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Are Hydrogen Powered Vehicles the Future?

Are Hydrogen Powered Vehicles the Future?

You would be forgiven for thinking the future was purely electric. Automakers are investing billions in electric technology, battery research and production and governments are investing in charging infrastructure.

 

But hydrogen is the most common element in the universe so it’s a mistake to write it off completely.

 

The main challenge is infrastructure. Hydrogen powered vehicles cannot be refilled at home like an EV can be charged on the drive.

 

It needs specific pumps within gas stations and there aren’t that many of them.

 

Hydrogen as a fuel

 

While abundant, hydrogen isn’t freely available. It has to be extracted and then compressed. It requires a special fuel tank and a specific refuelling infrastructure to handle that gas under pressure, which is why we don’t see more of it.

 

Hydrogen powered vehicles aren’t as efficient as electric but do have other advantages.

 

Hydrogen is much less intensive to manufacture than electric cars and especially batteries for electric cars.

 

EV batteries need a whole host of exotic elements and precious metals to manufacture. While running the car itself may be green, producing it certainly is not.

 

“Lithium-ion battery production [for electric vehicles] is very energy-intensive. As an example, a 100kWh battery will give a potential range of 250 miles and, in order to produce that battery, it will take around 20 tonnes of CO2,” says Jon Hunt, a marketing manager for Toyota and head of commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

 

“A typical battery lasts for 150,000 miles, so that equates to around 83g/km of CO2. Then, when you take into account charging over that same distance, the same battery car will deliver 124g/km of CO2 over its lifetime.”

 

Not replacing EVs

 

Every automaker is investing in hydrogen to some degree or another. That isn’t to hedge against electric or to eventually replace it but to add it as an alternative.

 

Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Genesis and others are all investing in hydrogen powered vehicles alongside EV efforts and are planning to continue doing so while it’s a viable option.

 

The thought is that hydrogen could replace electric in heavy goods vehicles. The main challenge with trucks is battery size and capacity.

 

A semi drains a battery fast and there needs to be a balance between carrying enough batteries to complete a journey with weight and cargo capacity.

 

That’s where hydrogen comes in. It can use the same size tank as a gas tank and get the truck almost as far. All without loading it down with batteries or risking reducing its cargo capacity.

 

The main challenge is the same though. Lack of infrastructure.

 

Gas stations would need to carry hydrogen as well as gas or diesel and there needs to be enough production capacity to keep up with demand. That would take billions in investment and a lot of time to set it up.

 

Will we see many hydrogen fuel cell cars on our roads anytime soon? I doubt it. There simply isn’t the infrastructure there yet.

 

Will we see many hydrogen fuels cell cars in the future? I expect so. Hydrogen is plentiful, doesn’t pollute and is genuinely zero emission so I think we will see a lot more of them soon enough.

 

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