Toyota hydrogen fuel cell

How do hydrogen fuel cell vehicles work?

The Mechanics of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology

We at Pohanka Toyota have something to admit: we have a bit of a thing for Toyota. Okay, it’s more than that: we love pretty much everything the automaker does.

One of the unique things Toyota has been up to over the past few years is its work on hydrogen fuel cell technology; Toyota Research and Development is kind of obsessed with the stuff, believing it’s a great option to help the world go green. We can certainly see where they’re coming from: hydrogen fuel cell exhaust is simply pure water, which is quite a bit better than billowing clouds of black smoke.

One question we often find ourselves wondering, however, is: how do hydrogen fuel cell vehicles actually work?

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, or FCEVs, store hydrogen gas in a hydrogen fuel tank onboard. This hydrogen gas is sent to a part of the vehicle called the fuel cell stack, which consists of an assembly of individual membrane electrodes that use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. This electric power is sent to an electric traction motor which uses it to drive the vehicle’s wheels. Specifically, the power is transferred from the motor to the wheels via the transmission.

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Other important parts of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle include the power electronics controller, which manages the flow of electric energy delivered by the fuel cell and traction battery. The power electronics controller regulates the speed of the electric traction motor and the torque it produces.

The most notable implementation of this technology by Toyota is in the Toyota Mirai.

The thermal system (cooling) maintains the proper operating temperature range of the fuel cell, electric motor, power electronics and other components.

Toyota hydrogen fuel cell standing upright

Do hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use regenerative braking?

Yes, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles often use regenerative braking to gain additional power. This power is stored in a battery pack that provides supplemental power to the electric traction motor.

Regenerative braking is a technology used by many EVs and hybrid vehicles wherein the friction that naturally occurs during braking is used to generate extra electricity, which is then used as fuel.

Ever Wonder: Are EVs actually better for the environment?

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