How Hydrogen Cars Work and Developments of Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Technologies around the world keep changing and therefore automakers around the world look out for various options that can allow them to make the most of the technologies that they can use to improve the performance of the vehicles. While conventional cars still rule the automobile sector, hybrids and hydrogen based cars have entered the arena and there are many buyers that look out for such cars in the market.

Car makers around the world are now focusing on hydrogen that can provide the fuel to the vehicles. Although, hydrogen cars are expensive some people do look out for such cars that can allow them to save money and environment. Hydrogen cars are relatively new to the market at the moment because there are very few automakers that are coming up with hydrogen based cars but some experts believe that in the next two or three decades most consumers will switch over to hydrogen based cars which will be high performance and fuel efficient.


What are Hydrogen Fuel Cells?

Hydrogen fuel cells remain the most important part for any hydrogen based vehicle and therefore most auto makers look out for the quality of hydrogen fuel cells that they can used in the hydrogen cars that they make. So, what does hydrogen fuel cells do that makes the car run on the roads? Hydrogen fuel cells are not new as they were discovered in 1839 by Welsh scientist Sir William Robert Grave. Hydrogen fuel cells have simple work method that uses electrochemical process to produce hydrogen from water using simple electricity. It also uses the same process to do the reverse and generates electricity and water from hydrogen. In earlier times the same batteries were called gas voltaic batteries but modern scientists calls it hydrogen fuel cells.

How Hydrogen Fuel Cells Work?

However, things have improvised today and after General Electric many auto makers have decided to make use of these hydrogen fuel cells that can be used in various cars. However, there is a difference in the fuel cells that were used earlier and the ones that are used in the cars now. The hydrogen fuel cells that are used in cars now are usually called PEM fuel cell also known as Polymer Exchange Membrane fuel cell. The biggest advantage of these fuel cells is that they are lighter and smaller than the earlier versions and therefore they can fit well inside the small car. These fuel cells have two electrodes, a negatively charged anode and positively charged cathode. It also has a catalysts and a membrane.


Hydrogen is forced into the fuel cell through anode in form of H2 molecules which contains two hydrogen atoms. The catalysts break the molecules into hydrogen ions which are also called as protons and flow of electricity also known as electrons. The membrane absorbs most of the ions which are protons but electrons need to go through the fuel cell. Similarly oxygen is forced into the fuel cell at cathode and once again protons and electrons unite. Once they unite they form water which is sucked up by the fuel cell’s exhaust. Today, most of the fuel cells that are made are very thin and light and therefore auto makers look out for stacking up more fuel cells that can allow them to improve the overall performance of the car. If the car has more fuel cells it will be able to generate more electricity which will directly affect the performance of the car.

Developments in Hydrogen Fuel Cells

However, there are lots of developments that are still needed in the field of hydrogen based cars because in some cases the cars still have to make use of fossil fuels especially to get hydrogen in natural gas state and that is done through steam reformation which does require some amount of fossil fuels. Some of the experts debate that using fossil fuels to get hydrogen is not the solution to avoid depleting fossil fuel reserves because the car owners will still have to make use of various fossil fuel options. Electrolysis process is something that most car companies are focusing on but the entire process is too slow and that will affect the overall performance of the car. At the moment the cost of hydrogen cars and the cost of creating hydrogen gas is the biggest challenge for most automakers but that will be taken care of as more and more research and development happens in the field of automobiles.

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Published on: January 31, 2013

Filled Under: Hybrid Cars

Views: 4355


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