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Hydrogen? Is that safe?

Posted by: on August 5th, 2015 Comments Off

This could well be the first question on your lips when you hear that our Mirai fuel cell vehicle is powered by hydrogen. Here’s our answer

 

The quick answer: “Most definitely YES!”

Toyota, of course, only releases a car into the market that is totally safe. The Mirai is no exception. Over the last decade, hundreds of Mirai test cars have been thoroughly road tested, crash tested and safety tested. They have racked up millions of kilometres over all sorts of demanding terrains. They have been put through their paces in the cold of northern Finland and the heat of southern Spain. Their hydrogen fuel tanks have even been shot at by high-velocity weapons.

The result? The Mirai has passed all the tests with flying colours. It’s as safe as any other Toyota vehicle. The fact that it is powered by hydrogen has absolutely no effect on its inherent safety.

 

The long answer

Let’s unpack the short answer to look at three aspects of a hydrogen powered car like the Mirai that relate to safety: the car, the refuelling process, and the gas itself.

 

THE CAR: Tough fuel tanks and highly sensitive hydrogen sensors

The hydrogen that powers the Mirai is stored at a high pressure of 700 bar in two compact, lightweight tanks. We have been working on their design in-house since 2000 and are more than satisfied with their strength and safety levels.

Their main source of strength originates from the carbon fibre shell. Over that is a glass fibre layer. Should the car be involved in an accident, any resulting damage to the hydrogen tank will be clearly visible on this layer. Tests can then be carried out to evaluate if the carbon shell itself is compromised. The glass fibre does not contribute to rigidity of the tank, but gives absolute confidence of its integrity. The whole tank is lined with plastic to seal in the hydrogen.

As mentioned above, the tanks have been subjected to extremely severe testing. They are designed to withstand up to 225% of their operating pressure, which is clearly a very comfortable safety margin.
Toyotablog H2 safety pict N°2

In the improbable event of a leak, the Mirai contains highly sensitive sensors that detect minute amounts of hydrogen. These are placed in strategic locations for instantaneous detection of hydrogen. In the extremely unlikely event of a leak in the fuel system, the sensors immediately shut down the safety valves and the vehicle itself.

As a third layer of safety, the cabin is strictly separated from the hydrogen compartment to prevent penetration of any leaking hydrogen, which would instead gradually disperse into the atmosphere.

 

THE REFUELLING PROCESS: International safety standards in place

Refuelling is a critical process because it involves human action, which unfortunately can lead to unforeseen and unsafe scenarios, like trying to drive off while the fuel nozzle is still connected to the car. For this reason a number of safety precautions have been put in place.

First, the nozzle at the end of the hydrogen dispenser’s flexible hose contains a mechanical lock to ensure optimal connection with the car’s filling inlet. Unless this mechanical lock clicks into place securely, filling will not commence.

 

2016_Toyota_Mirai_055__midToyotablog H2 Safety pict N°3bis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly, a pressure impulse checks for any leakage in the system between the filling station and the car. If a leak is detected, refuelling is aborted.

Thirdly, the rate of filling is carefully regulated, to avoid overheating during transfer. Temperature sensors located in the car’s hydrogen tanks, the nozzle and the pump constantly communicate with each other by infrared to control the rate of flow of hydrogen into the car so that the temperature rise is not excessive.

The internationally applicable standards SAE J2601, SAE J2799 and ISO 17268 establish safety limits and performance requirements for gaseous hydrogen fuel dispensers. The criteria include maximum fuel temperature at the dispenser nozzle, the maximum fuel flow rate and the maximum rate of pressure increase.

By the way, if you try and drive off in your Mirai while the fuel nozzle is attached to the car, you won’t succeed! The car’s ignition is disconnected until you have replaced the nozzle in its holster and closed the car’s fuel cap. To be absolutely sure, a redundant safety system is embedded in the hose and locks the pump if a car would pull the hose too hard when driving off in the middle of refuelling.

 

THE GAS: Using the lightest element in the universe has its benefits

Hydrogen is the lightest thing known to man and considerably (14x) lighter than air. The consequence is that should a leak occur, the hydrogen will rise into the atmosphere. And thanks to its status as ‘’smallest molecule ‘’ in the universe, it disperses quickly in air and any gas.

