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All You Wanted To Know About Hydrogen Cars...

30 January 2015, 05:41 PM

After years of research on Hydrogen as an alternative energy source for powering vehicles, some promising results have come to the attention of car buyers. Two leading Japanese automobile manufacturers Toyota and Honda will launch their new models in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Both fuel cell cars would be electric vehicles with entirely new technology used in the formation of battery.

The first question that springs up in mind is what these Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) are. Also referred to as Hydrogen cars, FCVs are electric vehicles with fuel cells as their power source. Fuel cell is a hydrogen/oxygen electrochemical cell, which has always been believed to have a potential of providing an eco-friendly future that everyone is hoping for. Fuel cells are very different from the traditional batteries. They can be refilled using Hydrogen gas. Some cells use methane and gasoline for providing energy, but they are mostly used in power plants.

FCVs look like traditional vehicles but their inside components are entirely different. Internally these vehicles contain highly advanced technology that cannot be found in present-generation vehicles. The eco-friendly cars contain power control unit, Hydrogen Storage tank, electric motor, fuel cell stack and high output battery. The hydrogen storage tank stores hydrogen gas in a compressed state at an extremely high pressure. This high pressure helps in increasing the driving range. Hydrogen from the storage tank is transferred to fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen gas and oxygen into electrical current. This electric current then travels to the electric motor and powers it. The motor propels much better power output, and also requires lesser maintenance. The high output battery provides supplemental power to the electric motor, in case the need arises. The hydrogen storage tank can be refilled with hydrogen when the need arises, and this takes much less time than the time required for refilling with petrol or diesel.

Actually, hydrogen powered green cars radiate a feeling of science fiction. Though, the technology is new, the idea is much older – older than the time when car production began. It is because of the high calorific value of hydrogen that research on hydrogen-powered vehicles began so early. But, the low weight and high instability of hydrogen was the main hurdle in this project. You can imagine the amount of destruction a leakage from hydrogen from a hydrogen storage tank could create. These issues prevented the introduction of fuel cells in modern vehicles.

Fuel cell is the main reason that makes these FCVs eco-friendly. Fuel cells utilize hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and water. Hydrogen cars have the potential to offer eco-driving, but there are still a lot of issues that remain with these hydrogen powered green cars. Finding new sources of hydrogen and prevention of leakage are some of the most common problems related to these vehicles. Unless you are lucky enough to live in very modern and wealthy areas, don’t set your hopes too high as there are still many years to come for these vehicles to become globally available. While these models can seem fancy and interesting to many, they can be a big source of destruction. So, they must be very secure and developed in the environment, which is very uncommon.

Toyota has been testing various prototypes based on fuel cells for more than 20 years. According to the company, after several tests, the fuel cell system has passed the safety mark and is ready to be used in automobile production and hit the automobile market. Carbon fibre tanks prevent any leakage and provide strength to the storage tank. The company has also used some sensors for testing any issue with the fuel cell system.

Now, it is time for some good news for Indian car enthusiasts. There are a lot of efforts done by the auto makers to make the dream of “green cars in India” come true. So, Indian customers too may have the pleasure of observing (if not driving) hydrogen powered green cars in the future. In 2013, India’s first hydrogen-powered bus was launched by joint efforts of Tata Motors and ISRO. This at least provides a ray of hope for production of green cars in India.

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