The New Frontier: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

(4/14/2013) Electric cars may be the future of the automotive industry. Cars like those manufactured by Tesla represent an exciting new advancement for consumers and the environment. But what do you need to know when considering an electric car? In this series, we examine key information to help you step into the future.

The electric car has come a long way in the last decade. Initially a novelty item that seemed quite futuristic, now nearly every car manufacturer has produced an electric car model. And buyers are responding, driving sales higher than they've ever been.

But at the same time, there are several roadblocks electric cars face as they make inroads in the market. Driving range concerns, battery cost and life, and other issues are causing many potentially interested buyers to hesitate. So some innovators and inventors are looking for the next new car technology, maximizing the advantages and reducing the disadvantages.

The hydrogen fuel cell car is one such example. This type of car builds on the example of the electric car, using a motor powered by electricity. However, it uses hydrogen for power instead of a battery.

Hydrogen is the smallest, lightest and most abundant element in the universe. A fuel cell using hydrogen splits apart the element, forming electricity to power the motor and steam as exhaust. It's a clean form of energy, building on the reduced environmental impact of an electric car. At the same time, this fuel-cell-powered car can travel much longer distances than typical electric vehicles before refueling, and accomplish refueling in minutes rather than hours. And fuel cells can be used in a wider variety of car types.

This type of car shows a lot of promise and potential customer interest. It's no wonder, then, that several auto manufacturers have committed to building hydrogen fuel cell cars. Hyundai has announced it will offer a fuel-cell version of the Tucson SUV by the end of 2013, and will produce up to 1,000 fuel-cell cars by 2015. Toyota and Honda announced they will release a fuel-cell car in 2015. And Ford just announced an alliance with Nissan and Daimler in which they will develop a fuel-cell system to power mass-market cars as soon as 2017.

One drawback of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is an energy-intensive process for extracting and transporting hydrogen, one which still relies on fossil fuels. And as of now, few public refueling stations exist.

The next few years could demonstrate the viability of hydrogen fuel cell cars as a true alternative for consumers.

For Additional Reading:

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Electric Vehicles vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars:



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