The Toyota Mirai, at the very least, proves that hydrogen cars can exist with minimal compromises. It can go 400 miles on a single refill of hydrogen with only water as an emission. And unlike an EV, it can be refueled in as little as five minutes, marginally longer than what it would take to fill up a gas car. Toyota might spend up to $100,000 making each one and yet, sitting in the shadow of Kings Island amusement park, among stroads and oversized homes on too-small lots in suburban Ohio, one sits on a used car lot for just $31,500. There’s only one problem: There’s not enough fuel in its tank to get it to the nearest public filling station, 420 miles away in Canada.
This isn’t the first time I’ve happened upon a Toyota Mirai. While I was writing for the now-defunct CarBibles, a friend of mine sent me a link to a listing we both thought was absolutely hilarious. Across town, at a low-quality buy-here, pay-here lot was a listing for a first-generation Toyota Mirai.
But, that car wasn’t real. It was a lazy purchasing manager, falling into the same routine that all car purchasing managers do: using auction or trade-in pics to quickly get a product listed, relying hard on the auction house’s pre-auction inspection. Yet, after I asked how the heck the Mirai got to Ohio, the listing for the easily-confused-for-a-Prius hatchback quietly disappeared from the dealership’s website.
A few weeks ago, though, another one popped up for sale. These pictures were different. Whereas the mistake Mirai used janky shots of what was a dusty Arizona auction lot, these pictures were of a super clean Mirai in a very clear Ohio background. I mean, it was March and everything was gray and sad, including the trees with no foliage. The Mirai was in the midst of that, which told me that the car made the journey from its California home to Ohio.
The Real McCoy
Sure enough, the Mirai was here. I drove a little over an hour to verify and was rewarded with the obscure sedan in its full-sized glory, sitting between two Mercedes-Benz sedans. The dealership had at least paid for an exterior detail, judging from the greasy tire sidewalls and immaculately shiny paint. I tried not to teeter too loudly at the “fresh oil change” Carfax sticker in the corner of the windshield.
For those not in the know, the Mirai isn’t just some weird rare Toyota sedan. It runs on hydrogen, like the Honda FCX Clarity, which was once only available for lease. Toyota decided to allow the Mirai to be sold. However, outside of very localized parts of California and Francophone Canada, the car is functionally useless.
There aren’t any hydrogen fueling stations outside of a handful in California, British Columbia, Quebec, and one recently-opened station in Toronto. This Mirai’s nearest fueling station would be in Toronto, more than 420 miles away from the Mirai’s location near Mason, OH. Even if the Mirai somehow had a full tank of hydrogen, its 357-mile range would see the car abandoned on the side of the road somewhere between Windsor and Hamilton, ON.
Attempting to get clarity (yuk yuk) as to why the Mirai was here in Ohio, I ventured into the dealership’s office and asked to check out the Toyota sedan. Before I could get two words in edgewise, the salesman asked me “Were you the guy who asked me about this thing?”
“Uh, no I’m actually a –” but before I could finish, the salesman cut me off and explained that the car is hydrogen, and he didn’t want anyone looking or sitting or driving the vehicle since it can’t be refueled — unless I was his one mystery buyer, a guy who claimed to be able to generate and refuel hydrogen and had a government contract to do so.
My bullshit senses were tingling; why the hell is someone claiming to have the ability to split molecules in suburban Ohio? You can’t just fill up a Mirai with tap water and make it run; that’s not how any of this works. Was there a mystery scientist cooking up hydrogen in Ohio? Or was it some charlatan giving false hope to a mom-and-pop car dealership that had screwed up and ordered a car that they can’t drive or sell?
The Mystery Buyer
It turns out that someone is trying to establish hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Ohio. A man named Chris McWhinney, CEO of Millenium Reign Energy, has been arguing for hydrogen infrastructure for years. Most recently, he’s been in local Ohio news as he’s formulated plans for a Hydrogen Transamerica superhighway. The Ohio Hydrogen Triangle is a theorized plan for hydrogen stations from Columbus, reaching down to the southern tip of Ohio in Portsmouth, OH.
This appears to be more than just casual chit-chat, although it doesn’t appear that any of the public stations are up and open.
Using electrolysis, McWinney’s different models of Hydrogen refueling stations use electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. It’s stuff that we already know about, quietly being produced and sold in small batches to concerns around the globe. It’s not bullshit, if anyone can refuel the Mirai, it’s McWinney.
I even called McWinney to confirm – was he going to buy the Mirai? He confirmed he was, indeed, the mystery buyer, but he wasn’t sure he wanted the car. It was a definite maybe. He was interested but didn’t seem motivated enough to go and do the deal.
