As technology has improved and battery costs have dropped, electric vehicles have taken the auto industry by storm, best exemplified by the meteoric rise of Tesla Motors. But there is another eco-friendly auto option that often gets lost amid all the excitement about the Model S, the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt: hydrogen powered cars.
Hydrogen powered vehicles, like electric cars, still face many of the same problems that come with being the new kid on the block. For one, there are very few hydrogen refueling stations in the U.S. outside of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) faced the same obstacles early on, prior to their more widespread adoption and the ensuing increase in recharging stations. The lack of charging stations–and the hefty price tag that comes with building them for hydrogen cars–is currently the biggest obstacle facing hydrogen powered vehicles.
At the recent LA Auto Show, a number of new hydrogen concepts and vehicles were unleashed with a promise to have them available to the public soon, and hopefully, at a cheaper price than the current cost which is more suitable for the cost of a luxury sedan.
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The Future of Clean Energy: Hydrogen v. Electric
While hydrogen-powered vehicles face the same infrastructure problems that plagued PEVs early on, there are some key differences between the two technologies that could bode well for hydrogen-powered cars in the long run.
For starters, the refueling process is much faster with hydrogen than it is for electric vehicles. Additionally, hydrogen-powered cars can offer the range of a standard automobile, while combining the environmentally friendly aspects that come with an electric car. It’s a big selling point for the technology since one of the primary complaints of electric vehicle owners is its limited range.
According to Green Car Reports, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai are currently working on producing a fuel cell for autos that they hope will put hydrogen powered cars on U.S. roads, and consumers behind the wheel, within the next two years.
The Benefits of Hydrogen Powered Automobiles
The reason that hydrogen is such an appealing fuel source for auto manufacturers is that the oxidation of hydrogen converts its energy to electricity, resulting in only energy and water vapor. (Hydrogen cars also run on electricity, but the process is different).
A zero emission car would be a huge step for the entire auto industry as it would mean a potential path to large scale, widespread reduction of greenhouse gasses. Plug-in electric cars do produce far less emissions than a combustion engine, but how much less depends greatly on the technology used. At least with the current technology, battery packs weigh a lot more than fuel cells, which also contributes to the limited range of electric vehicles.
Alternative Fuels Data Center – The AFDC is an information hub with everything you need to know about fuel types, benefits, laws, incentives, refueling stations and more!
Fuel Economy – An interactive comparison tool that looks at and compares costs and benefits of using different fuel types.
Hydrogen Fuel – Alternative energy and fuel News, specifically as it relates to understanding the technology and understanding of hydrogen fuel cells.
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