American Auto Move’s Guide to Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Guide To Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Modern gasoline-fueled vehicles are a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, scientists and car makers are researching several forms of renewable energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. One of these clean-burning fuel options is the hydrogen fuel cell. A fuel cell works by using chemicals to produce electricity, in this case hydrogen. The chemicals must be supplied by an outside source, unlike a battery, but as long as the fuel cell receives more hydrogen, it will produce power. Fuel cells that use hydrogen are considered to be clean energy because they do not emit any air pollution or greenhouse gases. The only byproduct of a fuel cell is water, because hydrogen combines with oxygen during the process of making energy to power the car. Producing hydrogen for fuel cells can be achieved in an environmentally friendly manner by using algae, tomatoes or even aquatic plants.

Hydrogen fuel cells have slowly evolved since the start of the 19th century. In 1801, an English chemistry expert named Humphry Davy came up with the idea of a hydrogen-fueled cell. It wasn’t until 1839, however, that the first hydrogen fuel cell came into existence when a scientist named William Grove invented the “gas voltaic battery”. The gas voltaic battery was the first fuel cell that used hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity. Two chemists named Ludwig Mond and Charles Langer improved the output of fuel cells to 6 amps, in 1889, and gave it the name “fuel cell.” It wasn’t until over half a century later, in the 1950s, that fuel cell technology would see more development. This is when General Electric created the proton exchange membrane, a type of fuel cell that operated at lower temperatures. Their first significant use came in 1965 for NASA’s Gemini V spacecraft. An English engineer named Francis Bacon invented a 5 kilowatt hydrogen-based fuel cell that a company called Pratt & Whitney used in NASA’s Apollo Program. In 1965, the first golf carts powered by hydrogen cells were built by a company called Allis-Chalmers. The United States Navy also started using hydrogen fuel cell technology in their submarines starting in the 1980s, and industries began using large, immobile fuel cells in factories in the next decade. Large fuel cells became available for backup power at the start of the 21st century, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California at the time, made hydrogen fuel cell technology a household term when he took a ride in a fuel cell-powered Hummer in 2004. Car manufacturer Honda began building the Honda FCX, a line of cars that ran on fuel cells in 2007. The production run was only around 20 cars, however, and they were intended to be a test run. In 2009, fuel cells became miniaturized in the form of micro combined heat and power (microCHP) units for residential use, primarily in Japan. In 2009, Vision Motor Corp was the first to produce the Tyrano, a hydrogen-powered big rig with a potential range of 380 miles. Toyota is also developing a fuel cell-powered car to be released in 2015.

When it comes to the transportation and automotive industry, hydrogen-based fuel cell technology is still in the experimental phase. So far only a few vehicles exist that use hydrogen fuel cells, and access to these automobiles is chiefly restricted to government entities such as the city of San Francisco. Scientists and engineers are still working out safety issues concerning the storage of hydrogen, since it is potentially more dangerous than gasoline in the case of an explosion. Clean, environmentally friendly production of hydrogen itself is another issue. The most important hurdle facing hydrogen fuel cell technology is the task of making it as affordable as traditional fuels such as gasoline. The most promising technology to date is a compact reactor developed by researchers in Minnesota, which turns corn-based ethanol into hydrogen.

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