A few weeks ago I wrote about Toyota’s pledge to be a carbon free society, and this week, we’ve seen the world’s largest automaker take one step closer to that goal by experimenting with wind power to make clean hydrogen at a wind plant outside of Tokyo.
Currently, the process to make hydrogen for the Mirai, an electric sedan powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, isn’t clean (fossil fuels are used to make the hydrogen) which has led many green-car enthusiasts to criticize Toyota’s effort.
Also worth mentioning are the gains that the Volkswagen Group (Toyota’s biggest rival) has made with electric cars. Late fall they unveiled an electric Audi SUV that (they claim) can recharge in less than an hour. This is a battery-technology breakthrough that will allow Audi to match or beat the range of current electric cars and possibly steal some enthusiasm away from hydrogen fuel efforts.
Perhaps it’s the demand from customers, pressure from competitors, or the quickly approaching environmental benchmarks they’ve set for themselves that have spurred Toyota to start experimenting with wind powered hydrogen to achieve a completely C02-free supply chain.
Or perhaps it’s just the way the do things. They’re not denying or rebutting the fact that the current process to produce hydrogen isn’t in sync with their environmental standards. They’ve accepted the criticism and have initiated a kaizen approach to solve the problem.
Right or wrong, success or failure, the goal for wind-powered hydrogen is to experiment and learn. Putting a daring idea into practice is Toyota – lean – at it’s best. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”