While the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) has been around in concept since the 1960s, it’s only been in the last few years that automotive giants like Toyota and Honda have begun manufacturing them in masse. The benefits of FCVs over gasoline vehicles are immediately apparent – they can be refuelled in three minutes and can go up to 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen – but the biggest advantage of all may be their pollution-free exhaust.
What is Hydrogen
Hydrogen is an element with an atomic number of 1. It has no biological role, but is found throughout our universe and earth. Because hydrogen is so common, one might assume that it can be used in various ways—but actually, hydrogen exists only as a gas at normal temperature and pressure. Hydrogen’s name comes from Greek word hydro which means water; because when it burns (or explodes), water vapor is produced.
Why Are Car Manufacturers Interested in Hydrogen?
As we all know, oil is a non-renewable resource and isn’t going to last forever. This can cause us to become dependent on foreign countries and their resources, resulting in higher costs for everyday consumers and rising concerns for national security. Switching from petroleum-based energy sources to hydrogen-based energy sources can help reduce these risks. However, just as with any major decision, there are benefits and drawbacks associated with switching over to hydrogen fuel. So what are they?
The Advantages of Owning a Hydrogen Fuelled Vehicle
Hydrogen is a much more efficient form of fuel than gasoline. A hydrogen-powered vehicle, such as an SUV, can travel up to 721 miles on just 10 kg of hydrogen, compared to only 352 miles for a gasoline powered SUV with 18 gallons of gasoline. This fact alone makes a hydrogen-fueled vehicle an ideal choice for long drives.
Furthermore, unlike gasoline, which emits harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, hydrogen does not contribute to global warming or air pollution. In addition to being clean and green, using hydrogen as a fuel source also reduces our dependence on foreign oil and contributes to national security by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels from unstable regions of the world.
What are the Disadvantages?
One disadvantage of hydrogen vehicles is that they must be filled with hydrogen, at a cost of about $10 to $12 per kilogram. But since a kilogram contains 3,000 times more energy than a gallon of gasoline and only needs to be refueled every few days or weeks, it’s easy to see how they can save money in long run. Moreover, vehicles powered by hydrogen can also use their exhaust gas to provide an electrical power source (like on trains) or turn it into synthetic natural gas.
One of hydrogen’s most touted benefits is that it burns cleanly, producing only water and heat as by-products. When hydrogen is burned in an internal combustion engine, it becomes just a handful of harmless elements, unlike gasoline or diesel which are significantly more harmful to our environment. Because of its inherent cleanliness, hydrogen is seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. In fact, some say that hydrogen could potentially be used to power cars with no emissions at all!
Hydrogen also has a higher energy density than other forms of fuel, meaning it can go further on less volume. This means fewer trips to fill up at the pump for drivers and lower costs for businesses using vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. As such, there is far less waste associated with hydrogen than there is with other forms of energy like coal or oil.
Fuel cell technology has been around for decades, but manufacturers have had a hard time delivering a model that could compete with conventional engines. Recently, however, vehicle makers including Toyota and Honda have found success in selling cars powered by hydrogen-powered fuel cells. In 2015 alone, more than 10,000 of these vehicles were sold—mostly in California. Recently Toyota Launched ‘Mirai’ in India. There’s no question that hydrogen is gaining momentum. And while we’re still waiting to see how things play out on a global scale.