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)
A joystick! interesting. I can't even imagine how that would work. Of course it would take some getting used to, but it could be more comfortable, easier and more responsive than a wheel. I guess that's the point?
There was a lot research being done on Fuel cells using natural has there been any progress made? With all the sources of NG this could be used right away! PS what happens to the small amount of carbon when NG or propane is run through a fuel cell?
Bloom Energy corporation has been producing fuel cells using methane a.k.a. natural gas or CH4 for fixed installation as commercial building power sources for a few years now. Lesley Stahl did a piece on 60 Minutes about them. A link to their website appears below:
It shouldn't be a problem to scale the technology down for either home or mobile use.
While it doesn't completely eliminate carbon from the fuel cycle, the higher efficiency of fuel cells versus internal combustion engines drastically reduces the carbon footprint and my understanding is that the cell chemisty used can be adapted to hydrogen fuel without too much trouble.
What about the "BOOM" factor of carrying around a substance that is know to blow up space shuttles? Drivers do not seem to be getting any better at driving, even with the advancments in safety technology!
The caption of slide 6 states one mile per kg of gasoline is considered equivalent to 1 mpg. Since a gallon of gasoline is approximately 13.3 kg, this does not seem to make sense. Is this a misprint or am I missing something?
I believe the joy stick would be the 2013 equivalent of a tiller.
The speed and range specifications and refueling times for Hydrogen Fuel Cells certainly seem more practical than the all electric vehicles. The explosion risk is always there with hydrogen. I think development of a large scale hydrogen infrastructure would be the hardest thing to overcome. It is very hard to store.
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.
Some cars are more reliable than others, but even the vehicles at the bottom of this year’s Consumer Reports reliability survey are vastly better than those of 20 years ago in the key areas of powertrain and hardware, experts said this week.
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