The automotive world continues to explore alternative fuel sources of renewable energy for the future, which brings us to talking about hydrogen fuel cells.
Hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen as fuel and a process that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical energy and water. These fuel cells can be used in vehicles, and the only exhaust coming out of the tailpipe is water vapor. This means a hydrogen-powered vehicle is just as clean for the environment as an electric vehicle. Both offer zero emissions, but it seems the automotive industry is moving toward electricity and not hydrogen as a fuel source.
5 Pros of Using Hydrogen
1. Renewable and Abundant
The most abundant element in the Universe is hydrogen. Even with the argument that its hard to extract from water, this element is readily abundant and could easily be a renewable source of energy. We don’t need to burn coal to produce hydrogen, which is something that must be done to produce electricity in many areas. The abundance of this element makes us wonder why the auto industry hasn’t embraced hydrogen the same way they have electricity.
2. Density Provides More Power and Efficiency
The high-density operation of hydrogen fuel cells offers an excellent source of energy with impressive levels of efficiency. This element has the highest energy content of any common fuel by weight. Liquid hydrogen as nearly three times the energy density of diesel and liquid nitrogen, making hydrogen more useful and powerful. Doesn’t this comparison show us that we should be using hydrogen to fuel are cars rather than turning to electricity?
3. No Emissions; No Carbon Footprint
With only water vapor coming out of the exhaust port, a hydrogen-powered vehicle is just as clean-burning and environmentally friendly as an electric vehicle. Hydrogen vehicles don’t generate any greenhouse gas emissions, making hydrogen much better than fossil fuels. This means these cars are much better for the environment and have no carbon footprint when in use.
4. Charging Time Compared to Refueling with Hydrogen
Its no secret that electric vehicles take a long time to charge. Even models that charge in thirty minutes to a specified charging level take a while compared to filling a gas tank. Refueling vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells can be filled up at the same rate as a gas tank. This means you’ll only spend five minutes filling the tank rather than plugging the vehicle in for hours at a time. Also, when compared to an EV, the hydrogen tank can be filled to its full level at the stations while EVs require overnight to refill back to 100%. This means a hydrogen vehicle could be easy to drive on road trips.
5. Hydrogen Offers Long Driving Times Unaffected by Temperatures
Electric vehicles have battery cells that are temperature dependent. If its too hot or too cold, these batteries won’t offer maximum levels of driving range. Hydrogen vehicles don’t face this same problem. They are not impacted by the outside temperature and cold weather doesn’t change the driving range of a vehicle powered by hydrogen. These cars can drive nearly as long as their gasoline counterparts, making hydrogen vehicles an excellent choice.
With so many positives, we wonder what the negatives are and why hydrogen isn’t being used as extensively as electricity.
Cons of Using Hydrogen
1. Hydrogen Extraction is Difficult
Using hydrogen, much like using electricity, won’t push us completely away from our dependence on fossil fuels. This element might be the most abundant, but it doesn’t exist on its own. Hydrogen must be extracted from water via electrolysis or separated from carbon fossil feus. The energy for this extraction might be more than the benefits gained from the hydrogen when processed into liquid form and put in tanks to be used in vehicles.
2. The Investment is Missing
Even though some automakers have developed and proven that hydrogen fuel cells can be used in vehicles, there isn’t a widespread investment yet. Currently, electric vehicles have the political backing to have nearly every automaker working toward and electric future. We don’t know if there will be a hydrogen future as well or not. This isn’t as much a chicken and egg scenario as it is the auto industry is moving toward electricity and not hydrogen as the fuel source of choice.
3. Precious Metals Are Required
The mining process for the materials to make electric batteries has already been a hot topic for several years, adding the need for precious metals for hydrogen fuel cells would make us dizzy. Many fuel cells require platinum and iridium to work as catalysts in these cells . These items also require a water electrolyser, causing the initial cost of these vehicles to be much higher than current gasoline-powered models. This is a hurdle that could keep us from ever having widespread use of hydrogen in our vehicles.
4. Cost is a Huge Factor
As much as it would be great to fill up a gas tank with liquid hydrogen, the unit power cost of hydrogen fuel cells is currently more than many other energy sources. It might surprise you to know that per unit, hydrogen cells are more costly than solar panels. This cost is a huge barrier, much the same way the cost of electric batteries was a problem before automakers found ways to make them more affordable and bring the prices down to an acceptable level.
5. The Infrastructure isn’t Present
Wait a minute; is there an infrastructure for EVs? Yes, every home can potentially charge an electric vehicle with the right outlet and charger installed. The same isn’t true for hydrogen. Because this element would be in liquid form, it would need to be shipped to refueling stations much the same way that gasoline and diesel are transported right now. This creates an entirely new infrastructure and one that our roadways and systems might not be able to support. Electricity is much easier than hydrogen when it comes to refueling and the potential availability of charging stations in every home.
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