How Did The Car End Up In Ohio? It Was An Accident
Because the infrastructure is so weak, the Mirai is incredibly cheap at wholesale. Some auctions don’t accurately list the Mirai, Clarity, Hyundai Nexo, or any HFCV as a “fuel cell vehicle,” instead listing them as electric cars. Or, maybe the buyer doesn’t actually know what a fuel cell vehicle is. All they know is that they’ve got their eyes on a low-mile, late-model Toyota for dirt cheap.
I called and chatted with the co-owner, who explained that the Mirai was purchased by accident. They thought the car was electric, but were baffled when they couldn’t find a plug to charge the vehicle. Then, they saw the strange-looking port underneath the fuel door and assumed the car ran on natural gas. It wasn’t until they got to the CNG station when the refueling spigot wouldn’t mate with the H2 spout on the Mirai, did they realize that they had royally screwed up. Now, they’re banking on McWinney (or someone similar) buying the car. Otherwise, they’re gonna send the car back to auction and just have to eat the expenses.
This isn’t the only time the Mirai has ended up in a place where it doesn’t belong. Jason Torchinsky found one in New Jersey back in 2019. Heck, there’s this one currently for sale in Denver. At the end of the day, maybe the Mirai isn’t so out of place.
It’s been nearly a month since I spoke to McWinney and the dealership and the Mirai’s listing is still up on the Facebook page for Landen Motors.
If McWinney can get his Ohio Hydrogen Triangle up and running, it could dovetail very well with Honda’s plan to manufacture its next generation of fuel-cell vehicles at its Marysville, OH location.
Maybe Landen Motors is just ahead of the curve.
Photos: Kevin Williams unless otherwise noted
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Here is the plan:
1) Tow it to Detroit. (David probably knows a guy)
2) Drive it across the border.
3) Drive to Toronto
4) When it runs out, get a tow to the HYdrogen station, fill up and tow back to Windsor
5) Drive to Detroit
6) Tow back to Ohio
Now you are in Ohio with basically a full tank.
… and that is where the plan ends. Making hydrogen with electricity, storing the hydrogen and then using the hydrogen in a car is way less efficient than just using the electricity to power an EV.
Welll… no. When a Mirai runs out of hydrogen, it must get towed to a Toyota dealer there the hydrogen circuit will get purged. Did a couple at the dealership where i work.
Fun story though. Quebec’s government leased some of these to promote green energy, blah blah blah.. Long story short, the lease is over so if you live in Quebec city (or Lévis, Quebec’s south shore, where i live) you can have one of those 2018 Mirai’s with about 20k km on the clock for 12k$ CANADIAN! The catch? Only 1 hydrogen station in Quebec City so it’s definitely NOT a highway car but it could be a damn fine, but weird looking, city daily driver.
Gee, if you can get to the Detroit area hteee are all sorts of places to buy hydrogen
Has anyone ever considered doing a BEV swap in a Toyota Mirai?
Seems to me it’s already 1/2 way there technologically versus an ICE Camry to BEV, for instance.
“They thought the car was electric, but were baffled when they couldn’t find a plug to charge the vehicle. Then, they saw the strange-looking port underneath the fuel door and assumed the car ran on natural gas. It wasn’t until they got to the CNG station when the refueling spigot wouldn’t mate with the H2 spout on the Mirai, did they realize that they had royally screwed up.”
Direct proof that dealers don’t know shit about the cars they sell… and can’t even be arsed to do a 1 minute Google search about a vehicle and maybe 5 minutes of reading at most.
And the biggest reason why they haven’t sold it is because it’s overpriced by at least $5000. Here’s a similar one selling for $26K
And here’s one that’s a year newer with a little less mileage and in a nicer colour selling for $24,500
My guess the reason why “the mystery buyer” hasn’t actually bought it yet is because the dealer is asking too much money and he’s waiting them out to drop the price.
one sits on a used car lot for just $31,500. There’s only one problem: There’s not enough fuel in its tank to get it to the nearest public filling station, 420 miles away in Canada.
“Just” $31.5k for a car with no refueling infrastructure?
I think that price makes it TWO problems.
They are electric cars. Listing them as such is accurate, but misleading, because people equate “electric car” to “battery electric car”.
The sad part is that HFCV would work great for captive fleets like shool bus, ( and urban bus ) garbage truck and so on… Heavy duty vehicle that go back to a specific depot/maintenance center/refilling station on a regular basis. The Hydrogen infrastructure could be installed there.
