If you are really concerned about green living, you might just be interested in finding out about companies developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars.
What Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells?
Just what are hydrogen fuel cells, and why are companies developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars? Most of you may have never heard of hydrogen fuel cells, but this term may very well apply to the car of the future. In fact, mass production of vehicles which use these fuel cells may begin in just five or six years. The United States' dependence on foreign oil suppliers and the controversy surrounding global warming has driven engineers, conservationists, and scientists to search for alternative fuels. One of the answers may be in the form of hydrogen fuel cells.
Using hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles is much like using a battery to power a car. The difference, however, is the source of the power. Batteries must be recharged from another source, namely electricity. Fuel cells, however, depend upon a chemical process, using hydrogen fuel and oxygen, to supply their power. The termcell is relevant to the process as well. Because a single cell would not emit enough power to run a vehicle, a number of cells must be used together to form a cell stack.
You may be wondering where fuels like methanol fit into the picture. While methanol and other natural gases are hydrogen rich, they must be transformed into hydrogen gas. In order to do this, a device referred to as a reformer must be used. These reformers actually remove the hydrogen gas to be used in the fuel cell.
What's the difference between using pure hydrogen and fuels that have been converted using a reformer? Companies developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars discovered that pure hydrogen does not have any pollutants. It contains only heat and water. Other fuels that are rich in hydrogen, however, still emit small amounts of pollutants and greenhouse gases. Onboard reformers must be figured into the expense of fueling a vehicle as well.
Companies Developing Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Cars
By now, you are probably wondering why companies developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars aren't well known and producing these fuel cells for vehicles in mass. The answer? There are many important issues that still must be addressed before you can walk into your local dealership and purchase a vehicle that is powered by hydrogen.
- Storage-One of the most pressing problems is the issue of where to store the hydrogen. Ideally, consumers would be able to store enough hydrogen that would be the equivalent of a tank of gas, allowing drivers to travel for a significant distance before refueling. High pressure tanks would allow consumers to store larger amounts of hydrogen, but this involves designing storage tanks which can effectively and safely handle the hydrogen and the pressure. Obviously, engineers are working furiously to resolve this issue.
- Freezing-If you live in Florida, the issue of water temperature may not be a problem, but for those who live in the North, it is a very serious issue. Water is both a byproduct and a necessity for the production of fuel cells, and the risk of freezing conditions in the winter is a very real problem that must be addressed.
- Availability-Before vehicles which use hydrogen fuel cells can be sold, an entire revamping of fuel storage and availability must be handled. In other words, gas station storage tanks and pumps must be converted to handle this type of fuel, which will take a significant amount of time and money.
- Safety-Handling pressurized hydrogen is just as serious as it sounds. Safety features and issues must be addressed before this fuel is made available to the public.
- Education-Finally, consumers must be educated on the how-to's and the advantages of using hydrogen fuel cells. As more companies look for alternative energy sources, including solar and battery powered vehicles, those who seek to promote the use of hydrogen fuel must do a more than adequate job of getting the facts out to the public. Publicity and education are necessary before cars using this type of energy will sell.