It’s Official, the New Toyota FCV Is Called Mirai

Yesterday in Newport Beach, California Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda announced officially that the company’s new commercial fuel cell vehicle will be called Mirai (which means future). This isn’t a big surprise, since on July 31, 2014 word had leaked out unofficially that Toyota would be going with this name.

But, wait, there’s more …

According to Toyota, “Of course, the car of the future won’t become a reality without the hydrogen stations to support it. That’s why Toyota North America chief executive officer (CEO) Jim Lentz announced a new commitment to drive the development of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in five northeastern U.S. states.

“To support Mirai’s introduction to the region in 2016, Toyota is collaborating with Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The states and locations have been strategically selected in the greater New York and Boston areas to provide the backbone of a hydrogen highway for the Northeast corridor. Specific details of the collaboration will be revealed in the coming months.”

Toyota also has a worth- see video on their website where Akio Toyoda talks and shows the history of R&D that went into making the Mirai. See the press release and video here.


Mercedes-Benz G-Code Hydrogen Concept Unveiled

The Mercedes-Benz Vision G-Code Concept has been unveiled coinciding with the company’s R&D center in Beijing, China. This subcompact crossover concept has been designed to attract the younger Chinese drivers.

According to Benz Insider, “Based from the images and information provided by the German automaker, the G-Code will be designed as a Sports Utility Coupe. It will measure 161 inches, which is even shorter than the GLA—the brand’s smallest crossover so far.

“Not much was revealed about the engine specs of the compact crossover concept. However, the plan is to equip the auto with a turbocharged combustion engine powered by hydrogen. Then, the power will emanate from the front wheels. Also, it will carry an electric motor that will drive the rear axle and transmit its power selectively to the two wheels using a dual multi-disc clutch.”

A couple other notable features of the Mercedes G-Code Concept are the silver finish on the body of the vehicle serves as a solar panel and the holographic grille which gives the car the ‘cool’ factor.




Sainsbury Supermarket to Receive Hydrogen Fueling Dispenser

In the UK, the Sainsbury grocery chain has announced it will receive the country’s first hydrogen fueling dispenser located at a supermarket. The dispenser will be built by specialty gas maker Air Products.

According to Air Products, “Sainsbury’s has announced the UK’s first supermarket forecourt hydrogen dispenser will be located at its Hendon store by the end of the year. Working with global leaders in hydrogen infrastructure, Air Products, the new dispenser will join a network of existing stations helping bring a breath of fresh air to residents and visitors in London and the South East.

“The SmartFuel® station will be able to fuel a growing number of hydrogen-powered fleets driving around the Capital. From hydrogen-powered buses running between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway, to hybrid delivery vans operated by Commerical Group and hydrogen powered taxis already driving on London’s roads; it is clear hydrogen isn’t a fuel of the future, it’s a fuel for today.”

The Sainsbury 700-bar SmartFuel® hydrogen fueling dispenser will be part of a larger network of H2 fueling stations around London that will be supporting the commercial fuel cell vehicles that will be rolling out in that area over the next several years.


Riversimple FCV Developed in the Cloud

Open source hydrogen car maker, Riversimple is now designing its vehicle with the help cloud computing. The software of choice is Cadonix, a state-of-the-art cloud-based CAD app for the automotive industry.

According to Electronics Weekly, “The firm is developing a two-seater local network electric car, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and with a body made from composite materials.

“R&D is led out of Wales by an engineering team drawn from top automotive, aerospace and motor racing; design is led by Chris Reitz, former design chief for the Fiat 500, with his team at their studio in Barcelona. The team is aiming for fuel efficiency of more than 200mpg, a range of 300 miles, 0-30mph in 5.5 seconds, and a cruising speed of 55 mph.”

The Riversimple car (pictured at top) is scheduled to be released for lease next year. The lease will include maintenance, insurance and fuel with the monthly cost of an average car.


President Putin prods hydrail ahead

by guest blogger Stan Thompson

By fiddling with his oil faucets and natural gas valves, Vladimir Putin may be having the same unintended acceleration effect on Europe’s diesel-to-hydrail transition that John L. Lewis had on the coal-to-diesel transition in the USA during the last century.

Recently I’ve heard two ambassadors from European countries explaining to American audiences what ails the EU’s economy. Putin’s delight in brandishing his oil and gas withholding leverage figures prominently. Casting diplomacy to the winds, one ambassador referred to Putin’s grasp of the situation using a homely metaphor having to do with seizing private body parts.

It’s been observed that Putin sees himself playing chess while President Obama is playing checkers. It won’t have escaped Putin’s notice that the forty Alstom HMU (Hydrail Multiple Unit) trains that Northern Germany will see by 2020 means the permanent loss of some fraction (not even a pawn’s worth) of his rail diesel export revenue.

He may not, however, have tumbled to the probability that those first forty hydrail trains amount to a rolling snowball at the top of an Alp.