The solution the whole mess we dug us in is not going to be a single simple solution ( like power generation… you can’t trust Hydro, solar and wind to provide all the electricity… you will need at least one or two more source that can provide the base load ).
It’s going to be a multiple solution, HFCV for some usage, PEV for other, Hybrid PEV/HFCV,Plug In Hybrid ( with an ICE engine running at constant speed, like a diesel electric locomotive, using synthetic fuel ) and probably a few more solutions…
I fully expected that one Ohio man to be Myron Vernis.
Maybe this just isn’t old or weird enough for the Junkman.
I wonder if that’s the same one I saw driving on 81 North last summer here in NY.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I also never yelled “what the f**k” as loudly as I did that exact moment.
Also: RIP Car Bibles. That site was a great idea. Loved going to the site.
I used to drive a beat-up Chevrolet
It broke down and had to towed away
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right now, I drive a Mirai
It runs on hydrogen gas gas gas
I lost a race to a topless super-charged Jag
I was schooled by some Tesla drivin’ hag.
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right, I drive a Mirai
It runs on hydrogen gas, gas, gas
I left the light and my Camaro was left for dead
I shifted down and the tach went into the red yeah yeah
I frowned at the smoke as my clutch shattered into shreds, yeah yeah yeah
I kinda frowned when a piston flew past my head, fuck my head
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right, I drive a Mirai
It runs on hydrogen gas, gas, gas
I sit around and wait for guys to race
I sneer with an arrogant look upon my face
I never lose cause I never ever race
Cause there’s no fuel
Not a single f’n trace
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right, I don’t drive my Mirai
Cause it runs on hydrogen gas, gas, gas
Toyota Marai runs on hydrogen gas
Toyota Marai runs on hydrogen gas
Toyota Marai runs on hydrogen gas
Great story! The range map sums it up perfectly. You would think someone in CA would do a deal if the price was right.
We’ve very briefly thought about getting one, as there is a lady in our town who has one and it seems to work well for her. But unless you live very close to a station or there is one along your commute it’s useless. For us, the closest station is 45 minutes away and would be really annoying to have to carefully monitor usage and visit every two weeks. At least with electric worst case you can very slowly recharge pretty much anywhere.
Used Mirais that aren’t sold by Toyota dealers tend to be practically worthless and pretty hard to sell here in California, since only used Mirais sold by Toyota get the free fuel card. If you buy a used Mirai from elsewhere, you have to pay for your own fuel – and hydrogen was $23.99/kg at the station closest to my house here in San Francisco last time I checked a month ago. One kg of hydrogen has the same energy content as one gallon of gasoline.
If so it might be a fun project for an engineering team to convert it to a CNGV by either swapping in the diversion from a Camry hybrid (itself converted for CNG) or developing a NG fuel stack.
The hydrogen vs CNG vs electric debate is being covered very well in the comments and is very educational. My comment addresses a more practical solution to the problem of fueling the stranded Toyota Mirai.
When I was young I worked for a welding supply company delivering bottled gases to industrial sites–oxygen, acetylene, CO2, argon, helium, and… wait for it… hydrogen.
I can’t help but think this is an overlooked resource for fuel cell car owners who find themselves in a tight spot. Said owners could extend their range and reduce the possibility of being stranded by carrying the needed hardware to connect to these industrial hydrogen sources.
Granted, the costs may outweigh the benefits but then that seems to be the overall argument against fuel-cell cars to start with.
Is there a pressure issue that would prevent refilling the Mirai from standard industrial tanks? If the car stores the gas at a higher pressure, you’d need some very specialized pumping equipment to transfer the H2.
Modern fuel cell cars and hydrogen fuel stations work at a 10,000 psi pressure.
There was a first gen Mirai with literally delivery kms at a Honda dealership in Whitby, Ontario. It was marked down crazy low. How it got there considering they were only sold in British Columbia I have no idea….
Former Toyota Canada demo unit maybe, considering their HQ is in Scarborough? They absolutely had at least one out at a couple fleet events in the GTA (I might still have a Mirai t-shirt at the bottom of a drawer somewhere).
Possible! Looking at Auto Trader it looks like it might be in Quebec now. They had it for months at that Oshawa Whitby dealership.
Oh, the humanity!
Thumbs up to someone who knows their hydrogen history.
Sadly the first thing I thought of when reading that was WKRP.
I live in Ohio, not too far from Mason. I have seen a Mirai driving around a few times over the years. In fact, I saw a Clarity on the south side of Dayton just the other day.
