Humanity must find new ways of reducing its carbon emissions. It is a crucial part of sustainable development we will have to achieve. Energy production is one of those areas in a desperate need of innovation. Toyota is now bringing one – a hybrid power generation system combining fuel cell technology with micro gas turbines. A long name, but what is it?
Toyota has been researching hydrogen fuel cells for a long time. Its Mirai is currently driving on the streets all over the world. But really, in automotive applications hydrogen fuel cells are not that great, because they are heavy and very expensive. They are better suited for heavier loads and continuous work. For example, for making electricity. That is why Toyota developed this hybrid power generation system that now it is going to test at Motomachi Plant in Toyota City in Japan.
But how does it work? What is so “hybrid” about it? Well, for starters, there is a fuel cell, which reforms natural gas (CH4) into hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Then it is business as usual – electricity is generated in the fuel cell through a chemical reaction that occurs between the hydrogen and carbon monoxide with the oxygen. Then waste fuel goes into micro gas turbines, where it is burned to produce some more electricity. However, at the same time some heat is produced as well, so a cogeneration system uses it.
All this complex equipment means that this unit can produce 250 kW. Hybrid system achieves efficiency of 55 %, but cogeneration system increases this number to 65 %. Toyota says that because of it high efficiency and fuel available it could help to realize the goal of achieving a low-carbon society. Wasted heat as well as electricity produced is used in Motomachi Plant.
Toyota will continue working on its goal – reaching zero CO2 emissions in plants by 2050. That would make a big difference, because a lot of pollution from automotive world comes even before cars are driven for the first time. But Toyota is thinking about the world too, hoping that similar systems would be available everywhere, in some cases even at people’s houses and, of course, cars.
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