The Hydrogen Hype: Cars Or No Cars

The U.S. committed to taking a stance on addressing environmental concerns during 2003. $1.2 billion dollars was earmarked for development to begin on a hydrogen infrastructure: essentially a network of facilities running from coast-to-coast that would be responsible for production and distribution of hydrogen to power fuel cell vehicles by the hundreds of millions.

With the environment becoming such a growing concern and $720 million spent so far, the only question that we now want the answer to is “Are we getting close?” Unfortunately, every single answer comes back the same –“No”. Years of promises that gave us visions of a thriving economy in hydrogen — capable of not only supporting vehicles, but also entire neighborhoods, homes, computers, and cell phones, seems to be as far off as it ever was.

By 2030, there should be an approximate 34 percent increase in the consumption of fossil fuels across the nation, as reported by the Department of Energy. When these fossil fuels are burned, millions of tons of harmful substances, such as carbon dioxide, are released into the atmosphere. These trapped gasses heat up, and are said to be a major contributor to global warming.

The Hydrogen Hype Cars Or No CarsWhy we want hydrogen

When hydrogen is consumed however, plain, pure water is the only emission. The main drawback seems to be that hydrogen, unlike gas and oil, is not a fuel. It is a transport or storage method for energy. It has to be created before it can be used.

Transportation of fossil fuels like gas and oil are an easy matter to transport around in fuel tanks and pipelines, since they are so dense and stable. However, hydrogen brings along an array of economic and technical problems with it.

That day can’t come too soon for the U.S.’s largest three automakers, along with Nissan, BMW, Honda, and Toyota. Current cars running on fuel cells can achieve speeds of up to 132 mph, and have a 300 mile range on just 17.6 pounds of hydrogen. But without the needed critical infrastructure in place, the hydrogen economy will never be able to get off the ground.

Easily one of the modern world’s most important concerns is environmental health. With continuing issues such as global warming, all of mankind has taken up the search for safe and renewable natural resources that are capable of supporting humans for decades and decades. With the accepted belief being that the largest contributor to air pollution is gas vehicles, a true alternative must be found.

Equally accepted is the thought that we will not just be able to give up daily driving and has all of the air pollution stop immediately. So, the next best thing is preventing further damage by driving with an alternative fuel source. Enter hydrogen.

Hydrogen Cars Concept

Many studies and plenty of research have gone into scientists saying that hydrogen cars are a better choice than conventional models. Some of the reasons are obvious to even the least science minded among us. But what exactly are these cars? What are the pros and the cons of hydrogen cars?

The Pros and The Cons

Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages to using hydrogen as a fuel in cars, and to help understand the concepts behind it:

Pros

  • No threat to the environment is posed since hydrogen cars are eco-friendly.
  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable and limited. Hydrogen is available in vast amounts and there will never be any worries about it becoming depleted.
  • For cars that use hydrogen fuel cells, ninety to ninety-five percent of the energy generated transforms into electrical energy, further making these cars even more efficient.
  • Even long-haul and large size vehicles will greatly benefit from the use of hydrogen.
  • There is no release of harmful gasses as a by-product. This works in favor of less air pollution as well, since there is only a small amount of heat and water that come out as by-products.
  • Per kilogram of hydrogen, mileage should be around sixty miles on average.

Cons

  • It is quite expensive to construct each individual fuel cell. The main reason for the cost is the need for platinum, which is expensive and hard to find.
  • In the event that there was any damage done to the fuel cell, the repair cost would be on the high side. Maintenance is also expected to be a fair bit higher than for a traditional vehicle.
  • Ones of the common concerns heard is regarding storage. Due to the fact that hydrogen is a highly flammable material, there is a true risk to a full car explosion even if involved in only a minor collision with another heavy object, such as a vehicle, garage door, etc.
  • There are some restrictions on temperature for hydrogen powered vehicles to perform at their optimum levels. For example, if you live in an area with cold winters and the ambient temperature falls below zero, there is the potential for the water to freeze in the fuel cells.
  • If you are the type of driver who looks for, and enjoys the feeling of speed and pick-up, you will be overly disappointed with how the hydrogen cars perform.
  • There are currently no fueling stations that are easily available for hydrogen. Unlike gas stations that can be found on almost every street corner, and a stone’s throw away from the interstate, hydrogen fueling stations are few and far between. This could cause real problems if your route and miles have not been planned right down to the last pound of hydrogen.

It is going to take plenty of time and effort, and almost unspeakable amounts of money to build the type of infrastructure that we are going to need in order to see hydrogen cars becoming the big boy on the playground.

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