Toyota Is Using Sewage To Power Its New Electric Car
A new hydrogen-fueled vehicle is driven by what we flush away
Remember in Back To The Future when Doc refilled his car with waste found in a garbage can? Well Toyota is hoping to do something similar to power a new fleet of cars it’s producing using a different type of waste. In Fukyoka, Japan, the automaker is converting human waste into hydrogen to fuel their new hydrogen-fueld vehicle, the Mirai.
The process of converting human waste into fuel is remarkably not that complex. Wastewater treatment plants separate sewage into liquid and solid waste. The solid waste, called sewage sludge, is usually thrown into landfills, but in Fukuoka microorganisms are added to the mix. The microorganisms break down the solid waste and create biogas which are about 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide. From there CO2 is filtered out and water vapor is added, which creates hydrogen and more CO2. The CO2 is extracted again and voila hydrogen is created.
The Fukuoka wastewater plant currently produces 300 kilograms of hydrogen per day which fuels 65 Mirai vehicles. If all the biogas produced by the wastewater plant were converted to hydrogen, the plant would be able to fuel 600 cars a day. While 600 cars is a far cry from achieving the company’s goal of a “hydrogen society” it is a good first step. The great thing is that the process of creating hydrogen could be implemented in cities around the world.
In addition to the fact that creating hydrogen around the world from waste is a viable option, it is believed that, compared to electric battery cars, hydrogen vehicles would have less of a barrier to entry for consumers because they behaviorally are a lot like gasoline cars that are currently used. Fuel cell cars are able to offer fast refueling time, can offer a longer range of use and can be larger cars.
In order for the Mirai, and other hydrogen-fueled cars to really take off, there needs to be a high consumer demand for zero-emission vehicles which currently isn’t the case. Once that happens Toyota has a source for fuel, as long as there are humans around to produce it.