Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Cars

A Game-Changer For The Environment?


The automotive industry is transforming significantly as our world seeks sustainable solutions to combat climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. Enter hydrogen electric vehicles, or Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), offering a promising alternative to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. Harnessing the power of hydrogen, FCEVs prove to be more efficient and contribute to a cleaner and greener future.


Unlike their gasoline counterparts, FCEVs emit no harmful tailpipe emissions, releasing only water vapor and warm air as byproducts of their operation. Furthermore, as hydrogen-electric cars gain traction, the infrastructure to fuel them is gradually taking shape, paving the way for a sustainable transportation ecosystem. One key advantage of hydrogen fuel cell systems is their lightweight nature. Compared to the hefty batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), FCEVs’ hydrogen tanks and fuel cell systems weigh significantly less. This reduced weight translates into increased efficiency as the electric motor requires less power to propel the vehicle. The result is a thrilling driving experience with instant torque and smooth, consistent power delivery.

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Beyond the exhilaration of driving, the environmental benefits of hydrogen-electric vehicles are remarkable. Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity by utilizing electrochemical reactions to power the car, leaving no trace of harmful emissions behind. This article will delve deeper into the world of hydrogen electric vehicles, exploring their potential, advantages, and challenges. Join us as we navigate the path toward a cleaner, more sustainable future on wheels.

Related: 10 Unique Features of Hydrogen Electric Vehicles That Set Them Apart From BEVs


Your Next Car Could Be Powered By Hydrogen

Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Hydrogen SUV
Mercedes-Benz

Illustration of a Mercedes-Benz fuel-cell hydrogen-electric SUV

For those curious about what a hydrogen electric vehicle is, think of them as green, fully-capable alternatives to traditional gas-powered and even fully-electric powered cars. The difference between driving a standard ICE car and switching to one powered by hydrogen is that your vehicle will produce no harmful tailpipe emissions: they only emit water vapor and warm air. Instead of your car’s tailpipe spitting out carbon dioxide, it will release water vapor or air as you drive.

Electric cars don’t have a tailpipe, so with a hydrogen electric vehicle, expect to see one. It’s worth noting, however, that FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles) are in their early stages of development and production. Like electric vehicles, manufacturers are slowly creating, designing, and testing these cars. With so many consumers becoming more conscious of their environmental footprint, it’s not shocking that hydrogen-powered cars are a top priority on many to-do lists.

In more technical terms, hydrogen-electric vehicles are powered by compressed hydrogen gas that feeds into an onboard fuel cell stack. Instead of this fuel stack burning gas, your car would transform the fuel’s chemical energy into electrical energy. The electric then powers the cars’ motors, giving you the power to keep driving. It sounds like a whacky science experiment to many, but it’s much closer to mass production than you’d think. Hydrogen-electric vehicles are the future: and could take over the eco-friendly car market altogether.

Related: Why The Honda CR-V Hydrogen Is An Important Product For “GM”

Hydrogen Cars Are More Efficient, Lighter, And Faster

2023 White Toyota Mirai
Toyota Media Center

Front 3/4 shot of the 2023 Toyota Mirai powered by hydrogen fuel. 

On top of releasing zero carbon emissions while operating, hydrogen-electric cars may just be better than fully electric ones in some cases. With their fuel cell system (including the hydrogen tank) weighing far less than that of a battery in an EV, hydrogen vehicles are typically better for driving long distances. To put that into perspective, your hydrogen-electric car will require less power to run than a standard electric vehicle, giving you more bang for your buck.

One of the drawbacks of current EV driving is the limited miles per charge that many vehicles offer. For instance, you may be able to travel 200 miles with a full charge in your electric car, but for many: it’s not enough. Let’s say you have to drive across state lines or even to another city in your state. Most will measure more than 100–200 miles, meaning you might need to pull off, charge for 30–45 minutes, and get back on the road.

With a hydrogen-powered vehicle, this no longer becomes a problem. Instead, you would be filling the tank of your car with hydrogen at a station. Much like a gas-powered option, your refill time would be under five minutes at the pump, and you’re on your way. That could be inspiring to many current gas-powered car owners who aren’t comfortable with relying solely on electric driving and charging. In a way, the two are related, but hydrogen-electric vehicles are a bit more convenient overall.

Related: Are Hydrogen Cars The Need Of The Hour?

Although Groundbreaking: Hydrogen-Electric Cars Won’t Likely Take Over The EV Market

Hyundai Hydrogen Hypercar Concept
Hyundai

Render of a Hyundai hydrogen hypercar concept

One thing to note is that even though hydrogen-powered vehicles are great eco-friendly alternatives to gas-powered driving, they won’t likely take over the EV sector. First, electric cars have already gone into full swing, with many automakers promising new models will drive 300–500 miles per charge in the next year or so. As the batteries inside these electric vehicles become more agile, this could shock the rest of the industry. As we said above, one of the main concerns with EV driving is the lack of miles per charge. With 500 miles between charges, that would change many people’s minds about the idea of zero-emission vehicles.

However, hydrogen-electric cars are still quite unique and revolutionary in their own right. Because you can quickly head to the fuel pump to fill your vehicle, that makes the idea more convenient (and fast) for the consumer. If there’s one thing we’ve learned: all people prefer the faster, better solution. The same applies to the car they drive.

With a hydrogen-electric or FCEV, you can drive as you would with a gas-powered model, which could be a strong marketing point for automakers. With EVs already on our TV, phone, and computer screens, it might be hard for the hydrogen-electric market to catch up. Green driving doesn’t need to be one-sided. There can be many eco-conscious ways to get around, which luckily may become a reality as soon as this concept is perfected. Brands like Honda and Toyota are already investing heavily in hydrogen-powered technology, so time will tell how people react.

Related: Toyota’s Hydrogen Combustion Engine Has The Potential To Make EVs Obsolete

One Thing With Hydrogen Is That It’s Incredibly Volatile

Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric engine illustration
Toyota

Illustration of a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric engine

Now that we’ve shined a light on hydrogen-electric technology, the volatility of the hydrogen fuel source is worth mentioning. First, because of hydrogen’s simple composition, this actually proves to be a flaw for large quantities being stored. Hydrogen is VERY flammable. We’re talking about it could go up in flames easily in large amounts and destroy an entire area. Because of this fire-prone composition, those auto manufacturers testing the technology must invest heavily in protection systems to avoid the risk of fire. Of course, that’s not to say this won’t or can’t be remedied.

With new technology always comes a few hiccups, so after testing and more in-depth research into hydrogen power, some type of at-home safeguard will be given to consumers alongside their new car. It’s also important to understand that hydrogen has to be highly compressed for road use. Therefore, this added compression could cause even more issues for storing hydrogen and providing safety for those at the fuel pump.



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