2021 Toyota Mirai
- MSRP: $73,870 (approximately)
- Range: 500 km
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Hydrogen fuel-cell cars, also known as fuel-cell electric vehicles (HCEVs), are one of the cleanest, greenest ways to get around. But unless you live near one of the few fueling stations scattered around British Columbia and Quebec, you won’t be able to take advantage of this cutting-edge green vehicle technology.
A hydrogen fuel-cell car runs on electricity produced by compressed hydrogen. Unlike other types of electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel-cell cars don’t need to be charged. Instead, they’re fueled at a pump like gas cars — but with none of the greenhouse gas emissions.
They’re as safe to drive as any other car, and the three options on the market today have a range of around 500 kilometres per tank of fuel. While the ability to buy a hydrogen fuel-cell car is limited now, Natural Resources Canada has plans to help build a cross-country infrastructure by 2050 to bring hydrogen power to everyone in Canada.
Unfortunately, hydrogen fuel-cell cars are only an option for residents of a few Canadian cities. As of September 2021, Quebec City, Vancouver and Victoria are the only cities in Canada that have hydrogen fuel stations available. But in the future, hydrogen fuel-cell cars will be a great alternative to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) because of their long range and quick fueling time.
Yes, there are currently 5 hydrogen fuel stations in Canada: 3 throughout Vancouver, 1 in Victoria and 1 in Quebec City. And while there are plans to open more fueling stations in other cities and provinces, it will take several years before the infrastructure spreads across the country.
You can visit Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Charging and Alternative Fuelling Stations Locator for a map of hydrogen fuel stations across Canada.
While hydrogen is a promising fuel for the future, there are currently only three models available on the market:
2021 Toyota Mirai
2021 Hyundai Nexo
Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (HCEVs) work by using electricity from electrons that get separated from compressed hydrogen as it passes through fuel cells. After the electricity has been produced, the electrons and hydrogen get combined with ambient oxygen to produce water. The water then cools the engine and is released as distilled water and steam.
The fuel cells work like a battery. Energy is released in a constant stream, and excess energy is stored in a smaller auxiliary battery. When the car needs an extra push, the electricity from the excess energy source — and from the regenerative braking system — provides the car with a boost.
Want to know more? The Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association has a breakdown on how fuel cells work so you can explore the technology and compare it to other cars on the road.
Hydrogen is the most common element out there — making it highly renewable. However, it rarely exists as free hydrogen. That is, it’s typically found bonded with other atoms.
While there’s plenty of hydrogen produced in North America, it won’t quite fit the bill for those interested in a fully renewable energy source. That’s because the majority of hydrogen is a byproduct of natural gas production, meaning it’s not carbon neutral. However, some fuel stations are able to create it through on-site electrolysis.
Beyond its status as a renewable resource, hydrogen is also twice as efficient as gasoline and provides a much longer range than a typical car battery. And it’s actually faster to refuel with hydrogen than gasoline or compared to charging a full-electric car. That’s why, as far as sustainability goes, hydrogen may be the way of the future.
While hydrogen fuel-cell cars are good for the environment, most hydrogen is made in large processing plants and shipped to fueling stations. This makes its production much less green than it would outwardly appear, but it can still be more eco-friendly than other fuels.
But beyond its sometimes dubious fuel origin, hydrogen fuel-cell cars have no emissions besides water. So on the whole, it’s one of the cleanest options out there.
If you happen to live near a hydrogen fueling station, check out our guide to car loans to find the best financing for your next fuel-cell Toyota or Hyundai. If not, our green car buying guide can help you explore other eco-friendly options available throughout Canada.
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