A Breakthrough of Automobile: Toyota Hydrogen Engine

Avik Biswas, ME (2021-22)

A Breakthrough of Automobile: Toyota Hydrogen Engine

Introduction

Because of the emission of Green House gasses at an alarming rate all the climatologists are concerned of the global warming and also about the catastrophic disasters happening so frequently due to the global warming. Considering this fact, the Tesla Motors came up with a solution and that was Electric Cars, and it is anticipated that by 2030 up to 70% cars in the whole world will be EVs (Electric Vehicles). And obviously EVs are ecofriendly. But is EVs are really ecofriendly? Is really EVs are green energy sources? Not really. On the contrast it’s also triggering the greenhouse effect which is really concerning. Carbon footprint which is really concerning about today’s industries and automobile remains the same as before. To replace the EV industry Toyota has launched a new engine which entirely functions on Hydrogen fuel. This engine might be the end of the EV industry. Toyota made a breakthrough through this engine and also gained almost double efficiency than today’s EVs.

EVs vs Toyota Hydrogen Engine

EVs which the whole world is thinking as a green energy source is not that much ecofriendly. Some reports show the reverse results. So called Green Energy Source which is EVs actually emitting more CO2 gas, and which is resulting in triggering Green House Effect. According to The Norwegian University report an EV emits about 13608 kg CO2 before hitting the road which takes lives of about 36000 people per year. So, the Green Energy Source that we are talking about is actually killing us by triggering the Green House Affectionate the main metal that is required for the production of the batteries of the EVs is Cobalt and Lithium. But the mining process of Lithium and Cobalt emits about 34billions of Carbon-Dioxide which is really a great amount and also the mining is under control of China. Lithium is found in the earth’s crust. The rock which contains lithium is called Crustal Rock. So, the underground cobalt mining actually damages our earth’s crust. Which is also causing frequent earthquakes. The main producer of Lithium and Cobalt’s for the batteries for EVs are The Republic of Congo. Whole Cobalt and Lithium market is under the control of Chinese Government. The miners who work in these mines are exploited. After working a whole day in these mines keeping their lives in danger of being toxicities by the metals, they only get less than $1 per day. While the Lithium and Cobalt Industry is estimated to become a 13.63billion dollar industry by 2027.So the Li-ion Batteries which is the main part of EVs are called blood batteries for the hazardous mining process and labor exploitation. All these things point at one thing that EVs are not the solution. It’s only worsening the situation. On the other hand, Toyota’s new hydrogen engines will work on only hydrogen fuel and will emit water vapor in the atmosphere which will surely lessen the Green House Effect. Thus, Toyota solved the problem of carbon footprint.

Infect if we consider the efficiency then Toyota’s new Hydrogen Engine has achieved almost 2X efficiency than the EVs. In a single refill Toyota’s New Hydrogen Engine gives 650km mileage whereas Tesla Model Y gives 500km mileage in a single charge. Toyota’s Engine takes 5 min to refill whereas Tesla model Y takes a full day charge to give 500km mileage.

For a better performance and an ecofriendly approach, Toyota created a breakthrough in Automobile engines.

The Concept of Hydrogen Engine

The concept of Hydrogen Fuel Engine was given by a Swiss Army Engineer Francois Isaac de Riverstone day while firing a canon an idea came into his mind to power the engine piston by an explosive instead of vapor. So, he designed an engine which was ignited by Hydrogen. To power the engine a balloon was filled with Hydrogen. It could only move 6m with a single ignition which was really impractical. This engine was named De Rivaz Engine. For an impractical design he scraped the design. Then in 1863 Etienne Lenoir produced a Hydrogen Engine which was powered by electrolysis. This engine was named Hippomobil. The electricity for this engine to perform was coming from fossil fuels. So, the world moved on fossil fuels again. And then two types of engines were introduced, and they were Petrol and Diesel again. And 1966 the concept of Hydrogen Engine was just a theory. In 1966 General Motor took inspiration from the Cryogenic Hydrogen Engine and made the first Hydrogen Fuel Van which was theory. In it was really a rocket science to drive this van and its controls were too complicated. The van was no less than a Hydrogen Bomb as it carries two flammable gasses which are Hydrogen and Oxygen. During a trial the van exploded. So, the mass production of this car was stopped. In 2014 Toyota again revived the concept of Hydrogen Engine. It was Toyota Mirai. Which was Toyota’s first car which was using Hydrogen Fuel. But due to low mileage and low speed it was not that much Fuel. But couldn’t sell that many units. So once again the concept of Hydrogen engine remined as a theoretical concept. Again in 2022 Toyota again came with the Hydrogen Engine concept. Now this Engine can replace the whole EV industry.

