't see the huge additional risk of storing hydrogen. Some buses around London already use hydrogen power so it can be applied in practice.

        But it does seem somewhat more useful if the source of fuel is naturally a liquid or solid at normal temperatures to simplify the refuelling process and the need to have pressurized containers in vehicles.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "introducing it in the UK and other selected European markets in September 2015, with that date dictated by getting a refuelling infrastructure rolled out."

    10 months to design, build and roll out the infrastructure to produce, transport, store and dispense large quantities of a highly explosive gas composed of the smallest molecules in existance and compressed to 700bar.

    It would be easier to land the Mirai on a comet.

    1. Dapprman

      It was the hydrogen station problem that prevented BMW, Mercedes and VW launching their hydrogen powered cars in the 1980s - I believe the research was not stopped, so who knows we might get more options.

  9. Salts

    And If...

    They gave the option of being able to plug the fuel cell into the home at night to power the home, that could be useful, more than enough kilowatts there for the average home, wonder what the cost per kilo watt is?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And If...

      "wonder what the cost per kilo watt is?"

      Something like three or four times the cost that the generator gets paid for the electricity used to produce the hydrogen, because of inter-stage losses and waste heat losses from your car's fuel cell.

      From current fossil generation you'd be paying around 20 p/kWh, if using nuclear power under the forthcoming CfD mechanism you'd have end to end costs of around 30 p/kWh, for a largely renewables scenario perhaps 50 p/kWh. That doesn't include wear and tear on the fuel cell, which has a finite life. I'd guess that additional wear and tear could amount to around another 2-3p kWh.

      So using a fuel cell to power your home makes about as much economic sense as fitting a power take off to your Ford Mondeo and running the shaft into a generator. Yes, you can do it, but yes, you'd be mad to do it.

    2. GettinSadda

      Re: And If...

      In fact that option exists...

      https://transportevolved.com/2014/11/18/explained-2016-toyota-mirai-honda-fcv-concept-chademo-sockets/

  10. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Why hello there officer...

    But with a top speed of just 111mph...

    Just? Why would this be an a detractor, unless you happened to be on the correct bits of a German autobahn, a tame race-track or you simply don't have a particular attachment to your driving license?

    Especially as I'm not sure that the petrol/diesel equivalent version would be able to do much more if similarly floored. Given the size of the car it'd probably end up as an urban run-about anyway for many, which makes the whole speed question moot anyway.

    1. HarryCambs

      Re: Why hello there officer...

      Detractor because battery is still the most efficient and cheapest form of electric propulsion, hydrogen propulsion has 1/10th of the efficiency of a battery.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Why hello there officer...

        One isn't exclusive of the other. If they added a small battery bank that's recharged from the fuel cell, they could greatly improve that 0-60 time, and provide a higher top speed, if only for a short burst.

        The fuel cell obviously puts out more power than is required for steady driving at legal (or normal) driving speeds outside of Germany, so it should be capable of always keeping the battery topped up. If you needed an extra burst for quick acceleration it would be available.

        Realistically, in the market Toyota is targeting here, a 9.6 second 0-60 time is fine. That's faster than any cars I rent in Europe, and while on the slow side by American standards it isn't out of line for an economy car.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Why hello there officer...

          a 9.6 second 0-60 time is fine. That's faster than any cars I rent in Europe, and while on the slow side by American standards it isn't out of line for an economy car

          And it wasn't "on the slow side by American standards" all that long ago. 9.6s is faster than, say, a '93 Toyota Camry LE, or a '90 Celica GT-S, according to one site. And somehow we lived through those dark times.

          Hell, it's faster than the car I was driving before I got my fancy-shmancy Volvo XC70 - a 1997 Plymouth Breeze. (Faster than the Breeze was when it was new, I mean; by the time I got rid of it, its 0-60 time was somewhere between "eventually" and "maybe tomorrow".)

          Cars these days are ridiculously overpowered.

