Hydrogen: An Alternative Fuel For EVs

The world is zooming toward an electric vehicle (EV) future, but there’s an alternative power system that runs on the most common element in the universe, and its only emission is water. While EVs are the most common alternative fuel systems for cars and will likely win the race to replace gasoline and diesel vehicles - you could argue that hydrogen fuel cells are a better system.

EVs take much longer to refuel the average EV than it does a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE). When EVs finally end up in the landfill, the amount of waste is going to be huge. There is no coast-to-coast EV charging infrastructure (yet).

In addition, EV batteries require lithium and other minerals that are in increasingly tight supply and increasingly expensive. Hydrogen fuel would also need to have a charging infrastructure built.

On the other hand, you can refill a car with a hydrogen fuel cell about as quickly as you can an ordinary ICE vehicle. A kilogram of hydrogen stores much more energy than 100 kilograms of EV batteries. The inputs for hydrogen fuel are hydrogen and oxygen. The fuel cells are made with carbon, platinum, and graphite.

Hydrogen fuel does have one big drawback, though: It’s explosive like gasoline, and fuel cell cars keep it under pressure. On the other hand, the fuel cell car, Mirai, from Toyota (TM) underwent crash tests and received a five-star rating.  

So how does a hydrogen fuel work? It generates electricity from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen comes from the air all around us. The hydrogen is compressed and stored in a tank on board the car.

Drivers refill at filling stations just like they would with ICE vehicles. Unlike an EV battery, a fuel cell does create exhaust — but that exhaust is what you always get when hydrogen and oxygen react: water.

Still, EVs are taking a huge lead in this race. Hydrogen fuel cell EVs — or FCEVs — are very few. Toyota, Hyundai (HYMTF) and Honda (HMC) make one model each.

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