John F. Floyd Commentary: Toyota casting its lot with hydrogen-powered vehicles

Electric vehicles are becoming more and more a part of the United States’ landscape, and the world’s. The automotive industry is embracing EV cars and trucks with alacrity. The automotive world seems to be all in on battery-powered vehicles with one exception, Toyota, which has done extensive testing on a hydrogen-powered concept.

Toyota is an automotive supplier who pioneered the hybrid revolution with the Prius, but was reluctant to commit to an all-electric future. It has approached the coming decades with a three-pronged approach: traditional internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrid designs and hydrogen fuel cells.

John F. Floyd
John F. Floyd

Other car companies have given lip service to the hydrogen design, but Toyota has promoted it as the technology of the future. If Toyota is right, all the investment that has occurred to transition world-wide automotive manufacturing to battery-powered vehicles will be obsolete before it gets started.


Akio Toyoda, former chief executive officer of Toyota, has stated, “People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority. That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak loudly. Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option.”

And one of Toyota’s options is the GR Corolla and the GR Yaris, both converted to hydrogen as a fuel.

The largest difference between the hydrogen-powered cars and the EVs is the type of engine, for lack of a better word. The EVs depend on a large battery pack, while the hydrogen-powered cars rely on a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen inside a “fuel cell stack.” The oxygen is gathered through an intake at the front of the car, while the hydrogen fuel is sipped from a trio of tanks under the cars frame structure, with the only by-product being clean water.

Hydrogen is highly flammable, so the hydrogen-powered vehicles require thick, armored fuel tanks; hardened valves and valve seats; stronger connecting rods; and fuel injectors designed for a gas, not a liquid.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe; therefore, the supply is basically infinite. The problems with it are not insurmountable, but require major advancements in technology with regard to the infrastructure and storage of hydrogen.

The automotive industry is not the only industry to experiment with hydrogen. The advanced fuel is being used on an experimental basis as an alternative propulsion for aircraft. But the use of hydrogen to power aircraft is decades away because of the many challenges ahead.

An article in “Aviation Week’ concerning the use of hydrogen to power aircraft entitled “Dreaming Big,” by Guy Norris, said, “Foremost are questions over the certification basis for hydrogen aircraft and the safety and reliability of technologies associated with cryogenic fuel storage, distribution and combustion— as well as (its) use in fuel cells of smaller aircraft.”

To me, one of the first and foremost questions is, “WilI I be safe flying on an aircraft that is using the same fuel as the German dirigible ‘Hindenburg,’ which caught fire and crashed in New Jersey on May 6, 1937?”

That question is something to think about as the craze to convert at any cost from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources is pursued by know-nothing politicians and “woke energy and automotive executives.”

And here is something for the United Auto Workers’ union leadership to think about concerning the conversion from gas-powered to all-electric cars and trucks. The all-electric vehicles take 30% fewer parts than their gas-powered counterpoints. That directly equates to 30% fewer UAW workers.

Why is the UAW leadership embracing a Democrat-imposed move to all-electric vehicles, knowing the detrimental effect on its membership? The automotive executives must think they have died and gone to heaven.

John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at The opinions reflected are his own.   

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: John F. Floyd looks at alternative fuel sources for vehicles