How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made – Video

JAN 26 2015 BY MARK KANE 91

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell campaign is beginning (note Toyota is the sponsor of the video below).

DNews recently released video covering several aspects of hydrogen fuel cell cars, including how the fuel is made.

Judging from the comments from EV enthusiasts, it seems that FCVs are unwanted, though we should point out that FCVs combine electric cars and internal combustion cars into one (drive like EVs but refuel like ICE).

Anyways, the next few years will show us if this most abundant element really threatens all-electric cars.

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91 Comments on "How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made – Video"

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The Toyota Ad admits:
“95% of commercial hydrogen comes from natural gas steam formation”

“We suck at making it and moving it around”

“should be cost competitive with gasoline”

That last quote corresponds to $4 gas. He even admitted to the disaster of only getting 100 filling stations, from 200 million dollars of public funds.

If you have any idea the environmental mitigation that can be had dollar, for dollar, pound for pound, you’d abandon the money thrown at this stuff, and let the company, reporting billion dollar quarterly profits, do it themselves.

This guy’s “neat” attitude is so naive.

Yea, I was thinking that for a pro-hydrogen video, they really weren’t doing a good job at making the H-cars look good. In fairness, it’s a tough case to logically make, especially seeing how far BEVs and EREVs have come in the last few years.

Yeah, Toyota looks like a dove compared to the master of hyperboles.

Ah, you mean your self right? Master of nonsense would be even more appropriate.

I give them a lot of credit.

For a sponsored video, Discovery didn’t gloss over any of the issues with hydrogen. They told us 95% of H2 comes from NG, that $200M is being spent on 100 stations, and that parity with gasoline is merely a hope right now.

Hmmm, quote “those 100 (hydrogen) stations should be able to make hydrogen cost competitive with gasoline”.

Nope, not until $8/gallon gasoline happens anyway.

Even the biggest H-supporters Toyota and Hyundai don’t expect hydrogen to be cost competitive before 2040-45

That’s the sort of details left out in propaganda material.

Except, of course, he failed to go that one step further down the road of explaining why we should not be bothering with FCVs (rather than BEVs, anyway) by pointing out how idiotically inefficient it is wasting all that electrical energy used to make/ship/store H2 rather than just use the electrical energy directly in BEVs. A step too far for Toyota, obviously.

95% of the Hydrogen comes from gas and the other 5% comes from coal or oil.

“Judging from the comments from EV enthusiasts, it seems that FCVs are unwanted”

I’d say that judging from the fact that 60% of the Mirai sales were to fleets, FCVs are unwanted by ordinary consumers.

No demand for a $60K Prius competitor without proper refueling support hey? Go figure.

It doesn’t make up 75% of all the mass. Not even close. They forgot about dark matter.

Most of the hydrogen is in space – getting it down to earth is impossible – so this would be a moot point.

Here on earth, hydrogen doesn’t really exist on it’s own. It joins with other things very quickly.

Ahhh…one of the many shortcomings to Hydrogen FCVs. It is and always will be virtually unavailable as an isolated element without without being forced. Even if all other shortcomings are overcome, this cannot be.

If terrorism is real, then hydrogen stations is suicide.

Who needs terrorists. Most of the people in my life, I wouldn’t trust to connect the 10psi hose right on a regular basis (including myself). How do they verify a proper connection and properly operating equipment. Someone remind me why this is being done when a $35k Volt and other PHEVs are available.

They do it by regular inspection of the equipment (including on your car, judging by CNG vehicles). Given the dangers of it, I would not miss such an inspection if I ever become a hydrogen FCV owner.

My nitrogen tanks (3,000 psi) require inspection every 3 years. If they fail, the place certifying them is required to disable/scrap them right there and then.

I wonder what the rules will be for 10,000 PSI H2 tanks that hold an explosive gas, compared to my inert nitrogen at 1/3rd the pressure?

The Day the Volt was put on sale was the day this idea become Obsolete. With the Bolt and 200 mile range in just 2 years this idea is senile.

The day the first Model S hit the road and the first supercharger station opened up supplied the nails for the coffin so to speak (for the FCV).
This whole FCV thing reminds me of the WANKLE rotary engine.

It will be interesting to see if the Wankel rotary engine will have a comeback in the Mazda 2 (Demio) EV more than just a few hundred test vehicles in Japan.

I hope they will sell it globaly, and it’s the perfect place for a Wankel engine.

I don’t know how to respond to this video. It’s basically saying that hydrogen fuel cells suck. Toyota knows this, even sponsor it and yet they continue to try to produce them.

