Toyota Fuel Cell – How Does It Work? – Video

NOV 17 2014 BY MARK KANE 65

Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan

Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan

The Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan, now called Mirai, is scheduled for US launch in 2015 in selected states with hydrogen infrastructure.

Before you place an order, it would be good to familiarize yourself with the fuel cell car and how it works.

We could say that FCV is mix of two worlds – it drives like an electric car (as there is electric drivetain), but you refuel it like an internal combustion car at the station.

There is also a small battery pack, like in a hybrid car, for regenerative braking and because fuel cells don’t like to change output power. Batteries are also used for driving at very low load, when it doesn’t make sense to turn on the fuel cell.

Besides two large hydrogen tanks (at 70MPa pressure), fuel cells need a lot of oxygen to make electricity for the motors, and this is probably why there is such a large air collector in the front.

“Thanks to its hybrid knowledge, Toyota created the first fuel cell production car. It is a vehicle driven by an electric motor powered by the electricity generated by the chemical reaction between onboard hydrogen and airborne oxygen.
This video explains how the fuel cell technology works.”

Categories: Toyota


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65 Comments on "Toyota Fuel Cell – How Does It Work? – Video"

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Big Solar

How does it work? I dosen’t! HaHaHa!! jk


There is no reply to such wit.

Big Solar

I knew you’d reply anyway.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

When will H2 be $3/kg or less at the retail nozzle? When will fuel cells cost $50/kW or less?

Rav4 EV
So glad that California brought back the EV ZEV mandates after the Fools at Toyota, GM, Daimler, etc and the gas companies convinced CARB to cancel the ZEV mandate for EV’s in 2003… to focus on the promise of hydrogen that they have been using to fight EV’s when the first ZEV regulations came out in the 1990’s. 11 years later, hydrogen is still a pile of shit pipe dream that is not commercially viable. in the next 5-7 years Toyota plans to sell 250 of these cars. WHat a bunch of crap. Wake up, Nissan is selling ~ 5,000 BEV’s a month worldwide. You can buy an EV from almost every manufacturer, where are the Hydrogen cars for Sale? They aren’t and if they were, I wouldn’t buy one because their fuel comes from the oil and gas industry and still pollutes. This car is worse than the volt, you can’t even plug it in to go 40 miles battery power. you are stuck using only hydrogen. Plus there is nowhere to fuel it. What a shitty car. maybe in 10 years they will make some more progress and actually have a car to sell, until then, smoke an… Read more »

Exactly. The day the Volt came out, this car was DEAD.

I can’t understand why CA is still giving this car credits. Who is going to spend 2 Million per gas station to convert to high priced Hydrogen???

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Why convert if you can tap into natural gas pipelines and reformulate onsite?

Of course, it may not be economical or pass emissions regs to do so, and it may not be economical for customers to buy reformulated gas without significant subsidies… But it _could_ be done.

You are the one with your head stuck in a pile of sxxx.

Chris O

There is no reply to such wit.

Rick Danger

I think you mean half-wit.


I tend to fully agree to Rav4, but I would use more sensitive words 😉


Great Video!



Three times the amount of energy to get electricity for the electric motor.

At the end of the clip I was wondering what was the use for wind mills since the hydrogen is 95% extracted from gas and produce tons and tons of CO2

Big Solar

“At the end of the clip I was wondering what was the use for wind mills since the hydrogen is 95% extracted from gas and produce tons and tons of CO2”

Its for show (read BS).


I’m not sure why you wish to continually repeat notions which have been clearly shown not to be true.
I repeat:
In California one third of hydrogen used in transport is mandated to come from renewables.

South Korea tell us that the first 500,000 fuel cell cars they produce will be run on currently flared hydrogen from other industrial processes.

Why keep saying things that you know to be untrue?

Big Solar

What you just wrote above has nothing directly to do with the windmill in the video. I was talking about the the windmill in the video DM. Try to pay attention.

Mark H

Because you just can’t make a water treatment plant look appealing. It’s a HEV. I will be more interested in the VW especially if it is an EREV opposed to a PHEV.


The claim I was questioning was:
‘since the hydrogen is 95% extracted from gas’

It is not, as I have repeatedly shown.

Jesse Gurr

How do you know it’s not DaveMart? Do you work for a hydrogen producer or the state that oversees it? I tried looking for the language of the law you mention. I don’t see any date that this is supposed to take effect.

