If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

If you already have lemonade, make hydrogen, Toyota says.

As part of its promotional efforts for the 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car, the company has been working to demonstrate the myriad ways it says hydrogen can be extracted from the environment in a sustainable way.

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The latest video in the carmaker's "Fueled By Everything" series focuses on the rather unlikely process of turning leftover lemonade into hydrogen.

Naturally for a video meant to put a positive spin on hydrogen production, that lemonade comes not from the shelves of a grocery store, but rather from a kids' lemonade stand in a nice neighborhood.

Presumably Toyota has a larger-scale collection method in mind to recapture leftover lemonade to make it a viable feedstock for the industrial-scale hydrogen production required to fuel tens or hundreds of thousands of fuel-cell vehicles.

2016 Toyota Mirai - Quick Drive - Portland, July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]

2016 Toyota Mirai - Quick Drive - Portland, July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]

Regrettably, the video offers virtually no details about how the lemonade is processed into pure hydrogen, and then compressed at the high pressures needed to transport it to fueling stations.

However, another video from the carmaker explains that hydrogen--which is, of course, the most abundant element in the universe--exists in all sorts of substances, with lemonade being just one example.

The narration goes on to suggest that extracting hydrogen is a more efficient use for renewable electricity generation than using it to recharge battery-electric cars.

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The argument runs like this: Generating capacity at renewable-energy sites often surpasses the actual need for electricity, meaning it either goes to waste or must be stored for later use.

And that's exactly what is being done in making hydrogen from this otherwise "wasted" energy, Toyota says.

The various molecules in materials that contain hydrogen--two often mentioned are natural gas and water--are in essence "storing" it until a time when they are no longer needed, and the hydrogen can be extracted to power vehicles, Toyota says.

2016 Toyota Mirai - Quick Drive - Portland, July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]

2016 Toyota Mirai - Quick Drive - Portland, July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]

The reality is likely a bit more complicated, since a byproduct of extracting hydrogen from natural gas is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

With the Mirai launching in limited numbers before the end of this year, questions surrounding the speed at which hydrogen fueling infrastructure can be built and kept operational are coming to the forefront.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles promise refueling for 300 miles of range in less than 10 minutes--essentially matching today's gasoline infrastructure--whereas even the fastest battery-electric car charging infrastructure takes 20 to 40 minutes to provide the same range.

The 2016 Toyota Mirai will soon start to appear on California roads. Signups in the limited regions where Toyota will first distribute the Mirai began last month, and Toyota expects to deliver the first cars in October.

Those Mirais will be fueled on hydrogen from a variety of sources; some are renewable, some are not.

None of that hydrogen will be derived from lemonade.


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