There are places to fill hydrogen around town, a lot closer than Canada, but they are not open to the public. I always suspected these cars were operated by some business or municipal entity that has access to them.
The Clarity may be operated by someone affiliated with Honda, even. Marysville/East Liberty/Anna are well within range of that car. There may be fueling facilities at one of those plants.
Seems like maybe with the reign systems in use at Ohio State university, this should be one of many campus cars for employees….teaches the kids learning about this setup and the security guys and what not get the car to use.
This is precisely the kind of unapologetically ridiculous content I come to this site for. Normies be like “I wasted 10 minutes at work on Instagram”…and I be like “lol I just read about the curious journey of a Toyota Mirai found in Ohio”.
Hell yeah, it’s interesting!
I’ve been told that most commercially produced hydrogen is made from natural gas. Further, I understand it takes more energy to produce the hydrogen than you would produce just by burning the gas. If that’s true, doesn’t it make hydrogen a battery rather than a fuel source, and wouldn’t it be kinder to the environment to have natural-gas powered cars, than ones powered by hydrogen?
Plus, isn’t it hard to store hydrogen. Because the molecules are so small, doesn’t it disappear into the atmosphere more easily than most fuel sources? I suppose hydrogen would make more sense for planes since it’s a hell of a lot lighter than batteries. Otherwise, you could run cars on hydrogen in Iceland, but I don’t think the market is big enough to justify the tech development. In Iceland, electricity is generated using geothermal energy. And you could use that source of energy to make your hydrogen from plain, old water.
Yes. Honda even designed and tested a home hydrogen fill station that electrolyzes hydrogen from natural gas instead of water.
Getting hydrogen from natural gas is more energy-efficient than from water, since the hydrogens are not as tightly bonded to carbon as their are to oxygen (hence why natural gas combusts into water in the first place), but the major downside, environmentally-speaking, is that it still results in fossil fuel-based CO2 emissions.
But natural gas already gets burned off as a byproduct of oil extraction, so while we’re still extracting oil, I think it is smart to at least use the natural gas as well. This is one of the reasons I’ve been a proponent of CNG/LPG for years, and why I think these fuels still have a place in the transition to cleaner propulsion. We’re a few decades late, we could’ve been lowering the demand for gasoline and diesel by pushing bi-fuel vehicles all over the world for at least 40 years now. In the last 20 years we’ve had readily available tech to adapt diesel semi-trucks to LPG, which would’ve resulted in a massive drop in emissions. So, not only could we curb the waste of natural gas in oil extraction, there wouldn’t be an excess in emissions, but rather a lowering from all the gasoline and diesel that wouldn’t get burned in those cars.
Using natural gas to make hydrogen… well, I’d have to read up on it to have an informed opinion, but it’s kinda nonsensical to think we’re burning a fuel that could be used for propulsion to make a “clean” fuel with energy losses in the process. I don’t know, it just seems smarter to just burn the natural gas right there in the car.
When I was in Iceland about 15 years ago, they had 3 Hydrogen fuel cell busses in the Reykjavik transit fleet. They were using locally made hydrogen from water electrolysis.
The problems with hydrogen is that after electrolysis, you have to separate the hydrogen from oxygen that is also generated in the process and then compress the hydrogen. Those 2 processes take a lot of energy that you don’t get back. that is the main reason the process is so inefficient. There is also H2 leak as you mentioned, and hydrogen embrittlement caused by H2 atoms getting between metal atoms.
A kilogram of hydrogen holds 39.4 kWh of energy, but typically costs around 52.5 kWh of energy to create via current commercial electrolyzers.
So yes, hydrogen is a battery – it’s either charged using fossil fuels and some electricity, or water and a lot of electricity.
I have recently learned that while most commercial hydrogen is made through steam methane reformation (SMR), most of the hydrogen available for purchase through filling stations in the US is made by electrolysis using renewable energy.
I still think consumer-grade hydrogen cars are a wasteful boondoggle due to the insane energy requirements of the production/distribution of H2. But credit where credit is due, I’m a lot less concerned about their CO2 footprint now.
Hydrogen has been proposed as a renewable alternative to batteries in aviation. For batteries, the limitation is weight. For hydrogen, the limitation is size.
Hydrogen or sustainable aviation fuels are pretty much the only way aviation will get to carbon neutral, barring a huuuuuuuuuge revolution in battery tech. Jet fuel is roughly 50x as energy dense as our best batteries in a lab, and once you add in safety systems and packaging (so comparing to Formula E here), it jumps to 100x as energy dense. At the moment, that is an absolutely impossible economic barrier to overcome for any plane bigger than a Cessna Caravan, as the energy consumption for fixed wing aircraft increases with mass not in a linear relationship, but rather the doubling of a square.
