Monday, January 30, 2012

Hydrogen Cars: Vehicles of the Future

      Hydrogen cars are vehicles that use hydrogen powered fuel cells instead of gasoline. These cars are environmentally friendly, as the only emissions they produce are heat and water (normally in the from of steam). So why doesn't everyone use these Eco-friendly cars?

      One reason is that making these cars can be very expensive, and building refueling stations for them even more so. The fuel cells in a hydrogen car contain platinum, which is very costly. A single cell hydrogen car currently costs $100,000 or more. Those who are less than optimistic have estimated the cost for building an infrastructure that will allow a significant number of hydrogen cars to be as high as $500,000,000,000, and that it might take four decades for it to be complete.

      Another issue with hydrogen is that it is highly flammable and is difficult to store. Since Hydrogen is a gas, it expands significantly with heat. Therefore, a car filled with hydrogen fuel sitting in the sun will have to vent some of the hydrogen. A car that is left like this will eventually have no fuel left. Hydrogen is also extremely flammable and is believed to be the cause for the explosion of the Hindenburg.

      The third reason hydrogen may not be ideal is that it may not be as Eco-friendly as we think it is. There are two ways to produce hydrogen. One is to extract it from water and the other is to extract from a natural gas. The process used to remove hydrogen from water is called electrolysis. In this method, an electric current is run through the water, separating the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The problem with using electrolysis is that much of the electricity used is produced by burning coal, which is causes pollution. The other way to get hydrogen, extracting it from natural gas, produces carbon as a bi-product, which is what we are trying to get rid of in the first place.

      But what if we were able to find a way around these obstacles? Like using solar power instead of burning coal or finding a less expensive metal that can replace the platinum in fuel cells? At this very moment, experts are coming up with new ideas to make the hydrogen car more realistic, but it could be decades before an effective way of creating this vehicle is found, and decades more before it is put into action.

Please comment on this post if you have any ideas whatsoever on ways that might help the hydrogen car become a reality. Here is a link to an article that further discusses hydrogen cars and how they work.

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