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Toyota’s Fuel Cell Vehicles: Green Solution or Obstruction Tactic?

The Toyota Mirai | Photo: D.Boshouwers
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Derek Boshouwers
An open letter signed by 100 scientists is calling on Paris Olympic officials to drop hydrogen fuel-cell Mirais from the fleet of official vehicles.

With the Paris Olympics looming, some 100 scientists from around the globe have signed an open letter to the sporting event’s organizing committee, calling on them to drop 500 hydrogen fuel-cell Toyota Mirais from the fleet of official vehicles.

The letter, addressed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), states that “The promotion of a hydrogen car is scientifically in contradiction with the CO2 emissions targets worldwide and will damage the image of the Games.” The consensus view among the scientists who signed the letter is that electric vehicles are currently the “most effective way to decarbonize transport.” The view is based on data produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body tasked with assessing climate change.

The IPCC has found that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles need three times the amount of energy as equivalent BEVs, which entails greater use of solar panels and wind turbines. It’s also claimed that fuel-cell cars are three times more expensive to use.

Some analysts have accused Toyota of pushing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in order to obstruct the transition to all-electric mobility, an area it has fallen behind in relative to many of its major rivals. David Cebon, University of Cambridge professor of mechanical engineering, told Agence France-Presse that “Toyota has been promoting hydrogen for a long time, but they are only trying to delay the transition to electric vehicles.”

The open letter sent this week calls on Toyota to replace the fleet of Mirais headed to Paris with all-electric models, or at the very least not to promote them during the Olympics, one of the most-watched events on the planet. Neither the IOC nor Toyota has yet made an official comment in response to the letter. Toyota has said that the Mirais (as well as a dozen buses used for transporting athletes) will be fueled with hydrogen from renewable sources by Air Liquide, also an official Olympic partner this year. After the games, the cars will be converted for use as taxis.

Derek Boshouwers
Derek Boshouwers
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