PostHeaderIcon Challenges of Making the Fuel Cell Vehicle Successful

The potential success rate of fuel cell vehicles may appear to be slim due to the various challenges that must be overcome in order for fuel cell vehicles to make decent alternatives. Safety is one of the challenges that fuel cell vehicles must conquer. Many fuels generally come with safety risks, but hydrogen will be a relatively new source of fuel for both consumers and developers. Consumers need to learn about how to properly handle compressed hydrogen, while learning of its attributes. Overall, both parties must use the hydrogen with caution, just as they would with any other type of fuel.

The fuel cell vehicle’s cost is another obstacle in the path towards success. Currently, fuel cell vehicles are too expensive to purchase for most consumers. Therefore, the vehicle will only be available to those that can afford it, essentially decreasing the potential demand for the vehicle. Although the production costs are related to the costs directed towards the consumers, the price of fuel cell vehicles are still too high to successfully compete with hybrids and gasoline vehicles. Within such a competitive market, prices that are too costly will be overlooked.

The durability of the fuel cell vehicle’s system is also a challenge that producers must exceed. Right now, fuel cell vehicles do not perform as well in very low and high temperatures as a combustion engine would. The system of the fuel cell vehicle needs to reach a certain temperature before it can work correctly. Although they are able to crank up in temperatures below zero, there are still many concerns pertaining to the performance of the fuel cell’s system in extreme weather. As a result, the reliability of the fuel cell vehicle is substantially lower than the other various vehicles that are available on the market.

The hydrogen storage of a fuel cell vehicle may be another concern. Hydrogen gas does not contain as much energy as gasoline does in capacity. Consequently, it is rendered difficult to store enough fuel for a long distance in a normal-sized tank. Compared to vehicles that use gasoline, a fuel cell vehicle would not be able to travel as far without pausing to refuel along the way (with a regular full-sized tank). Despite that there are three ways to store hydrogen, most of the storage systems on fuel cell vehicles are too broad, heavy and expensive to obtain.

PostHeaderIcon The Honda FC-X Clarity, a fuel cell car running on hydrogen

PostHeaderIcon Hyundai KIA fuel cell car crosses Denmark as first electric car ever

PostHeaderIcon Brief History of Fuel Cell Cars

Fuel cells are not a modern development, at least not in terms of the basics. An engineering professor at Cambridge, Francis Bacon, modified older equipment in developing the first AFC in 1932. By 1959, he had demonstrated a fuel cell system that was practical. In the 1960’s, GM experimented with a hydrogen fuel cell, and Shell worked to develop the DMFC, using liquid fuel.

During the oil crisis of the 1970’s, work was done on producing engines that were hydrogen-fueled. By 1979, most automobile manufacturers had demonstration models of hydrogen-fueled FC vehicles.

In the 1980’s and more so in the 1990’s, companies worked on developing fuel cells specifically for cars. Car-makers responded to increased emission control legislation by investing time and money in research of proton exchange membrane fuel cells, known as PEMFC’s.

In the 2000’s, consumers and government agencies have expressed more concern over carbon dioxide emissions, and the attention of researchers has turned to cars that can make use of fuel cell technologies to reduce the way the auto industry, as well as others, depend on fossil fuels, many of which have to be imported.

The last decade has seen more funding for research into fuel cells, and steps have been taken to make the cost of using fuel cells more competitive with other technologies for vehicles. Fuel cells can conceivably allow automobile drivers to enjoy longer run-time, simpler re-fueling and greater efficiency, when comparing these to the battery and gas engines use today. Fuel cells began to be seen in buses, and this technology has worked well for them, since they run on a set route and hydrogen recharging bases can be stationed along their routes.

The further dependence on fossil fuels can be reduced through the use of fuel cell vehicles, and the research is ongoing, to that end. These vehicles also aid in lowering emissions that are believed to be contributing to global climate change. Since FCV’s are fueled by hydrogen and not gasoline, they do not produce emissions that are harmful. The hydrogen-fueled electric motors in FCV’s are clean and efficient, and they may well be the future of automobiles.

PostHeaderIcon Components of a Fuel Cell Car

Fuel cell vehicles, also known as FCVs, are being developed with the goal of reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil and the over-use of our own fossil fuels. The lower emissions of FCVs will also aid in the reduction of the problems we may be causing with regards to climate change. Since FCVs run on hydrogen gas instead of the gasoline we use now, they don’t give off tailpipe emissions that are harmful. There are some challenges that must be met before FCVs will be able to compete for the consumer dollar with conventional cars, but there are many potential benefits to this type of technology.

The powertrains of FCVs must be reliable, and result in similar overall costs to the consumer, as compared to conventional vehicles. They will use a hydrogen storage tank, to be refilled at special stations, which stores the gas at a high rate of pressure, helping to increase the range of the vehicle.

