Everything you need to know about the Hydrogen Powered Car!
In 2016 Honda will be hitting a major milestone in the race to find an alternative to petrol and diesel by putting their hydrogen car on sale to the general public. This left us here at Rivervale car leasing with lots of questions ……..How does hydrogen power a car? Where does the hydrogen come from? How will a hydrogen car be different to a normal car? Is a Hydrogen car greener than an electric car? We went on a mission to find out all the answers and found all the sciencey words you can impress your friends with ………………..
The Science Bit!
A hydrogen fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity which can then power the car. In cars a Polymer Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell is used, they are small and light so perfect for the job! They contain 2 electrodes; a negatively charged anode and positively charged cathode, along with a catalyst and a membrane. Hydrogen is the simplest of all the elements consisting of only 1 electron and 1 proton. In the fuel cell hydrogen molecules made of 2 hydrogen atoms are forced into the cell at the anode, the catalyst present here breaks hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons, the protons pass through the membrane but the electrons go round and this movement creates a flow of electricity. The other side of the membrane the protons and electrons meet up again at the cathode where oxygen is also being pumped in – this creates the by-product of water where the hydrogen and oxygen combine. The more fuel cells that are stacked the larger the voltage of electricity the stack produces.
The Honda FCX
Hydrogen vehicles are being seen as the next step in environmentally friendly vehicles - they power an electric motor in the same way a battery would, but instead of a battery is hydrogen gas in a tank that can be refuelled. The advantage of this is that people will be able to fill up their hydrogen tank in the same way we fill up with petrol or diesel now, it will take between 3 and 5 minutes to refuel. In comparison an electric vehicle has a lengthy charge time.
The range of hydrogen vehicles is also much better – the new Honda FCX is capable of travelling 300 miles compared to the average 75 miles of an electric vehicle. Also the more fuel cells the more power so hydrogen as a fuel source can power much bigger vehicles.
Good news for the environment is the only waste products are heat and water. Water is released from the vehicle as a dribble underneath the car and you can make this surplus be shed by pressing the H2O button on the dash. Don’t worry you won’t be trying to save the planet but actually creating more floods the amount of water released is tiny – from 300 miles only around half a bottle of water would be produced.
There are some problems with hydrogen as a fuel source though …..Firstly its very very flammable so great care need to be taken! Secondly although hydrogen is the most abundant element on the earth it is really light so on its own would float away. The only way we see it on earth is when its attached to something else for example water – this means to use it we first have to separate it which can be a lengthy and expensive process. To add to the expense the favourite catalyst to use in fuel cells is platinum which is very expensive hence the reason fuel cars until now had only been available to lease! Add to these problems the fact that the infrastructure is not in place to support hydrogen vehicles – for people to drive them we need refilling stations everywhere like we find petrol stations.
Despite all of these problems Honda hope the FCX will break down barriers to alternative fuels in the same way the Prius did. The FCX will initially be released in Japan closely followed by released in the US and Europe prices are expected to be around £52,000, it’s pricey but in the event of an emergency your hydrogen car could also power your home as it has an external power feeder!
The comments above do not necessarily reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.
25 November 2014
Written by Rivervale