Throughout our blogs, we have established that IC engine dominance in our roads is coming to an end. I know it is a tough one to digest but looking at the policies and strategies made by automobile giants and governments all around the world, the message is pretty loud and clear.
Though it is expected to have EV dominance in our highways and cities, a strong opponent is competing for the market share.
Upon hearing the term ‘Hydrogen-Powered Car’ for the first time, I assumed it to be like a gasoline car with a few changes. The idea of rockets being powered using hydrogen fuel was the reason behind my assumption (Somehow burning the Hydrogen inside the cylinders like gasoline) and I believe it was the same for most of us.
The working of a hydrogen car and a rocket differ much in principle and operation.
Let us take a look at how hydrogen cars are powered.
How Does A Hydrogen Car Works?
A hydrogen car contains a tank that supplies high-pressure hydrogen gas to a fuel cell, which then reacts with oxygen. This initiates an electrochemical reaction, which generates energy, and is used to power the electric motor. As a result, hydrogen cars have features of both electric and traditional gasoline automobiles that is, it has a fuel tank and an electric motor.
Fuel cells are the heart of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Consider them the maestro of all the operations that take place within the car for it to have the energy to drive. Vaguely stated, fuel cells convert stored hydrogen gas into energy by combining it with oxygen.
Now let us look into few unique characteristics of hydrogen cars that makes them a potential opponent to electric cars.
What Makes Hydrogen Car A Worthy Opponent to Electric Car?
One might say that a Hydrogen car leads where an electric car lags. Yes, I am talking about the charging time and the range. Because hydrogen cars have a tightly packed energy storage system, they can often go greater distances. While most fully electric vehicles have a range of 100-200 miles on a single charge, hydrogen cars have a range of 300 miles.
The time it takes to pump hydrogen into a tank is far more intriguing than the time it takes to charge an electric automobile (5 to 10 minutes, exactly like any other gasoline car). While Tesla’s fast chargers (with 120 kW) can charge batteries to 80%capacity in half an hour, the BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf can take up to 4 or 8 hours to completely charge, respectively.
The range and the negligible fueling time are the two main advantages of hydrogen cars which gives the electric cars the competition. Yet there are several other aspects to become the predominant mobility solution.
Wait… are you saying that hydrogen cars are just comfortable and environmental as electric cars but better?
Yeah, let us talk about it
You see there are several aspects to technology to be the most sustainable and practical mobility solution and unfortunately, hydrogen cars have several hurdles to overcome to claim the name.
Hurdle No 1: The Inefficiency Of HFC
Despite the few ups, the downs are much steeper when it comes to the efficiency of HFC(Hydrogen Fuel Cell). Consider 100 watts of power generated by a renewable energy source like a wind turbine. That energy must be transformed into hydrogen, maybe by passing it through water, to power an FCEV (the electrolysis process). Since the process is only 75% efficient, around a quarter of the power is automatically lost.
Then the hydrogen must be compressed, refrigerated, and transferred to the hydrogen station, which is a 90% efficient operation. After entering the car, the hydrogen must be transformed into electricity, which is 60% efficient. Finally, the power utilized in the vehicle’s motor is around 95% efficient. Only 38% of the initial power – 38 watts out of 100 – is consumed effectively altogether.
Hurdle No 2: The Sustainability Dilemma
Yes, hydrogen fuel cells don’t emit any harmful gases themselves but the process of juicing up an HFC with energy does produce a lot of harmful gases and other byproducts. Truth be told, currently, fossil fuels account for 95% of hydrogen production.
Now that we know how hydrogen is produced and how much of it we get to use, I think it is no more a dilemma. It is official that, an electric car has a range of 300 miles and has an efficiency of 80% is far superior to a hydrogen car with the same or a couple of miles more range.
Hurdle No 3: Creating The Infrastructure
There are around 5 million active electric vehicles are on the road, and sales are rapidly increasing. This is just around 0.5% of the global total, but it’s still a long way from hydrogen, which had sold roughly 7,500 cars globally by the end of 2019. More cars mean better infrastructure and related services.
Hydrogen refueling stations are currently few, and establishing them is unlikely to be a priority during the coronavirus pandemic. Hydrogen refueling stations will require a dedicated supply chain with tankers and storage plants exactly like the gasoline network.
Remember You can charge your Electric car from your garage and it’s not quite the case with a hydrogen car.
Hey, it is not just me who thinks hydrogen cars are not yet ready to compete with electric cars.
Take a look at what the big players have to say.
The bulk of the car, bus, and, light truck market looks set to adopt (battery electric technology), which are a cheaper solution than fuel cellsBloombergNEF
The overall efficiency in the power-to-vehicle-drive energy chain is therefore only half the level of an electric vehicleBMW
The conclusion is clear, in the case of the passenger car, everything speaks in favor of the battery and practically nothing speaks in favor of hydrogenVolkswagen
The facts and figures are not in favour of hydrogen cars at least for now. There was a time when electric cars were also considered impractical but with the advancements, in technology and advanced production methods, electric vehicles have won the race over their IC engine counterparts.
Some of you might be surprised that I did not mention the safety concerns that come along with the hydrogen and its inflammable nature, it is worth remembering that gasoline is also highly flammable yet you drove your gasoline car safely.
Right now and for the years to come, electric vehicles have won the race but in the future?