What are Hydrogen fuel cell cars/vehicles? Hydrogen can be used to power vehicles in two ways. It can be burned using a hydrogen internal combustion engine (sometimes called an H2ICE), which is basically a modified gasoline engine. It can also be used in a fuel cell.
Unlike a traditional car engine, a fuel cell does not burn fuel and has few moving parts. Inside the fuel cell, a chemical reaction takes place that converts the chemical energy of a fuel into electricity. Fuel cells are a little bit like batteries, except that you never have to charge them. To keep them operating, all you do is provide a constant supply of fuel. For automobiles, that fuel is hydrogen.
Fuel cell cars can be refueled in about 5 minutes, just like today's cars. And just like a common hybrid, the fuel cell car stores energy captured during braking and deceleration in a battery to improve efficiency.
Hydrogen fuel cell
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are zero emission and run on compressed hydrogen fed into a fuel cell "stack" that produces electricity to power the vehicle. A fuel cell can be used in combination with an electric motor to drive a vehicle – quietly, powerfully and cleanly.
How It Works
An individual fuel cell consists of two electrodes, one positively charged (cathode) and one negatively charged (anode), with a substance that conducts electricity (electrolyte) sandwiched between them. Oxygen from the air passes over the cathode and hydrogen over the anode, generating electricity and water. The hydrogen fuel for a fuel cell electric vehicle can be supplied in several ways. Most vehicles carry a tank of pure hydrogen. Individual fuel cells must be combined into groups called fuel cell stacks in order to achieve the necessary power required for motor vehicle applications.
Most automakers have placed fuel cell vehicles with customers, and many plan to introduce fuel cell vehicles to the early commercial market around 2015. Transit agencies have been operating fuel cell buses in revenue service and are moving to next-generation technology. Customers have been fueling at private, fleet demonstration stations, and are awaiting a retail-ready network.
Since fuel cells and hydrogen fueling infrastructure are in the early stages of development, the cost of both the vehicles and the fuel are quite high. However, when fuel cell vehicles hit the showrooms and the fueling infrastructure is in place to meet the demand, the cost of both the fuel and the vehicles will be comparable to their gasoline counterparts.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are eligible in California for single-occupant HOV lane use .
Currently, there are over 25 research, public and private hydrogen fueling stations operating in California with several more in the planning or development stages. Below are some resources for finding fueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are quiet, very energy efficient, have zero emissions and have equivalent range and performance as their gasoline counterparts.
When operating directly with hydrogen, there are no polluting emissions and no greenhouse gases from a fuel cell – only water and heat. If the hydrogen is generated by reforming fossil fuels, some greenhouse gases are released, but much less than the amount produced by conventional vehicles. In addition to these benefits, fuel cells could dramatically reduce urban air pollution, decrease oil imports, reduce the trade deficit and produce American jobs.
The Global Warming Score for fuel cell vehicles reflects the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing the hydrogen used in these cars. Using the current adjustment factors, fuel cell vehicles have a Global Warming Score of 9. This adjustment factor will be revisited at a later date to reflect the newer state of the technology which may lead to an improved Global Warming Score for these cars.
Hydrogen can be produced from many domestic feed stocks, such as natural gas and renewable resources like water, using electrolysis. While the most common method of making hydrogen, using natural gas reformation, results in fewer smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions than traditional vehicles, California is working to increase use of renewable production sources.
The Global Warming Score for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles reflects the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing the hydrogen used in the vehicles, therefore you may notice that these vehicles receive a Global Warming Score of 9 even though they are zero emission vehicles. These adjustment factors will be revisited at a later date which may lead to an improved Global Warming Score.
Perks & Conveniences
Fuel cell engines offer a combination of the range of conventional combustion engines with low fuel consumption, minimal or no harmful emissions, low noise emissions, and the comfort of an electric vehicle.
Fuel cell cars are being developed with levels of safety, comfort, and cost comparable to those of a conventional vehicles. Like all fuels, hydrogen has energy and needs to be treated with respect. Because hydrogen is lighter than air it disperses very quickly. Manufacturers are committed to building fuel cell vehicles that meet or exceed safety standards.
As boil off, a process which is difficult to avoid. When the car is not in use for as little as one day the liquid hydrogen begins boiling off. Half the fuel is gone in eight days time. Therefore, this car is actually more efficient on the road than in parked in a garage.