Efforts to utilize hydrogen as an energy source are attracting worldwide attention. In fact, Aisin was one of the first to focus on hydrogen energy and has been working on the development of fuel cells, which generate electricity using hydrogen as fuel, for more than 30 years. Hydrogen utilization holds the key to creating a carbon-neutral society which is a critical global challenge.
In 1991, Aisin started research and development of fuel cells for automobiles, believing that a hydrogen society will emerge in a hundred years due to the depletion of fossil fuels. The project started with three researchers in a tiny garage. With limited equipment and budget, the researchers learned about fuel cells from scratch and devoted themselves to the development of electrolytes (solid polymer membranes) and reformers.
Aisin continued the development of key components of fuel cells, such as battery stacks and fuel reformers, and built a new testing facility at the Fujioka Proving Ground (Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture). In 1998, a long-awaited methanol reforming fuel cell vehicle was developed in-house and tested.
Around 1999, the Toyota Group began full-scale fuel cell development. The fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) that was released in limited numbers by Toyota Motor Corporation in 2002 was equipped with many auxiliary parts developed by Aisin, such as control valves for the hydrogen and air supply/exhaust systems and humidifiers.
Konan Hydrogen Station Kariya (left) and fuel cell bus “SORA” for employee commuting (right)
“I believe that Aisin’s early start of fuel cell development focusing on technology rather than products in anticipation of the advent of a hydrogen society greatly contributed to Toyota’s FCEV development,” said Katsuhiro Kajio, an engineer who was one of the early members of the fuel cell development team and is now in charge of the development of FC stacks and auxiliary equipment parts. “In 2014, when the MIRAI was unveiled as the world’s first mass-produced FCEV in a spectacular way surrounded by an audience, I was overwhelmed with memories of the past.” said Kajio.
To learn more about hydrogen utilization and Aisin’s unique approach to the shift in using hydrogen for energy, see the full article here.