Flush, then Fill Up: Japan Taps Sewage to Fuel Hydrogen-Powered Cars

Julie Makinen
July 31, 2016
Los Angeles Times

“Does the future of driving start with flushing your toilet?

When Mutsuro Yuji, chief of the central sewage plant here in this southern Japanese city, first heard about the idea of making hydrogen from biogas — the combination of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the breakdown of stinky matter — he was skeptical. ‘I thought it was a joke,’ he says.

But after a $12-million investment from Japan’s government, plus research, engineering, design and building work by Mitsubishi, Toyota and Kyushu University, Yuji is no longer laughing. Starting late last year, drivers of vehicles like the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity have been able to roll up to the sewage plant and power up their hydrogen fuel cell cars at what you might call the world’s first toilet-to-tank filling station.”

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An attendant prepares to fill up a Toyota Mirai at a Fukuoka sewage treatment plant, which is creating hydrogen from biogas. Photo credit: Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times

Julie Makinen is a 2016 US-Japan Journalism Fellow