Toyota says renewable hydrogen is the Swiss Army knife of energy

In order to reduce vehicle emissions and eventually achieve carbon neutrality in Asean countries, the Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies (CJPT) consortium, which consists of Toyota, Suzuki, Daihatsu, and Isuzu is looking into the application of relevant zero-emission automotive technologies for the region - starting with potential trials for commercial vehicles in Thailand.

The consortium’s Asia region management member Pras Ganesh said there is a need to understand more about the diversity of mobility needs in the various Asean countries, before introducing new vehicle technologies.

“We look at the household sizes, purchasing power, the income per capita - which means the mobility solution in each country is different,” he told the media at a briefing during a recent demonstration of hybrid and zero-emission commercial vehicles held at Toyota Alive Driving Park in Bangkok, Thailand.

The demonstration, held by CJPT along with Hino Motors, aimed to promote the benefits of hydrogen and electrified commercial vehicles including the zero-emission hydrogen-powered Toyota Sora FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) bus, Hino FCEV heavy-duty truck, Toyota e-Palette and Suzuki Every small van.

Toyota Sora FCEV bus
Toyota Sora FCEV bus

The event also demonstrated that large commercial FCEVs can be easily and quickly refuelled by compact and portable stations, loaded with compressed hydrogen gas in high-pressure cylinder tanks.

The Hino FCEV heavy-duty truck has a lithium-ion battery and a cruising range of over 600km.

It is worth noting that the Hino FCEV heavy-duty truck was powered by renewable hydrogen produced from biogas derived from poultry manure, as a result of the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) and Toyota Motor Corp (TMC) collaboration signed only four months ago.

Founded in 1921, CP is Thailand’s largest agriculture-based conglomerate with businesses.

In December last year, CP and TMC announced they would also explore the introduction of hydrogen-powered fuel cell delivery trucks into CP’s fleet.

Another highlight was an outdoor grilling station where chicken skewers were barbecued, using renewable hydrogen gas.

“We show that it’s possible to produce renewable hydrogen from chicken manure, and this can be used to power your vehicles, and even cook food,” said Ganesh, who is also executive vice-president (business transformation group) at Toyota Daihatsu Engineering and Manufacturing.

Toyota FCEV light-duty truck
Toyota FCEV light-duty truck

As for the hydrogen-powered Toyota and Isuzu jointly developed fuel cell light-duty truck, it has nickel-metal hydride batteries and a cruising range of over 200km.

In a statement, CJPT noted that fuel cell technology, which runs on high energy density hydrogen and has zero CO2 emissions while driving, is ideal for light-duty trucks that are often used for distribution in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Light-duty trucks with cargo refrigeration and freezing features, need fast refuelling as they are required to drive long distances over extended hours to perform multiple delivery operations in one day.

Meanwhile, the hydrogen-powered Sora was the first fuel-cell electric bus to receive vehicle-type certification in Japan, back in 2018.

The name Sora is an acronym taken from the Earth’s water cycle (sky, ocean, river, and air) and like the Mirai FCEV, the bus emits water vapour as its sole by-product.

The Sora bus has a cruising range of over 200km and can carry 79 occupants.

It has 10 high-pressure hydrogen tanks and nickel-metal hydride batteries, as well as a high-capacity external power supply system that provides a 9kW maximum output, and an electricity supply of 235 kWh.

This system can also be used as an emergency external power source.

Toyota FCEV light-duty truck
Toyota FCEV light-duty truck

Also on display was a Toyota Granace FCEV van which has a lithium-ion battery and a cruising range of over 400km.

Meanwhile, a Toyota e-Palette, an all-electric driverless autonomous vehicle, was used as a zero-emission mobile coffee brewing and pastry catering cart.

Another highlight was the boxy-looking Toyota LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) taxi, which was also exhibited at the Bangkok International Motor Show 2023.

Like Toyota’s JPN Taxi (or known as Japan Taxi) which was launched in 2017, the 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain combines electric power with LPG.

The taxi has a unique yellow-green colour scheme, giving it a distinct identity for Thailand.

It has a high roof and roomy cabin with large windows, and a low flat floor with a ramp system for wheelchair users, the elderly and children, to enter and exit the cabin easily.

Toyota e-Palette
Toyota e-Palette

Meanwhile, CJPT was set up in April 2021 to accelerate the implementation and popularisation of connected services, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility and electrification technologies (CASE) technologies toward solving transportation challenges and achieving a carbon-neutral society.

Ganesh pointed out that a lot of economic wealth is concentrated in capital cities, where mobility solutions are different from less developed rural areas.

“If you go to the northern part of Thailand, there is a very different economic character. In that context, we have to understand what is the right solution that works for everyone, not just potentially in the capital cities, where infrastructure or the economic power is higher,” he said.

As such, the Suzuki Every or Daihatsu Hijet five-door minivan with their 658cc petrol engines, shod with small 12-inch wheels, and a cruising range of over 500km, are fuel-sipping cargo haulers with relatively lower carbon impact.

Regarding carbon neutrality, Ganesh said carbon is cumulative and “all the carbon that is emitted right now, stays in the atmosphere. How are we able to reduce carbon as quickly as possible? What is the appropriate solution for Asia?”

He noted that most countries are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as coal or gas, to drive the economy.

“In terms of the renewable energy ratio, although governments have very ambitious targets, that mixture is still primarily fossil fuel oriented,” he said.

Toyota Innova BEV concept
Toyota Innova BEV concept

Ganesh explained that in the journey towards carbon neutrality, multiple solutions are needed, depending on business usage and requirements.

“For example, even small internal combustion engines (ICE) that are low carbon emitting, especially for last mile deliveries, are an excellent solution that can be used today. Or, hybrids can be the most affordable electrified option for the mass market, especially for passenger fleets. And if we look at BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and hydrogen-powered solutions, considering the need for new infrastructure, we believe if

we can limit the infrastructure investment as per fixed route/limited service areas for point-to-point usage, we can find significant benefits through TCO (total cost of ownership),” he said.

Regarding the cost challenges of creating the necessary infrastructure for hydrogen production and distribution, Ganesh pointed out that hydrogen production costs vary significantly across the world.

Ganesh explained that renewable hydrogen as an energy source is very attractive.

“You can store and transport hydrogen, and use it for mobility, industrial feedstock - multiple uses. We call it the Swiss Army knife of energy because it can be used in so many ways,” he said.

He also pointed out that 10 years ago, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were far from mass market adoption.

“Technologies change and we must adapt to these technologies, and not close the door. We have to continuously see what technologies have the greatest potential. That’s what CJPT strongly wants to do. And we want to work with like-minded partners to find the most efficient way of reducing carbon emissions and still provide mobility for all,” said Ganesh.

Daihatsu Hijet Small Van
Daihatsu Hijet Small Van
Daihatsu Hijet Small Van
Daihatsu Hijet Small Van
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Autos Suzuki
Autos Isuzu
Autos Hino
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