A hydrogen road service vehicle jointly developed by Toyota and the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) was recently unveiled in Japan. The two partners say this vehicle will play a key role in creating a “hydrogen society.” The vehicle was designed to assist hydrogen-powered cars in case of emergencies, such as any cases where they run out of fuel on the road.
As part of its roadside services, JAF says its assists some 50,000 vehicles stranded without fuel, including about 700 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) that have run out of charge, and around 20 cars needing a hydrogen top-up on an annual basis. Now hydrogen-powered vehicles will have a dedicated roadside assistance service from this pilot project. Before this kind of truck was developed, the only option stranded hydrogen vehicle users had was to call a tow truck. Toyota, in collaboration with JAF, also configured the vehicle with all the functions necessary to provide all the other roadside assistance service,s and not just for hydrogen refueling. It is envisioned that these types of mobile hydrogen trucks could also deliver hydrogen for home generators and stationary power generation units in the future.
JAF Vice President Keitaro Shinomiya said, “We developed this vehicle together with Toyota, which is conducting research aimed at advancing a hydrogen society. In addition to supplying hydrogen, this vehicle brings together everything needed to manage the five main problems on the road, from flat tires and dead batteries to running out of fuel.”
Toyota Vice President Nakajima said, “This initiative started from the idea that mobility should lead the way in creating a hydrogen society. Without road service support, we cannot expect people to feel confident using hydrogen vehicles, which is why we pursued this kind of initiative with JAF among our first actions.”
Toyota adds, “the vehicle carries modules that integrate multiple resin hydrogen tanks, used in the Mirai with a high degree of safety, with various safety devices to monitor operating conditions automatically. With their large capacity, these modules make storing and transporting hydrogen safer and more efficient. As such, they were developed with the aim of boosting hydrogen energy use in seaports, mountainous regions, and other areas where refuelling is difficult.”
I found this to be quite fascinating. Hydrogen for the road transportation sector divides opinions, with most feeling that it is not viable at all and should not be explored further, especially for cars and other non-heavy duty vehicles. With the rapid progress being made in the battery-electric truck industry as well, many people now also feel that even the big truck industry will be more weighted towards battery-electric vehicles rather than hydrogen trucks. It has not helped hydrogen’s cause that sales of hydrogen-fueled cars have been literally blown away by the record growth of battery-electric vehicle sales in most parts of the world.
Another major barrier to the mass adoption of hydrogen vehicles, besides their lower energy efficiency compared to battery-electric vehicles, is the extensive infrastructure required to support refueling. Does this mobile refueling model have the potential to tackle some of these barriers associated with large infrastructure roll-outs? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Images courtesy of Toyota.
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