Technology & Science

Toyota, Lyft offer hydrogen-powered vehicles for Vancouver ride-hail drivers

Lyft drivers in Vancouver will be able to rent one of 24 hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirais thanks to a partnership with Toyota Canada.

Lyft says the partnership is part of its plan to switch its vehicles to zero emissions by 2030

Ride hailing app Lyft announced Wednesday it will partner with Toyota Canada to offer hydrogen-powered vehicles for rent by Vancouver Lyft drivers. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Toyota Motors Corp. and Lyft Inc. said on Wednesday they have launched a partnership to provide some ride-hail drivers in Vancouver with access to hydrogen-powered Mirai sedans.

Lyft drivers in the city will be able to rent one of 24 Mirais for $198 a week, a price described as extremely competitive by Lyft's general manager for British Columbia, Peter Lukomskyj.

Lyft said the  partnership is part of its efforts to switch every vehicle on its platform to zero emissions by 2030. 

Hydrogen produces no greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe when consumed in a fuel cell to power a vehicle.

However, the source of hydrogen matters.  Pure hydrogen has to be produced, and while it can be made from water using renewable electricity — so-called green hydrogen — most hydrogen produced globally has been made from natural gas, offering "little to no climate benefit," according to the Pembina Institute.

Testing hydrogen vehicles with consumers

For Toyota, the agreement offers the opportunity to introduce consumers to vehicles powered by hydrogen — which has long been hailed as the fuel of the future, but not caught on in popularity at the pace of battery electric vehicles.

"Everybody who sits in the back seat of [a Mirai] is going to be able to learn a little bit more about hydrogen technology. There's no way that we could do that on our own," said Stephen Beatty, Toyota Canada's vice president, corporate.

A federal plan proposes that over the next five years several regional hubs will be set up across the country in areas where hydrogen fits local needs or expertise in the fuel already exists. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Beatty called the Lyft partnership a proof of concept, saying Toyota considered it a test to see how the vehicles were performing before eyeing nationwide expansions.

Toyota launched the Mirai roughly six years ago, but by the end of September had sold only 11,100 vehicles, with consumers concerned over the lack of fuelling stations and resale values.

Toyota in December launched a revamped version with a wider range of 500 kilometres.

British Columbia has four hydrogen stations, of which three are in Vancouver, according to HTEC Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation, which operates the stations and said that refueling takes around five minutes.

Hydrogen vehicles' shorter fuelling time and longer ranges make them a more practical option for ride-hail drivers than battery electric vehicles, Lukomskyj and Beatty said.

Canada in December unveiled a hydrogen strategy aimed at spurring growth in the clean fuel sector and created a $1.5 billion investment fund for low-carbon fuels.

Lyft currently operates in B.C's Lower Mainland and in some cities in the Toronto and Ottawa region.

With files from CBC News

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