What is Hydrogen Fuel Cell? Are the Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Cars the Future?

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is quickly becoming a viable energy source for the transportation sector, with many proponents asserting that it could be the key to a sustainable future. But what is hydrogen fuel cell exactly and are these hydrogen-powered vehicles really the future of transportation? In this blog post, we will explore the realities behind hydrogen fuel cells and discuss how they can potentially shape our future. We will look at how they work, their potential benefits, as well as their current limitations. Finally, we will try to answer whether hydrogen-fuel cell cars are indeed the future of transportation or not.

What is a hydrogen car and how does it work?

A hydrogen car is a vehicle that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power its electric motor. The fuel cell converts the chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity, which powers the electric motor.

The main advantage of a hydrogen car is that it emits no pollutants when operated. Hydrogen cars have the potential to significantly reduce transportation-related emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Hydrogen cars are still in development and are not yet widely available. However, there are a few commercially-available models, and many more are in development.

What distinguishes a hydrogen vehicle from an electric vehicle?

Simply put, a battery-electric vehicle uses electricity that is stored in a battery and is recharged by connecting to the power grid.

While, an internal chemical reaction in the fuel cell stack of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle generates the vehicle’s own electricity. Water vapor is the only emission as a result of this electricity driving the wheel motors. Specific service stations are used for refueling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The beauty of a hydrogen vehicle is that you can refuel it in the same amount of time it takes to fill a gasoline or diesel vehicle, get a similar range, and emit zero emissions while doing so.

Why then is hydrogen having trouble becoming popular? Hydrogen comes with a number of challenges; from low efficiency to high costs.

Here are a few drawbacks of hydrogen-powered vehicles:

  • They are challenging and expensive to build. It’s rumored that the cost to produce hydrogen cars is higher than their market value.
  • Because hydrogen is flammable, it can be hazardous if not handled or stored properly.
  • For use on roads, hydrogen must be severely compressed. This increases complexity even further, and any hydrogen distribution system must be capable of handling this high-pressure gas.
  • The industrial production of hydrogen consumes a significant amount of fossil fuels. While there are renewable methods, they are more expensive, and most hydrogen is produced using CO2 intensive techniques.

Naturally, predictions can be wrong, but given the information above, it is difficult to argue that hydrogen cars will become widely used in the near future. Although the hydrogen fuel cell technology is extremely advanced and impressive, and the actual hydrogen cars that are on the road today are comfortable and enjoyable to drive, there are significant barriers to the widespread adoption of hydrogen cars.

How viable are hydrogen cars?

Hydrogen cars have been touted as the future of automotive transportation for many years, but they have yet to gain widespread adoption. There are several reasons for this: hydrogen is difficult to produce and store, and fuel cells are expensive.

Nevertheless, there are a number of companies who believe that hydrogen cars are viable, and are working to make them a reality. Toyota, for example, has been working on hydrogen fuel cell technology for over 20 years, and has recently released the Mirai, a hydrogen-powered car.

Honda is another company invested in the success of hydrogen cars; they have been working on fuel cell technology since the 1980s. In 2016, they released the Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle.

Hyundai has also been working on hydrogen cars for many years, and currently offers three different models: the Tucson Fuel Cell, the Santa Fe Sport Fuel Cell, and the Nexo Fuel Cell.

So while hydrogen cars are not yet widely available or affordable, there are a number of companies who believe in their potential and are working to make them a reality.

Conclusion

Naturally, things could change drastically in the future: offshore tidal power stations are being discussed as a way to extract hydrogen from water; powdered hydrogen could address many of the problems currently associated with hydrogen cars; and CO2-neutral hydrogen production techniques are being developed. However, there are many “coulds,” “maybes,” and “in the future” in that statement. Currently, hydrogen itself is what is impeding the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

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