Are Hydrogen Powered Cars The Future Of The Motor Industry?

Apr 22, 2024

In the current world with high awareness of environmental concerns. It is essential to find a new sustainable source of energy to power transport with the aim of greatly reducing the carbon footprint of individuals’ transportation. 

How Do They Work?

One significant difference between hydrogen-powered vehicles and electric vehicles is that electricity is directly generated from the hydrogen power cells. While battery cells in EV’s only store electricity in their cells. Instead, hydrogen cars effectively have their own fuel cells to convert chemical energy from hydrogen onboard directly to electrical energy. Like a powerplant but in a more portable size whilst being in the vehicle.

Hydrogen Vehicle

Chemical Reaction To Convert Different Types of Energies.

The hydrogen power cell only requires two different fuels for reaction, hydrogen, and oxygen. Both are accessible with hydrogen in the fuel tank of the car and oxygen in the ambient environment in the air with more than 20% concentration. A process known as reverse electrolysis takes place to convert chemical energy in hydrogen directly into electrical energy. Both Oxygen and Hydrogen gases are injected into a solution with soluble salt of the fuel cell. With electric current passing through both anodes and cathodes of the cell, water will be produced as a product of the chemical equation 2H+ + O2- — H2O. According to the bond enthalpies of different components of this reaction, the reaction is feasible for retrieving energy from reacting hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. The reaction is calculated to be exothermic,  where this released energy can be harvested by the cell into electrical energy. The only waste or product of this reaction is water, which in this case is water vapour in a gas state.

Hydrogen Formula 1


Advantages Of Utilising Hydrogen-Powered Cells In Cars

Hydrogen-powered cars are propelled by electrical energy produced inside of the vehicle, producing almost zero pollutants to the atmosphere.

One big advantage of hydrogen-powered cars as opposed to electric vehicles is the significant reduction in time of refuelling. The required time of recharge for EVs varies on the types of chargers used. This can cause a massive inconvenience for people travelling from place to place. However, hydrogen-powered cars can refuel pure hydrogen from specially designed fuel pumps, identical to standard petrol and diesel.

Hydrogen vehicles have a similar mile range to EV’s with exceptionally large battery storage. A single hydrogen full tank in the BMW iX5 Hydrogen will take you approximately 504 kilometres. Moreover, the battery cells of hydrogen-powered cars do not depend on the temperature of the surroundings. The efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells remains constant under freezing temperatures while battery cells in EVs have a significant drop in efficiency during winter temperatures.

The introduction of Hydrogen cars can strengthen the basis of current infrastructure in meeting the increasing demand for electric charging stations for all battery Electric Vehicles. Hydrogen is also one of the most efficient ways to store and transport renewable energy, so it plays a key role in the future energy supply.

Disadvantages of Utilising Hydrogen-Powered Cells In Cars

One major disadvantage of Hydrogen is that it is massively flammable and explosive if involved in fire. Using hydrogen as a fuel will significantly rise safety concerns for the public and new radical approaches will need to be taken to reduce the additional risk of carrying flammable gas. 

Hydrogen in standard conditions is in a gas state, meaning there will be much less capacity of hydrogen in a limited volume compared to liquid. Therefore, liquidising hydrogen is required to achieve sustainable travel. However, liquifying hydrogen required either an exceptionally low temperature which is lower than –253 degrees Celcius or an extremely high pressure applied to it. Innovative methods are required to store hydrogen in a liquid state without such complications. 

In terms of finance, Hydrogen vehicles are more expensive than current EVs or petrol and diesel cars. Wide industrialisation in production is not yet fully realised. Moreover, the significant rise in demand of Platinium also contributed to the factor of the increasing cost. Platinum acts as a catalyst in electricity generation. However, the amount of platinum needed for automotive fuel cells has already been reduced. Also, platinum can be recycled through catalytic reaction to extract platinum from metal scraps or waste. Because of this, this will further reduce the cost of platinum, making hydrogen cars affordable for the public soon.