The advantage of this is clearly illustrated in gunfire tests conducted on a hydrogen tank. When the hydrogen ignites it appears as a localized jet flame, which is much safer than an accumulation of gas that could suddenly explode.

Finally, the Mirai’s tanks have a pressure relief device that releases the hydrogen gradually in case the temperature should rise abnormally (like in a fire). This prevents any overpressure or explosion; far from the stereotype of a hydrogen explosion. Moreover, the resulting fire leaves much of the car undamaged.

 

Summing up

Hydrogen is as safe as any other fuel used in a car. It’s been used as an energy carrier for decades, and there is a vast amount of cumulative know-how and experience in Toyota and elsewhere to handle it safely.

2016_Toyota_Mirai_059__mid

Furthermore, it is a carbon-free, non-hazardous energy source that can be produced from many renewable resources and emits no greenhouse gases when used as a fuel.

No wonder that “mirai” is a Japanese word meaning “future.”

 

 

 

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Mini engineers go for big dreams

Posted by: on July 30th, 2015 Comments Off

24H du Mans 2015 practice 2

‘Galapiat’ is a French word, often used in the south of France, which means a ‘turbulent child’ (Larousse dictionary).

The Galapiats, which we will be talking about here, is an association of 35 children, aged 10 to 16, in Grenoble, France.

Helped by 15 adults and volunteers, they spend their Wednesdays, Saturdays and school holidays developing and constructing, from the scratch, vehicles inspired by race cars, adjusted to their scale.

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Sweet harvest for Toyota Motor Manufacturing France

Posted by: on July 23rd, 2015 Comments Off

 

This week our Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF) plant has harvested 38kg of its own honey for the first time and offered it to employees.

DSC_0001DSC_0007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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European Commission visits Toyota Motor Europe’s R&D centre

Posted by: on July 16th, 2015 Comments Off

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Toyota Mirai is ready for the test drive

Engaging with stakeholders is always important. As such, we have recently hosted a “day out” for a division of DG Clima (from the European Commission) at our Technical Centre.

The main objective of the event was to introduce Toyota to the DG Clima group – more specifically: our ideas on low carbon technologies, how these are developed, and what the impact and effect is of legislative proposals they draft and prepare.

“DG Clima is a key stakeholder for TME. Among other topics, they are in charge of CO2 regulation, fuel quality, test-cycles, air quality” states Didier Stevens, Senior Manager TME European and Governmental Affairs.

 

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First guests ready to check into the new Toyota Motor Europe hotels… the bee story

Posted by: on June 26th, 2015 Comments Off

 

A few days ago we got some new colleagues in Toyota Motor Europe (TME). Why is this a news? Because they are a bit different…

 

Remember we are currently running a Green Month Campaign and within this action 2 insect hotels were installed in the green areas of our offices. Slogan for this year is “Preserve & enhance nature for the future”.

 

The 2015 Green Month slogan is made up of two parts: preserving & enhancing nature. So what does this actually mean:

 

Preserving nature

In order to preserve nature, we first needed to understand what we had on our sites. After a thorough investigation we realized:

  1. There are over 200 species on our sites
  2. There are many biotopes (or habitats) which give great potential to enhance biodiversity
  3. The biotopes show a dynamic interaction between species.

 

Enhancing nature

We can now move towards enhancing biodiversity on our sites. In this step, two insect hotels have been put up.

Following expert advice Toyota is concentrating on supporting wild and solitary bees as a priority, so we are establishing insect hotels to provide shelter and nesting sites. We are increasingly making our sites more friendly to these insects by allowing more natural / native flowers to complete their flowering and seed making cycles which, in turn, provide food and nectar for insects.

And as we wanted to treat our guests well we have asked Natuurpunt experts for advice how to position them (no, it was not PR who decided where to put them!)

tme beesinsect hotel_scaled

 

Whilst we considered installation of beehives for TME sites, for the purposes of biodiversity enhancement an insect hotel is better than a bee hive. Further, TME sites and neighbouring territory do not have enough food for a beehive which can typically go up to 50,000 individual bees.

 

bee blog

 

Many more activities and projects are planned in the future for making Toyota Motor Europe a more colourful and biodiverse environment. We’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

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