And according to the wording in the law, SB 1505, it says that if the producers can’t get 33% renewable hydrogen, then they can petition and get it lowered. So there is no guaranty that we will get this magic 33% renewable hydrogen.


Who’s kidding whom.

The Hydrogen producer will pick the CHEAPEST generation method: Natural Gas, and therefore perpetuate the Fracking industry, with it’s massive methane leakage.

A Carbon solution, is No Solution.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

If it’s significantly more cost-efficient than comparable gas-powered cars, then it’s worth pursuing. For example, if you could operate a midsize CUV or sedan for, say, 6 cents a mile with fuel cells and H2, it would be worth doing. At $3/gal, that’s 50mpg GGE.

I don’t see it happening, though.

Chris O

Way to debunk davemart’s supposedly well researched responses.

Lindsay Patten

I found this on the ARB website:
“These standards are already in effect for State funded hydrogen stations and once adopted will be in effect for all
hydrogen produced and/or dispensed statewide when annual throughput reaches 3,500 metric tons.”


Yes, but is still doesn’t make sense, and is more wasteful overall, for everyone to be converting the hydrogen to electricity using their own little “private power plant” that they drag around inside their. Not to mention all the energy that will be required to build-out and maintain the hydrogen distribution system that all of these little mobile power plants will need.

Obviously, the wealth of flared hydrogen should be captured (instead of wasted) under any circumstances. But, it should be used, en masse, to create electricity to be *transmitted* to EVs (and other uses). THAT would be the most efficient way to use the hydrogen.


“In California one third of hydrogen used in transport is mandated to come from renewables.”

And how much more per mile than gasoline will running an FCEV on hydrogen made from renewables cost? If they have to mandate it then it will clearly cost more than hydrogen generated in the most cost effective way. And according to a November 2013 New York times article, hydrogen from the closest station to my house already costs “$12 to $13 a kilogram” which makes it more expensive per mile than gasoline and nearly six times as expensive per mile as charging my Model S during off-peak hours.


You know america is much larger than California.. And you’ telling me that at least two third of Califonian hydrogen is heavy on CO 2 pollution from natural gas cracking? I may add that most of NG is from fracked shale gases, a poison for water, lands and air.
Sonwhy do you keep advocating things that kill us?


Most of the hydrogen cars will be in California, as that is where the fuel stations will be.

AFAIK they have not yet made rulings for the East coast, as they have only just confirmed hydrogen stations for them.

Both in Europe and in Far East there will be a very heavy input of renewables and previously wasted resources too.

Battery only advocates never tire of telling us how much cheaper electricity is than hydrogen.

Well, that low cost has its consequences.

One of them it that resources which it may not be economic to recover and turn into electricity can pay more of their costs if converted to hydrogen and used in transport.

So much of the resources used for hydrogen are stuff which is currently not used at all, from energy from waste water in California to surplus wind power in Europe, where increasing capacity is outstripping the ability to use it at the time and so must be thrown away as unless it is turned into hydrogen it is not used.

In the UK wind turbines are often paid to not generate electricity.


Once you have millions of EVs on the grid, you can use them for demand side load management.

This is another much simpler and safer route for enabling renewables beyond the 20% level.

CH4 leakage is very bad for the climate. H2 is an indirect GHG which makes CH4 leakage worse.


Chris O

Low cost has consequences: yes that people will have to pay less, which is why they will chose plug-ins rather than hydrogen even if that means that resources that otherwise might still have use will go to waste.

Waste is always a shame but sometimes trying to avoid it could be the larger waste if there is no way to do that efficiently.

Rav4 EV

+ 1 thank you! Fracking is freaking scary for the environment. is is incredibly toxic to the groundwater. Another Hydrogen viability

Bill Howland

Oh, I took that to mean you needed 10 – 50,000 watt windmills to make the electricity to make the h2 for one car.

Seems now Lexus (or was it Honda?)is getting into the act talking about 2 sets of buddies taking a field trip to vegas and the other dudes initially excited to be driving an all electric I3 (sans engine). \

Of course, by the time the I3 got to vegas, the vacation was over. But to me, that just advertises for companies to put much bigger batteries in their BEV’s.


Fuel cells are certainly nifty little inventions. They are a very interesting and efficient way of extracting energy from hydrogen without crudely burning the hydrogen.

