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)
I'm with you, Rob, the Mercedes-Benz stands out. It seems like hydrogen car makers are already thinking about more stylish designs than the current EV/hybrid makers. Or maybe it's just Mercedes, an icon of great car style, that's thinking retro to get ahead.
H2 cars coming? I need to go out and invest in a H2 gas station before all the franchises are gone!
I think we have a problem here, Houston. First, H2 is a great gas. I appreciate all its many fine qualities, inluding space rockets, welding, breathing, etc. Great gas!
But, although it is plentiful and God makes more all the time, it is a tough nut to crack in using it on a large scale. H2 and He are the only gases that escape gravity into the ionosphere and are gone, gone, gone! So, bottles to hold it are special.
Then there is the explosive storage problem.
And it eats metal problem.
But other than that, bring it on!
Having said all this, I do believe the fuel cell is viable and I look forward to seeing them everywhere. I don't know if it is an efficient method of converting hyrofuels, but neither is the ICE!
Even though hydrogen is available plentiful, laws of thermodynamics restrict its usage. Laws prove that hydrogen will always be less efficient than any other alternatives. The phase changes required to produce and then burn hydrogen will always waste more energy than simply using electricity directly.
Elizebeth you are absolutely correct this Mercedes Benz is an extremely stylish one it is looking like very unique and delicate vehicle i havent seen such a goodlooking car even in hybrid technology .
The concept of using hydrogen gas as a feul is a good one, with the same amount of hydrogen gas the car will cover twice as much distance as by petrol. Secondly it is enviornmental healthy because it only emmits water vapour when burned not carbon dioxide .
However every new technologyhas pros and cons one disadvantage of using hydrogen gas as feul is that it is expensive .Secondly it is difficult to store it because its a gas not liquid .
You're absolutely correct that the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel is nearly non-existent. Today, most hydrogen fuel is derived from natural gas using a steam reforming process. Automakers know the infrastructure is weak, of course. They also know the costs will be high and they have no idea how reliable these cars will be. Still, they're dipping a toe in the water as an engineering exercise. They want to know how much long-term potential is there, and how many years it will be before these cars can be a viable option.
Liz, I was particularly intrigued by the Roadster buggy's use of drive-by-wire technology. It has a joystick instead of a steering wheel. For years, engineers have told us that drive-by-wire allows us to do away with the steering wheel and replace it with a joystick or some othr device. Well, here it is.
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