Toyota’s Chief Hydrogen Engineer Says The Grid Can’t Support Mass EVs

2016-toyota-mirai-6-1

Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Toyota Miraihydrogen fuel-cell car, told reporters at a test drive event that electric cars will damage the electrical grid according to Reuters.  “If you were to charge a car in 12 minutes for a range of 500 km (310 miles), for example, you’re probably using up electricity required to power 1,000 houses. That totally goes against the need to stabilise electricity use on the grid. Toyota isn’t denying the benefits of EVs,” Tanaka said. “But we think the best way to use them is to charge them at night (to avoid peak power consumption hours), and use them for short distances during the day.” Take that, Elon.

Tanaka told the group that electric cars need 8 hours or more to recharge, while fuel cell cars can refill their tanks with hydrogen in about the same time it takes other motorists to pump a tankful of gasoline or diesel fuel. The advantage of using hydrogen is that it is the most abundant element in the universe and can be extracted from many different sources. It is also portable and can be stored more easily than electricity, he added. As an example of the wonders of hydrogen, Tanaka pointed out that the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka last month completed a fueling station that can power about 70 FCEVs a day using hydrogen reclaimed from sewage.

Tanaka did not tell the scribes, however, that hydrogen is also the most reactive element known to science. That means it bonds easily with any other atoms or molecules it finds. One only needs to gaze out at the vastness of the world’s oceans to realize how much water there is on earth, thanks to the magic that happens when two hydrogen atoms combine with one atom of oxygen. It takes enormous amounts of power to break those chemical bonds, as any high school chemistry major can tell you. In fact, most commercially available hydrogen today is obtained from natural gas in a process that requires more energy than the liberated hydrogen possesses. Toyota is backing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the detriment of its electric car program, so it’s little wonder why Tanaka is so bullish on the technology.

“Of course, there are technological hurdles that need to be cleared to make this commercially viable,” Tanaka said. “But remember ‘Back to the Future’? In that movie, a car from 30 years in the future comes back to the present – the year 1985. The Mirai doesn’t fly, but this year, 2015, is that future.” How can you argue with logic like that?

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.