But I still doubt the economics of fuel cells for this particular application. So many hurdles to overcome. (Cost of fuel cells, cost & difficulty of compressing and storing H2, the cost of creating H2, the cost & difficulty of distributing and storing H2, the cost of building the fueling infrastructure, etc.)


Well said. I can see fuel cells working for things like forklifts where you have to run continuously during the day and don’t have to venture far from home base. But I just can’t see it winning out for personal vehicles where I live (San Francisco bay area). For me, the cost advantage of being able to charge an EV at night during off-peak hours is enormous (roughly one sixth the cost per mile for electricity at 10 cents a kWh vs. hydrogen from the Emeryville station at $12 a kg). Couple that with the net-metering rules for selling solar energy to the grid for 40 cents a kWh during peak hours and buying it back at night for 10 cents a kWh hour until you drive your electric bill down to zero and things look even better.

Again one wonders why all of them are not plug-in hybrids by design. It seems like such a no-brainer. Given the car already costs so much, the extra couple $k for a slightly larger battery and J1772 port are negligible, and would make it far more usable for early adopters not living right next to an H2 station.

Is it a deliberate step by Toyota et al. to force the customer into an “either or”?

Rav4 EV

Exactly, read my comment above, I think the same thing. The volt is a much better of a choce for a range extended EV. it goes 4 miles on BEV power before the generator kicks in. with this hydrogen piece of crap car, you can’t plug it in at home, you are forced to use oil and gas companies hydrogen product to go anywhere. Boy am I disappointed with Toyota and this joke vaporware product that you can’t even buy and if you did, there is nowhere to fill it. Unlike EV’s, I have the Rav 4 EV, I drove 100 miles yesterday, had 30 miles remaining and charged up in 3 hours at home and was ready for another 130 miles of EV driving. Suck it you idiots at Toyota. Nobody but a few fools believe in this hydrogen shit you are pedaling.

Rav4 EV

The Volt goes 40 miles on Batteries, not 4, lol.

Mark H

I agree Assaf. Of course Tesla broke the mold by building a big battery BEV though in a luxury class. A little bigger battery just seems to be better in all respects. Cold? drive it on hydrogen Hot? Run it on a battery

David Murray

That’s what I keep saying. I wouldn’t mind a fuel cell as a range extender as long as I can make my daily commute on power from the grid. That way I’d only have to fill the hydrogen a few times a year.


“It seems like such a no-brainer”

I completely agree. A hydrogen fuel cell seems much better suited to being a range extender rather than a primary power source since they can’t ramp power output up and down quickly and they use a fuel that is much more expensive per mile for electricity. I can think of three possible explanations for the lack of such a vehicle from Toyota:
1) The fuel cell tanks already take up a lot of cargo space and adding a bigger battery didn’t leave enough cargo space
2) They don’t want to encourage people to park hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a garage to charge them since a hydrogen leak in a poorly ventilated garage could be very bad news
3) If people can choose whether to run on hydrogen or electricity, they will choose the cheaper electricity so much more often that the hydrogen stations won’t have enough customers to stay in business.

Of course, it could just be that they are rushing to get the fuel cell vehicles to market before plug-in vehicles get significant market share and it was simpler to just use an existing hybrid battery.


I imagine the reason that the current crop of FCHVs aren’t PHFCEVs is because both the current batteries and current fuel cells are too big/heavy to fit everything inside, as well as being very expensive. I expect it will take one more generation of both to shrink everything down to a reasonable size/weight/cost.

The situation is different at the moment for cargo vehicles, which can dedicate far more space to bigger battery packs plus the fuel cell stack and tanks, which is why PHFCEV range extenders are being trialed in postal vans and the like.

BTW, in Mark Kane’s article he makes the comment that the large intakes are likely due to the need for lots of O2. More likely, it’s because PEM fuel cells operate at fairly moderate temps, and thus require larger radiators to get rid of the heat than higher temp ones do. They’ve not only got to cool the fuel stack, but also the rest of the electronics.



Actually if you think closely about the whole hydrogen infrastructure, it makes perfect sense why they do that.

If they allowed users to simply plug-in, it will kill demand for hydrogen stations. At 2 million a pop plus ongoing operational/maintenance costs, that station must have high utilization rates in order to survive. Turning this car into a plug-in might cut hydrogen demand to 1/3. That’s something Toyota’s station partners would not be happy about.

This is why I keep saying the idea of hydrogen FCVs and EVs sharing the market together doesn’t really work out.