“Stroad” made me smile.
I was pretty excited when I had a Mirai as an Uber recently. Nobody else was particularly interested, but I’ve always been curious about oddball things like that, so I talked the driver’s ear off the whole ride. He had just gotten it a few weeks prior, but in that quick experience found that the mileage he saw in practice was considerably worse than the car’s computer estimated. It had a nifty in-dash app for identifying nearby fueling stations, but he said that was also unreliable, having turned up at locations that happened to be out of H2 or who had even stopped selling the fuel. One positive that he noted was that Toyota would provide a car that runs on traditional dinosaur juice for a few weeks a year if you want to go on a long road trip to a location that that lacks hydrogen infrastructure.
The story of such a car stranding itself in the Midwest tickles me to think about the comedy of errors involved with it getting there.
I am intrigued by (and somewhat concerned about) the concept of some crackpot Buckeye trying to distill hydrogen in his garage (“Hey, it worked in middle school science class with the test tubes and the 9V battery! All I gotta do is scale up!”). Granted, Mr. McWinney doesn’t seem quite so unhinged that I’d worry about him blowing his house up, I’m not so sure that his business plan to create this “Ohio Hydrogen Triangle” is sound if there’s only one vehicle within a thousand miles that can take advantage of it. Of course, it’s a chicken-and-egg problem: It makes no sense to build hydrogen infrastructure in an area with no hydrogen cars… and nobody’s going to buy a hydrogen car in an area where there’s nowhere to fill it up.
Build it and they will come. They might not make it there might only be a few they may leave you afterwards but they will come.
I haven’t shipped a car in a while, but I would think you could get this to California for under $2k. All it needs is enough hydrogen in the tank to get on and off the trailer.
The other reason these are so cheap on the used market is that they also subsidize them with free fuel for 6 years or $15,000, but after that it’s typically more expensive than running on gasoline. And yes, there’s hardly any hydrogen infrastructure, so you also have to be near a station.
Get it near a Ca. Station some celebrity or influencer or environut will buy it
Very local to me too. There used to be some hydrogen filling stations closer but I think they closed or are for city use only. I know Hamilton had a city only one and there was one down by Xavier for a time although I know it’s gone.
If it’s at the lot I’m thinking of, they usually have a few interesting cars. I know they have an orange BMW and an orange Lexus RCF.
EDIT: Same lot, you can see the orange RCF in the background of one of the pics above.
Hydrogen is a more reasonable Moonshot than all-BEVs. I stand by that statement.
more popular ≠ more better
Diversity in future transportation fuel sources is good, but the main reason BEVs are getting all the glory is because they’re being heavily subsidized and automakers (excepting Toyota and, to a lesser extent, Honda) are afraid of investing real time and money into something not propped up to the extent that BEVs are. Call me wrong, ridicule me all you like, but check back on this comment in a decade and we’ll see who has the last word.
Your overall point on EVs is well taken, but I do think if clean electricity becomes abundant and cheap enough to allow H2 production at scale, we are better off tapping it for e-fuel/ethanol production instead, simply because of energy density, ease of storage, and backwards compatibility with the existing vehicle fleet.
My understanding is that ethanol, at least Corn based ethanol, has been found recently to be not green friendly at all? Perhaps that is because we are making it with “dirty electricity” though, I’m not sure. So right now, I see alternative fuels (e-fuel/ethanol/hydrogen) having three parts to it. One is actual reduction of carbon emitted. Two is the ability to maintain that cleanliness while scaling to mass production. Three is to reach mass production at a price point that makes it viable against gasoline. I don’t know who wins that race. But I’m really interested to see if anyone does.
I would guess this is a big part of it. But of course nothing other than political will prevents us from making ethanol out of something else instead.
Yeah if you can make it out of kudzu go south they are being over taken that stuff grows quicker than bamboo.
I wish that useful fuels, materials, etc.. could be made out of this stuff. I swear these things can grow anywhere, anytime, and spread like crazy when you try to trim them…. I don’t hate plants… but this comes close:
We should just launch a bunch of these at Mars, damn planet would be green and have breathable atmosphere within 5 years.
My experience with kudzu taught me that it is impossible to trim with a weedeater–it just wraps around it and infuriates you. Going after it with hand tools isn’t all that much better.
The only truly effective method to trim kudzu is to bring in a herd of goats and let ’em eat. Of course, that’s only temporary.
