In the last few years there’s been a huge increase in the development and marketing of all-electric and hybrid cars, which use clever electric motors to generate power, save money on petrol and reduce the CO2 emissions which are released into the atmosphere. But throughout this time some manufacturers have been quietly working on Hydrogen powered cars which have no batteries or combustible engine, but instead use hydrogen as part of a chemical reaction in what's known as a fuel cell. The reaction makes electricity, with the only by product being water vapour.
Could Hydrogen Cars Eventually Take Over?
Many people around the world are relatively unaware of the developments made on hydrogen cars, unless they live in California. The famous American state has been one of the only places in the world where hydrogen powered cars have been developed, but more importantly so has the infrastructure to support them.
Back in 2004 the California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared he was behind plans to develop the infrastructure for hydrogen cars which would have seen 100 hydrogen fuelling stations installed around the state. But when the financial crisis hit in 2008 these dreams were all but forgotten, but now the plan is returning with new fuelling stations already being built.
After over 10 years of quiet development, there are now a number of manufacturers which have made hydrogen powered cars that are ready to be mass produced and sold. Hyundai will begin leasing a hydrogen-powered version of its Tuscon in California in just a few months, Toyota will soon follow with its own fuel-cell car, and Honda already has its Clarity FCX on the road.
But with just nine public refuelling stations currently in operation in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area, there’s still a lot of crucial development of the infrastructure required before the cars can be used on a bigger scale. Some people are yet to understand the potential of hydrogen cars, and often wonder how they can be better than electric powered cars.
Ronald Grasman, general manager of U.S. fuel cell vehicle operations with Mercedes-Benz, says, “Battery vehicles are great, but they have their limitations when it comes to range and charging time. This is where fuel cell vehicles make a great difference.” Hydrogen cars work by using electricity, but are powered from a hydrogen fuel tank which is similar to a petrol tank, meaning they have a much better range. Mercedes are working on their own hydrogen car to be released in 2017, which will initially be available under a range of Mercedes lease schemes.
And as well as having a range which can rival traditional cars, hydrogen cars also produce zero emissions, don’t require any time to recharge, and don’t have any of the issues involved with incorporating big heavy battery packs into the vehicle. All of this makes them much more adaptable for designers and engineers producing new models, which will make their development over the coming decades much easier. But it seems their main challenge is to produce hydrogen fuel cells for much cheaper than they currently cost to produce.
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