Human poop is readily available anywhere humans are, and Toyota's about to cash in on all that crap: The Japanese automaker is using the bountiful resource to make fuel for the Mirai, a hydrogen-based car, and according to Quartz, the process comes together through pretty simple science.
The ultimate goal here is to mitigate the effects of climate change, using hydrogen to power cars instead of greenhouse gases. At a wastewater plant in Fukuoka, Japan, Toyota is creating biogas by adding microorganisms to liquid and solid waste. After that, scientists filter out all carbon dioxide, and add more water vapor to create hydrogen.
It’s the same poo-to-hydrogen conversion that’s proven quite useful in India, where “they have loads of biogas plants in villages and such that are just part of their energy infrastructure,” according to Marc Melaina of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
It’s a process that Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Toyota Mirai, would ultimately like to see create a “hydrogen society,” but poo isn’t known for it’s renewable potential, at least in the United States. Bill Elrick, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, laid bare the dilemma to Quartz, saying “There’s only some few hundred Mirais in the state of California right now...that’s not enough to turn it into a full business from Toyota’s perspective or the energy producers’ perspectives.”
But, the effects of turning poop into energy -- and even viable drinking water -- have been proven repeatedly. Per Elrick’s account, sewage conversion is “probably one of the most economical ways down the line because you’re producing so much from a waste product,” and everyone knows that poop is ubiquitous, because everybody poops.
So automakers, take heed of this. The one thing that might stave off impending climate disaster is our feces, and for this, we should value our collective dung, for it might save us one day.