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Toyota Recalls Its Green Hydrogen-Powered Cars

Hydrogen manometer, vintage fuel gauge on red car body (Shutterstock/A.Morando)Hydrogen manometer, vintage fuel gauge on red car body (Shutterstock/A.Morando)

Toyota announced a total recall of its Mirai fuel-cell vehicles Wednesday after the discovery of a serious software glitch that could randomly turn off the car.

Toyota recalled 2,800 Mirai vehicles due to the glitch shutting down its hydrogen-powered system. Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction to produce enough electricity to run the car.

Mirai was Toyota’s first mass-market hydrogen fuel-cell car, which attempted to follow-up the success of the Japanese company’s top-selling Prius hybrid. The Prius combined a regular engine and rechargeable electric battery. The Mirai was launched with a $58,000 price tag.

Hydrogen cars wouldn’t require any gasoline and would only emit water vapor. Major car companies like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have already embraced the technology, but it has always been relatively limited due to the high costs of producing hydrogen.

Swedish scientists developed a new monolayered, vanadium based material last June that can convert water into hydrogen much more cheaply than traditional methods. The breakthrough could lower the cost of producing hydrogen, which would make hydrogen-powered cars more viable.

The high costs of hydrogen production largely come from the fact that traditional methods of making it require extremely expensive precious metals like iridium, which currently costs $8,480 per pound. In comparison, the vanadium used in the study costs about $42.53 per pound.

President George W. Bush poured $1.2 billion into hydrogen-powered car research in 2003, and he even said such vehicles were the automotive technology of the future. President Barack Obama, however, axed the program in 2009 in an effort to save taxpayers $100 million a year. Hydrogen car research has continued in other countries.

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Andrew Follett
the authorAndrew Follett
I hold a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in Science and Technology Policy from George Mason University, as well as a Bachelor of Science from the College of William & Mary, where I double-majored in Government and Geology and authored two theses. I have done research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. I have also worked as an analyst providing research and analytical support for the Department of Energy, the Office of Petroleum Reserves, NOAA, and FEMA.

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