Introducing the Car that Runs On Human Waste
Can you picture it – a car that runs on human waste? Okay, maybe you don’t have to picture it per say – at least not the icky stuff – but here’s what you need to know about the new Toyota Mirai which is powered by this very readily available resource.
Using a wastewater processing plant in Fukuoka, Japan, Toyota has learned to create hydrogen by separating sewage into liquids and solids then mixing solid waste with microorganisms to break it down and produce bio gas. Afterwards, carbon dioxide is filtered out of the bio gas, water vapour is added and more CO2 is extracted leaving you with pure hydrogen – a clean, efficient fuel that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases unlike petrol and diesel.
Although this concept may seem revolutionary, it’s nothing new. In India, bio gas plants are widespread across villages and form a large part of the country’s energy infrastructure. Still, human-waste-to-hydrogen technology is scarce in other parts of the world including America which only boasts 29 hydrogen fuelling stations. But as this technological process becomes more and more mainstream, we’re counting on things to change.
So, what else is there to know about the Mirai?
According to Toyota, proprietary safety is at the core of the Mirai (meaning “future” in Japanese) which features a special tank that’s specifically designed not to leak. This tank is carbon-fibre-wrapped and lined with polymer; plus it’s built in a three-layer structure to absorb five times the crash energy of steel.
In a high speed collision, the Mirai’s sensors stop the flow of hydrogen to prevent it from potentially travelling to damaged systems outside the tank. Any leaked hydrogen is quickly dispersed due to the fact that the hydrogen-related parts of the vehicle are located outside the cabin to ensure that hydrogen never builds up.
The Mirai is currently retailing in America for $57,500 (or R799 995) and includes three years’ worth of complimentary fuel. It’s being marketed at “trailblazers” who – in Toyota’s own words – want to “steer the course of automotive history.” Though we are not sure when or if the Mirai will be launched in South Africa due to our lack of hydrogen fuelling stations, we do remain hopeful.
You can learn more about the Toyota Marai here.