It takes strong self-discipline to kick yourself to the ground and then keep beating yourself.

Now I’m just waiting for the announcement from Toyota that all of their models will soon be available as a plug-in in a near future.

It seemed mostly neutral. But then it got the the line:
“We suck at making it and moving it around”

and I bust up laughing.

It really did point out a lot of problems . . . it is carbon polluting or energy-intensive to make it. It then needs to be compressed. And it then needs to be transported & stored.

Batteries have the problem of being expensive and not so quick to charge. But at least it is really easy to make electricity from a WIDE variety of sources and it is very easy and efficient to distribute.

At least creating hydrogen doesn’t cause the dirty rain in the most populous parts of the world. Neither does it consume humongous amount of coal power to create the battery packs.

Yes, the battery packs in the FCV…

Who is building more coal right now?

New demand from battery factories is being met roughly in an even split by NG and renewables.

The energy needed to fuel a FCV over 200k miles is many times that needed to build an EV battery.

Only when we see Toyota mandating H2 to be 70%+ renewable can a FCV tool like yourself claim the high road.

The battery pack in the Toyota FCV is a nickel metal halide battery so plenty of environmental impact to manufacture it. Most electricity in the USA is NOT produced from coal.

hydride, not halide

Like all that coal power that the gigafactory will use with all of that renewable on-site power? And the gigafactory recycling programs that they will implement at the end of life for each pack?

Batteries and motors may be expensive compared to unpressurized liquid fuel tanks and engines but are cheap compared to fuel cell stacks and 10psi tanks.

Its a great example of how government intervention distorts markets. Without California pushing FCVs, Toyota would bolt from the whole idea (pun intended).

That is an interesting coomment, given that the U.S. government alone provided billions of dollars worth of incentives for electric vehicles. The federal tax credit alone will end up costing up to $1.5 billion per manufacturer ($7500 times 200,000 vehicles plus phase-out). The federal government so far also provided grants and loans worth more than $2 billion to the EV industry for things like battery development. The subsidies specific to FCEVs are really quite small in comparison.


Fools Cell garbage from Toy……..NO THANKS!

Not exactly an endorsement even though Toyota sponsored the show.
Can someone tell me what happens to the carbon monoxide that is the by-product of steam reformation process?

The CO2 is vented away into the atmosphere thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

In theory, I guess you could sequester it but that requires lots of equipment, pumps, pipelines, and access to some deep underground reservoir to sequester it into. And that would make it extremely uneconomical.

In practice, DOE gave Southern Co. a 250 million dollar loan to produce a coal plant, that sequestered carbon, in Kemper, MS. It wasn’t even full size, by modern standards, (582MW). The MS utility commission basically shut it down, when they said Southern would henceforth eat the cost over runs, not ratepayers. Nobody wants to pay for CO2, and there’s wayyyyy to much of it to merely think old oil wells are a place to put it.

And of course we know that all of those local H2 generation stations are going to have CO2 sequestration…

Carbon monoxide goes through a steam shift reaction.

CO + H2O-> CO2 + H2.
The carbon dioxide can be separated here from the steam and air, and sequestered or used. Sequestering it costs money as does separating it, so most just goes into the air.

The increased cost point is also valid since the fuel for the FCV currently cost more than gasoline. The next big question is “Can the USA sequester that volume of CO2” and I’m thinking NO.

Sure why not given money and tech it can be sequestered. I’m thinking its about $3/kg of hydrogen produced though, so we get to the point where building storage tanks and building wind may be cheaper where the wind is ok. There goes your cheap fuel idea, why not just add batteries and put the wind straight into the battery?

Maybe if they actually designed an FCV vehicle that people want to buy…

For example, if the FCV vehicle looked like an Afa Romeo 4C, then some people may overlook the problems of Hydrogen Fuel. The problems as I see it are short term. I’m pretty sure that if the idea of fuel cells takes off, there will be more investment in finding ways to clean up the process.

Until then, we are stuck with the most ugliest car with the most crappy name (mirai) to exist in modern times and expect people to buy it.

Mirai is production constrained. Entire 2015 production sold out. In fact, if you order one now, you will only get one in 2017.

lmao. truly.

Hyundai Tucson FCV has sold 200 units worldwide since introduction almost a year ago.

Toyota is twisting arms to get these sold at all. Count on it. Unbelievably large subsidies in Asia, some kind of horse trading to get fleet customers to take delivery in the US. We will do a story on who owns these and I can confidently predict it won’t be consumer demand.

Any company the size of Toyota can hide a few thousand cars. Let’s see them sell 20,000, or 200,000.

ZEV credits. End of story.

