Hydrogen fuel cell cars

By George Garza
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Fuel cell cars
With gas prices reaching all-time highs, many people are looking for alternative cars to fit their budgets
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With gas prices rising, hydrogen-powered cars can be an alternative.

Today's gas prices are making everyone think twice about conserving energy. There are a lot of ideas out there for car-fuel economy such as hybrids, ethanol powered and hydrogen cell powered automobiles. Let's see what hydrogen fuel-cell driven cars look like.


In principle a fuel cell operates like a battery. But unlike a battery a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It will continue to produce electrical energy and heat as long as the hydrogen fuel is supplied. The one nice thing about hydrogen is that it is the most common element in the universe. So quantity is not a problem.


How a Fuel Cell Works


The fuel cell is similar to a battery in that it produces electricity. But it produces electricity using a chemical reaction involving hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is the fuel that the fuel cell uses to make electricity. Fuels containing hydrogen generally require a fuel reformer that extracts the hydrogen.


A fuel cell consists of two electrodes surrounding a liquid substance that is used to conduct electricity. This is an electrolyte. It does this by allowing atoms that have had an electron stripped off (called ions) to travel between the two electrodes, a cathode and anode. A cathode has a positive charge. An anode has a negative charge. Oxygen passes over the cathode and hydrogen over the anode. The result is that this generates electricity, with water and heat as the byproducts.


Different Types of Fuel Cells


Fuel cells can be made in a variety of sizes. They can be used to produce small amounts of electric power for devices such as portable computers or radio transmitters. They can also be used to produce power for electric power stations.


Another difference is that fuel cells do not run down like batteries. As long as the fuel and oxygen is supplied to the cell it will keep producing electricity forever.


Fuel That Can Be Used


Energy diversity and fuel cells can go hand in hand. Hydrogen can be used with a reformer. It is the most abundant element in the universe. Fuel cells can also utilize fuel containing methanol, ethanol, natural gas and even gasoline or diesel fuel.

Compared With Battery Cars


The internal-combustion cars are stage one; battery-powered cars may be stage two; but fuel-cell automobiles are stage three. They offer the advantages of  battery-powered vehicles such as quiet operation and no harmful byproducts. But they can be refueled quickly and could go longer between refueling.


All cars that will replace the internal-combustion engine must offer the same benefits including speed, affordability, a well-developed technology and a well-developed distribution system. The replacements must eliminate the problems that come with the internal-combustion engine which include the greenhouse problems and the reliance on oil domestic or foreign.


General Motors and Ford have produced studies showing that fuel-cell car engines could be built for about the same price as an internal-combustion engine. Price then is not an issue, but the technology is.


The Catch 22 Problem


So then why don't car companies produce hydrogen fuel cell cars? Because there are no hydrogen distribution centers to deliver the hydrogen needed for refueling. So then why aren't there hydrogen distribution centers? Because there are no hydrogen fuel cell cars that would use them. That's the catch 22 problem. You have to build both the cars and the distribution system at the same time.


A Possible Solution


To address this issue Honda is set to bring a hydrogen fuel cell car to market. They wil introduce a production method for hydrogen using a home energy station unit. This unit is located outside your house and reforms natural gas to produce enough hydrogen to power both the car and the home's energy needs.

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