It won’t just kill demand for the stations. It’ll also kill the demand for FCVs.

Not only will a plug pit the car directly against PHEVs like the i3 REx, but do you think Toyota wants its customers to get used to plugging in?


This question from Spec9 gets asked often, but it doesn’t seem to ever get a good answer.

DaveMart claims California will (not does) use renewable sources for 1/3 of needed hydrogen. If so, why is it better and/or more efficient to compress (using energy) and distribute (using energy) hydrogen that to use it at the source to generate electricity and accept grid transmission losses.

If the other 2/3 comes from cracking fossil fuels (using energy), how is that more efficient than using the fossil fuels to produce electricity directly?

Same question applies to solar power used for creating hydrogen via electrolysis rather than directly powerering the grid (let’s leave the energy storage issue for now since there are other ways to do that).

It would be interesting to see a more quantitative assessment from the proponents rather than hand waving.

Rav4 EV

I have some facts for you.

Hydrogen is supported by the oil and gas companies and the car companies as a way to say they are doing somthing to support cleaning up the pollution from the products they sell, but when you look at the facts, Vaporware. The technology has been 10 years out for the last 25 years. The Technology isn’t clean and I’m not sure what drugs Dave Mart is on or if he is just genuinely confused, but there are no facts to support hydrogen technology being a better technology then BEV, the only thing they have is a fast refueling time out of the gate, however, with no product on the market or refueling stations, it’s a delusion to claim this is a viable plus. As far as range, A Tesla can do 300 miles on a charge and their car looks to cost less to produce when compared to hydrogen cars. Tesla is able to make money selling BEV’s nobody is claiming they will make money leasing hydrogen cars. Just low production with huge losses on capital investment, partially refunded by CARB with ZEV credits.

That 1/3:2/3 mandate, can it really works if H2 volumes increase? Besides, long-term we need to get to 100:0 i.e. all H2 from renewables.

Personally I can see longer-term PH-FCV vehicles in those niches where BEVs will always struggle (off-road, heavy machinery, cross-country big trucks, etc. etc.). Since most transportation would be electric, only a limited amount of the energy would come from H2, and it might be possible to meet that demand with renewable sources.

So FCEV can actually help remove the last vestiges of ICE vehicles. I wouldn’t rule it out on the merits.

But Toyota et al. go for a scorched-Earth, zero-sum FCV vs. EV battle, that battle will be lose-lose but in the end FCVs are likely to be the biggest losers. After hundreds of thousands of households demonstrate they can live perfectly well with an 80-mile BEV, guess what happens when the market is full of 150-mile BEVs?


I know all of that, and am predisposed to agree, but it’s an example of the very handwaving that allows this issue to drag on.

I’d like to see some reasonable energy efficiency charts that show losses from source to use which should allow the discussion to become less of a pissing contest.


Yes it is less efficient from an energy conversion POV to make H2 than charge a battery in an EV.

The whole point is that H2 can be used as an energy storage device for Wind.

In many cases the wind turbines get shut down because they can’t unload the energy.

The Germans are having to rely almost totally on renewables and they will use H2 to store energy like a battery.

H2 works better for seasonal swings b/c the energy requirements are bigger than battery systems can provide. You can use batteries for daily swings but not seasonal.

So if the Germans can figure out how to use H2 as a way to make enewables work then I think it is good for the planet earth.

I think renewable H2 on the grid level is awesome (until such time that batteries become cheaper.

Not so good for personal transport with fossil fuel derived H2, the byproduct of which is… CO2.

We won’t go to renewable for personal transport on a wide scale for a singular simple reason… electricity directly into cars is grossly cheaper.


Germany is in a unique situation because they are prohibited by law from throttling renewable generation. That limits the amount of renewables they can build relative to the average demand of their grid without risking damaging it during peak generation and/or low demand. That’s why for them even more expensive energy storage options (like hydrogen) can make sense. However, the sources I have seen put CAS and pumped hydro as much less expensive options at similar scale.