By the time 2017 rolls around and the Model 3 and the Bolt are all time best sellers, they’re going to be scrambling had to get back in the game.

“There’s a new term for it in the valley “a Kodak moment” . Not in a good way.

It’s a real shame. Toyota has a lot of really good people.

You don’t really think Toyota is going the way of Kodak any time soon, do you? Toyota’s wallet is deep enough that once they give up on the FCV and switch to EV, they’ll be outproducing everyone in a few years. And they’ll do that when there are no more poorly conceived incentives to be had.

Actually I’ve always expected that Toyota will sit back and let the innovators do all of the heavy lifting on BEV research and implementation. They will stall with the FCV thing making a show of it getting maximum ZEV credits with minimal spending.

Then around 2018-2020 when Tesla, GM, BMW and Nissan begin running out of federal incentives they will jump in the game, start buying packs and jamming them into whatever platform works all while claiming they had been working on EVs all along. Most average car buyers aren’t that familiar with EVs or the history of their development and have short memories anyway. This strategy works well for politicians so it will work just fine for Toyota.

By that time because they won’t have had 10 years of experience making EVs they will inevitably make a less desirable product from range to quality but be able to sell them for $8K less and by slapping the Toyota badge on it people will assume it’s better due to familiar branding (i.e. Plug-in Prius). It’s actually quite a good strategy.

I should have specified they will be able to sell them for around $8K less because they will still qualify for the federal incentives while the other main EV players will have exhausted theirs.

If they really were serious that this fool cell car was real, they would probably go the way of kodak. They aren’t. They projected 3000 cars in the US through 2017, with more probable for Japan/Europe.

Then they claim they are quadroupling production to 3000 cars in 2017. This gives a total of 5800 cars. Say they lose $10,000 per car that is $58M. I think they are losing more per car, but you can see when they keep the number of cars down losses are down. California tax payers are going to lose $220M just on the hydrogen fueling station subsidies. Toyota has $60B in cash, they are not wasting all that much trying to confuse people about fcv. Who knows in 2 or 3 decades they may have a car that is ready.

I do think that Toyota will eventually recover but they will have lost a lot of momentum, market share and goodwill. Just like the US automakers lost to Toyota, Nissan, Honda, BMW and back in the day, VW. All stunning market share reversals in their day.

Think about the hundreds of thousands of BEVs and decent AER PHEVs on the road and how many people buy BEVs and PHEVs because they know someone who owns one and loves it (and will never go back).

Toyota won’t have that Fifth Column, those hundreds of thousands of Raving Fans who EVangelize daily and turn up by the tens of thousands at National Drive Electric Week and Electric Car Guest Drive events. For maybe a decade or so. It will matter.

@See Through

There is 1 gas station for every 2700 cars in the US. So by 2017 their will be enough Mirais on the road somewhere in the World to justify 1 hydrogen station.

Mirai is just a shinny object used by Toyota to keep people from noticing how outdated the rest of their product line has become.


I think this nature article confirms your bias. I like blasts from the past.

Here from 5 years ago we have toyota telling us.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and the numbers even surprise and shock me,” says Craig Scott, manager of Toyota’s advanced technologies group in Torrance, California. “It is definitely going to be a car that is in reach of a lot of people.”

No I don’t know about you, but when toyota says tesla is too expensive, then I look at the price of the slower, uglier mirai, I don’t think toyota got close to a desirable affordable fuel cell. 3000 estimate for the us 3 years from now, and mainly leases to government in japan, says they failed.


It’s production constrained because it’s purposely limited production. There’s virtually no consumer demand for a $70k 4-seater that drives like a Prius.

If you make 1 unit then I guess your production is constrained

First of all, I’ll play devil’s advocate even though I think that Fuel Cell Cars make absolutely no sense for most passenger vehicle purposes, for reasons that have been extensively discussed here.

That said, our future energy and transportation needs will likely require multiple different fuel and drive train options.

I foresee FCVs as a viable option for fleets who can have their own refueling station on site. Also it could work for long haul operations where we could simply restirct Hydrogen station to highway exits every 100-200 miles.

It could also be for the rare apartment dweller that has no access to home charging, yet can somehow afford a really really expensive car.

overall, it’s pretty underwhelming technology but depending on advances it could become a viable niche product in the not too distant future where the majority of cars are EVs and PHEVs, some vehicles (especially heavy transport) are ICE, and a few are CNG, H2, and so on.

but yeah, it’s really hard to put lipstick on that pig… especially when its chief benefit is “fast refeuling” however you have to drive to the station and back to fuel… which adds substantial amount of time.

