Toyota not giving up on fuel cell – experiments with natural gas image

The Japanese automaker has been toying with ideas on how to make fuel cells work better and it came up with a new technology that is just as efficient as the conventional hydrogen-based one, but without needing compressed H2.

Battery-powered electrics are gaining traction in front of the few automakers promoting the hydrogen fuel cell technology due to a major shortage on the latter’s behalf – the lack of refueling infrastructure. Toyota has decided to try and solve the problem and its new hybrid system might be the solution because it uses natural gas as the base fuel and there’s also a micro hybrid gas turbine to produce the electricity.

Toyota not giving up on fuel cell – experiments with natural gas 1

The catch is the structure for electric generation is a bit complex – natural gas is converted into carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2), a compressor injects air into the combination, while the chemical reaction through the fuel cell stack creates electricity. After this, there is residual H2 and CO and these go into the micro gas turbine where a combustion process adds more electricity – while a co-generation system uses waste heat for even more power.

Toyota not giving up on fuel cell – experiments with natural gas 2

Toyota is currently trialing it at its Motomachi Plant in Japan, for evaluations of energy efficiency, performance, and durability. As the photos clearly show, the system is massive though, and makes only 335 horsepower (250 kilowatts), which is not overly impressive compared to the size. Maybe further development will make it suitable for ships… since those are one of the planet’s biggest polluters, and in dire need of eco-friendly solutions.