Toyota uses canisters to make hydrogen portable and refueling convenient

Japanese automaker Toyota is betting on hydrogen to play a vital role in decarbonizing our energy demand and has unveiled a canister that will help make the fuel portable, Engadget reported.

As the world searches for carbon-free energy sources, hydrogen is one of the options on the table. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), a US Department of Energy resource, 2.2 pounds (one kg) of hydrogen contains the same amount of energy as one gallon (6.2 pounds, 2 .8 kg) of gasoline. However, major obstacles to the use of hydrogen as a fuel guarantee the safety and availability of the gas. Toyota aims to overcome these obstacles in one fell swoop with a cartridge-based solution.

Toyota hydrogen cartridges

Instead of building a large-scale infrastructure to pump hydrogen gas, Toyota wants to ship it in small, convenient and affordable packages. For this, the company is considering cartridges that weigh no more than 11 pounds (5 kg).

At 16 inches (40 cm) long and seven inches (18 cm) in diameter, these cartridges should be easily portable and easy to swap out for quick refilling.

The automaker has also partnered with Tokyo-based Eneos Corporation to build a complete hydrogen-based supply chain. Eneos is a century-old oil company looking for new ways to power the world without carbon. A company press release says Toyota and Eneos are working to simplify the production, transportation and use of hydrogen as a fuel.

Toyota will test its hydrogen canisters in Woven City, a futuristic smart city currently under construction in Susono City in eastern Japan.

Today’s Hydrogen Problem

Even if the supply chain issues could be resolved quickly, the use of hydrogen as a fuel currently poses a significant problem. Although abundant in nature, hydrogen is not freely available and must be extracted from other molecules such as water, methane or other organic matter.

Hydrogen is widely used in fertilizer production and oil refining, but the methods currently used for production rely on fossil fuels, Toyota notes in its press release. The company expects the hydrogen to be produced with low carbon emissions, as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy will be used in its production.

With its cartridges, Toyota intends to meet the energy needs of remote and non-electrified areas, the statement added. Although convenient, the small size cartridges are intended for everyday use applications. A single cartridge can power a home microwave for up to four hours, Toyota reports on its cartridge claims.

While the cartridges are currently presented at the Fuji Speedway, their small size makes it’s quite clear that Toyota isn’t looking to them to solve heavy vehicle or long-haul haul problems. Whether we’ll see larger iterations of these cartridges in the future remains to be seen. For now, Toyota is keen to explore how these little packages can be used in our daily lives.