Electric Vehicles

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles run on electric motors powered by fuel cells that combine oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity, which fuels the car. These fuel cells give off water and heat as exhaust, rather than CO2 and other pollutants.

They are similar to battery-electric vehicles in that both fuel cell and battery-electric cars run by an electric motor, rather than an internal combustion engine. But while electric cars use electricity from an external source and store it in a battery, fuel cell cars generate their own electricity.

Fuel cell vehicles are two to three times more efficient that cars that only burn gas, diesel, or other fuels that require the combustion engine. They are also clean, quiet, and get better gas mileage, making them a perfect environmentally friendly choice.

Unfortunately, fuel cell cars are not yet widely available today, although all the major car manufacturers are working on them and some, such as BMW, and Ford, Honda, Toyota have begun leasing them. In addition, many cars in the works are fuel cell/battery hybrids.

The biggest problem is that hydrogen isn’t actually a fuel. The energy stored in hydrogen has to be extracted to provide power, and the problem is to get that energy released without using fossil fuels.

Fuel cell cars can also run with hydrogen-rich fuels like methanol or natural gas…or even gasoline. However, those fuels must themselves be converted into hydrogen gas. Also, while giving off much less pollution than internal combustion engines, these hydrogen-rich fuels do give off some emissions.

Another major problem is storing the hydrogen in a fuel cell car since it must be kept at -455 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it in liquid form. Any warmer than that and it turns back into a gas. Current methods involve super-insulated, high- pressure tanks that can only keep the hydrogen cold enough for a matter of days. Couple this with the fact that fuel cells don’t work as well in cold weather, and you can see the problem.

But many car manufacturers are working on the problem, and fuel cell cars are already in use in Japan and California, so expect to see improvements in the near future.

Take Care,

Steve Longoria

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