Jan 292020
Hydrogen Fuel Cars – All You Need To Know

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.

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-Electric-Motor

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.

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-Molecule

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.

The Advantages

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-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.

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-Impact-Its-Performance

Generally, the ranges of fully electric cars tend to decrease in the cold weather conditions but hydrogen fuel cars remain unaffected from it.

 

 

The Disadvantages

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…!

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-Knowledge-is-power

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.

 

Safety Concerns

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

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-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

Hydrogen-Fuel-Cars-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.

 

Hydrogen Upcycle

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

If you ever need a helping hand or have any questions on this product or want to leave a comment or a review of your own, please do so in the space provided below.

I will be more than happy to answer them as best to my knowledge and would enjoy hearing from you.

Click here to receive my free ebook – ‘How to Take the First Step: Understanding of Impact’.

If you want to join me on this journey, please use the social links below.

All the best,

Eco_Catherine

ecocatherine@about-going-green.com

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Reader Comments

  1. I found this post very interesting as often wondered about getting a car that uses green energy. Petrol driven vehicles are still in the majority, with electric and hybrid slowly gaining popularity. I checked on Google and there are only 17 hydrogen refilling stations in the UK. It’s certainly a great alternative to electric vehicles though.

    1. Thank you for stopping by Kathy. I find it surprising that the UK has such a small number of hydrogen refilling stations. However, it seems that only the major cities in the states have them. I am confident that we at the start of a transition period and as they grow in popularity, so will the number f fueling stations.

  2. Hey Catherine,

    Amazing article. I didn’t know a lot about Hydrogen fueled cars. But from reading your article, I sure do now.

    I love how the propulsion system is electrical and it feels the same as driving a normal electric car. With the engine being totally silent, that must be a huge draw for customers looking to buy one of these cars.

    I live in the UK and have to travel a lot. So with this car, I could do more traveling as you say it is long-lasting. Especially if you can drive the length of the US with it.

    Thanks for sharing, really great article.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Hydrogen is a great alternative. I am just looking forward to seeing further advancements in this area of manufacturing and technology. Thank you for reading and you are more than welcome.

  3. This is really a subject we must carefully consider for the future, I was just thinking the other day when it was so cold here how will people heat their homes one day when natural gas and oil is no longer available?

    Hydrogen fuel cars sound to be a very good alternative, I especially like the weather causes them no problems living in a cold climate in the winter season.

    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff, I like how you have looked at this from the weather perspective. I live somewhere very hot so it is the opposite for me.

      Due to the current technological advances and each person’s individual circumstances, I do not think there is a ‘one answer fits all situation’. At the time it will become clearer which option is the best. I am really hoping for better advances in the electric option.

  4. I didn’t honestly know that hydrogen fuel cell cars were already commercially available even though I’m an environmental engineer and did a school project on alternate fuel cars a decade ago.

    I think you pointed out the major issues for large scale commercial use. The fuel distribution chain and the expensive catalyst metals for the fuel cells. Another thing I’d like to point out that hydrogen is stored in high-pressure containers and it’s extremely volatile when mixed with air = not very safe in accidents.

    But I think those are technical challenges that could be overcome. The main issue we are looking here on how the hydrogen is produced. If it’s produced as a sidestream from different industries, it could be neutral carbon footprint. Otherwise, it would have to be produced with solar or fusion power because the efficiency of the process isn’t high enough to produce from any other source in a large scale if I remember correctly.

    The other significant problem are the rare metals like cobolt(like with lithium batteries). They are currently being dug from the ground in Congo with child labor. Hardly an ethically or environmentally sustainable solution.

    Thanks for the interesting read!

    1. Hello again, wow you have raised some very interesting points. If it is ok with you, I am going to do some more research on this and add it to the main body of the text so that other people are able to benefit from it. I love how this website has become a space for me to learn too. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. I found this article to be very interesting as I have in interest in our future and “going green”.

    I feel as though once the initial cost becomes mainstreamed that the greater population would adapt, and or when we are forced to adapt due to extreme climate change – Whichever comes first.

    Wishing you all the best! Neat site. I am learning, and will reference yours!

    1. I am pleased to hear that you too have an interest in what used to be considered an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. I agree with what you say, please will soon be forced to live in a sustainable fashion due to extreme climate change which will soon be upon us.

      I am not sure that it is the cost that needs to be mainstreamed because we should be paying a considerable amount more than what we currently are for precious metals. However, I do think that the way society views consumerism is what reaal needs to change.

  6. Hi Catherine, I just had a nice read of your hydrogen cars blog, nice work. That’s something people forget about when all the rage is electric. One thing people don’t consider or even think about is that there is a huge amount of production waste in lithium mining for electric car batteries too that no one thinks about. Plus the Electric car batteries don’t even have a very long life. Hydrogen fueled cars would defiantly be a brilliant alternative. No one is marketing them, thinking about or marketing them enough. I really like the fact that they can go the distance, good mileage. Where you have to keep charging the Electric.
    Jeremy.

    1. It s a great potential option for the future as you mention, but we do need to take the negatives into consideration too. Child labor is unacceptable and we are desperately in need of some new technological advancements in terms of batteries.

      Thank you so much for reading.

  7. Just as there are good points about hydrogen cars there seems to be as many bad points about them too.
    The fact that child labor has been used too to mine metals is a off point.
    The thing that really sounds great about hydrogen cars is they can travel long distances. Good point if there are not many places to fuel them up.
    The silent engine sounds great too.
    Would you drive one yourself?
    Fab post. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for reading. I currently do not have one. Due to our current position in technological and ethical practices, I would not drive one. I currently drive a 2002 Toyota Corrola that gets great gas mileage. I think it is important to maintain already existing cars so that we do not waste the energy that went into manufacturing them.

      When this car eventually dies and I need to buy a new one, I will either buy another one, second hand or (if we have made the advancements I hope for) I may consider a green alternative.

      However, so many consumers want new things and this is a big part of the problem so I find it hard to believe that I will be able to justify having one when there are so many second-hand options. Let the people who ‘must-have’ new ones, do that.

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