The power control unit will determine the rate of flow of electricity to the vehicle, and a fuel cell stack will convert oxygen and hydrogen gas into all the electricity you’ll need to power the electric motor. This will provide efficient energy so that the fuel cell system will give proper output, at normal and peak power.

The electric motor itself is capable of allowing the vehicle to operate more efficiently than internal combustion engines. FCVs will also have a smoother and quieter ride. The full power system will be built to deliver a set amount of power continuously, to all the electric systems, including the fuel cell, controllers and electric motor.

The battery is a high-output model that will store energy that is generated from re-generated braking. This will give the electric motor extra power, as needed. The full system will include a fuel reformer, and the efficiency should be 45% operating at peak power.

From the outside, FCVs may look a lot like conventional vehicles, but their advanced components cannot be found on the cars of today. The components described above will work together to convert oxygen from air and hydrogen gas that is stored onboard into electricity, which will power the motor that will propel the vehicle.

PostHeaderIcon Benefits of Fuel Cell Cars

Fuel cell cars are cars that are powered by hydrogen gas rather than gasoline. The cars are still mostly experimental and are not yet for sale in the United States as of 2012. Though they have drawbacks, they also have many benefits that will be realized by drivers once they become widely available.

Fewer Emissions
Traditional automobiles, with their combustion engines that rely on oil and gasoline, spew a toxic mix of substances into the atmosphere. These substances, which include gases such as carbon dioxide, contribute to smog and have been implicated as a cause of global warming. Fuel cell vehicles produce no such emissions, because hydrogen burns clean. The only things that come out of the tailpipe of a fuel cell car are heat and water. There are some greenhouse gases emitted in the production of hydrogen, but they are far fewer than those emitted by traditional automobiles.

Lower Insurance Rates
Yes it is true that some companies offer insurance discounts for cars that are friendly to the environment. So it the lower fuel costs don’t excite you then perhaps lower insurance will. Its not hard to find these companies. Just do a search for discounts on hybrids for example. Some of the companies offering these discounts are Travelers, Cheapautoinsurance, and Geico.

Less Reliance on Oil
Because fuel cell cars do not need oil and gasoline, their widespread use would lessen the U.S.’s need for costly imported oil. Despite new sources of domestic oil that have been discovered in recent years, the U.S. still gets most of its oil from foreign sources, many of which are not particularly friendly. Also, oil prices have been skyrocketing in recent years, making gasoline more and more expensive. In contrast, hydrogen production requires fuels that are relatively cheap and abundant in the U.S.: coal, natural gas and water.

Better Fuel Economy
Fuel cell cars have much better fuel economy than traditional automobiles or even gas-electric hybrid vehicles. Because fuel cell cars are not yet available in the U.S., they have not gone through traditional fuel economy testing done by the Environmental Protection Agency, but the U.S. Department of Energy has given fuel economy estimates for a couple of models. The department estimates that the 2012 Honda FCX Clarity will get 60 miles to the gallon in both city and highway driving. The estimate for the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell is 52 miles in the city and 53 miles for highway driving. These estimates are well above what even the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars get and are slightly higher than most hybrids.

PostHeaderIcon How Fuel Cell Vehicles Work

Fuel cell vehicles are automobiles that run off of hydrogen gas. They operate quite differently than traditional automobiles.

Traditional automobiles use gasoline and oil to power an internal combustion engine to move the vehicle. Fuel cell vehicles instead have fuel cell stacks that use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to create electricity to power the vehicle.

The way the fuel cell works is that hydrogen from a storage tank enters one side of the cell through an anode, while oxygen from the air enters the cell from the other side through a cathode. A platinum catalysts breaks the hydrogen into positively charged ions, called protons, and electrons, which carry a negative charge. The protons pass through a polymer electrolyte membrane to the cathode, while the negatively charged electrons instead travel along a circuit to the cathode, producing electricity. The positively charged ions and the negatively charged electrons then mix with oxygen and produce water as a byproduct.

The electricity generated in the fuel cell is very small, which is why the fuel cells must be stacked to produce enough electricity to power the vehicle.

The electricity flows though a power control unit to the electric motor, which then provides the power to move the vehicle.

Fuel cell vehicles, much like their hybrid and plug-in electric counterparts, also have a battery that stores energy from regenerative braking, which can then be used as supplemental power to assist the electric engine in powering the vehicle.

Because of their use of hydrogen to produce electricity, fuel cell vehicles do not produce the harmful emissions that gasoline-powered engines do. Cars powered by those types of engines spew out a toxic mix of greenhouse gases and chemicals. The only things that come out of a fuel cell vehicle’s tailpipe is heat and water.

Due to their efficient use of the electricity created by the hydrogen, fuel cell cars get very good gas mileage, around 50 to 60 miles per gallon depending on the model. This is much better than traditional vehicles and moderately better than hybrid vehicles. Plug-in electric vehicles get even better gas mileage.