Toyota’s Entry in the Picture

So, to say Toyota is a common Automobile Brand in our continent especially in Bangladesh. There is hardly any person in Bangladesh who hasn’t seen any car of Toyota Companionate the image is same for other parts of the world. Before pandemic Toyota was the bestseller car in the whole world even before the pandemic, they sold a huge number of cars. But the scenario changed drastically when US government approached them with an allegation of violating Environmental Law. Due to the carelessness of the workers Toyota’s workers, there was literally no change or development of their tailpipes. So, when the Environmental Protection Agency of USA asked them for a detailed investigation report they couldn’t provide that. So, the US government charged them for violating Clean Air Act and fined them with 180million dollars and also banned Toyota’s regular cars in USA until they make their cars more ecofriendly. Toyota was selling cars without developing their tailpipes from 2005 to 2015.And they did a great damage to the environment. After getting banned in USA Toyota had to face a heavy loss. They’re selling rate of cars decreased rapidly. Now Toyota had two choices. One is to pay the fine and the other was to make new invention. To make the situation even worse the pandemic appeared, and all other Automobile Companies started to take the environment more seriously. Toyota’s selling rate decreased by 20% which was alarming for Toyota. But Toyota couldn’t find any solution. So, they launched a campaign collaborating with YAMAHA and came out with a solution which was Hydrogen Engine. Although Toyota failed in Hydrogen engine vehicle once before. Which was Toyota Mirai which they launched in 2014.Mirai failed due to the low mileage and speed. But this time they made a powerful comeback. And so, to say this engine might save their engine and can also replace the whole EV industry.

Toyota’s New Hydrogen Engine

Hydrogen Combustion Engines was once a theoretical concept and also a dangerous technology. But what about today. Today we have advanced in technological field, and we might find some solution of these risks. Toyota gained revived the concept. To make the engine work they started to figure out the problems one by one. First, they dealt with the safety measures. Previously all the tanks that were used to store Hydrogen for Hydrogen Engines were made of Aluminum or Stainless steel. Aluminum or Stainless steel has low tensile strength and as a result there were an issue of Hydrogen leakage which was increasing the risk of explosion. To solve the leakage problem Toyota selected a material which has a great tensile strength, and the material is Carbon Fiber. Carbon Fiber Cylinders has a tensile strength up to 10000psi which is 2.5X greater than Aluminum or Stainless-Steel Cylinder’s tensile strength which was 4000psi in average. With Carbon Fiber Cylinder, Toyota launched their first car which was ignited by Hydrogen, and it was Toyota Mirai in 2014.But due to low speed and efficiency it was not that much popular. The main reason of the failure of Toyota Mirai was its Hydrogen Fuel Cell. AS we know in Hydrogen Fuel cell produces electricity by the electrolysis of water. But the problem is in Hydrogen Fuel Cell energy goes through two types of conversion process. One is electric energy to chemical energy which is called electrolysis, and the other one is chemical energy to electrical energy which is called reversed electrolysis in car engine. Due to this dual conversion Toyota Mirai was providing 25-30% efficiency whereas EV’s were producing 79-90% efficiency. Due to the electrolytes like KOH or NaOH the cathodes used for electrolysis were being corroded.