I agree with you that kudzu is likely a strong candidate for terraforming.
The only problem is that you’ll never be rid of it once it takes hold.
It isn’t at all. It’s “green friendly” cred was an accounting trick invented by the corn farming industry to grab up federal subsidies. It takes 70% more energy to produce 1 gallon of ethanol than is contained in 1 gallon of ethanol, meaning that you would need to burn 1.7 gallons of ethanol just to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. Hence why the production of ethanol is reliant on fossil fuels. The only way to produce ethanol-based fuel economically without fossil fuels would be to electrify the entire production process.
And at that point, why bother? It takes 131,000 BTU’s of energy to create 1 gallon of ethanol. Meanwhile, the rule of thumb is that EV’s can travel approximately 100 miles on 25 kWh/85,300 BTU’s of electricity. That means that an electric car could travel 154 miles on the same amount of energy required to make one gallon of ethanol.
And that’s not even talking about soil degradation, increased water consumption, and increased demand for corn raising food prices.
Yeah, those tractors planting, fertilizing, spraying, and harvesting corn, trucking it to ethanol plant, use a LOT of diesel fuel…
Like like hydrogen it takes more energy to produce than it releases. What i don’t understand why not use corn that is genetically modified to produce it? Is it going to turn my car into a transformer?
Because larger vehicles can’t store enough batteries on board. Liquid fuels are inefficient compared to electricity, but they are compact and light. That 25 kWh battery weighs a couple hundred pounds at least, while a gallon of ethanol weighs less than 7 lb. That may be fine for a city car or something small, but if there’s any hope of of reducing diesel use in heavy vehicles, it’s not going to be realistic to carry 20,000 lb of batteries around.
There’s no rule saying ethanol has to be produced by burning fossil fuels. Ideally, wind, solar, and nuclear energy will expand enough that plenty of clean electricity is available.
I dont think you know what you are talking about.
Thanks for your input. I’m always willing to listen to reasonable criticism so please enlighten me
“reasonable criticism” from ttd?
I needed a good laugh today, so thanks!
I think the losses involved with transferring electricity to batteries and then retrieving it in the car to turn the wheels is similarly wasteful of energy. I could see the argument that if the electricity at the POU is the same and considered “green” then converting it to Hydrogen or from AC to DC current is immaterial.
Probably the biggest draw for Hydrogen, at least from water is the output of oxygen, while also powering a car in 5 minutes with generally superior range.
Holy hell, you are INCREDIBLY wrong.
Only 25% of the energy of combustion in an ICE car becomes useful power output. And that includes all of the energy uses in the car (alternator, climate, water pump, audio, etc), not just moving the car itself. https://www.sae.org/publications/technical-papers/content/2018-01-1374/#:~:text=In%20internal%20combustion%20engines%2C%20generally,to%20as%20much%20as%2025%25.
The total energy used in charging an EV battery is only about 12-15% more than the total energy stored in the battery.
Only about 20% of the charge in an EV battery is “wasted”, and even then, a lot of the energy spent can be recovered through regenerative braking.
All told, with proper driving and regenerative breaking use, approximately 87% of the energy used to charge an EV can be put into making the car move.
Compare that to the less than 25% of energy contained in gasoline that ends up making an ICE car move
Oh, and if you scroll down in the last article I linked to, you can see that charging an EV from a coal-fired power plant uses 31% less energy than an ICE car, and that charging an EV from a natural gas-fired power plant uses 48% less energy than an ICE car.
Batteries have very little loss.
From powerplant to meter, the grid has 4.9% energy loss (DOE metrics). A 240V AC charger loses about 8% between the wall and the battery, and the inverters and motor lose about 4%. So the grid-to-rubber losses of an EV are only around 16% overall.
By most studies I’ve read, fuel cell energy losses are around 75%, owing primarily to the synthesis of hydrogen and the efficiency of the fuel cell stack itself, with compression/distribution a lesser (but still relevant) contributor.
Than why is it when i buy batteries they always dead when i try to use them?
What batteries? AA’s? 12 Volt car batteries? Laptop batteries? Cordless drill batteries?
“I think the losses involved with transferring electricity to batteries and then retrieving it in the car to turn the wheels is similarly wasteful of energy.”
Nope. Storing electricity in a battery for later use is far more efficient than using electricity to make hydrogen, using more energy to compress it, using more energy to keep it stored and cool, then using energy for operating fueling stations to refuel vehicles, then use the vehicle’s onboard fuel cell to convert the hydrogen back to electricity.
