Car Reviews

Hydrogen Cars: What Are All I Need to Know About Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars?

By Daisy Emah-Emah Posted: 02/09/2022

Technology is always evolving – the same goes for the automotive industry. Over the years we’ve seen the evolution of vehicles and agree to the groundbreaking improvements made.

 

Vehicles were powered by gas or diesel which we realized was harmful to the environment. The research went on and automakers discovered different ways of powering vehicles that were less harmful. This led to the production of hybrids and EVs (Electric Vehicles) 

 

EVs were the perfect solution to reducing pollution and restoring balance to the environment – or so we thought. Although EVs reduce emissions a great deal, the issue of battery weight for bigger-sized vehicles, length of time of charging, etc.  

 

EVs cannot replace gas/diesel just yet – there is still so much to check off…

 

 

 

 

Back to the lab!

 

For years vehicle manufacturers have experimented on alternative ways of using the abundant resources found in the environment to power vehicles. This led to the production of electric vehicles – which have become more popular in recent years.

 

Hydrogen fuel-cell came into the picture as a lightweight alternative and to reduce emission rate further.  Even though EV’s achieve this but not enough. 

 

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity that powers and run the vehicle. 

 

Unlike EV’s they have a refueling process comparable to internal combustion engine vehicles. Because of the refueling process – it makes refueling quick and the vehicle can be filled up in less than 10 minutes as opposed to EV’s.

 

How Do Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars Work?

Hydrogen cars produce electricity onboard by freeing electrons from the hydrogen that produces electricity which powers the vehicle. To produce enough power, the cells are bound together into a rectangular fuel-cell stack which acts as a battery. This produces a constant flow of electric power to the motor and auxiliary electronics. 

 

After the entire process is completed, heat and water are released as a byproduct. No pollutant is released into the environment when the process is completed and emission is cut down by 30% compared to gas-powered vehicles. 

 

Under normal acceleration, fuel-cell stacks produce excess power than what the vehicle can use, which is stored in a small lithium-ion battery for when the vehicle needs a power boost. Fuel-cell can run between 200-300 miles similar to gas/diesel-powered vehicles and the torque output allows running in near silence with loads of acceleration.

 

Currently, there are two fuel-cell vehicles in the market, Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo. Other automakers are expected to enter the market as well.

 

Pros/Cons of Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles

1. Emission Rate: 

Hydrogen fuel-cell produces almost zero emissions and has almost no carbon footprint during operation. When compared to combustion engine vehicles –  fuel-cell vehicles have the upper hand. 

 

The downside is that, during the extraction of hydrogen, called reforming, CO2 is emitted which becomes inefficient to having a CO2-free environment. 

 

2. Refuelling Process

The refueling process of fuel-cell takes less than 10 minutes compared to the lengthy charging period of EVs. Hydrogen-powered vehicles can function longer and with less refueling frequency because of the high energy density of hydrogen fuel-cell.   

 

Developing a full hydrogen refueling gas production structure is a major downside and will cost billions of dollars and years to develop. 

 

3. Vehicle Safety

Hydrogen is the lightest element and is approximately 14 times lighter than air and though is highly flammable, evaporates quickly. In case of an explosion, hydrogen doesn’t pool on the ground like gas but shoots up into the atmosphere. It doesn’t have great fire danger in most cases like gas or diesel-powered vehicles. It is safe to say that a fuel-cell vehicle is as safe as putting gas in a tank.  

 

“The University of California at Irvine has operated a public hydrogen station for a dozen years without incident, says Carl Baust, alternative energy projects specialist for the Orange County Fire Authority. Several other hydrogen stations opened in Southern California and the Sacramento area to fuel test the vehicles that have been plying the state’s highways since 2002.

So far, they also have been incident-free…  One test involves firing live ammunition into the tanks to pierce them. Pierced tanks typically vent their hydrogen so quickly that even if the gas catches fire it is out of the tank before explosive pressure could build up.

In 2001, researchers at the University Of Miami’s College of Engineering set fire to the hydrogen in a tank mounted in an SUV and later punctured the fuel line on a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle and set the leaking gas on fire.

The burning hydrogen versus gasoline test showed that flames caused “severe” damage to the gasoline vehicle, whereas the hydrogen vehicle was undamaged because the burning hydrogen gas vented up and away from the vehicle”Edmunds.

 

Further Reading

  1. Buying the Best Used Honda Car for Sale 
  2. How to Choose the Right Used Hyundai for Sale 
  3. Used Ford Car for Sale: How to Choose the Right One 
  4. Best Used Cars You Can Buy This Year Under $10,000

 

What Next?

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles like all other vehicles have their challenges, but the advantages are promising. Currently, the price of producing fuel-cell is high because it is not popular. We expect to see a decline in price as more automakers produce fuel-cell vehicles. 

 

Fuel-cell is not an alternative to EV’s but should complement them. EVs work better as smaller-sized vehicles because of the weight of batteries. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are lighter than EV’s and are better used to produce bigger-sized vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

The goal is to reduce carbon emission in the environment – and the world could use more low emission vehicles. 

 

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