What is the car of the future?

Do we really want electricity as the sole way of propulsion in the future?

3y ago

We have seen the popularization of electric cars over the last ten years, thanks to Elon Musk, he turned electric cars, which were practically milk floats, into a viable way of travelling greener. It all sounded brilliant, it doesn’t emit any toxic gas out of its tailpipes, the car travels in silence, and because there aren’t any moving part in the ‘engine’, you won’t need a service every 5,000 miles.

However, is this the greenest way to travel? The answer, surprisingly, is no. Because there is an alternative to this electric marvel, a way where cars don’t emit anything out of the exhaust, a maintenance is not required and travels just as silently. Meet the hydrogen fuel cell cars.

When I say ‘alternative’, it’s actually just a better way of using electricity. Because - ultimately - hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars. You fill up at the hydrogen-filling station, then hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to generate electricity, and the byproduct of that is H-2-O, water. It’s basically an onboard electricity generator.

What makes it better than electric cars, is that they don’t need charging at all. You just fill the tank up with compressed hydrogen, just like what you do normally in a petrol car, and drive off after it’s filled. And after you’ve run out, you go back there and simply repeat the process. It’d only take you five minutes maximum, instead of a 30-minute charging time as you get in an electric car.

‘Why hasn’t it caught on then if it’s really that good?’ you may ask, the chief reason behind is the complete lack of infrastructure. There is only a handful of charging stations worldwide, which makes it not practical.

Also, they do cost a lot to buy. The Toyota Mirai costs £66,000, which is enough for you to buy an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio, which sounds far more interesting than a eco box by Toyota.

It is also often said that hydrogen cars are very dangerous because as we all know, hydrogen is highly flammable and very unstable.

But let’s not forget, every new technology comes with a hefty price tag, the original iPhone costs a fortune, so does the original laptop, and so does every niche thing in the market. When that niche thing turns the mass market, that’s when the cost will come down. That’s what Henry Ford did with the Model T.

And if hydrogen fuel cell cars are proved to be viable, which I don’t see why it wouldn’t, the supply and the demand for hydrogen would increase, that would surely encourage fueling stations to invest in this giant new business opportunity.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also proved to be as safe, if not safer than your humdrum Ford Focus at home, Toyota’s carbon fibre fuel tank in the Mirai has been proved to survive with minimal damage, after withstanding a 50-calibre gunshot.

George Bernard Shaw once said ‘progress depends on the unreasonable men’. And because Toyota and Honda, with the Mirai and Clarity Fuel Cell, even though they are hilariously expensive, they'd still brought them out and told the world that hydrogen fuel cell cars are fully livable, or else we’d be stuck in the stone age with petrol cars.

Remember, hydrogen is the most plentiful substance on Earth, why not use it when it’s there? If hydrogen fuel cell cars do live on, it will be the single most important car technology that is going to change the motoring industry forever.

This will be the cars of the future, because it's exactly the same as the cars of the present.

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Comments (15)

  • Two more issues with Hydrogen fuel cells to power cars. Hydrogen is not found in a pure form on Earth, it tends to bind with other elements. So some means of separating the Hydrogen atom from what ever atom it is paired with is required. Unfortunately all these methods have their down side. The cheapest and most common method, Steam Reformation, produces CO and CO2 as a by product. Most other methods are also not very environmentally friendly. Electrolysis does not produce green house gasses, so it is Carbon Neutral, However it requires more energy than the hydrogen contains. It is about 88% energy Efficient. Thus you are better off just charging up your batteries straight from the electrical grid than getting your electricity from Hydrogen.

    The other down side is that Fuel cells are not really ready for wide scale application. Some are temperature sensitive, many that are viable for use in an automobile have short life cycle, shorter than current battery technology. (about 75K miles) Some use expensive rare materials. Some can extract Hydrogen from another material, like Gasoline or Diesel, but that does little to get us off oil, and it produces green house gasses.

    Hydrogen in theory is a great source of energy. However the most likely energy use is in a Fusion Reactor. Considering the Billion degrees Kelvin Operating temperature, not Something I really want to be near while moving down the road.

    There are so many issues that need to be resolved for Hydrogen Fuel Cells to be a viable means to power your car, that in all likely hood you'll see battery technology get there before Fuel Cells do. Battery Technology at least has the demand now to help fund those obstacles, Fuel Cells do not, and that is probably the biggest issue of all.

      3 years ago
    • I think you get at the heart of the issue. Cost. I remember reading somewhere how expensive and time intensive producing hydrogen is, and the fact that it takes a lot of electricity to produce. On the surface it seems like a great...

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        3 years ago
    • What Scott said.

      The total energy equation does not favor the fuel cell.

        3 years ago
  • Does hydrogen technology requires cars to be that ugly ?

    Because if it’s so, I’d prefer a world ending scenario, thank you very much.

      3 years ago
    • No fortunately, they just look unique to stand out and say proudly that 'im eco'

        3 years ago
  • Hydrogen is more viable than full on electricity, you also forgot to mention that a ICE unit can be converted to process hydrogen

      3 years ago
  • The other issue with hydrogen cars is that hydrogen is hard and expensive to make.

    Real Engineering posted a video on this about 3 months ago. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7MzFfuNOtY&t=616s for an in-depth explanation of hydrogen cars and their pros and cons.

      3 years ago
  • I'd guess the cars of the future will be things like 2.2 and 3.2 litre diesel ( possibly with a hybrid option ) Ford Rangers, and hybrid elec/ petrol and elec/ diesel Range Rovers and similar competition from other companies for geological exploration, mine site development and maintenance, and highway construction, petrol diesel and electric/petrol and electric/diesel hybrid 4cyl Ford Transit vans, for domestic construction and delivery . Electric/petrol and electric / diesel hybrid, Mondeo wagons and hatch backs, Chev Malibu elec/ petrol hybrid, elec/ petrol Hybrid Camrys and I'm hoping the 1.6 litre diesel Vauxhall estate , which reportedly delivers 4 litres/ 100 km , gets fitted with an electric hybrid system. youtu.be/sbsZc4Kj11Ediese

      3 years ago