  11. MacGyver

    Coming soon to a city near you, um, I mean near an equator.

    Fuel Cell + location in which water freezes = fail

    Even if the making, storing, and filling problems are all solved (they aren't going to be solved anytime soon BTW). Fuel cells create water in the process, and that means they are viable only places where water doesn't freeze.

    So let's just put this to bed, and break the news to the car manufactures that their cash cow of hydrogen burning cars as an interim solution to low cost fuel cell power cars (yeah right) isn't fooling anyone. The truth is that they want to hold on to ICE powered cars as long as they can because they make insane amounts of money off the hundreds of replacement parts they require. They clearly want a hydrogen infrastructure in place while they work out the kinks and get the price down of fuel-cell cars (aren't the prices of rare Earth metals like scandium, platinum (palladium) dropping daily, no?), is it their fault that the stuff can be burned in the mean time?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coming soon to a city near you, um, I mean near an equator.

      Fuel Cell + location in which water freezes = fail

      You ignore the fact that fuel cell also produce heat, and from cold start a standby fossil fuel heater or a battery are quite feasible. Modern diesel engines struggle to work properly when cold, so they have glow plugs to ensure that they start OK.

      I'm sceptical about the long term prospects for renewable hydrogen fuel cells for other reasons, but a bit of cold weather isn't a problem. A clue that you might have noticed is their initial use in the space programme. It's pretty cold outside the atmosphere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Coming soon to a city near you, um, I mean near an equator.

        The hydrogen powered buses in Iceland seemed to work OK in the winter.

  12. Sequin

    "NATURAL GAS" is a description usually ascribed to Methane, not hydrogen.

    If you are referring to Hydrogen as "a natural gas", the same description applies to Hydrogen Cyanide and Radon

    1. HarryCambs

      So why not just an LPG car instead?

    2. GettinSadda

      Hydrogen is generally made from natural gas - so the power source for this car is natural gas. There is no significant natural source of hydrogen.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Hydrogen is generally made from natural gas"

        Which is why it would make far more sense to make a fuel cell which can handle that.

        And such things already exist.

  13. Ilmarinen
    WTF?

    Hideously complex

    Let's keep in mind that a car is essentially just a tool to move people & a few belongings from A to B & back. Four wheels, an engine, weather protection, heating (+ aircon in hot places), lights so you can drive at night. Maybe a radio to sing along to :-)

    Even in a world where car manufacturers are now forced by regulations to add layers of unwanted complexity, this 1.8 tonne over-engineered monstrosity must take the biscuit.

    (and don't even get me started on the stupidity of hydrogen as a fuel)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hideously complex

      "Hideously complex "

      Imagine a system where a new fuel is found. It needs to be distilled through a complex process, but then produces a highly flammable, toxic, vapour producing fuel. This is then fed into a strengthened tank in a vehicle, adding much weight. The magic fuel is first pumped out the tank by a normal pump, but then needs to pumped into the converter at much higher pressure, using a special high pressure pump. It needs to be metered in with incredible precision. Then it is ignited by a precisely timed electric signal, using sensors to address the timing, and an auxiliary power plant to produce the electricity (stored in a separate battery for times when the fuel converter is not running). The spark produces an explosion, that accelerates a reciprocating piece of metal......

      ....I'm sorry, I've lost the will to continue with this little parable, but hopefully you get the point. Compared to the compexity of an ICE vehicle, just about ANYTHING else is comparatively simple.

      1. Ilmarinen

        Re: Hideously complex

        Noooo - you don't need all that gubbins !

        (nor the catalyser, lambda sensor, electronics, CAN bus, ECUs, etc, etc.)

        Think carburetor and magneto.

