You can generate hydrogen fuel from a variety of sources – including geothermal energy, solar power, wind turbines, and yes – human waste. The Fountain Valley Renewable Hydrogen Station in Orange County, California has the world’s first tri-generation system, which transforms sewage into heat, electricity, and hydrogen fuel. The plant runs anaerobically digested biogas through a high-efficiency molten carbonate fuel cell to produce 100 kg of hydrogen each day – enough to fill 25-50 fuel cell electric vehicles.
The Toyota Mirai drove like a dream – it floats along the road and the ride is virtually silent save for the sci-fi sound of the hydrogen pump and the whirr of the electric drivetrain. The car’s electric motors give it plenty of torque and a sprightly pickup, and the vehicle’s touch-sensitive controls are a pleasure to use. A counter on the dashboard displays how many miles you can drive until it’s time to fill up.
The refueling process was a breeze at the Fountain Valley station. It took a few seconds for the pump to pressurize, and then I attached the gas-like pump to the hydrogen valve and locked it in. The mechanics are remarkably similar to the way a standard gas pump operates, and the entire process took less than five minutes. The Mirai’s name means “the future” – and it looks the part. The fact that it can be powered by human waste is testament to how versatile fuel cell vehicles can be.
+ Toyota Mirai
+ Fountain Valley Renewable Hydrogen Station
Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat