Last year, Toshiba openly shared over 5600 patents related to hydrogen fuel cell technology. In late 2015, the company launched the first mainstream hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai. In the face of industry excitement over Tesla and General Motor’s long-range electric cars, continuing to support and develop hydrogen fuel cell technology might seem unusually stubborn. However, it is worth remembering that the driving force behind Toyota’s hydrogen commitment is none other than company Chairman, Takeshi Uchlyamada.
Known as, ‘the father of the Prius hybrid’, Uchlyamada was the chief engineer who refused to be beaten in 1995 when the first hybrid-powered prototype only ran for 500 metres. He and his team simply re-doubled their efforts and in 1997 introduced the first Prius-hybrid, which has gone on to achieve sales of over 8 million worldwide in less than 20 years.
So when Uchlyamada says, “Toyota firmly believes the benefits of a hydrogen society are enormous for a healthy environment.” Then stands by the assertion in developing the Mirai, regardless of opposing trends. The question we should be asking is not, ‘why hydrogen?’, but ‘why not?’
The Mirai has a range of over 480km, can be refuelled in three minutes and produces zero emissions. So the issue with hydrogen is not the technology, which compares very favourably with the alternatives. The challenge lies in the infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel cell cars: in short, there are simply not enough refuelling stations.
But with the support of industry leaders like Uchlyamada, growing understanding of hydrogen’s global benefits and strong consumer lobbying that could rapidly change.
As Ian Peden Chairman of Proton Motors, recently pointed out. ‘In 2011, the UK had less than 30 EV rapid charging connectors, by late 2015, there were almost 2000. We now have competitive hydrogen fuel cell cars and we know the benefits of hydrogen in global health terms, all that remains is for us to demand an infrastructure to support our desire for change. Clearly this is possible and it is everyone’s responsibility to make it happen.’