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Japanese car giants team up to build hydrogen fueling stations

22 Comments
By YOSHIKAZU TSUNO

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© 2018 AFP

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22 Comments
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Good news.

Now, to make these cars as efficient and cheap as other cars. And to hope the public follows.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Why not make your own Hydrogen? Simple. Compressing the gas for storage is a bit harder.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why bother the consumer with the responsibility of re-fueling/charging the fuel cell. Why not simply make a station that change empty fuel cells for full fuel cells? That's what people do with propane tanks, and it seems to work pretty well.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

There are still about 30,000 gas stations in Japan (and more is needed according to a recent article), so 160 by 2020 or 180 hydrogen fuel ones by 2022 will hardly sway the potential car buyer to plump up for a fuel cell vehicle. In comparison, there are 40,000 electric car charging points right now. Unless all major gas station chains start to offer hydrogen too, this technology won't take off the ground in the foreseeable future.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The last thing hydrogen needs is a replay of the VHS/Betamax battle. Compete on car quality, not fueling standards.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This technology has a great potential, we need to move away from the combustion engine, one way or another. All major European nations have already declared plans to ban petrol and diesel cars in the coming years. The main problem is the all-powerful oil lobby and corrupted governments.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Perhaps a logical first step would be for taxis to convert to hydrogen. Many urban taxis already run on LPG, meaning they already use their own filling facilities.

"We need to promote xxxx" type expressions to me sound like "we need the taxpayer+magic money printer combo to pay for xxxx".

The hatchback Prius Toyota brought out in 2004ish can run on electricity alone if a larger battery pack is fitted. Third party aftermarket packs soon appeared in the US, where electricity is much cheaper than Japan. Despite making essentially a PHEV for over ten years, i.e., much longer than anyone else, Toyota are still pushing hydrogen as hard as anyone. I wonder what their motivation is and what is happening behind the scenes.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

There are some very interesting things happening in the hydrogen-cell car world at the moment. Here's a fascinating interview with independent car maker Hugo Spowers who has a unique vision for the future:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/20/hydrogen-cars-hugo-spowers-future

"Traditional car companies – in fact, traditional corporations, period – Spowers says, will never solve our environmental problems. Publicly listed companies are driven by shareholder returns, shareholder returns by profits, and profits by selling as many goods as possible – and, therefore, using up as many natural resources as possible. “Your interest is maximising resource consumption. That’s what maximises your profit.”

So rather than sell Rasas, Riversimple plans to lease them to drivers, charging a fixed tariff and mileage fee. They don’t have an exact price for the consumer version – it will depend on hydrogen prices at the time, but will definitely be less than £500 a month all-inclusive (including fuel and insurance). Their target is the same monthly running cost as a VW Golf. “We’re the only car company in the world that never wants to sell a car,” Spowers says.

Remarkable stuff. Spowers seems like a real visionary:

"For years, that business model – the result of nearly 20 years’ thinking and tinkering – was seen as outlandish; but in the last decade, the circular economy movement, which advocates similar principles, has emerged and grown in popularity. “No one was taking him seriously,” recalls Richard Sutton, a friend of Spowers’ and former director of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “The world has caught up with him now.”

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All very good posts and questions. Personally I worry about putting all of our eggs in one basket, ie relying on a world-wide supply of electricity for all cars in the future. For a number of reasons.  This is why I like the idea of another available alternative.

The Mirai looks like an interesting car, and the only thing stopping me buying one, with only one gas station in this area, is the price of the car itself. Second-hand they are still mostly over 4 million JPY.

Perhaps the known problems with the future of nuclear power in Japan, and the fact that the government and utilities cannot really build any more coal-fired power stations have figured high in Toyota's thinking here in Japan. If hydrogen takes off here, then maybe there is a chance as the costs come down that other countries may start to show an interest.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How is hydrogen being produced in Japan?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are those stations not considered dangerous anymore? I read somewhere handling hydrogen was times more complicated than the regular gas stations, and that's why western countries moved on with EVs, but Japan keeps holding on its idea of hydrogen stations/cars.

