Hydrogen Powered Cars
A hydrogen car uses hydrogen as fuel for powering motion. The hydrogen power plants convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy using one of the two methods namely, combustion or electrochemical conversion. The hydrogen fuel cars generate energy in the same way as common internal combustion engines.
Type of fuels used
The molecular hydrogen required for hydrogen fuel cars is obtained through various methods like thermolysis, biomass gasification, and coal gasification and as a waste product called bio-hydrogen. The production of hydrogen fuel creates many environmental consequences due to the emission of greenhouse gases. To use it as a fuel, hydrogen needs to be stored properly. The hydrogen fuel is stored as liquid hydrogen in a cryogenic tank or in compressed hydrogen storage tank. Because of the energy required to compress the hydrogen gas, they have lower well to wheel efficiency compared to other fuels. Hydrogen fuel can be made from both renewable as well as non-renewable energy sources.
The performance of Hydrogen Powered Cars
The performance of the car depends on the method used to store hydrogen fuel. A primary concern is to increase the range of hydrogen vehicles, while reducing energy consumption, weight and storage complexities. Good fuel to range efficiencies is provided by hydrogen when used as a fuel. The newest hydrogen engine carburetor produces high pressure injection into the cylinder which increases the combustion. Hydrogen fuel cars produce more power and thereby offer better performance. Using hydrogen as fuel for cars allows the engine to burn more cleanly and efficiently increasing the overall performance.
Pros and cons of the fuel
Hydrogen can be produced and consumed continuously from various energy sources like sun, wind and nuclear power. The disadvantage with these vehicles is that, they produce more pollution than the vehicles consuming diesel, gasoline etc. The production of hydrogen fuel creates additional harmful emissions. Producing hydrogen from various non fossil sources is not economically feasible. Large scale use of hydrogen powered cars is yet to hit the market. One problem with the hydrogen fuelled cars is the high pressure involved in storing the hydrogen fuels in the cars. Hydrogen being a very clean fuel, the possibility for catching fire is high if not properly secured and stored. If hydrogen burns, it leaves no trace in the air, except for a bit of water vapor.
Hydrogen fuel emits only water vapour. There is no carbon dioxide emission. Hydrogen can be refilled quickly like gasoline. This makes it convenient while long distance travels. The range offered by these vehicles is more than the electrical and solar cars making them suitable replacement to gasoline cars for long distance commutation. Hydrogen is twice efficient as gasoline. The initial setup cost for hydrogen refueling stations is high. Even though hydrogen is the most abundant element, it is always attached with something else making it difficult to extract.
Hydrogen Powered Car Use in different countries
The various hydrogen fueled cars available in the market are BMW, Mazda, Hippomobile etc. The increased need to find a stable source of energy has urged many countries to undertake research and development in various hydrogen fuelled engine technologies. New and improved methods for producing hydrogen are required to meet this growing demand. Canada is one among the leading countries using hydrogen to power vehicles. The byproduct during the production of sodium chlorate is hydrogen and it is used to fuel vehicles. The US research scientists are involved in developing a method where the steam from nuclear reactors can be used to generate hydrogen through electrolysis.
Various governments and institutions across the world have joined together to develop an economical method of producing hydrogen fuel to establish a stable hydrogen economy. The environmental problems faced by the world due to the immense consumption of oil fuels can be overcome by replacing them with hydrogen fuels provided an environment friendly method is used for the fuel production. The governments need to tie up with the major car manufactures in the world to accelerate the use of hydrogen and similar energy efficient cars. Instead of lining up at the gas filling stations, the hydrogen car owners can buy tanks of liquid or gaseous hydrogen. Though the general trend for fuel efficient cars with alternative and better fuel designs will keep on increasing, various political, consumer, legal, environmental and technological factors will decide the extend of deployment.
The Japanese hydrogen fuel cars lead the market because of the use of more practical and new technologies to produce and utilize power at high efficiencies. The skyrocketing oil prices and increased consumer demand for cars with better miles per gallon performance has resulted in a dramatic rise in the interest for hydrogen fuel cars in the global market.
Environmental benefits of Hybrid Cars
The by-products developed on combustion of hydrogen fuels are water and heat. They are not harmful to the atmosphere in any ways. The various studies and research have shown that the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel might increase the greenhouse emissions rather than decreasing them if carbon intensive methods like grid electrolysis are used for the fuel production.
Reliability of Hydrogen Fuel Cars
The heavy complex engine structure can result in more unexpected failures and thus reducing the reliability of the hybrid cars. The motors and batteries used in the hybrid cars do not require any maintenance over the life of the vehicle. The maintenance cost and servicing frequency of the hybrid engines is similar to that of normal cars. As the hybrid cars use regenerative braking, the braking pads in these cars are seen to last longer than normal cars. The only maintenance these cars require may be the replacement of the air filter on some battery systems. Oil changes and similar maintenance done in regular fuel cars need to be done in hybrid cars also. Periodic plugging of the battery for charging is not required in a hybrid car as the battery gets automatically charged with regenerative braking. Due to this the battery is never fully discharged nor charged there by increasing its life. The maintenance cost is considerable low due to the decreased wear and tear on the engine and braking system.
Cost of the fuel
The hydrogen fuel is very expensive to produce. It is available only at a few locations. Only if mass produced, the cost of the fuel can reduced comparable to the diesel and gasoline fuel cost. The cost of running a hydrogen powered vehicle is affected by various factors like high first cost of the vehicle and on-board fuel storage issues. The hydrogen fuel engines are costly which makes the hydrogen cars far from the reach of common man. Advanced technology systems are implemented in the hydrogen cars to meet the safety and liability concerns. The fuelling cost is high because of the cost of setting up of charging stations. Mass production and usage of hydrogen fuelled cars will become a reality only if government or various financial institutions come up with huge funding for the infrastructure development and to make the hydrogen fuelled cars competitive with the oil fuelled ones in the market.
Tax benefits in the UK
The UK government provides incentives for the production, purchase and use of hydrogen fuelled cars. This financial support is provided to divert the usage from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Pure, dual-fuel and hybrid cars enjoy different levels of tax benefits. The tax benefit also varies with the size of the vehicle and the amount of energy consumed.
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