Connect with us

Business

As autos go electric, Toyota chases hydrogen dream

Published

on

November 15, 2021

By Tim Kelly and Maki Shiraki

TOKYO (Reuters) – As U.N. climate conference delegates considered how to save the planet over the weekend in Glasgow, Toyota Motor’s chief executive was in Japan racing an experimental hydrogen car – a vehicle he says could preserve millions of auto jobs.

The colourful Toyota Yaris subcompact that Akio Toyoda steered around the Okayama International Circuit in western Japan was powered by a converted Corolla engine running on hydrogen. Making such a powerplant commercially viable could keep internal combustion engines running in a carbon-free world.

Advertisement

“The enemy is carbon, not internal combustion engines. We shouldn’t just focus on one technology but make use of the technologies we already posses,” Toyoda said at the track. “Carbon neutrality is not about one having a single choice, but about keeping options open.”

Toyota’s latest push into hydrogen tech comes as the world’s biggest carmaker joins the rush to win a share of the growing market for battery electric vehicles (BEV) as the world tightens emission regulations to meet carbon-cutting pledges.

By 2025, Toyota plans to have 15 EV models available and is investing $13.5 billion over a decade to expand battery production.

NOT ONLY ELECTRIC

At the gathering in Glasgow, six major carmakers, including General Motors, Ford Motor, Sweden’s Volvo and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz signed declaration to phase out fossil-fuel cars by 2040.

Advertisement

Toyota declined to join that group, arguing that much of the world is not ready for a shift to EVs. Another notable absence was Germany’s Volkswagen.

“We don’t want to be seen as an EV maker, but as a carbon-neutral company,” Toyota Vice Chairman Shigeru Hayakawa told Reuters in an interview.

Hayakawa likened the technological choice facing the auto industry to the late 19th century contest that pitted direct current electricity transmission against alternating current. The stakes are high.

“If the adoption of carbon-free fuels happens quickly, that could bring the first battery EV boom to an end,” said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at auto industry research company Carnorama.

In Japan, where mass layoffs are politically difficult, hydrogen’s allure is that it would cause less disruption than a full switch to EVs. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates the automotive industry employs 5.5 million people.

Advertisement

Although Toyota and other car makers are putting resources into building hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV), none have shown the appetite Toyota has for hydrogen engine technology.

CHALLENGING TECHNOLOGY

One problem that it the engine is not completely carbon-free and cannot therefore be classed as zero-emission.

Although the byproduct of hydrogen and oxygen combustion is water, a small amount of engine metal burns as well, resulting in about 2% of the emissions of a gasoline engine. The exhaust also contains traces of nitrogen oxide.

There is a carbon cost to building electric car batteries, but EVs do not pollute when operated.

Advertisement

Hydrogen cars also need bulky pressurized tanks for their fuel. Much of the rear seat and trunk in Toyota’s hydrogen car was taken up by fuel tanks that blocked the rear window.

Safety concerns meant Toyota engineers had to refuel the vehicle far from the pits where other teams worked on their cars.

Such concerns have also slowed the construction of hydrogen fuelling stations in Japan, despite Japanese government backing for the fuel, which it sees as a key component in the country’s future carbon-neutral energy mix.

At the end of August, there were 154 hydrogen stations in Japan – six short of what the government wanted by the end of March.

“Hydrogen has long been known as a potential low-carbon transport fuel, but establishing it in the transport fuel mix has been difficult,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a progress report https://www.iea.org/reports/hydrogen this month.

Advertisement

Even with adequate fuel infrastructure, Toyota still must build a vehicle that can compete in price, range and operating cost with conventional gasoline cars and EVs.

In Okayama, Toyoda declined to say when Toyota might launch a commercial hydrogen-engine car.

“It’s good to have a lot of choices. If everything becomes EVs then much of that industry is in China,” said Eiji Terasaki (57), who had travelled to the Okayama circuit from neighbouring Kagawa prefecture to watch the races.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Business

Canada’s Shopify records Black Friday sales up 21%

Published

on

November 27, 2021

(Reuters) – Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc recorded worldwide sales of nearly $2.9 billion on Black Friday, an increase of about 21% in comparison to last year, the company said Saturday.

New York, London and Los Angeles were among the top-selling cities, the company said, while apparel and accessories was the top-selling product category.

Shopify also said it funded 23,000+ tonnes of carbon removal to counteract emissions from the delivery of every order placed on its platform on Black Friday.

Advertisement

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Continue Reading

Business

Xiaomi to open car plant in Beijing with annual output of 300,000 vehicles – Beijing govt

Published

on

November 27, 2021

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp will build a plant that can produce 300,000 vehicles annually in Beijing for its electric vehicle unit, authorities in the capital said on Saturday.

The plant will be constructed in two phases and Xiaomi will also built its auto unit’s headquarters, sales and research offices in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, the government-backed economic development agency Beijing E-Town said on its official WeChat account.

Beijing E-Town said it anticipated the plant reaching mass production in 2024, a goal announced by Xiaomi’s Chief Executive Lei Jun in October.

Advertisement

In March, Xiaomi said it would commit to investing $10 billion in a new electric car division over 10 years. The company completed the business registration of its EV unit in late August.

The company has been opening thousands of stores to spur domestic sales growth for its smartphone business but eventually intends to use these shops as a channel for its plans to sell electric vehicles.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by William Mallard)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

Eni sells Snam 49.9% stake in Algeria gas pipelines for 385 million euros

Published

on

November 27, 2021

MILAN (Reuters) -Italian energy group Eni has agreed to sell gas group Snam 49.9% of its stake in strategic pipelines carrying Algerian gas into Italy for 385 million euros ($436 million), the two companies said on Saturday.

The pipelines will be jointly controlled by the two companies, they said in a joint statement.

Italy imports more than 90% of its overall gas needs and Algerian gas currently accounts for around 30% of flows.

Advertisement

“This transaction allows us to free up new resources to be used on our energy transition path,” Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said.

Eni is working on spinning off a series of oil and gas operations into new joint ventures to help reduce debt and fund its shift to low-carbon energy.

Snam, which owns a 20% stake in the TAP pipeline that carries Azeri gas into Italy, makes most of its money from managing Italy’s gas transport grid.

It has pledged to spend more on new green business lines such as hydrogen and, like other gas grid operators in Europe, is upgrading its gas network to be hydrogen ready.

“In the future, North Africa could also become a hub for producing solar energy and green hydrogen,” Snam CEO Marco Alvera said.

Advertisement

The pipeline companies involved in the deal posted net income of around 90 million euros in 2020.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Giselda Vagnoni)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending