As the fuel reserve in the world is decreasing day by day a time will come when we will be left with no oil reserve.
Thus people around the world are engaged in extensive research for alternate energy so that we can keep the transportation system alive.
Moreover, the pollution caused by traditional fuels such as gasoline or diesel is a threat to the environment and thus more and more people are trying to shift toward alternative energy sources in order to run their vehicle.
Electric vehicles powered by batteries have been in use for quite some time.
But they have failed to gain popularity due to their limited abilities and disadvantages.
In such scenario hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be the ultimate solution to the problem and can go a long way in switching the automotive industry towards alternative fuel sources.
Companies such as Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda have already introduced hydrogen fuel cars in the market and their popularity is expected to grow several times in the years to come with the growth of proper infrastructure and fuel cell stations in different countries across the world.
How Do Fuel Cells Work?
Hydrogen fuel cars might sound very interesting. But in reality, they fall within the category of e-cars as they are powered by electric motors.
However, there is a substantial difference between hydrogen fuel cars and battery-powered electric cars.
In contrary to a fully electric or hybrid vehicle hydrogen fuel cars do not get their power from batteries that can be charged from an external power outlet when required.
Instead, they have their own power plan onboard in the vehicle which is the fuel cell.
In the power plant, a reaction takes place between the hydrogen gas pulled from the pressurized tank and a catalyst made of platinum which separates the electrons from the hydrogen.
These electrons then pass through the electric motor and provide the car with the required power to run it.
After the process is complete the electros then get back to the fuel cell where they again get mixed with the hydrogen in the presence of oxygen which is pulled from the atmosphere and forms water.
This water helps in cooling down the entire stack as a lot of heat is produced bu the excited molecules.
After that this water gets ejected out from the tailpipe of the car in the form of distilled water and steam.
As it is not possible for one fuel cell to produce so many electrons the car manufactures put together the flat rectangular cells together to form a fuel cell stack so that it can generate the adequate amount of power required for operating the car.
Basically the fuel cell stack work like the battery of an electric car and releases constant power flow which is required to power the electric motor of the car and others inbuilt electronics.
Fuel cell stacks are generally prepared in such a way so that it can deliver slightly more power than the amount of power required to drive the vehicle under normal acceleration and cruising purpose.
Moreover, just like any other electric vehicle hydrogen fuel cars have the ability to recover braking energy.
The kinetic energy produced during braking gets converted into electrical energy with the help of the electric motor and gets stored in the lithium-ion batteries that can be used as backup power in case the vehicle requires it for an extra burst of power.
Once the work of the fuel cell stack is over the car becomes similar to an electric driven vehicle running silently on the road with a lot of acceleration and torque.
The Pros and Cons of Hydrogen Fuel Cars
Just like any other technology hydrogen fuel cars also have their own advantages and disadvantages.
We should look at them from the viewpoint of both the users and the environment.
As far as the rate of success is concerned any alternate fuel technology that wants to become successful must reduce the emission of pollution significantly and the same time must be user-friendly too.
We will now do thorough research and understand in detail about the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen fuel cars in the lines mentioned below.
No Engine Noise
The propulsion system in hydrogen fuel cars is purely electrical in nature and thus it feels the same as driving a normal electric car.
There is no sound from the engine and the car remains totally silent.
You can expect a smooth drive right from the beginning because the electric motors have the power to deliver high torque even at low speeds.
Quick Charging Time
Hydrogen fuel cars come with the advantage of a quick charging facility which puts it far ahead of normal electric cars.
Electric vehicles can take somewhere in between thirty minutes to several hours to fully charge the battery depending on the battery size and charging station.
But on the other hand, the hydrogen tank of a fuel cell car takes less than 5 minutes to fully charge itself.
Thus hydrogen fuel cars are more practical to use for long trips and become somewhat similar to traditional cars with internal combustion engines.
Longer Range Per Charge
This is another prime most advantage of hydrogen fuel cars.
They have much more operating range than fully electric cars and hence preferred by most of the people.
A full hydrogen tank can last approximately up to 300 miles which is quite higher than a normal electric car.
Moreover, a battery-powered car will require a much bigger battery if it wants to cover a similar range and this will lead to an increase in vehicle weight and charging time substantially.
No Impact Of Outside Temperature
The range of hydrogen fuel cars remains unaffected by the change in outside atmospheric temperatures and thus it can cover a large distance all year round.
But in the case of traditional electric cars, their charging time and range varies with the outside temperature and can impact its performance to a good extent.
Generally, the ranges of fully electric cars tend to decrease in the cold weather conditions but hydrogen fuel cars remain unaffected from it.
Blood Batteries & Child Labor
Yes, you read this correctly! Many of these batteries are made with the use of child labor.
Cobalt and Lithium are rare metals used in the production of many technological devices such as laptops, phones, and batteries.
Let’s take a look at the cobalt and its mining industry. Cobalt provides safety and energy efficiency aspects to batteries.
Although it is mined throughout the world, the major supplier is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a place that is sadly riddled with corruption and poverty.
Poor parents are dependent on their children working in the mines, as is the country’s economy. With other sources of income offering less money, the $9 per twelve hour day of physical labor is hard to refuse!
In 2016, Amnesty International issued a shocking report that listed numerous companies that had used sourced rare metals with the use of child labor.
Apple has started a program to encourage children to learn skills and discourage them from getting into the mining trade.
However, the number of children this program is currently effecting is relatively low in comparison to the number of children working in the mines.
My hope is that this number will grow and other companies will start to follow suit. However, this is going to take time.
Is there an alternative?
Would it not be better to put a ban on sourcing from child labor? Implement restrictions? Raise wages? Something, anything has to be better than this…!
Knowledge is power. The more people talk about these issues, the more people will become aware of them. Sadly this is going to take time but this shouldn’t prevent you from doing so. This will be the biggest contributor to change. Here’s why:
The only reason this has been allowed to happen was because of the demand for this technology from the consumers. People want the newest technology.
Buying something new makes many people feel good about themselves. If we can learn to live without the latest device and discover the things that make us happy, we won’t have this constant desire to be a consumer.
In an ideal world, companies would be producing long-lasting products. This disposable era we find ourselves in is not sustainable.
Wouldn’t you prefer to buy a phone that lasts you the rest of your life than renew it every couple of years? I know I would.
Less Refuelling Options
Currently, there is a scarcity of refueling option for hydrogen fuel cars and there are very few fuel stations which offer this facility.
You need to refuel hydrogen fuel cars at special petrol pumps and the adaptability of this new technology is quite low at the service stations which is expected to increase in the future.
As per reports, there are only about 40 hydrogen refueling stations in the US in the year 2019 which is much lower to drive the growth of hydrogen fuel cars.
Low Demand from Customers
The current situation is quite similar to the chicken-egg problem.
The limited network of fuel stations for hydrogen cars has resulted in lower demand from customers and that in turn has led to higher production cost and a hindrance to the profitable production of hydrogen fuel cars.
The fewer number of hydrogen fuel cars on road acts as a deterrent to the expansion of the hydrogen refueling station network.
So the situation has become quite stagnant as far as the growth of hydrogen fuel cars is concerned.
When liquid hydrogen is stored in tanks it is relatively safe. However, it can quickly become dangerous if it escapes.
When this happens the hydrogen mixes with oxygen and this can become a fire and on occasion even explosive.
This makes the idea of road accidents and collisions even more dangerous than they currently are.
to add heat to the fire – hydrogen burs more easily than gasoline does. The flames are practically invisible, making it hard to spot and fight.
Coming into physical contact with hydrogen is also dangerous. Firstly it is frozen and can cause severe frostbite.
Second, breathing it in could cause a person to die from die of asphyxiation. Hydrogen isn’t poisonous but the lack of oxygen could potentially cause this.
Like oxygen, it is odorless, invisible and flavorless. So you wouldn’t even know you were doing it!
Cost of Hydrogen Fuel Cars
Due to the shortage of fueling station networks and low demand for hydrogen fuel cars, the production is quite less and thus the price tends to be higher when compared to fully electric cars and traditional vehicles.
There are a few models of hydrogen fuel cars available in the market which cost around $80,000 for a medium or upper medium range vehicle.
The price is almost double if you compare it with fully electric cars or hybrid vehicles.
There are several factors that contribute to such a high price of hydrogen fuel cars.
Apart from low production volume, there is less availability of precious metals such as platinum which acts as a catalyst for generating power.
However, the car manufacturers are working hard on this part and they have become somewhat successful in reducing the amount of platinum required for the hydrogen fuel cells.
The target is to bring down the price of hydrogen fuel cars to the same level of electric cars so that they can become more affordable.
Another factor for the high price is that hydrogen fuel cars tend to be larger due to the presence of hydrogen tanks which take up a lot of space.
On the other hand, the drive unit of electric vehicles is quite compact in size and can easily fit into small cars as well.
Apart from the cost of purchase the operational cost of hydrogen fuel cars also plays a vital role in increasing their price.
Environmental Aspect of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
From an environmental point of view, an ideal car should use only renewable energy and produce no harmful emissions. Let’s find out hoy hydrogen fuel cars can show us a new way of achieving that goal in very less time.
No Harmful Exhaust Gases
Hydrogen fuel cars are totally pollution-free and emit pure water vapor as exhaust gas.
Therefore hydrogen fuel cell technology is totally free from any pollution and can go a long way in keeping our cities pollution-free and protect the climate at the same time.
Neutral Carbon Footprint
Electrical energy is required in the process of hydrogen production.
This electrical energy splits up water into its constituent element that is hydrogen and oxygen and the process is known as electrolysis.
Now if the electricity required for this process is produced from a renewable source of energy the hydrogen production process has a completely neutral carbon footprint.
Thus it is a vital step towards achieving zero carbon footprints.
We must remember that hydrogen is also produced as a byproduct in many industrial processes and in most cases they are considered as waste with no further utility.
But with the use of fuel cell batteries, this hydrogen which was previously considered as waste can be used again.
This gives us an opportunity to upcycle the hydrogen which got wasted previously.
However, it needs to be cleaned properly before use.
Why Should You Go For Hydrogen Fuel Cars?
If you are living in the US you can go for automotive fuel cells as a replacement for internal combustion engines.
This is because it is a country where people love to drive and cover long distances which are not feasible for battery-electric cars due to its range constrains.
Moreover, hydrogen fuel cars are capable of traveling long distances with fewer breaks in between for refueling.
Unlike battery electric cars they are not tied to charging cords and can travel a distance of 250 to 300 miles at a stretch on a full tank.
Moreover, hydrogen fuel tanks can be filled as quickly as the fuel tank of a gasoline-driven car which is indeed a great thing.
Many people believe that hydrogen fuel cars have the capacity to replace battery-electric cars and in that case, it will be a wonderful thing for drivers with short commuting distance.
In a typical scenario, you can expect fuel cell systems to be twice as efficient as gasoline system.
Most of the hydrogen fuel cars which will come to the market in the coming years are expected to deliver approximately 65 to 70 miles per kg of fuel which is close to 65 to 70 miles per gallon.
Till now there is no established price for retail hydrogen fuel. But as per suppliers it will be around $10 per kg in the early days of sales and expected to become at par with gasoline with the increase in popularity in the coming years.
Thus to conclude we can say that the demand for alternative fuel is rising due to the limited and scarce resource of gasoline and diesel and the impractical size, charging time and inadequate range of battery-operated vehicles.
In such a scenario, hydrogen fuel cars can go a long way in making our environment cleaner and take us forward to a better future.
A Few Final Thoughts
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