Toyota is stepping up efforts to study the potential of hydrogen vehicles

One of Toyota’s Sora buses photographed in Japan on November 5, 2021. Toyota began developing fuel cell vehicles as early as 1992.

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Toyota Motor Europe, CaetanoBus and Air Liquide have signed an agreement to develop hydrogen-based transportation as the race to develop low- and zero-emission vehicles heats up.

In a statement on Tuesday, Toyota said the deal would aim for what it called “closer cooperation in developing opportunities for hydrogen mobility projects in several European countries.” CaetanoBus is based in Portugal and is part of Toyota Caetano Portugal and Mitsui & Co.

The companies will focus on a number of hydrogen-related areas, including infrastructure associated with distribution and fueling; low-carbon and renewable hydrogen production; and the use of hydrogen in a range of vehicle types.

Toyota said the initial focus will be on “buses, light trucks and cars, with a further goal of accelerating the heavy-duty truck segment.”

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Toyota began developing fuel cell vehicles as early as 1992, in which hydrogen from a tank mixes with oxygen to generate electricity. In 2014, the company launched the Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell sedan. The company says its fuel cell vehicles emit “nothing but water out of the tailpipe.”

In addition to the Mirai, Toyota has been involved in the development of larger hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These include a bus called Sora and prototype heavy-duty trucks. In addition to fuel cells, Toyota is also examining the use of hydrogen in internal combustion engines.

While the Japanese auto giant is looking to push ahead with its hydrogen-powered vehicle plans – companies like Hyundai and BMW are also exploring hydrogen – other influential voices in the auto industry aren’t so sure.

In June 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Fuel Cells = Fool sold,” adding in July of the same year: “Hydrogen fool-sales make no sense.”

In February 2021, Herbert Diess, CEO of the German Volkswagen Group, also commented on the subject. “It’s time for politicians to accept science,” he tweeted.

“Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemicals, aero… and shouldn’t end up in cars. Far too expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to deploy and transport. After all: no #hydrogencars in sight.”

While Diess and Musk appear cautious about the prospects of hydrogen in cars, their focus on battery electric vehicles puts them in direct competition with other companies like GM and Ford.

The latter’s CEO, Jim Farley, recently said his company plans to “challenge Tesla and everyone else to become the best EV maker in the world.”

The drive to find zero- and low-emission alternatives to diesel and gasoline comes at a time when major economies are preparing plans to reduce the environmental footprint of road transport.

In Europe, for example, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has proposed a 100 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from cars and vans by 2035.

On Tuesday, Ford Europe, Volvo Cars and a host of other high-profile companies signed a joint letter calling on EU governments and the European Parliament to give the Commission’s proposal the green light.

The letter calls on EU officials and MPs to “implement an EU-wide phase-out of sales of new combustion engine cars and vans (including hybrids) by 2035 at the latest”.

“This should be enshrined in law by setting the fleet-wide CO2 target for vehicle manufacturers at 0 grams CO2/km by 2035,” the letter reads. Toyota is stepping up efforts to study the potential of hydrogen vehicles

Gary B. Graves

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