Hydrogen fleet helps police beat emissions with Toyota Mirai

  • Hydrogen-powered cars take a step forward
  • Toyota provides fleet of Mirai fuel cell vehicles
  • Metropolitan Police cut emissions and test infrastructure

Company car drivers can get a glimpse of the future in London, where 11 Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles will be joining the marked and unmarked fleets.

Hydrogen fuel infrastructure in London

Aimed at meeting zero-emission targets, the Mirais will also provide a valuable real-world experience for the new technology. Although hydrogen has long been tipped as the solution to oil dependency, infrastructure and production issues remain barriers that need to be overcome.

Toyota's pioneering car is one of the first production hydrogen models, and offers a range of 300 miles using hydrogen to generate electricity on-board. Facilitating this, London's network of hydrogen filling stations is growing and currently stands at five.

This will be the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the world, and is part of the Metropolitan Police's efforts to support the Mayor of London's clean air strategy.

Crucially, the Toyotas will not merely be a luxury and light-use members of the fleet - they're fully operational response vehicles expected to work as hard as any Metropolitan Police marked car.

What does hydrogen mean for company car drivers?

It will take some time for the economies of scale and production to really affect company car drivers, but we're getting closer to a choice of zero-emissions technologies that will, in one form or another, attract the attention - and preferential taxation - of the government. If a prominent London fleet user can take on a substantial investment in fuel cell vehicles, private applications must be becoming more feasible.

Outside of London the infrastructure for refuelling is still in its infancy, with research facilities providing the primary filling stations.

Environmentally, hydrogen may provide a longer range than batteries, and zero local emissions, but production is still energy intensive. The process of 'cracking' water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen can use as much energy as the fuel cell can generate, meaning the hydrogen is more of a shortcut to moving large amounts of stored energy rather than inherently efficient.

There's a race, then, between battery and fuel cell technology, but it's more likely that fuel cells will begin to be developed to work in harmony with plug-in battery technologies to maximise range and minimise emissions involved with generating the electricity used by the vehicle - and if fuel cell technology does become more mainstream, the environmental impact of producing suitable batteries in the quantities demanded by the global motor industry will be reduced, even if the energy consumption of creating the fuel is greater.

And for London?

Met Commander Neil Jerome said: “We are delighted to have taken delivery of 11 of these cars to support policing in London. They are our first entirely zero-emission response vehicles and this is an exciting development for us.

“This is enabling us to make great strides towards our ambition of procuring 550 vehicles as zero or ultra-low emission by 2020.”

Another trial in the capital sees a plug-in hybrid Ford Transit Custom being put to the test. This should be followed with customer vehicles available in 2019.

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