The fuel cell

What our system does is create hydrogen and oxygen through the electrolysis of water. This proces can also be inverted; create an electric current trough a chemical reaction of hydrogen with oxygen.

This type of cell is called a ‘Fuel cell’. Besides hydrogen this can be done with other types of fuel like natural gas and alcohols. The efficiency of these cells is very high, up to 75%. This is very high if you consider that a typical internal combustion engine has an efficiency of around 25%.

Solid_oxide_fuel_cell_protonic

 

This electricity is then used to power an electric motor. This electric motor can be situated in all types of vehicles(automobiles, buses, motorcycles, …). A lot of car manufacturers are fully developing this technology at the moment. A very good example is the FCX Clarity, built by Honda.

 

What do you think is the most useful technology? Creating hydrogen for the use in an combustion engine, or using hydrogen to create electricity to drive an electric motor?

 

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  1. 08/12/2012 at 16:08

    I would prefer the electric motor because of the performance, and because I would really like to have a silent car. But I presume that you cannot recharge your fuel cell while driving if you only have an electric motor?
    If that is taken into account, will it still be more efficient to use the electric motor?

    • michaeltijskens
      10/12/2012 at 13:12

      Driving a silent car can also be very dangerous, because no one can hear you. It is true that you cannot refuel your tank with hydrogen while driving.

      Depending on what you consider ‘efficient’:
      The range of a fully electric powered car is still nowhere near the range of an ‘ordinary’ car, so in this case you can consider that the fuel cell is a lot more inefficient.
      The overall power in/power out of a fuel cell is up to 3 times as high as a normal combustion engine, so in that case the combustion engine is a lot more inefficient.

      • 15/12/2012 at 14:51

        Wouldn’t the danger of not being heard be just a transitional state? A lot of people today are walking with headphones anyway. If most cars are silent, you would take more care in looking before crossing a road. And although a cyclist is slower most of the time, they still can do a lot of damage if they hit someone.
        Some manufacturers are also especially creating noise to lessen the danger. Being able to turn on some sound in the city might be useful, but being able to disable it when on a highway would also lessen the burden on the surrounding areas.

      • 15/12/2012 at 14:51

        For the efficiency I didn’t really consider the range it can drive. But more the power from source to usage. So starting from the power plant. Is it still more efficient if you consider the power plant fuel-electricty efficiency, transport losses, fuel cell regeneration and fuel-to-motion efficiency?

  2. 08/12/2012 at 16:21

    If you just look at the motor, is there an extra ‘environmental’ cost for producing this new motor? For example: how much water, fuel, materials, … is needed for making each motor-type?

    • michaeltijskens
      10/12/2012 at 13:21

      Yes, unfortunately fuel cell vehicles still face a lot of obstacles in hydrogen storage, infrastructure and cost. The cost most people forget is the cost to produce the hydrogen.

      Since there are no pollutants emitted during the conversion of hydrogen to electricity, it is very important not to ignore the emissions that are created through the production of this hydrogen. For the production of hydrogen there is massive energy required!

      These high capital costs is making it hard for the fuel cells to compete with the current market. These costs have to be reduced.

  3. 08/12/2012 at 20:16

    Which technology shows the greatest advantages if you look from the eyes of a middle class man? and this will be the technology that will dominate the market.

    • michaeltijskens
      10/12/2012 at 12:59

      For the middle class man, the fuel cell technology doesn’t have the greatest advantages, because you have limited refuel stations trough out the country and hydrogen is a lot more expensive.
      If they can manage to get these prices down and invest in more refuel stations, the technology will be more in reach of a middle class man.

  4. visualrecognition
    12/12/2012 at 11:47

    I will prefer a hydrogen car if it’s safety and there are enough hydrogen stations around me.

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