In 2017 all we knew was that electric vehicles were the future, and despite tormenting petrol engine lovers, that was the reality we were living. More and more charging stations are being made for electric cars to charge on the go. On the one side, we have the electric car as a well-perceived low emissions vehicle, but on the other side the battery on electric cars are a problem on their own. Above all, because this accumulator generates pollution when manufacturing and recycling, and in the meantime, it causes constraints on the power grid.
There is another type of environmentally friendly vehicle that can take advantage of battery-powered trams, but without those drawbacks. We refer to them as fuel cell cars, essentially models that instead of moving through the electricity they pull from the grid and produce it on board.
They also have a small battery, but only about 1.6 kWh – much smaller than those of 40, 60 or 100 kWh mounted on accumulator-powered vehicles – which is for the starter phase only and to ensure the power peaks. However, these cars can still achieve more power and speed than all the horses in the Kentucky Derby combined.
All the electric power that drives the car comes from the fuel cell. In fact, a series of mounted fuel cells, which perform the reverse operation to water electrolysis. Instead of supplying energy to separate hydrogen from oxygen, fuel cells produce electrical energy by adding the H2 in the tank to oxygen taken from air, generating pure water in the process.
This is the working principle of the Toyota Mirai, the best-selling hydrogen fuel cell car, which supplies 5 kg of hydrogen in minutes, which then gives it a range of around 550 km (according to NEDC method, ieabout 450 km of autonomy under conditions closer to reality). Without ever having to connect to an electric station and without issuing any harmful emissions.
In the constant search for new vehicles that incorporate the latest emission reduction technology, now comes hydrogen cars. Cars that use a fuel cell that has proven to be more efficient than direct hydrogen burning.
This type of vehicle has hydrogen tanks that mix with the oxygen in the fuel cell. This produces a process by which electricity is generated to drive electric motors. At the same time, thanks to the same process, water is generated,and the car eliminates it through the exhaust pipe.
One of the great advantages of hydrogen cars over hybrids and electric cars depends on the time that it takes to refuel: just five minutes. For this reason, you do not have the disadvantage of having to wait several hours for the batteries to recharge, as with other low emission cars.
The point is that there are currently no stations for hydrogen refueling. However, oil companies have already expressed a great deal of interest in this type of fuel as it will not be necessary to make many changes to current installations to contemplate hydrogen.
The price is not attractive either, as these vehicles cost more to manufacture, mainly due to the fuel cellcost of which will be entirely transferred to the customer. And while the vehicle produces zero emissions, the truth is that to obtain hydrogen requires other energies, which eventually may increase the pollution of the environment.
Another drawback is car safety. Brands have made a major innovation effort in order to avoid leaky tanks, as this gas is highly flammable and could cause serious accidents. These tanks also have a lifetime limited to 15 years by law, which can translate into the vehicle’s own service life.
Finally, this new greener technology regarding hydrogen has been increasing and innovations regarding the development of tanks produced with safer materials like aluminum and carbon keep on being researched.
Refueling will normally be done with a hose that goes into the filling point and the sealing process which makes the maneuver safe is a high priority when it comes to user’s overall safety. A technology that will surely be highly optimized and implemented very soon.