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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars With air pollution secondary to emissions close to an all time high, public awareness has also spiked in recent years. The public at large has shown interest in doing their part to lower pollution levels and protect our environment. Many studies have suggested that, in countries such as the US, emissions caused by motor vehicle use are major contributors. Combine these facts with the still rising prices of gasoline and the quickly depleting levels of available natural gas, and consumers have begun to look for better ways to satisfy their transportation needs. By some polls, carpool rates are at an all time high, as are commutes by bus. Many car manufacturers have been looking to provide alternate means of power for price and environmentally conscious consumers. The two most widely researched alternative power schemes are electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars. Electric cars have been around since Professor Stratingh and his assistant Christopher Becker designed and built their first design in Holland in 1835. Around 1842, modifications were made and newer, more practical models put on the market by both an American and a Scotsman. By the late 1800’s, electric vehicles were flourishing in both France and Great Britain, and in 1899 one electric vehicle even set the land speed record at 68 miles per hour. At this time, electric vehicles had competition from both steam-powered and gasoline-powered vehicles, but electric vehicles had much in their favor. Steam vehicles took as long as 30 minutes to build up pressure on a cold winter morning, and gasoline vehicles required the operator to crank start the engine. Gasoline was expensive to buy and difficult to find; steam engines required refilling about every 10-12 miles. The primitive gearing system on gasoline vehicles made them difficult to drive, and they were smelly and noisy as well. Electric vehicles were equipped with batteries that would allow them a range of just less than 20 miles, which was more than adequate for the time, since the only decent roads were close to town, and there was rarely occasion to travel farther than the car would go on a single charge. Electric vehicles were phased out largely by 1912 due to improvements in technology, allowing gasoline prices to drop drastically and become more readily available, as well as Henry Ford’s introduction of the mass produced, and thus inexpensive, gasoline-powered automobile. In 1920, an electric start gasoline automobile could sell new for as little as one-fourth the cost of an electric vehicle. Roads were beginning to open up from town to
and the relatively short range of electric vehicles coupled with their cost made them impractical to own. it would be possible to replace modern gas stations with hydrogen stations. Modern fully electric vehicles have a lot going for them. GM has proposed an answer to the distance difficulty by introducing the Volt – an electric vehicle equipped with an . They are considered Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV). and Welshman Sir William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell in 1843. because fuel cells do not operate within a thermal cycle. In 1959. electric cars have been coming back on the scene in force. hydrogen refills would be almost impossible to find outside of a few major cities. which gives off emissions. This is certainly better than the original 20-mile range. NASA began utilizing fuel cells to power their space apparatus. and fuel cell technology is the basis for power on board the current space shuttles. This technology saw very little use until the mid 1900’s when research on fuel cells was taken up by a number of scientists. the implications of the second law of thermodynamics are greatly decreased and efficiency of the fuel cell is far greater than the efficiency of a combustion engine.99% reliability in laboratory tests. and this year the first fully electric cars were released to consumers. the most advanced fuel cells utilized by NASA achieve 99. One of the biggest disadvantages to a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle is the difficulty in refilling the hydrogen. As it is right now. Fuel cells are no new item. However. and therefore are far more reliable and less likely to fail. that is. however. since when they are running they give off no emissions. A full recharge can take anywhere from five to eight hours – that’s just fine if you are commuting. There are many hybrid models that have been available for a few years. In recent years. but not practical for a road trip. but is still only enough for the daily commute. One of the main benefits to hydrogen fuel cell technology is that it is not constrained by the maximum Carnot cycle efficiency as combustion engines are. but this would cost billions to do. The main disadvantage electric vehicles have is that a recharge is not as simple as stopping at a gas station and plugging in for five minutes. Modern electric vehicles have a range of about 250 miles. German scientist Christian Friedrich Schonbien discovered the theory for fuel cells in 1838.town. they are powered from the modern power grid. In fact. The more commonly lauded benefits of this technology include the fact that fuel cells have essentially no moving parts. Were these cars to become extremely popular. either.
and the company has invested close to one billion dollars so far in research and . so manufacturers are seeking a solution. it has never been believed practical for the common consumer to power anything by hydrogen fuel cell. but the company recognizes that even in a best case scenario. ethanol. However. when traffic permits. Honda has received a large number of inquiries from potential purchasers of the cars. fuel cell cars might be a good bet. Still. Currently. The auxiliary motor could be powered by gasoline. Modern hydrogen fuel cell powered cars are capable of great distances on a single charge. or hydrogen. sport car enthusiasts will need to look elsewhere for the time being. there are two Honda hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles being driven by common consumers right now. Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles are brand new on the scene even though the technology dates back to the mid 1800’s. many of the higher ups in the company feel that hydrogen fuel cell powered cars are the future of America. but these will not be the next road racers. and is anticipating being able to sell a significant number of their vehicles as soon as they release the designs for production. large organizations such as militaries and NASA have been practically the sole users of this technology until very recently. and are optimistically predicting that they will be able to bring the price down to a reasonable figure before the cars go on sale to the general public. its concept vehicles were sold to interested buyers last year. and this number will not drop very drastically just by mass-producing the cars. an age where fuel cell powered vehicles are common in America is still at least 10 years in the future. for those interested in helping the environment and looking to save money on gas. a car that costs three quarters of a million dollars will not be purchased by the general public. The two hydrogen fuel cell cars that Honda is currently leasing have already been turning many heads and attracting a lot of attention. diesel. Obviously. designers of the vehicles are desperately looking for ways to bring the price down drastically. and it is expected to be on the common market as early as 2008. In fact.auxiliary motor designed to recharge the battery and extend the potential driving distance to as far as 600 miles. With maximum speeds in the 85-mile per hour range. These cars can easily manage freeway speeds. The production cost for a fuel cell car is approximately one million dollars. Until recently. GM has announced the upcoming release of their first hydrogen fuel cell car. GM’s Sequel has proven itself able to drive 300 miles during public road tests in New York earlier this year.
development. this is a fact. one of these two vehicle types is almost certain to be the next common car in America. but are still a hassle due to their long recharge times. and plan to invest a considerable amount more within the next couple years. Electric vehicles that are already on the road have been getting many positive reviews. . they effectively cut down on expense to the owner and are simple to maintain. If you are thinking of purchasing a next generation vehicle. quite a few of which are simply due to the early stages they are in. Both have many pros. The two most likely candidates to replace them are hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles and electric vehicles. Gasoline cars are about to be phased out. and sooner or later. However. but for now many are happy to sacrifice some convenience for saved gas money and the knowledge that they are driving a Zero Emission Vehicle. as well as many cons. technology will advance allowing drastically quickened recharging. you will have many choices within the next five years. many people feel confident that within the next 10 years.
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