Fuel-cell cars can carry enough hydrogen fuel for a range of 300 to 400 miles and their tanks can be refilled as quickly as a standard car's gas tank. Another advantage that hydrogen cars have over battery-powered electric vehicles at the time of writing this article is their greater range. FCEV vehicles can travel 300 to 400 miles before needing to refuel, according to California's Drive Clean initiative (Opens in new window). Battery-powered electric vehicles, on the other hand, have an average range of around 250 miles (Opens in new window) at the time of writing.
Hydrogen vehicles are a type of electric car that uses fuel cells to power the engine instead of relying primarily on a lithium-ion battery pack; they don't burn fuel like gasoline cars. This battery also captures energy from the vehicle's regenerative braking system for later use and stores excess fuel cell energy during low-energy driving. Refueling the hydrogen tanks of an FCEV is almost as fast as filling a car with gasoline, a great advantage that hydrogen cars have over battery-powered electric vehicles. Most have opted for battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV), but some car manufacturers have insisted on trying to make hydrogen fuel cell powertrains work.
Several truck manufacturers, as well as fuel cell and infrastructure suppliers, have joined forces and announced a target of 100,000 fuel cell trucks on European roads by 2030. Technical and economic advances in battery and fast charging technologies could soon make fuel-cell electric vehicles, which run on hydrogen, unnecessary in road transport. Fuel cell electric vehicles are an interesting proposition for those who want to go green, but they are not as available as complete electric vehicles. The vehicle also has fault protection systems that ensure that hydrogen is dispersed and released if, for example, the fuel cell is removed or overheated.
The company began as a natural gas truck company, then moved to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, then to a mixture of fuel cell hydrogen and battery electricity, and today the company's first truck to hit the market is a truck with an electric battery, years before its FCEV programs. Like the lithium-ion cells in an electric vehicle battery, hydrogen cars have several fuel cells that work together to generate electricity. The hydrogen in the fuel tanks on board the car combines with the oxygen inside the fuel cell to generate electricity through a process called reverse electrolysis.
Hydrogen fuel cellelectric cars look like something out of science fiction, but these vehicles have been around longer than you think.
Another challenge faced by FCEVs is that, although they can operate without emissions on their own, the plants that create their hydrogen fuel usually do so by burning fossil fuels in a process called steam reform (Opens in a new window). Since hydrogen can be highly flammable (Opens in new window) if handled improperly, those fuel tanks are thick-walled, pressurized and tested to ensure crash safety.