If you're thinking about buying an all-electric vehicle, you're not alone. More than 116,000 plug-in cars were sold in the United States in 2015 and 375,000 were sold worldwide. We recently told you about a new car that is competing with Tesla in the electric car market.
One reason people are making the move to electric vehicles is the money saved by charging the car rather than filling it up with gasoline. However, there is new technology that could be a better option.
The next wave of vehicles that don't run on gasoline could be hydrogen fuel cell cars. One issue that needs to be solved is hard-to-find hydrogen fuel stations. A Toyota engineer says no one wants to build hydrogen fuel stations because nobody drives hydrogen cars and no one wants to buy a hydrogen car because there are no hydrogen fuel stations.
Toyota believes it may have come up with the solution. The automaker is using human waste to make hydrogen fuel for the Toyota Mirai. They are converting human waste into hydrogen fuel at a water processing plant in Japan.
At the processing plant, sewage is separated into liquid and solid waste. The solid waste is referred to as sewage sludge, which is normally placed in landfills.
During the conversion process, microorganisms are added to the sewage sludge. It breaks down the solid waste and creates biogas, which is about 40 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) and 60 percent methane. The carbon dioxide is filtered out and water vapor is added, creating hydrogen and more CO2. They remove the carbon dioxide once again, leaving pure hydrogen.
The Japanese plant currently only produces enough hydrogen each day to fuel about 65 of the Toyota Marai vehicles. That number would climb to 600 cars each day if all of the biogas produced at the plant was converted to hydrogen.
Toyota is hoping that this conversion process is implemented at wastewater processing plants all over the world. Because wastewater is already being treated, and biogas is a natural result of the process, there's no downside to using it to create hydrogen. It could be an economical fuel source in the future because it's produced from a waste product.
There are some Marai drivers in the U.S. already. There are about 20 hydrogen fuel stations in California now, most of them are in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This means you can't really go for a long road-trip yet, as a fully fueled Marai can only go about 312 miles.
We'll have to wait and see if the hydrogen fuel cell car catches on and if more water processing plants start converting biogas into hydrogen. Keep an eye on our Happening Now section and we'll let you know when there are updates.