With ever increasing traditional fuel prices, a trip to the petrol pump is always a cringe-worthy affair. Even with electric and hybrid technology powered vehicles readily available, the cost of motoring only seems to be going up! So is there a viable long-term alternative? Meet the new kid on the block powered by the snazzy new fuel technology, Hydrogen!
The future is here. Well, maybe! Are you tired of paying a small fortune for Petrol or Diesel? Worried about the environmental impact of fossil fuels? Fear not dear reader. Clean, renewable and cheap motoring is here – but it’s actually quite expensive at the moment, and it’s also hard to find, but please bear with me for a moment!
Hydrogen is what I’m talking about. Vehicles powered by a Hydrogen fuel cell. Available to purchase right now in the UK however granted, choices are limited and you’ll have to have deep pockets to purchase one! Hyundai are now offering the ix35 Fuel Cell Car, which will cost you roughly £53,000.
Toyota will release the Mirai later this year, price to be confirmed closer to its release although it is expected to be in the same ballpark as the Hyundai ix35.
Given the incredibly high purchase price can these cars really be a viable motoring alternative for the future?
Well, most people accept that oil is a finite resource which will eventually run out, which means an alternate fuel to power our vehicles has to be found.
We already have several Hybrid options that reduce the consumption of fossil fuels but still require some petrol or diesel to function, and in my opinion, these feel more like a stepping stone to an alternate format rather than a solution. Fully electric powered cars are also available to the consumer, but with very limited range, excessive charge times, and a scarcity of charging points outside of the city, it’s highly unlikely that they will become anything more than a niche speciality vehicle.
So! We know our oil will eventually run out rendering our current petrol and diesel powered vehicles useless. Fully electric vehicles aren’t practical to meet for the needs of the wider motoring community, and Hybrids are still dependant on traditional fuels as part of their power source.
Could these hydrogen cars be the answer?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars generate their power from the most abundant resource in the known universe, Hydrogen. So no fear that the fuel source will run out any time soon.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is an element with the chemical symbol H and atomic number 1. Hydrogen is the lightest element on the periodic table and is considered to be the most abundant chemical substance in the universe.
How do Hydrogen fuel cell cars work?
Hydrogen gas is pumped into the vehicle hydrogen tanks where it is stored under high pressure (up to 10,000 psi) in one or more cylinders mounted in the vehicle. The hydrogen travels from the storage cylinders, along with standard air to the fuel cell stack.
Once at the fuel cell, the hydrogen gas goes through a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air, and this generates an electric current to power the vehicle. The only byproduct of this reaction is water which exits through the vehicle’s exhaust pipe.
Is it safe?
Hydrogen is a very explosive element. However hydrogen is 16 times lighter than air meaning if a leak does occur it will dissipate instantly into the surrounding air. By comparison if petrol or diesel leaks, both can pool under the vehicle creating a fire risk.
The hydrogen storage tanks used in fuel cell vehicles are presently made from carbon fibre, and have to undergo stringent crash and even ballistics tests. Current indications are that fuel cell vehicles in their current format are safer than conventionally fuelled vehicles.
Where can I get Hydrogen from?
Presently the short answer is hardy anywhere, currently only a handful of hydrogen filling stations are operational in the UK due to the hydrogen fuelling infrastructure being in it’s infancy. However, each vehicle sold increases the demand for hydrogen. This will increase demand and it’s inevitable that more and more filling stations will open.
Now granted it won’t happen overnight, but I wonder how common a sight a hydrogen filling station will be by 2020?
So is hydrogen the future?
It’s abundant and usable, and we know how to harness it’s energy potential. It’s also renewable, and if produced in the right way has little to no impact on the environment. Whether it’s the motoring energy of the future then only time will tell, however hydrogen power is a very bright positive glow on the motoring horizon.