There is simply no comparison. Hydrogen is far less efficient because there are far more energy-wasting steps.
That article is 22 years old. Ethanol production has come a long ways since 2001. Not considering the experimentals out there such as switchgrass, some of the more exotic bio-engineered sugar-rich seed blends and the like, here are some simple google-supplied tidbits taking us on a journey of efficiency improvements over the last two decades:
According to this, from PNAS.org, by 2006 ethanol had already went from being an energy sink to yielding 25% more energy than required for production. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.0604600103
This next bit comes from a light read from Stanford, which brings us up to speed to 2008:
From there lets jump to 2015 with this tidbit from eesi.org:
So, I really do wish I had time to dive even further into this, but there’s a ’99 Ford F-250 I’d still like to wrench on this evening. I do think it’s clear that, while maybe not a complete panacea for our energy woes, ethanol development has been more than a worthwhile endeavor for this country and not the bad-farmers-accounting-trick that “one Cornell University agricultural scientist” makes it out to be.
It was always known that ethanol isn’t environmentally friendly, and that’s it’s also quite damaging to small engines and older engines, doesn’t store well, and isn’t truly cost effective. It was done as a subsidy to corn growing agribusinesses, which happen to have outside influence in the one state that really matters in presidential primaries.
At the time the ethanol mandate was first done, there was also talk about it being important for national security as part of reducing reliance on imported oil, the growth of domestic oil and gas production in the following years having been unforseen
it was made from corn because that is a cheap redily available crop in the US and the byproduct is animal feed. Ethanol can be made from most plant sources, Brazil uses sugar cane. Sugarcane causes less GHG emissions and is overall cheaper to make, but sugar can is not as prevalent in the US.
“, but I do think if clean electricity becomes abundant and cheap enough to allow H2 production at scale,”
If that happens, it would make more sense to just put that clean electricity in the grid for general use… not just vehicle use.
The main reason Honda and Toyota are in on hydrogen at all is that the Japanese government is subsidizing it. It’s not a viable replacement for gas on its own either (likely nothing is, gas is just too damn good at what it does). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue it, but the only reason these cars exist at all is subsidies.
The problem with hydrogen is that you take the infrastructure problems of EVs, both electricity production and fueling stations, and make them an order of magnitude worse because it’s much less efficient power-wise and incredibly difficult to store or transport. Hydrogen could be the long-term solution, but if we wait for that to happen the world is going to have burned down around us in the meantime. EVs and PHEVs are a much quicker way to reducing emissions and that’s why they are getting all the attention.
The Japanese government is seriously freaked out that a transition to EVs is going to absolutely destroy their manufacturing industry, when all those engine and transmission plants, foundries, casting plants, etc, close down, and see hydrogen (and, especially, hydrogen burning ICEs) as a way to preserve all that. Of course, their auto industry is heavily dependent on export sales, and if export markets don’t go for it, I don’t see how it’s supposed to work
Fuel cells make more sense when the weight, size, price, and/or use-case of the vehicle goes up. For instance, I see a large push in for Fuel Cells for freight trains, ferries, cargo ships, aircraft, large construction equipment, potentially Class 8 trucks (long haul only though, probably), and other things in heavy-industry.
For light duty cars… nope. For last-mile delivery…. nope. Middle-mile delivery….maybe? (Class 6/7 box trucks).
I’ve worked at companies that have made EVs and FCEVs, and also worked at a company that was providing material science improvements to companies making both Li batteries and Fuel cells from scratch. Maybe I’m wrong with my assumptions above, but what I’ve seen across several companies isn’t dictating otherwise…. but I won’t be mad if I am incorrect.
Something to keep in mind… the fuel cell companies have had a LOT longer to perfect their product, make it cheaper, longer lasting, etc… than the Li battery companies.
“Fuel cells make more sense when the weight, size, price, and/or use-case of the vehicle goes up”
Nope. Whether the vehicle is big or small, it makes little difference to the fundamental problems of hydrogen… which is lack of infrastructure and efficiency that is half that of a modern BEV.
Hydrogen has several issues that are probably solvable, but not simple. First, it is very energy-intensive to produce. It is more efficient to charge a battery directly than to use that energy to create hydrogen fuel. That is a problem that is being worked on, and we have done pretty well at improving, but we have a long way to go. The second issue is storage. I’m not talking about the rare explosion, but the fact that hydrogen tends to escape. So you have to really overbuild the fuel tanks on things to minimize that. Not insurmountable, especially with the number of large vehicles on the road, but it certainly means striking a balance to ensure the hydrogen mostly stays where it is until it is mostly used up. It also means that we have to build new fueling infrastructure. EVs and fuels that could be put into existing gas stations have a significant advantage on that front.
