Welcome to the Scrap Car Comparison guide to the Hydrogen Car. In this article we’ll go over the inner workings of a hydrogen car, dispel the confusion between hydrogen and water powered cars, and see how the hydrogen car just might help make the world a greener place.
What Is A Hydrogen Car?
The Hydrogen Car is a key component of the Hydrogen Economy; a system designed to deliver hydrogen powered energy to the masses. Originally proposed in the early seventies, the Hydrogen Economy seeks to lower the world’s carbon emissions and create a sustainable model for transport and industrial energy demands.
A Hydrogen Car is a vehicle that uses hydrogen fuel to generate energy through chemical reaction. Like electric cars, they rely on electric motors in place of conventional engines. But unlike electric cars instead of using rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen cars run compressed gases through stacks of Hydrogen Fuel Cells.
Rather than filling up the car with petrol or diesel, you refuel the hydrogen tank. This means that they do not generate exhaust emissions and are classified as Zero-Emission Vehicles. In fact, the only byproduct is water, which can be disposed of by various means such as steaming or draining. Please note: This is only true for non-hybrid vehicles, as they do not use any form of fossil fuel as a power source. Unfortunately, the drawback that has slowed the Hydrogen Car’s development has been sourcing and transporting the hydrogen needed to run the vehicles. Despite being one of the most plentiful elements in the universe, hydrogen does not naturally occur in its gaseous form on earth. This means that it needs to be extracted from various other hydrogen containing sources available to us.
Are Hydrogen Cars Water Powered?
The short answer is No.
Water is in fact a highly stable mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Water is relatively simple to break down into these parts, making it an easily accessible and reliable source of hydrogen. Sadly though, extracting the hydrogen from water is a fairly energy demanding task, consuming almost as much energy as it generates. This is the main issue that has hindered the development of on-board, 100% water powered energy.
Despite this fact, many people have claimed to have cracked water-powered cars’, with many generating media hype and legal action as a result. You can check out this link to get more details on previously debunked water-fuelled cars.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
So, how do we use Hydrogen to power a Hydrogen Car? The most common answer is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell. Not to be confused with fuel, a fuel cell is a device used to chemically generate electricity. Here’s how it works:
In a typical Hydrogen Car you’ll find a Fuel Cell Engine, which is connected to a fuel storage container. The storage container creates a flow of compressed Hydrogen and Air to a stack of fuel cells within a Fuel Cell Module. Within this module the hydrogen is forced through a layer called a membrane. The membrane allows the hydrogen’s protons to pass through but not the electrons, which are then forced to travel around the membrane, creating a usable electric current. The electricity is then used to power the typical systems of an automotive engine, similar to that of an electric car.
After running through the circuit, the electrons are forced back into the fuel cell where they recombine with the protons to form hydrogen again. The hydrogen then joins up with the oxygen molecules in the compressed air to form water.
It’s important to note that the amount of fuel cells in a stack depend on the power requirements, with larger stacks generating more electricity.
We’ve created this diagram to demonstrate how a basic fuel cell works below:
(Please note: this diagram represents the PEM or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cell. This represents only one types of fuel cell available.)
The Future Of The Hydrogen Car
So, is the Hydrogen Car the car of the future? It’s still hard to say. With the rising popularity of electric vehicles, as well as the further exploration into biofuels, the car fuel of the future is still yet to be decided upon. In the meantime, Hydrogen Cars and fuel cell production will continue to be developed to push us towards a carbon free economy. So watch this space!
If you’re interested in getting a Hydrogen Car today, there are currently two hydrogen cars available on the UK market. You can purchase the Toyota Mirai (pictured above) for £66,000, or a Hyundai ix35 (pictured below) from £53,100.