Hondas of the Future Could Be Hydrogen Powered
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles – A Quick Look
When you think hydrogen, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Hindenburg blimp. And that’s probably not the best thing to be thinking about when you learn that hydrogen fuel cell cars could be the cars of the future. Turns out, in
many cases hydrogen fuel cell cars are actually safer than our current gasoline powered vehicles. And instead of emitting pollutants from the exhaust pipe, a hydrogen fuel cell car only creates two byproducts, heat and water. You may be surprised to learn that there are already thousands of these cars on the road.
The technology for these cars was actually created centuries ago by the welsh scientist Sir William Robert Grove*. He reversed the typical process of electrolysis to create electricity from water and hydrogen, instead of using electricity to create hydrogen from water. Grove called this invention a gas voltaic battery. Years later Francis Bacon improved on this technology, bringing us closer to modern hydrogen fuel cells. With modern day technology, car manufacturers are able to place relatively small hydrogen fuel cells in cars which create electricity to drive electric motors attached to the wheels of the vehicle. The specifics of how a fuel cell work are too complex to delve into in this article, but if you would like to learn more this is a great resource.
While this technology is promising, there are still some drawbacks. Since the technology is so new and experimental, hydrogen cars are wildly expensive. Since platinum is typically a component in fuel cells, a single fuel cell vehicle will cost over $100,000. For this reason, they are only available for lease currently. Another issue is storage. Hydrogen is a gas, and gasses like to spread out, especially in warm environments. Because of this, hydrogen cell vehicles sometimes need to purge fuel. Can you imagine letting your vehicle leak out gasoline on warm days? In terms of safety, hydrogen definitely has the potential to be dangerous, but when properly managed it is not a concern. Hydrogen burns at a lower temperature than gasoline, and because hydrogen is so light it will typically float away before any harm can be done. But the biggest obstacle for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is where to fuel up.
Fortunately, California is taking a stand for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Not only is California willing to give a $5000 rebate to anyone who leases a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, they are willing to invest in the infostructure. In 2012, only 27 hydrogen fueling stations existed on the entire globe. That number is expected to increase dramatically as California funds dozens of stations in the coming years. In fact, California will devote up to $100 million to ensure the production of these stations.
While hydrogen fuel cell cars may have several obstacles to overcome before they go mainstream, they are beginning to look like a very viable option. So watch for a hydrogen fuel station coming to your state, and maybe someday, a Honda FCX Clarity in your driveway.