Fuel Cell Vehicles – do we really need to switch all cars to hydrogen?

Fuel Cell Vehicles or a fuel cell electric vehicles are among the general public better known under a trivial name - „hydrogen cars“. But how they really work? How is the hydrogen used to power the car? The hydrogen is often called as the „fuel of the future“ and in this article we would like to present you when the future will become our present.

Most of our present cars today is still using so called conventional fuels (gasoline, diesel), these fuels are burned in the combustion chamber together with an oxidizer (usually air) in so called internal combustion engine, therefore all gasoline or diesel car are generally called as an internal combustion vehicles (ICE).

Usage of the ICEs emits CO2 – carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the global warming and a climate change. Contrary to the ICEs we recognize low-emission or even zero-emission vehicles, which is simply any other car that emits less CO2 than ICE. Among these alternatives to ICE we classify: battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and finally fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV)

Types of Electric Cars and Working Principles | PT. Omazaki

Types of Electric Cars and Working Principles - PT. Omazaki
So, does it mean that hydrogen car is electric car?

Technically yes. As we can see, a FCEV is a type of electric vehicle which uses a fuel cell, instead of a battery, or in combination with a battery or supercapacitor, to power its on-board electric motor. The hydrogen is used to feed the fuel cell that generates electricity, which is then used to power the moter directly or stored in the battery. In other words, the hydrogen is not the fuel that is burned as we know it, but it rather is a „carrier of energy“.

Wait, doesn‘t this make the FCEV less effective than BEV?

Theoretically yes. The overall efficiency of FCEV is truly lower than BEV (this efficiency is often called „well to tank“ and „tank to wheel“) but that is where the „carrier of energy“ comes to the stage. The major disadvantages of batteries are their limited capacity and fast discharging rate, this means that the energy is depleted quickly and vanishes if not used immediately, allowing the BEV to drive only limited mileage. Whereas the energy stored in hydrogen will remain the same after a day, a week or a month and it can be produced in almost unlimited amounts.

What does that all mean for us? The BEVs are a perfect choice for all small cars used for personal transport on shorter commute distances on daily basis. On the other hand, the hydrogen will play an indisputable role in all vehicles that need to be used for longer range, heavier loads, wherever it is a truck, a route bus, or simply a passenger car that does not need to be recharged regularly. An overview below will explain what the perfect solution for zero-emission transport of your choice is:

Fuel Diversity and uses

So, do we really need to switch all cars to hydrogen?

The answer is no. Much more important is to understand that every alternative and new technology has their pros and cons but what they have all in common is that they bring a contribution on our mutual goal - to the zero-emission transport. We at Horizon Educational believe that the critical thinking and ability understand the full perspective is a skill that needs to be developed in all young talented students and that’s why we build our educational programs and STEM kits in order to help students grow and learn through play!

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