It could be good for long haul applications on designated routes with refueling stations.

But would it be substantially better than just having CNG trucks like the already have? I guess it would be emission free while driving, but as discussed above, it has the emissions when the H2 is made.

Exactly. CNG is way cheaper, far more available, uses the exact same source (gas), produces about the same about of pollution when the source reformation CO2 is accounted for, and the requirements of storage tanks in the car is almost identical.

This is a lot of money for no advance at all.

COst of truck + fuel for lng versus liquid hydrogen (you need liquid for tank size to be small enough) is much less expensive for lng truck. That is the pickens plan.

For ghg? lng produces more ghg than diesel, and if we make the liquid hydrogen it likely would also produce more ghg than diesel. You can probably make diesel from algea that consume CO2 to reduce ghg less expensively than fuel cell long haul trucks. lng trucks though likely will be less expensive once infratructure is built.

The huge advantage of even a smallish battery like the Volt’s is overnight charging, which essentially delays having to refuel for weeks or even months. I’m OK with fuel cells, as long as they don’t take that benefit away. What does Toyota have to say about that? Fuel cells as range extenders, if technically feasible, do put into question the viability of the business model though, because that relegates them to minor use, which hardly warrants the kind of investment needed to develop the H2 infrastructure. Gasoline already does the job.

Nice Chris, but that must be using old much more optimistic figures. This is what was included

The project team believes the fleet of fuel cell vehicles worldwide will grow from a few hundred now (worth about $45 million) to around 2 million by 2020 and around 25 million by 2030

No one now thinks we will have anywhere next to !M fcv by 2020 or even 2025. The stations and fuel cells are just too expensive. Toyota, one of the most optimistic is talking about manufacturing maybe 6000 fcv by 2017. The japanese government is even subsidizing 3M yen for each fcv in toyota’s home district, and those are its numbers from higher than expected demand.

Before markets will open up price of the fuel cells and hydrogen tanks need to come down substantially.

+1 Dan

From the video “$200 million government incentives to build 100 Hydrogen fueling stations by 2025”.

From Japan; Tokyo is getting a $385 million hydrogen makeover ahead of the 2020 Olympics:

Clearly selling hydrogen is big business.

Where is support for providing electric energy for the ~300,000 PEVs on the road in the U.S.? Why are electric utilities are currently banded from selling electricity for transportation in many states?

I think before we start to completely write off hydrogen fuel cell cars I think it is worth remembering that total plugin sales still make up less than 1% of car sales. The million electrics cars by 2015 on US roads didn’t happen. I really, really like electric cars, I own a Leaf, it’s my families only car and it rocks. Even with all the 200 mile EV’s and the next gen PHEV’s do we not think that there may be a little space, perhaps 5%-10%, of the car market where a fuel cell car would be a good option? Yes, the round trip efficiency of a FCEV is much lower than a BEV but if efficiency is the only metric we are going to use to measure if a car is worth having on the road then the Model S looks pretty bad at around 30-40% less efficient than the i3 BEV. I am not saying that the current FCEV and the model around how the fuel is made is perfect but I think for an early stage technology it looks promising. Tesla is a pretty amazing company and has been doing fantastic things but has been making cars… Read more »

1 million EV by 2015 proposal was based on 3 initiatives being put into place in 2009. With the initiatives, 505,000 Volts and 230,000 Fiskers were suggested to be built by 2015. Full details in:

The price Toyota is charging is irrelevant compared to Model S. Model S is sold at 25+% margin while Mira will be lucky to be -100%. It is for government sponsorship and a CARB play pure and simple.


In what world is the Mirai close to competing on cost?

The Model S competes with $80k+ full-size executive sedans.

The Mirai competes with $25k mid-sized economy cars.

Here is video about Hydrogen Photosynthesis that is on the horizon. It will directly convert sunlight and water into hydrogen and oxygen. That is the endgame storing solar energy into hydrogen using a chip that mimics photosynthesis.

The company was bought up last year by Lockheed Martin. Perhaps the military will use it?

Nice lab experiment using a secret sauce; call me when it can be compressed cheaply and is scaled up to fuel 100 million cars, half the U.S. market, and cost less than the process of charging my EV. Five years seems to be a common estimate for most any new technology…even those that don’t pan out.

The only way to create hydrogen currently is reforming natural gas and compressing it which is very much a polluting process.

INteresting blurb on the hydrogen photosynthesis.

But these programs always leave out practical concerns.

1). What is the efficiency and Lifespan of the ‘membrane’?

(My solar panels are 12% efficient and they should last around 25 years without a huge efficiency decrease) – can this photosynthesis membrane make the equivalent claim?

