Hydrogen cars: what’s it all about?

There are always ways in which we can improve emissions and efficiency in the car market. There have been improvements with diesel and petrol engines, with things like eco-signature ranges, and there have also been hybrid engines, which eventually led to electric vehicles.

But what’s the next step?

Many think that hydrogen fuelled cars are the next step in tackling emissions as they offer the advantages of electrical vehicles and more.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been in the automotive pipeline for years now, decades actually. The idea of hydrogen fuel cars proposes that hydrogen gas powers the car completely with zero tailpipe emissions and the only bi-product being water.

Basically, a hydrogen fuel cell (electrochemical energy conversion device) converts oxygen and water into electrical energy, which powers the car. Also, as opposed to a car battery which uses chemicals and eventually goes dead, a fuel cell keeps chemicals running constantly so it doesn’t goes dead. This means that things like fossil fuel emissions are cancelled out.

However, ironically, some say that as hydrogen gas is very hard to produce and that fossil fuels may actually be required to produce sufficient energy needed. Cost also comes into play here as it is very expensive to produce.

There is of course the danger that hydrogen is unstable and may explode, not as bad as the Hindenburg of course, but you get the idea. Although this is the case, hydrogen storage methods like carbon fibre tanks are very strong and reliable.

As hydrogen fuel cell technology is still in the early stages of development, it is literally a case of trial and error to find out if the pro’s really do weigh out the con’s in terms of cost, efficiency and safety.

However, car manufacturers are confident the technology will soon be viable and affordable. This week the government announced a plan to roll out hydrogen vehicles and refuelling infrastructure in the UK.

A total of 13 automotive companies, energy providers and other interested parties have teamed up to plan for a 2014/15 introduction of hydrogen energy.

Of course, the most important aspect would be the introduction of cars and Vauxhall has this week introduced its fourth generation hydrogen car, the HydroGen4, which is currently being tested worldwide.

Vauxhall plans to introduce a hydrogen car by 2016, putting a date on what could be the biggest leap forward in green technology the automotive industry has ever seen.