Hydrogen is worth pursuing, especially as we make improvements, but reducing emissions faster helps. EVs, PHEVs, and synthetic fuels have the advantage of tapping into existing infrastructure. Sure, it seems that a bunch of companies are terrible at maintaining charging stations, but we can hook into the power grid with a rather simple install, rather than building very large fueling stations. And synthetic fuels could largely just replace gasoline.
Cargo ships would be my first choice for hydrogen use. You can build a big tank, you’re already using thick bulkheads, and fueling stations at shipping ports could do pretty well. Aircraft could be good, too. Set up fueling at airports, and they tend to use their fuel load pretty quickly, so the plane just refuels right before each flight and doesn’t need to worry much about whether they’ll lose hydrogen to the atmosphere.
What we really need to pursue is an approach matching solutions to the appropriate issue. Public transit improvements and more walkable cities (with affordable housing) to reduce reliance on cars. EVs, PHEVs, and synthetic fuels to make personal vehicles more efficient and, hopefully, as close to emission-free as possible. Hydrogen and other changes to shipping to make that industry more efficient. There is no single magic bullet here.
I won’t ridicule you because no one knows what the future holds, but if you know your history you can make a better prediction…
Fossil fuels have been subsidized for decades and they’re the only reason we burn gas now. I’m willing to bet it won’t be any different with BEVs. Plus, they cost of producing hydrogen doesn’t work – entropy etc.
Having said that, let’s meet April 21, 2033, drinks on me and we can discuss 🙂
I’ll take that bet.
We’ve already had hydrogen cars and hydrogen infrastructure here in California for about 11 years now, the state spent $200,000,000 up front to build the first hydrogen filling stations, with millions of state dollars more after that.
Toyota has given away $15,000 in free hydrogen with each new Mirai and continues to do so.
Other fuel cell cars have been sold here from Honda and Hyundai, and each one is massively subsidized by their manufacturer. Toyota also includes a significant amount of free hydrogen fuel with each used Mirai.
And even with all that massive upfront and continuing subsidy money from the state and the automakers- hydrogen FCV cars have been a resounding failure in California, with only about 15,000 FCV sold here since introduction (out of 19,000,000+ California new car sales in those years). That’s total, all makes and models, since they were introduced. The Mirai makes up about 11,000 of those sales. And FCV sales in California *fell* in 2022, as EV sales surged.
Hydrogen costs too much – $23.99/kg actual pump price at the station closest to my house a month ago, 1 kg = the energy content of 1 gallon of gas – the refueling infrastructure isn’t remotely big enough and frequently doesn’t work (around half the refueling stations are either broken or out of fuel on any given day, which is typical and has been for a long time). And if you manage to find a working pump you may be sitting in line to refuel for an hour behind several other FCVs as the pump freezes and/or struggles to build pressure from refueling multiple cars back to back. Assuming it doesn’t run out of hydrogen before you get to it, and your own car accepts a full tank at 10,000 psi pressure (which is not a certainty).
And if you can’t find a working station before you run out of fuel, you will need a tow to the nearest station that has fuel and works, which could be 100 miles away. Unlike EVs which you charge at home most of the time, actually have meaningful infrastructure inside and outside California and can plug in anywhere in a pinch if you’re willing to wait.
The reason BEVs are successful and FCEVs are not is related to the infrastructure. A large proportion of the population have the ability to charge overnight at home, while FCEVs require the expensive installation of H2 fuel stations. There is a reason the H2 fuel stations exist in a very limited part of the country: cost.
As for subsidies, I think you will find that FCEVs are propped up with the same subsidies as BEVs. So, yes, I am going to call you wrong.
“Hydrogen is a more reasonable Moonshot than all-BEVs. I stand by that statement.”
Stand by it all you want… it’s still wrong.
” Call me wrong, ridicule me all you like, but check back on this comment in a decade and we’ll see who has the last word.”
I won’t ridicule you… but I will check back in a decade and repeat that you are/were wrong.
But note that in the late 2000s, I recall people saying the same thing when the original Honda FCX Clarity went “in production”. And I put that in quotes because Honda never built/sold/leased more than 50 of them in any given year globally.
Hydrogen vehicles are a lost cause due to the infrastructure and lack of efficiency alone. They at best have half the efficiency of the typical BEV on sale today. And I see nothing in the future that is going to fundamentally change these two facts.
More like Toyota pariah.