Large-scale production of hydrogen cars may still be years away, but that hasn't stopped automakers from testing their feasibility. Since 1966, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, Hyundai, Audi, BMW, and many other automakers have built prototype vehicles that employ hydrogen fuel.
Today the best-known hydrogen cars use fuel cells with polymer exchange membranes, which convert hydrogen to electricity. Fed by onboard tanks of gaseous hydrogen, the fuel cells create energy that is stored in batteries (typically lithium-ion) and used to power electric motors. Several big automakers -- most notably GM and Toyota -- are building and testing vehicles of this type. Toyota has even announced that it could sell hydrogen cars for $50,000-$100,000 by 2015.
A few automakers have developed internal combustion engines that can run on gaseous hydrogen. Aston Martin plans to run such an engine in a 24-hour race this month.
We've collected photos of a few of the more notable hydrogen technologies. Many more automakers are experimenting with hydrogen, but the following photos provide a glimpse of the state of its development as a fuel for future cars. Click the photo below to start the slideshow.
Introduced in 2009, the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster concept car mimics the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886. Fitted with spoked wheels, carbon fiber bucket seats, and a hydrogen fuel cell drive, the car was the product of 150 students and Daimler AG trainees tasked with designing an alternative fuel vehicle. The F-Cell Roadster is controlled by drive-by-wire technology and employs a joystick instead of a conventional steering wheel. (Source: Mercedes-Benz)
Excellent post Charles. The company I have a partnership in is now producing our REV 7 on-board hydrogen generator. Our concept will be to "bleed-in" H2 and combine that will fuel promoting improvement in gas mileage. This is not a fuel cell but an installed device producing hydrogen. We have five trial installations so far that generate a 17% minimum improvement in mileage. The package also includes data retrieval so carbon fuel credits can be "booked". It also gives the transportation company indications as to actual savings and information relative to long-haul and short trip numbers. We are working towards installation on 300 and 400 HP diesel engines. These typically get 5 MPG so; any improvement would be a significant cost savings to that industry. Many thanks for the information and it's good to know what others are doing along these lines.
There are still some hurdles for Hydrogen powered cars to be commonplace on the roads, however don't be too quick to discount them. All that is needed is an efficient system for extracting Hydrogen from water that can be used on board a vehicle and all the storage problems dissappear. In fact filling stations would also dissappear as all the vehicle owner needs to do is top up with water from the tap at home.
The nay sayers will talk about this being impossible, but look at the technological achievements over the last 50 years and consider what has been possible that people thought could not be done.
This is a cute engineering exercise but my advice to auto makers is to put these cars in their respective museums right now as an example of an evolutionary dead-end.
As mentioned above, this technology will never scale to the point of providing hydrogen "gas" stations that our mass motoring public could take advantage of. Elements in a gaseous state (also mentioned above) are difficult to maintain and transport. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to transport compressed hydrogen gas from point A to point B?
The real problem with this technology is cost. It's extremely expensive to make, store, transport, and dispense hydrogen gas SAFELY. It will never progress beyond the few science experiments you see in this slideshow.
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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