Sail the seven seas enough this summer and you may stumble upon an enormous vessel with Toyota slapped across it. Don’t worry, Toyota is not giving up on car manufacturing – the next Supra is still coming. This foray into the world’s oceans is a research endeavour focused on the development of hydrogen power.
The vessel – named Energy Observer – is the world’s first hydrogen-powered ship, using a combination of renewable energy systems and a system that produces carbon-free hydrogen from seawater to generate electricity. The ship (the Toyboata?) set sail on a six-year round-the-globe voyage in 2017 with a view to completing entirely under its own, er, steam, without ever needing to “refuel”.
“Energy Observer is an exciting initiative and we at Toyota Motor Europe are delighted to be associated with such a passionate and dedicated team. This project once again demonstrates the many practical uses of hydrogen that can be developed as we transition towards a Hydrogen Society” said Matt Harrison, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Toyota Motor Europe.
A world-leader in the search for alternative automotive power…
You could probably put an argument forward for Toyota being the world leader in alternative energy motoring. Its commitment to hybrid power and the marketing machine that’s made it a staple of Toyota’s range today has no doubt changed the market as a whole.
Although some may malign the Toyota Prius, it is a pioneering machine and an unquestionable market disruptor, with hybridisation only now featuring in product lineups of major manufacturers – more than 20 years on from the original’s Japanese debut.
Toyota’s charge for renewable automotive power is of course not exclusively hybrid-based – as evidenced again by participating in this project – with the company putting in extensive research into the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. That research continues and has found something of a culmination in the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell production car.
So no, Toyota’s sponsorship of a hydrogen-powered research vessel doesn’t mean it’s trading in roads for shipping lanes. Besides, shipping and motoring have links beyond this, with Hyundai originally making its crust in the production of supertankers.