Hydrogen does not seem on top of President Obama’s agenda, neither does it rank very high on Martin Winterkorn’s list of priorities, but it sure is popular in Japan. Japanese carmakers, led by Toyota, are targeting a 2015 launch of hydrogen cars.
Toyota also says they are the most energy-efficient.
According to The Nikkei [sub], Toyota figures that fuel-cell vehicles are about twice as fuel-efficient as gas-powered cars. And contrary to popular wisdom, there is lots of hydrogen. Says the Nikkei:
“Hydrogen can be made from liquefied natural gas and obtained via industrial processes such as the refining of petroleum and the production of steel. Oil refineries produce massive amounts of hydrogen to remove sulfur while producing gasoline and other petroleum products.
As refineries start to close, oil companies will no longer need to use hydrogen to remove sulfur from petroleum products. This will create a surplus supply of hydrogen, which can then be used to power fuel-cell vehicles.”
There is another source of hydrogen: Dead trees. A group in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture. wants to produce hydrogen from gas generated by turning timber into wood chips.
The hard part is to make fuel cell vehicles affordable, and to package everything so that it fits a compact car. Toyota does not have a problem envisaging fuel cell vehicles at a reasonable cost. Two years ago already, Toyota’s chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso told TTAC that an affordable hydrogen-powered car in this decade is “his job.”