Long ago, Europe honed railway electrification to a fine edge. But, ever since the end of steam, the trackage beyond the wire’s end has been diesel. If Europe had no fear of uncertain oil supplies or price manipulation, the high cost of maintaining wayside electrification plant might easliy have tipped the balance of the climate menace in diesel’s favor.

But North Germany’s superabundance of night-time wind turbine energy—readily expressed as hydrogen gas—is a natural hydrail fuel source. That means the track beyond the catenary will not always rely on Putin’s oil.

By making the rail diesel supply more problematic, he’s made the transition to hydrail less so.

When Vossloh, the high-tech German locomotive manufacturer, rolled-out their new D18 model, they made it “Future-Proof” by designing-in a hydrail prime-mover option. By so doing, they made their locomotive potentially Putin-proof as well.

In 2006 Vladimir Putin was in his second term as President and Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov (later head of Russia’s Foreign Inteligence Service) was Prime Minister. That was the year that the Second International Hydrail Conference was convened in Herning, Denmark. “2IHC” was hosted by Danish scientists interested in using Jutland’s ample wind energy to re-power the diesel rail line from Vemb to Thyborøn, making it the world’s first hydrail passenger service.

In that more relaxed time, Ms. Sandy Kaiser, the US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission (second only to the Ambassador) gave the opening speech at 2IHC.  Russian Railways sent a delegation of nine—by far the largest delegation ever sent to a Hydrail Conference. The proceedings were conducted in English and simultaneously translated into Russian.

A year later the Danish hydrail vision was eclipsed by the sunset of the world economy (not to say the dawn of the Great Recession). Iceland (founded by Danes) had been planning to achieve the world’s first zero-carbon national energy economy. But their sovereign wealth funds were invested heavily in bundled US mortgages adulterated with sub-prime funnymoney debt. Ironically, in Iceland’s fiscal crisis, Russia made them a big bail-out loan, sourced—one supposes—in oil revenues!

In the 1940’s, when most intercity passenger transportation was still by rail and rail was still powered by coal, United Mine Workers’ President John L. Lewis had the same rather personal grip on America that Putin (per the ambassador’s speech) has on Europe today. In the chaos that resulted, the painful grip was pried loose, in part, by converting some locomotives from coal to oil.

Very likely no hydrail intelligence at all percolated up to the former KGB pro and chess champ back in 2006. But Vladimir Putin might do well to note how the “United States versus John L Lewis” game eventually played out.

Daimler a Dozen in Regard to Hydrogen Cars

On October 3, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled, “Daimler, Renault Chiefs Knock Hydrogen Cars” which isn’t exactly true, especially the Daimler part.

Chief executive of Daimler AG Dieter Zetsche, said that he is concerned about the rollout of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure to support the cars and that all of the major car companies with fuel cell vehicles need to be on the same page.

While Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have gotten much attention for their fuel cell vehicles, it’s Daimler AG that has built the largest fleet of hydrogen cars worldwide. The Daimler Mercedes-Benz B-class F-Cell is pictured above.

According to AutoCar India, “Produced under series production conditions, the Mercedes-Benz B-class F-Cell has already been in day-to-day use with customers in the European and American markets since 2010. Today, the total mileage of the Daimler fuel cell fleet, which now numbers more than 300 vehicles, including numerous research vehicles, reaches far more than nine million kilometres, the company has said.

“Based on the current and pending results, Mercedes engineers expect to identify further potential for optimisation, which will flow directly into the development of the next generation of fuel cell electric vehicles. The company has the clear objective to develop a common drive train in cooperation with Ford and Nissan, and to bring competitive fuel cell electric vehicles in large numbers on the streets by 2017.”

So clearly, Dieter Zetsche is not knocking hydrogen cars as his company currently owns the world’s largest fleet. He simply wants a strategic plan that involves all of the fuel cell car companies with the same vision for rolling out the supporting infrastructure in the months and years to come.


$100 for a Chance to Win a Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle


For the cost of a $100 raffle ticket, one lucky Californian will win a Toyota Fuel Cell vehicle which rolls out next summer. As of this writing 12 out of 1000 tickets have been sold and there are 9 days and 12 hours remaining in the raffle.

According to Toyota, “Toyota and the Environmental Media Association (EMA) are offering a historic opportunity to own the company’s first zero-emission hydrogen vehicle when it arrives in California in late 2015. Toyota is the first major auto manufacturer to give away a fuel cell vehicle to an individual owner.

“As the infrastructure to support the vehicle is currently only available in the golden state, prize applicants must be California residents. Residents can purchase opportunities to win at for a cost of $100 per ticket or $500 for six. All monies raised will benefit programs of the EMA, a nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to harnessing the power of celebrity and the media to promote sustainable lifestyles.”

The winner will be announced on October 18, 2014 at the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, CA during the 24th annual EMA Awards.


Honda Smart Hydrogen Fueling Station Unveiled in Japan

At the CEATEC JAPAN 2014 exhibition, a new mockup of a Honda smart hydrogen fueling station has been unveiled. A couple of the key features of this smart hydrogen station (SHS) are that it electrolyzes water to create H2 and it creates high pressure output without using a compressor.

