Formerly known by other Toyota employees as “Mr. Hybrid Synergy Drive”, Katsuhiko Hirose has now been given another tag, “Mr. Hydrogen.” Mr. Hirose is in charge of the hydrogen car program for Toyota and was the key player in the Japanese carmaker joining the London Hydrogen Partnership (LHP).
The LHP is heavily involved in developing the UK Hydrogen Highway system and the fact that Toyota is now onboard will make it easier to promote the building of H2 infrastructure to support hydrogen cars by 2015.
According to Mr. Hydrogen, making fuel cell vehicles is not the problem. Hirose says, “We know we can make a FCV, because Toyota engineers have developed very powerful, reliable, fuel cells and cheaper and more effective Hydrogen storage tanks, but the problem is generating the hydrogen [which can come from methane gas or using wind turbines to ‘crack’ seawater into hydrogen and oxygen] and building a re-fuelling infrastructure. Without a network of re-fuelling stations FCVs cannot become a mainstream choice for the consumer. And without large-scale production, FCVs will remain expensive.”
According to the Toyota Blog, “As ‘tens of thousands’ of FCVs are sold each year by 2020, Toyota reckons it can eventually reduce the cost of fuel cell production to 1/20th of today’s manufacturing costs. But Japan itself has another reason for seeing wide-spread use of FCVs. In the event of the kind of natural disaster that is all-too-common in the country, FCVs could be used to provide emergency power. Hirose says that one FCV car could produce enough electricity to power an average house for a week. A fuel-cell powered bus could light an evacuation centre for five days and two buses could power a hospital for a week.”
And as Mr. Hydrogen points out, it’s never too soon to start changing the world.