So, the cell life of the cells was decreasing. But this time they also solved the efficiency problem This time they aren’t building the Hydrogen Fuel Cell which was extracting Hydrogen by Electrolysis of water. This time they are building an IC engine. But there is a catch. Instead of Air and Fuel mixture they are injecting Hydrogen and Air mixture in the cylinder. It is really a master stroke. In normal IC engine the Hydrogen part of the fuel is burned. So, when we are injecting Hydrogen and Air mixture in the cylinder the whole hydrogen is burned due to high energy density, and they leave no recede where petrol and diesels are not burned properly. And the exhaust which is coming out by exhaust bulb is Water vapor. So, there is really no carbon emission, and it is obviously ecofriendly. So due to the 40-50% burning of the fuel the fuel efficiency has also So, where 5L Diesel produces 45MJ energy,5L H2 produces 130MJ energy. And also, in mileage it can gives 650 km mileage in a single refill. In a prototype testing it has already beaded Tesla model Toyota has also increased the efficiency of their normal IC engines.

Hydrogen Fuel Transportation

There is a huge risk in Hydrogen transportation. The biggest example of the failure of this process is the 1937 Hindenburg Disaster where an airplane filled with Hydrogen crashed in New Jersey town and an intense explosion occurred and due to this explosion 35 people died. To handle the risk Toyota have given a concept of Hydrogen Fuel Pumps. They will produce Hydrogen in the pump by the electrolysis of water. In this case they are depending on Einstein’s Photoelectricity concept. Before this Hydrogen was produced in the pump by using sun and concept. Before was really expensive. According to Recent IEEE Spectrum report says that a Japanese University has developed a new photoelectric cell which will produce hydrogen from expensive. According to this process the Anode is dopped with TiO2 (Titanium Di Oxide) which is n- type photocatalyst and Cathode is Dopped with SiC (Silicon Carbide) which is a p-type photocatalyst. TiO2 absorbs UV rays of sun because its electron’s gets excited by UV rays and then electron is emitted, and this emitted electron runs to the cathode and that’s how H2O gets analyzed and the H2 is gathered around the Anode and the O2 gathers around the cathode. This process is going to be used to Produce H2 in the fuel pump. So, the risk of transportation is going to be solved.

Probable Problems with Hydrogen Fuel Pump

The photoelectricity requires UV ray which comes from Sun. So, it will be ineffective in many countries where Sun light is not that much available. Besides the risk of Hydrogen explosion is also available. Besides Hydrogen production by photoelectricity can be a costly process which can increase the cost of the fuel which will make it a car for the elite. Besides to handle Hydrogen Fuel the workers will have to take extra measures. For this extra training and resources are required, which might increase the cost. Toyota needs to deal with those problems first.

Alternate ways of Hydrogen Extraction

  1. A way to extract Hydrogen is from Air. Which is costly. So, it might not be a good process.

  2. To know the other processes, we have to know about the hydrogen colors according to their production process:

  • Grey or Black Hydrogen: In is produced through electrolysis where electrical energy comes from fossil fuels. Which is not ecofriendly.

  • Green Hydrogen: In this case the energy comes from renewable energy. There is Zero carbon emission.

  • Yellow Hydrogen: Energy comes from sun.

  • Pink Hydrogen: Energy Comes from Nuclear Reaction.

  • Blue Hydrogen: This process is done by steam Reforming process where Methene and H2O is heated at a high temperature from which H2 is produced and the exhaust CO2 is captured.

  • Turquoise Hydrogen: In this case CH4 is heated at 300˚C in absence of O2 which is called Methene Hydrogen: In heated at a high temperature in absence of Oxygen is called Pyrolysis.

  • Golden Hydrogen: In this case GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) are used. Genetically modified symbiotic bacteria are used to produce Hydrogen.

  • White Hydrogen: Hydrogen is recently discovered freely underground and in lava explosion.

So possible way to Hydrogen extraction in a low-cost way can be the green hydrogen by using biogas and wind power which will also solve the presence of sun problem. Another way can be Golden and White Hydrogen. But in that case, it needs more research. Turquoise Hydrogen is also a process where the waste C can be used for producing materials that uses solid carbon. Pink Hydrogen is also a great source.

Conclusion

Hydrogen is a green energy source and also a clean energy and the future of the earth also depends on the proper use of hydrogen. So, measures should be taken to produce hydrogens more efficiently. The new engine that Toyota has developed has a potentiality to replace the whole EV industry and it is no less than a revolution. By the near future we might get used to see Hydrogen Combustion engine. Hoping to see the Hydrogen Fuels in work. This will also solve our energy limitations.

Reference