The staff working at such stations should be very well trained, and in Japan its usually a part-time job with people coming and going all the time. So I guess it wont be easy to get the sufficient training and make people stay in such jobs long enough to make it efficient and safe.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I hate petrol and diesel cars but we need to change quickly. I think in Japan we should be using electric cars only and each electric car should have its own dedicated solar panel at its house. To introduce hydrogen cars too quickly is too much for normal people to comprehend, so let's start with electric first, ban petrol cars and then go on from there in 20 years time

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japan will need to import hydrogen which will also require vast investment in shipping and storage facilities. Unlike oil, hydrogen has to be stored and transported under pressure. All of these facilities will have to be resilient to the high seas and earthquakes. It all seems rather pointless when you can get energy from the sun and electric cars beat hydrogen ones by miles on acceleration. The main beneficiary of hydrogen appears to be the fossil fuel industry, who will be the people selling it.

Mirai EPA range on hydrogen 500 km, ordinary car performance

Tesla Model 3 EPA range on electricity, standard model 350 km, long range model 500 km, accelerates like a muscle car.

Hydrogen cars don't even win on range, the main thing holding back electric cars vs. petrol ones.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hydrogen car seems future car as no gas emission is made by it, though more electric cars would be driven for a while. Hydrogen must be made by solar, water, wind power,,, etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Alfie - thanks. That was a very interesting read.

Good Luck to the little guys with vision.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Are those stations not considered dangerous anymore? I read somewhere handling hydrogen was times more complicated than the regular gas stations

Shikisai - hydrogen storage is complicated - hydrogen can diffiuse into some metals, causing the formation of hydrides and making them brittle. Research is being done to solve this problem with the ultimate aim of increasing the use and transport of hydrogen, but I don't know how far they've got to solving the problems.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I was reading a story about an UK gas/petrol company which fills up the cars of its registered clients overnight while they sleep. When they wake up the car tank is full without any need to visit petrol/gas stand station. Could do the same with hydrogen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's about time we get cleaner cars. America depends too much on oil, there's been too many wars over it and I am sick of it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

while Hydrogen has its place I think electric will win in the end, Hydrogen still requires a combustion engines which make it about 30% more parts intensive than a electric vehicle. electric motor is far simpler and cheaper to make than the ICE, when the battery prices come down substantially and charging is faster then you'll see the advantages of Electric over hydrogen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Mirai EPA range on hydrogen 500 km, ordinary car performance Tesla Model 3 EPA range on electricity, standard model 350 km, long range model 500 km,"

First, to get the long range model performance of 500 KM, you have to add an additional battery pack, which increases the cost. If you think about it, that really isn't that innovative.

Second, it takes about 1 hr and 15 mins to recharged the Telsa, the Mirai takes 1 minute to refuel, so it is faster and better for the customer.

Finally, recall the Mirai is a sedan it is not position as a muscle car. However, the tech will and has been apply to sports cars and muscle cars.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@wtfjapanToday 02:48 pm JST

Hydrogen still requires a combustion engines which make it about 30% more parts intensive than a electric vehicle.

Fuel cells doesn't combust anything, it chemically bonds hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom through a catalyst to create an water molecule and releasing electrons during the process.

Basically it is much like a battery. On top batteries on EV goes through wear and tear making them useless at mid-life compared to other parts within the chasis of an EV requiring to replace the entire battery bank which will cost an arm and a leg for it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As things stand, hydrogen is made from natural gas. It's still fossil fuel. Hydrogen infrastructure can be installed at vast expense, but we will still be dependent on fossil fuel and the countries/regimes that have it. Without a change in hydrogen production, it will still cause climate change.

Electric cars are far from perfect, but they don't require everyone else to chip in vast sums for infrastructure to make them a goer and can already be powered with renewables like solar.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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