Fuel-Cell Cars: The Next Wave in Automotive Technological Advances
- 07 April 2014
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According to USA Today hydrogen cars have several advantages over gas powered, electric vehicles or hybrids. These cars are fueled by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and air, which produces electricity. Called fuel-cell cars, major manufacturers, such as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have already introduced or will be introducing hydrogen cars into the consumer marketplace.
The two obvious drawbacks to fuel-cell cars are cost and convenience. The price tag for hydrogen-powered vehicles will vary by manufacturer and available options, but is expected to be significantly more upfront than what consumers can currently pay for either gas or hybrid vehicles. Hyundai’s fuel-cell powered, mid-sized Tucson, for example, has a lease price of $499 a month and there is a $600 a month price tag for Honda’s gas-powered FCX Clarity luxury sedan, which has been leased since 2008. Fuel is included in the lease price, however, which makes the overall price comparable to a gas-powered vehicle.
Because many cities do not even offer stations that can refuel these vehicles, purchasing a hydrogen-powered car will not be an option for many consumers. California, for example, a state known for its support of nontraditional power vehicles, had only nine fuel-cell stations as of 2014. Overtime, however, as these vehicles become more popular, the number of stations where consumers can refill will exponentially increase. Costs are expected to decline as manufacturing processes become more efficient and streamlined.
Owners of hydrogen-powered cars don’t have to worry about running out of juice while they are out on the road, as do electric vehicle owners. While electric cars need to be repowered after about 100 miles, hydrogen vehicles run for hundreds of miles on one fill up of compressed hydrogen. Charging electric cars takes multiple hours, while refueling a fuel-cell vehicle takes only about five minutes.
While there are few available refueling stations, hydrogen-powered vehicles do not need as many physical stations as do gas, electric or hybrid vehicles due to their short changing time and lengthy time frame between charges. Statistical analysis suggests, for example, that 68 stations can easily fuel 10,000 fuel-cell cars. Fewer stations means more real estate will be available in crowded urban areas, which is an unexpected advantage.
Because they are under legislative mandates to increase the sale of zero emission vehicles, many state and local agencies, such as firefighters, paramedics and police officers, may begin to drive fuel cell vehicles. This extra up front expenditure can be balanced by refurbishing and maintaining existing vehicles so entire product lines last longer. Companies such as those at Firetrucks Unlimited, rise to this challenge, offering commercial vehicle sale and repairs.
Legislation may drive the infrastructure. California will have to build the infrastructure necessary to support fuel-cell vehicles if it wants to meet its legislative mandate that at least 15% of new vehicles sold in this state in 2025 produce zero emissions. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are an excellent way to meet this mandate as these vehicles earn double emission credits in comparison to electric vehicles.
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