2). How expensive for a given power level is it going to be?

3). Are there any downsides to the scalability anticipated? Sometimes things work good when they are tiny but get impractical when they are enlarged.

It comes down to price right now. It is marginally cheaper to source hydrogen from photosynthesis than electrolysis right now.

The key breakthrough for commercial use is when artificial photosynthesis uses a less expensive semiconductor.

I will say that the military might find a use for it now (it may be used by Lockheed for something where remote power is required)

thanks for posting the interesting video. It is amazing to me how emotionally invested so many self anointed experts are in attacking FC and Toyota. I commend them and suspect there is a national energy policy underlying this R&D. H from water does seem to be a Holy Grail for individual energy independence.

And let’s not forget that BIG oil will be hovering over these developments waiting to grab up some patents. Not so much to shelve them, but to make serious $$ and work the other angle of the business.
Hmm, who bought the patents for the Rav 4 EV large platform batteries??

This is chess, not checkers.

not sure if appropriate because it’s from the primary promoter of hydrogen cars, or in extremely poor taste.

Either way, I find it funny.

slightly better

Why don’t FCVs use a natural gas fuel cell like the Bloom Box or Redox Cube? My recollection is that they are about 65% efficient, so it seems like a better overall efficiency compared to doing a conversion to hydrogen. You could also use the existing natural gas distribution system rather than building hydrogen from scratch.

I think those are larger and high temperature such that they don’t really work in cars.

THen it would be clear that a fcv on natural gas is less efficient than a hybrid on natural gas 😉 Really you need to say the tailpipe has no CO2 and make the efficiency look higher from upgrading the fuel to get the big government bucks 😉

At the risk of repeating myself….too much, let me say again: hydrogen would make a good fuel for an extended range FCA (Fuel Cell Airplane). The plane would use a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity for electric motors to drive ducted fans. Much less polluting than burning jet fuel in the upper atmosphere.

True. If Toyota had said “Fuel cells show great promise. We will roll it out as logic dictates given the fueling infrastructure and hydrogen’s strongest suits”, we wouldn’t critique them to as great a degree. Instead they appear to believe marketing can overcome what appear to use to be obvious use case problems.

Mark Z Jacobson suggests that in his all renewable WWS energy proposals. I don’t see it working well. I think biofuels would be more likely.

I think it is pretty easy to predict the eventual success of FCVs. When I park my Volt, there is almost always an electric line somewhere within 50 feet of my parking space, Nevertheless, the lack of charging infrastructure is a serious obstacle to EV adoption. If the last 50 feet is this hard for EVs, FCVs are doomed.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.

Hydrogen powered vehicles* would see their best use in a fleet environment. Known routes and work best with limited range.

Local delivery companies, taxis, Postal Service vehicles, or yard trucks.

Based on previous observations with diesel powered cars, I don’t expect to see Big Oil companies running to install hydrogen facilities colocated with their gasoline stations.

Even if there was a “home hydrogen generation and storage device”, I don’t expect too many people wanting to have compressed hydrogen in their basement. Even if their memories of the Hindenburg and Challenger are hyperbole.

*Either direct combustion or fuel cell.

Remember what blew up the Hindenburg? Need I say more?

The skin of the Hindenburg was made of the same stuff that solid fuel rocket boosters are made of.

The same result would have happened if it contained Helium.

+1 for the most idiotic remark of the thread.

Nevertheless, hydrogen ain’t the safest gas to handle.

The Zepulan company investigated, and quietly reduced the Aluminum – Oxide in the skin on future models, but never publicly admitted they knew what, or really figured out what happened, since they obviously did figure it out completely. They also improved the conductivity between panels and threw a resistance into the grounding leads to minimize the discharge current when docking.

As far as handling goes, People I respect say H2 is about as touchy, or somewhat less so, than Gasoline.

THe thing that would concern me is the tank having 5,000 to 10,000 PSI in it. What safeguards do I have that the thing isn’t going to fail like a bomb? There are a lot of square inches on those hydrogen tanks in cars.

Besides viability there are many other questions that I am not clear on regarding FCV. Like how much oxygen do they suck out of the air on a typical tank of hydrogen fuel?
I assume that is what those big intakes are for. Of course combustion requires oxygen too, as in ICE, but is the oxygen use similar or much higher for FCV. If it is much higher for FCV then I would say that would be another strike against, at least mass transit use of fuel cells. Just wondering.

This video sounds more like a list of excuses for why CARB should give car makers yet another decade to develop fuel cell vehicles. (Vs. just mandating more EV’s now.)

Resistance is futile.