Toyota has released a number of new promotional videos for the hydrogen-powered 2016 Mirai. Most are exactly what you'd expect: pretty, full of promise and vaguely informational. But there was one line in the Product Introduction video that caught out ear.
"Toyota engineers were simultaneously working on a brand new technology that met all the driver's needs with an even smaller carbon footprint."
In the Product Information video about the Mirai, the narrator goes into a short history of Toyota's green car advances. After talking about the Prius and the Prius Plug In, making EVs for urban commuting and the rest of Toyota's advanced fuel programs, we hear this: "Never satisfied though, Toyota engineers were simultaneously working on a brand new technology that met all the driver's needs with an even smaller carbon footprint, one that took its lead from nature itself." You can watch the video (and four others) below.
Plug In America co-founder Paul Scott told AutoblogGreen, "Show us the math! Toyota claims the FCV has a smaller carbon footprint than their EV, but every paper I've read indicates the FCV uses 3-4 times as much energy to travel a given distance as an EV. If they are making this claim, let's call them out to prove it. Show us the math!" There's some math that comes out in favor of EVs here and here.
Plug-in vehicle advocate Chelsea Sexton went further. "Assuming appropriate comparisons in energy feedstock, basic science doesn't support the notion that the footprint of an FCV is smaller than that of an EV," she told AutoblogGreen, explaining that "appropriate comparison" would mean using similar energy generation methods for both hydrogen and plug-in vehicles. Not the tendency, she noted, "of H2 fans to compare FCVs based on solar-based electrolysis to EVs running on coal-bases electricity and similar shenanigans." Besides, Sexton said, "focusing purely on efficiencies entirely misses the biggest struggles that FCVs face in the market, namely fuel price, inconvenience, and market fear, even if the vehicles themselves are initially subsidized. An average consumer won't understand the true energy equation, but even if not yet sold on a full EV, he'll grok that a Chevy Volt provides most of the "long range, fast fueling" promise of FCVs today at a fraction of the cost and no compromising."
"BEVs and FCs have a very similar carbon footprint, dependent on fuel source." – Toyota's Jana Hartline
Toyota says the video does not directly compare EVs to fuel cells. Instead, said environmental communications manager Jana Hartline, "The video outlines our portfolio of technologies that have been developed over the last 20 years (hybrids, PHVs, EV) then references the simultaneous development of fuel cell technology. The commentary is merely noting that 20 years ago we started working on fuel cell vehicles that have a lower carbon footprint than traditional vehicles and even hybrids. BEVs and FCs have a very similar carbon footprint, dependent on fuel source." Watch the video below (again, it's the Product Information one, and the quote above starts at around 1:45) to get your own take on what the comparison is.
Toyota, through its Lexus arm, had to retract a pro-hydrogen ad earlier this year when it was discovered that the ad made incorrect claims about H2, including that there were "20 states with an 'established infrastructure' for hydrogen."