Vehicles powered by hydrogen are in our not-so-distant future

hydrogenLast month’s blog series was about electric and hybrid vehicles.  Although using electricity to fuel vehicles is becoming increasingly popular because of its fuel efficiency and limited environmental impact, there are many other ways to fuel a vehicle to achieve these benefits, such as with a hydrogen fuel cell.  Vehicles using this technology are called fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).  They generate electricity after a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, which is stored in special high-pressure tanks.

The advantages of FCEVs are that the only emissions are water vapor and heat, and hydrogen is a sustainable resource.  Also, compared to electric vehicles, FCEVs have a range closer to combustion engine vehicles (190 to 240 miles) and fueling time is comparable to filling up a gasoline tank.  However, the hydrogen cells per unit cost $350,000, making these cars too expensive for the average car buyer. 

Because of this, the existence of hydrogen cars on roadways did not seem to be a likely possibility in the near future.  However, Ford recently partnered with Nissan and Daimler in a three-way agreement for joint development of a common fuel cell system to put affordable fuel cell electric vehicles on the road as early as 2017, though they won’t be very popular and commercially viable until around 2025.  The companies plan over time to build a combined 100,000 vehicles powered by the technology. All three companies have spent sixty years working on this technology and have already developed demonstration vehicles, so there has already been a lot of progress made on the development of this technology.

This partnership will allow the companies to share the development and engineering costs, speed innovation to market, and offer the vehicles at a lower cost to customers.  Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president for global product development, says, “We will all benefit from this relationship, as the resulting solution will be better than any one company working alone.”

Sources: businessweek, usnews

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