Toyota and JAF’s new hydrogen & EV road service vehicle

As a Japanese company, we seek to develop new technologies in Japan for global distribution, share Toyota CTO Hiroki Nakajima about the new EV support

Toyota and the Japan Automobile Federation have developed a new vehicle aimed to make regular use of alternative fuelled vehicles easier, and less problematic in the event of an issue.


The JAF hydrogen road service vehicle has been designed to assist hydrogen-powered cars if they run out of fuel on the road. As part of its roadside services, JAF annually assists some 50,000 vehicles stranded without fuel, including 700 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that have run out of charge and around 20 cars that need a hydrogen top-up.


“The vast overseas markets with large sales potential require a locally integrated approach, bringing together everything from development to production and servicing for local consumption,” shares Hiroki Nakajima, Toyota’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, who has been with the company since 1987.


“As a Japanese company, we will instead seek to develop new technologies in Japan for distribution to other markets. Even if it doesn’t result in high volumes, we want to export the knowledge gained from our trials to other countries.”

Practical solutions for the future of alternative fuels

The newly premiered road service vehicle was jointly developed to ensure that, in a hydrogen society with more FCEVs on the road, running out of hydrogen could be handled like other fuels — avoiding towing, which is currently the only option if a driver runs out of hydrogen on the road without a refuelling station nearby.


Additionally, Toyota has outfitted the vehicle with all the functions necessary to provide roadside assistance, not just hydrogen refuelling. It now carries modules that integrate multiple resin hydrogen tanks, used in the Mirai with a high degree of safety, with various safety devices to monitor operating conditions automatically.


With their large capacity, these modules make storing and transporting hydrogen safer and more efficient — designed to boost hydrogen energy use in seaports, mountainous regions, and other areas where refuelling is difficult.


“When we were first approached, the project only entailed the hydrogen module. However, from the perspective of JAF’s operations, we informed Toyota that running out of fuel was a relatively rare problem, while the most common issues are tire-related,” informs Koso Takeda, General Manager of JAF Road Service Division.


“From there, the conversation turned to creating an all-in-one vehicle with the equipment to carry out JAF tasks. Before the day was out, people from Toyota visited our offices to measure sizes, and proceeded to build it. The JAF fleet has van-type service vehicles, which cannot tow and are intended for light jobs such as battery failures or key lock-ins. They carry various items for these tasks, such as air tanks, gasoline, and diesel fuel cans.

“However, I feel the vehicle’s current size will present challenges in servicing passenger cars, and we will gradually have to make it smaller.”


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