Many people believe that electric vehicles are going to dominate the zero-emission field for cars but it is possible for hydrogen fuel cell cars to take the cake.
If the hydrogen car industry can overcome a big obstacle, then it would be possible for them to dominate.
Hydrogen Powered Cars
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are gaining interest quickly in the eyes of consumers. Toyota and BMW teamed up for R&D of hydrogen cars and after 20 years of testing, Toyota is releasing their first hydrogen car-the Mirai, starting at $57,500.
Toyota is claiming that Mirai is the longest range zero-emission car in the world, overcoming Tesla’s 270 miles on one charge with 312 miles for one fill of hydrogen. The EPA estimates that this is equivalent to 67 miles per gallon of gasoline.
The problem is, there are only 12 public hydrogen fuel stations in the United States. California is planning on building 48 more stations by the end of 2016 but this is not the case for other states. Tesla and other electric vehicle companies already have many fuel stations set up across the US.
It is also about twice as expensive to fuel hydrogen compared to gasoline but starts around $50 to fill a Mirai, according to Toyota’s Senior Vice President, Bob Carter. He estimates that it will drop to $30 eventually. On the plus side, it only takes 3-5 minutes to refuel compared to EV’s.
How Hydrogen Cars Work
Hydrogen is an element that is everywhere in the universe. It can be produced from multiple sources including water, natural gas, and renewable energy sources.
Hydrogen is placed in the car into specific fuel tanks built to safely contain hydrogen like a carbon-fiber fuel tank. Air is then pulled into the car through the grill into the fuel cell stack.
When the hydrogen and air is brought together, it creates a chemical reaction to create electricity, which is sent to the motor, and water vapors are a byproduct emission. More specifically, 2 H2 + O2 = 2 H2O.
It’s taken Toyota so long to research and develop their fuel cell car because compressed hydrogen can create a bomb. They’ve fired bullets at their fuel cell tanks without it puncturing and as a safety feature, any collisions shuts off the tank’s output valve. Hydrogen is also light and can only leak outside the cabin of the car and rise into the air.
No Internal Combustion Engine
Like EV’s, hydrogen cars don’t necessarily have internal combustion engines. Rather, they can have a power control unit, a fuel cell stack, a motor, and a boost converter. Hydrogen internal combustion engines differentiate from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles though where they are a modified form of gas-powered internal combustion engines.
Hydrogen cars are a long time coming and they are only getting released in limited amounts per year due to the lack of fuel stations. It could potentially surpass the popularity of EV’s but it will be several years since the demand is low due to convenience.
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