  14. Putters

    Link to Telegraph Article

    Link to Telegraph Article on this car - some details here about their plans for the fuel stations and their in car storage of the hydrogen etc. May answer a few of the questions being raised here :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/toyota/mirai/

    And yes - for another $3000 (US) you can have a 9kW power takeoff to run your house too ... a tankful supplying a week's power apparently.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Climate Change

    What happens to the Hydrogen? It combines with Oxygen to produce water in the air in other words: rain! We'll all drown!!!

  16. Annihilator

    "In a future where hydrogen was widely used it would obviously not make much sense to keep making it from natural gas - you might as well just run the vehicles on gas, as indeed is often done today."

    You're dodging the significant advantage of being able to shift the burning of hydrocarbons away from the centre of big cities. I don't see people arguing to have petrol generators attached to houses instead of a national grid...

    Getting towards a green mode of transportation will be a two (interdependent) step process. Getting the internal combustion engine out of the car. Figuring out a means to cleanly generate whatever fuel source replaces it.

    At the moment, batteries aren't nearly as efficient enough to take the place of a fuel cell.

    1. Malmesbury

      "At the moment, batteries aren't nearly as efficient enough to take the place of a fuel cell."

      Have you actually examined a Tesla S?

      The truth is that in the 80s, hydrogen fuel cells looked like the winner. Batteries would never be good enough - that was the conventional wisdom.

      The thing is that the limits of hydrogen storage are at the hard physical limits. Batteries have a long way to go before they hit the theoretical limits. And they already can deliver a practical vehicle.

      Hydrogen has many features the advocates forget - no, not the alarmist nonsense but : Slower filling time than petrol (don't agitate your deep crogens, they don't like it), boil off (go on holiday and your tank will be empty when you come back), total removal of air from the fuel system (no combinations of hydrogen and oxygen please)..... As to making a hydrogen vehicle safe to use - I think they can. At a cost

      The truth is that a fuel cell car is an electric car. To get decent range it even needs a battery - to store energy from regenerative braking.

  17. Steven Jones

    Why is this called a hybrid?S

    Count me as confused, but I don't understand why this is called a hybrid. It seems to be a straight hydrogen fuel-cell car (and there have been other examples, albeit mostly prototypes). In contrast, surely a hybrid (by definition) includes two (or maybe more) power sources.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Why is this called a hybrid?S

      The Mirai is a hybrid, Fuel cell and battery.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did the pictured Mirai...

    ...crash into to rearrange the front end?

  19. MondoMan

    Apollo recollections a bit off...

    [fuel cells] "even provided some fizzy drinking water as a by-product of powering the Apollo landers"

    Actually, the landers (LEMs or LMs) themselves were all-battery. The fuel cells in the Apollo Service Module (the big cylindrical engine-bearing stage beneath the conical Command Module) did provide potable water, but this being an American spacecraft, the water was still, without any carbonation added to make it "fizzy".

  20. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Hydrogen boondoggle

    The only time hydrogen is a useful fuel is if you don't have to compress it. Otherwise it's just too damned reactive to be useful.

    You need an inordinate amount of energy to compress hydrogen, or liquify it and compressed hydrogen systems are fundamentally too dangerous to be anything other than a closely supervised, short lived "halo car" with high operational costs due to constant replacement of the fuel train - metal hydrides are safer but cost more than gold, so they're impractical too.

    The easiest way to make hydrogen safe is to attach carbon atoms to it. There's more hydrogen in a litre of diesel than a litre of liquid hydrogen and if you're making it from scratch then you can synthesise shorter chains which don't have PM10 issues.

    If you've got enough energy to electrolyse water for hydrogen then you also have enough energy to take this process further (it's only slightly less lossy to make synfuels than it is to compress hydrogen as a transport fuel) and there is already a well-established distribution infrastructure, although with the rise of EVs, that might diminish somewhat (liquid fuels would be for long-range vehicles, not commuters)

    Having seen what hydrogen embrittlement does to CNG cylinders, I wouldn't advise having anything relying on this kind of thing under my car, where it could potentially be kerb-struck or similar.

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