According to Auto Car Pro, “The SHS is equipped with Honda’s original high-pressure water electrolysis system that does not require a compressor. Moreover, the SHS was jointly developed by Honda and Iwatani Corporation as the world’s first hydrogen station where the key components including a high-pressure hydrogen tank and a fueling nozzle are housed in a box-shaped package …

“…Honda will introduce new scenarios where automobiles are getting connected to people’s everyday lives. By combining an FCV, which generates electricity, with Honda’s inverter technologies, the FCV can be turned into a movable and small-sized power plant that provides electricity to the community.”

So, there you have it. With smart phones, smart watches, smart homes and the Internet of Everything coming of age it was only a matter of time until hydrogen fueling stations went smart as well. And, of course the next question we need to ask about the Honda SHS is, “Is there an app for that?”


High Speed Rail Celebration at Hydrail’s Second Home

by Guest Blogger Stan Thompson

For three days this December, the 8th, 9th and 10th, the University of Birmingham UK will host the 50th anniversary celebration of the birth of High Speed Rail. The blessed event occurred in Japan in 1964 with the opening of Tokyo’s Shinkansen line.

Many of the top experts in this most fascinating (and literally “dashing”) element of world railway resurgence will be on hand in Birmingham to present—from Japan and elsewhere.

The motto  of the University of Birmingham is “Circles of Influence”.  In December, one big Circle will enfold Japan’s game-changing innovation.

High Speed Rail is a sort of shining city on the hill of railway resurgence. Hydrail (until Northern Germany’s announcement last week of 40 Alstom hydrail passenger consists by 2020) has been an obscure pilgrim struggling toward the distant summit.

But in Germany this year, Ing. Herbert Warcura of Austria gave the pilgrim a quick lift to the top with his presentation at the Neumünster, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Ninth International Hydrail Conference.


A flare for the dramatic may be excused if I observe that Wancura’s 9IHC presentation—linking hydrail to High Speed Rail at last—recalls Michelangelo’s reaching hands on the Sistine Chapel!  Wancura’s speech described the first clear and feasible contact between these two paradigm-shifting railway technologies.

As one whose work has been greatly influenced by UB’s vision and action in the world of hydrail, I can speak with enthusiasm to the appropriateness of the “Circles of Influence” motto.

In 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, North Carolina’s Sixth International Hydrail Conference had the honor of introducing Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter, who received Birmingham’s first hydrail Ph.D.  The following year, (now Dr.) Hoffrichter organized the Seventh International Hydrail Conference at the Birmingham Campus. As of 7IHC, UB’s “Circles of Influence” have been augmented by the international circles that the International Hydrail Conferences have been creating since 2005.

A year ago I spent a week in Shanghai advocating hydrail as a guest of Southwest Jiaotong University, China’s oldest and most prominent railway engineering school. That happened courtesy of an introduction by UK’s Centre for Railway Research and Education. In Shanghai, I had the honor of introducing Birmingham’s Professor Kevin Kendall, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a featured presenter U. Birmingham’s Hydrail Conference.

This week I had the pleasure of attending a hydrail masters thesis dissertation defense at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte—one of many that should flow from the emerging UNCC/UB affiliation springing from Birmingham’s outreach to North Carolina.

When the University at Charlotte, as part of its Birmingham affiliation, inaugurated a series of advanced railway technology lectures, the first speaker invited was Ing. Herbert Wancura.

It’s not surprising that the celebration of the Shinkansen High Speed Rail Line should have been organized by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education. Neither is it surprising that UNC-Charlotte also hosted a Shinkansen lecture in April, 2014, as part of the growing hydrail cooperation among universities.

Thanks go to Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter for sharing the news of the Shinkansen anniversary event!

To keep up with hydrail emergence around the world, visit Appalachian State University’s web site, .

Graphene Quantum Dots Better Than Platinum in Fuel Cells

Researchers at Rice University have discovered that graphene quantum dots (GQDs) serve as better catalysts in fuel cells than does platinum. And the quantum nanodots are made from (cover your eyes fossil fuel rejectionists) coal.

According to Rice, “The Rice lab of chemist James Tour created dots known as GQDs from coal last year and have now combined these nanoscale dots with microscopic sheets of graphene, the one-atom-thick form of carbon, to create a hybrid that could greatly cut the cost of generating energy with fuel cells …

“… The lab discovered boiling down a solution of GQDs and graphene oxide sheets (exfoliated from common graphite) combined them into self-assembling nanoscale platelets that could then be treated with nitrogen and boron. The hybrid material combined the advantages of each component: an abundance of edges where chemical reactions take place and excellent conductivity between GQDs provided by the graphene base. The boron and nitrogen collectively add more catalytically active sites to the material than either element would add alone.”

Platinum-free fuel cells are something scientists have been feverishly working on in the last 5 years. Cheaper fuel cells will mean less expensive fuel cell vehicles which in turn will mean higher buyer acceptance.


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