The “H” Car or the “E” Car?

The Race; car powered by Hydrogen or simple electricity
Rahman Mohamed

Honda FX V1, V2
Honda FX V1, V2 Retrieved, Honda, June 2017

It’s unknown to many but the Hydrogen-powered car is not “new”.  The hydrogen fuel cell was developed in the 19th century.  The hydrogen powered vehicle emerged in 1966 when GM built the Electrovan to run on the alternative fuel instead of gasoline. GM didn’t introduce the Electrovan to the public; Honda was the first to reveal prototypes of a hydrogen car in 1999 – the FCX-V1, FCX-V2, and FCX-V3 – and delivered them to Japan and the USA in 2002.

Today the Hydrogen Car is manufactured worldwide, is leased to consumers in Southern California, and used as a taxi in London, England. Hydrogen fuel cells have been used to create emission-free buses in Japan and Germany.  So what exactly is the Hydrogen Car and why don’t we know about it?

Despite oil being a steering factor in Canada’s GDP Canadian governments are working to drive people to Electric Cars, away from gasoline powered vehicles.  On 26 May Global News reported the first Electric Vehicle show in Canada.  Automakers were there to showcase “zero-emission” cars, cars that do not release emissions, specifically CO2 (Carbon Dioxide).  Transportation Minister Marc Garneau was at the show.  Having invested $120 million in investment for electric and alternative fuel cell charging stations the Federal Government is expected to introduce a “Zero-Emission Vehicle Strategy” in 2018.

Tesla Model X 90D
Tesla Model X 90D Retrieved, Tesla, June 2017

The Ontario government has revised its Electric Vehicle Incentive Program based on battery, seating, and lease time.  Electric Vehicles are reported to have been improving in efficiency and charging time.  The Tesla Model X 90D goes from 0-100 km in 5 seconds, has all-wheel drive and 6-seat interior.  Electric cars also popular because they’re quiet.  Today most TTC vehicles in Toronto are seen with “Hybrid Vehicle” on their roof, a bus that uses gasoline/diesel and electricity.  Why not Hydrogen?

The “H” car’s greatest obstacle: refuelling, where?  It uses “liquid Hydrogen” not water to run the car; water vapor (clouds) are its exhaust.  Hydrogen fuel is what it calls itself – Hydrogen.  A variety of methods can be used to separate Hydrogen (H2) from other chemicals including water, biomass, and fossil fuels.  It’s turned into liquid.  The liquid is pumped into the car.  The car burns the liquid to power the vehicle; gasoline cars do the same; they burn gasoline to power the vehicle.  The difference: gasoline cars’ exhaust is CO; the Hydrogen cars’ exhaust is H2O.  CO2 is a gas that contributes to global warming and climate change; H2O is water; the exhaust is water vapor.

On 17 May Business Insider reported Ford is investing more into Electric Cars than into Hydrogen Cars; it reports that there are over 15,000 EV (Electric Vehicle) Power Stations in America but only 35 Hydrogen stations, only 2 are outside California.  You’re likely to see a gasoline refuelling station or gas station at almost every corner in North America, not just the United States.  In 2016 CBC reported that Hyundai brought Hydrogen vehicles to consumers who lived around a single fuel station in Surrey, BC.  Today, 2017, the Canadian Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA) reports a total of 4 Hydrogen fuelling stations in Canada, all in BC.  Together with providing $1,625,000 of funding for 2 new Hydrogen stations in the GTA the Federal Government has put aside $16.4 million for “more than 80 new charging units for electric vehicles, as well as nine natural gas and three hydrogen refuelling stations along key transportation corridors.”  Today GO Transit, a network of public rail and bus routes connecting Southern Ontario, runs on diesel.  In addition to electrifying rail lines on June 15 the Ontario provincial government released a statement that is researching whether Hydrogen fuel cells are feasible to power GO.

Despite the lack of EV Stations the Electric Car is growing in popularity.  Together with government incentives there is the convenience of refuelling the Electric Car.  Rather than using refuelling stations like with the conventional gasoline car or the Hydrogen fuelled car you can charge the Electric car at home.  All you have to do is plug in your Electric Car, plug in your phone and go to sleep.  Both will recharge while you sleep.  With an increasing battery life (how long you can go before having to recharge) and push for a greener environment (less use of fossil fuels) there is growing popularity for the Electric Car.

The greatest argument against the Electric Car is batteries.  It doesn’t emit exhaust but the it uses batteries; the question what happens to the batteries?  Once they’ve reached their limit the batteries have to be replaced or disposed.  Its already a problem that’s trying to be solved on the gasoline car, smartphone, remote control, electric razor, and hair dryer: what’s done with batteries that can’t be reused or recycled?

Many consider electric cars as clean as the electricity that charges them.  There is movement to creating “clean” electricity using solar panels, wind turbines, hydro, and bio fuel, but humans still have a great dependence on “dirty” electricity, power created using fuels that pollute the environment – coal, oil, and natural gas, resources.   Nuclear is debated as clean and dirty; it does not give off any emissions but creates “nuclear waste”.  Hydrogen fuel can created without “dirty” fuels but and only emits “clean” emissions; today a mix of dirty and clean are used to create its fuel.

Airplanes today use diesel but there are predictions they will soon use fuel cells that run on hydrogen.  NASA uses hydrogen-powered fuel cells for their rockets and continues research and development.  They many soon be used by commercial airlines.

There’s still research and development but hydrogen cars are on the horizon; the gas station may soon become a heritage site.

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