+1 Fuel cells full potential is convertering of excess energy to h2 , it will give power plants and even private households electricity for winter, questions is just what it costs in % convert back and forth .
I fail to see the logic of fuel cell car , unless you want to hold on to the existing gas tank infrastructure

re: air intake size. This has to be all for show – a 100 kW fuel cell will require about as much air for the hydrogen/oxygen reaction as a 150 HP gasoline engine. Most modern cars require no specific external air intake to get that air. Certainly not giant ram-like scoops. Note the the FC stack is not even under the hood – it is at mid-body under the floor. And for FC/battery/motor/inverter/AC cooling – the Volt does fine with almost zero frontal open grille space for the engine radiator plus all the other cooling radiators. This helps it with its Cd And then we can ask why, if FCV’s are so much like EV’s, would the designers throw out aero drag optimization as a priority? This is just a hypothesis, but it could be that because battery range is so expensive, EV designers make the aero drag coefficient job #1 to maximize range, even though electricity is about the cheapest energy form out there in $/mile. But because range isn’t as much of an “issue” with gasoline and H2, ICE designers (and apparently FCV designers)feel freer to go for “form” rather than “function”, even though the fuel cost/mile is… Read more »

I think most have concluded there is no functional purpose behind the Mirai styling other than to poke you in the eyeball to see if you noticed it was standing there.


A PEM fuel cell runs hundreds of degrees cooler than a combustion engine and so has completely different cooling requirements.

Others seem to have managed with the in your face grill, but it is not appropriate in any way to assume similarity with cooling an ICE and different solutions are needed.


Like most other things on EV’s, PEM FC’s are fluid-cooled. This means a pump, coolant, and a radiator. Doesn’t take a massive air intake, as it isn’t directly air-cooled. What heat isn’t removed by the coolant goes out the exhaust. Sounds a lot like an ICE cooling system to me, at least conceptually if not at the same temperature range.

With an HT PEM, the coolant can be up to 150 deg. C, which is pretty hot – ICE coolant usually is about 90 deg. C. I don’t know what the Mirai is using – HT or LT.

An ICE liquid cooling is pressurized and regulated to about 95C.

H2 is ctually significantly hotter than an ICE.

If the Mirai battery is tiny, it’ll be prohibitively expensive to drive on hydrogen all the time.

If the Mirai battery is a decent size and can be plugged in, the car will be impractically expensive (batteries + fuel cell).

A fuel cell is a darn expensive range extender. A Volt would be way more practical for the 20% of miles that aren’t on plug in power.

Chris O

True. That’s why HFC range extenders are just a pipedream.


My favorite part was at the very end where they show the Toyota logo, and say “Toyota… Always a better way.”

Yup – they got that part right! Toyota – the better way is BEV.

Really, watching that video makes me realize how many extra useless and complex parts there really are in a FCEV system! K.I.S.S. – BEV keeps it simple, and quite often Simple=Reliable.


I was also wondering: why is this co complex?

Also: are they sticking to NiMH? How big is the battery?


Three major problems I see with this hydrogen fuel cell technology is the low boiling point (-252.87 degrees Celsius), the hydrogen embrittlement issue, and the low specific heat. It burns hot for the amount of energy applied. I am most interested to see if this works.


Don’t forget that the Hydrogen can’t be transported by wire. You have to load trucks to drive to every filling station…


Actually it has been proven that Hydrogen sips past the blood brain barrier and start to boost the dopamine in the neurons. It then generates a general euphoric state that has been investigated as a possible replacement for nitrogen monoxide since it appears to have a much longer lasting effect. It also seem to create a selective memory since subject generally remind the 0.01% of electrolysis hydrogen and completely forget the other 99.99% produced from fossil fracking gas reforming. In case of over exposure subjects start to believe a 90% yield battery charge discharge cycle is less effective than a 30% yield water electrolysis fuel cell electrical regeneration cycle. No vaccine exist but driving an ev charged from your roof photovoltaics can help.

shawn marshall

it doesn’t matter a whit what some self anointed experts think about fuel cells, much less some frantic eco-freaks. Waded through garbage like this for years at If it works out eventually, it will be great just as battery improvements would be great. get real people.


Give me a 20-25 kWh EREV with a 30 kW fuel cell as range extender at a decent price and I might be interested.

But then again I would probably be at least as happy with the same EREV with a small ethanol or diesel engine so that it can run on 100% renewables.

Bill Howland

I keep asking the same questions but the answers must be elusive since I never get one.

1). What is the estimated life in miles of the fuel cell?

2). What is its replacement cost?

3). How much will it cost to truck the h2 to filling stations?

4). If they plan on building a piping infrastructure, since they can’t use common piping, how much extra is the pipe going to cost compared to just using the existing piping for other fuels?