The challenge of meeting reduced emission targets around the world is reshaping the mobility industry and causing a paradigm shift towards new energy vehicles. And while it seems battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will make up the lion’s share of the future small car market, hydrogen fuel cell technology is expected to power larger vehicles such as buses, trains, airplanes, ships, submarines, and rockets. Indeed, NASA has already used hydrogen to launch shuttles into space.
Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity through an electromagnetic reaction resulting from the combination of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen enters at one anode (known as the electrode) and oxygen enters at the other anode (the cathode). Together, the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen produces an electric current which powers a battery. A stack of such batteries powers an electric motor within the vehicle. In a hydrogen fuel cell, there is no combustion (nothing is burned) and the only by-product is water in the form of liquid or steam. Moreover, this is a form of renewable energy that runs on a seemingly endless fuel source: hydrogen is a gas found in water – a substance that covers three-fourths of the earth’s surface.
While Western car manufacturers plow hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the next generation of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), their Asian rivals have been hyping the benefits of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Nissan have all successfully developed and introduced hydrogen cars over the past few years. Their rationale is that lithium-ion batteries add unnecessary weight to vehicles, thus reducing efficiency and range. Some FCEVs can run five times longer than their all-electric counterparts, and they require less refueling time.
Despite these benefits, there are still some major hurdles to overcome on the path towards mass adoption: Logistics and cost . . .