A hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity smartly and productively by utilizing the chemical energy of hydrogen. If hydrogen is the fuel, the only byproducts of hydrogen are electricity, water vapors, and heat. How nice is that?
Regarding future applications, fuel cells from renewable sources are exceptional; they can power systems as sizable as a utility power company and as small as portable devices such as phones and laptops.
Fuel cells function similarly to batteries but do not need to be recharged. Instead, they generate electricity and heat as long as fuel is available.
These clean energy sources could be extensively used in automobiles in the coming years. This alternative has massive benefits and numerous indications signal hydrogen-powered vehicles’ popularity.
However, it is essential to mention that hydrogen fuel cells have practical limits like any other innovation. So let us look at the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen fuel.
Table of Contents
Science Behind Hydrogen Fuel
Though hydrogen is considered a common element around the globe, it doesn’t exist in its pure form. Acquiring the pure hydrogen atom requires an electrochemical reaction called the electrolysis process.
Water electrolysis separates the formation of H2O into hydrogen electrodes and oxygen electrodes.
The electrolyte membrane fuel cells act as the energy carrier rather than the energy itself. The dependency on primary sources such as solar energy, fossil fuels, or biomass is necessary for acquiring hydrogen-based energy.
The chemical reaction involved in the fuel cell process is,
2H2 + O2 ======> 2H2O + energy
Advantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cell technology presents considerable benefits over other energy sources, including:
The life cycle model of hydrogen fuel is zero-emissions, excluding the carbon associated with its production. It is appealing for vehicles because it does not correspond to air pollution.
The proportion of greenhouse gas emissions by hydrogen fuel cells is during the production phase, not the application phase.
Although making the fuel cell requires fossil fuels, using this abundant element as a substitute for gasoline could save considerable carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime.
2. Energy Efficient
Compared to diesel or gasoline, hydrogen is far more fuel-efficient because it produces more energy per pound of fuel. This indicates that a car powered by hydrogen can travel farther than a vehicle powered by a more conventional source of energy.
The performance of hydrogen-powered fuel cells is twice efficient as that of standard combustion technologies. A combustion-based hydrogen fuel technology generates electricity at 33-35 percent efficiency, whereas hydrogen fuel cells can generate electricity with up to 65% fuel efficiency.
The chemical reaction involved in converting gasoline into mechanical or electrical energy that drives automobiles under usual driving conditions is less cost-effective than converting chemical energy into gasoline into power that drives cars and trucks.
Automobiles that use hydrogen fuel cells and electric motors have more energy efficiency because they can use 40 to 60 percent of the energy in the fuel. As a direct consequence, fuel consumption is reduced by more than half.
3. Fast Charging Times
The charging time for a hydrogen fuel cell is incredibly fast, comparable to that of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) automobiles, and significantly faster than that of battery-powered hybrid cars.
While electric vehicles take 30 minutes to several hours to charge, we can charge hydrogen fuel cells in less than five minutes. Because of the quick charging time, hydrogen-powered vehicles offer the same wiggle room as classic cars.
4. Robust Reliability
Hydrogen fuel cell technology has established itself in harsh environments such as colder climates as low as -20 degrees C and extreme weather conditions.
Extreme weather conditions include typhoons, deserts, snowstorms, and even the demanding corporate settings of materials management warehouses.
5. Decentralization Of Power Supply
Hydrogen fuel cells facilitating global electricity’s centralized power supply minimize a country’s dependence on finite resources.
Countries that rely solely on fossil fuels are becoming progressively interested in boosting their independence. When such nations apply hydrogen fuel cell technology, the issue of rising fossil fuel costs should be resolved.
6. Lower Operational Costs
Fuel cell power units are less expensive than batteries and internal combustion engines. Fuel cells alleviate change, charge, and maintain batteries, reducing the workforce, time, space, and peak load needs.
The unit cells lower vehicle’s and person’s downtime as they last longer than lead-acid batteries.
The best part is refueled in as little as three minutes compared to combustion generators for stationary power; simple upkeep and fewer site visits result in lower operational expenses.
7. Minimal Sound And Visual Pollution
Hydrogen fuel burns without inducing extreme noise pollution like other alternative power sources, including wind energy. It also suggests that, rather like electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered automobiles make fewer sounds than those using conventional inside combustion engines.
Low-energy sources, such as biofuel power generation and wind farms, can contribute to unappealing visual landscapes.
However, hydrogen fuel cells do not require the same amount of space, resulting in fewer eyesores.
Disadvantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Unfortunately, hydrogen fuel cell energy source also comes with some drawbacks.
1. Limited Infrastructure And Research
Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda are the top three automakers putting money into hydrogen fuel cell equipment and infrastructure. Notwithstanding, in comparison to other alternative fuels, hydrogen has a limited architecture.
The lack of assistance and formal delivery charges for low volumes make large-scale installation complicated.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is relatively new to the industry and has yet to be as progressed as other forms of energy. While this creates numerous development opportunities, it also creates significant barriers due to the need for more research.
2. Fossil Fuels Dependency
Although hydrogen fuel cells do not dissipate toxic fumes while operating, the same cannot be said for hydrogen fuel production. Fossil fuel-powered energy is required to produce what hydrogen fuel cells generate.
Hydrogen is plentiful in natural resources, but it is usually covalently bound to other components and must be sequestered before we can use it for energy. And separating hydrogen from mixtures such as hydrocarbon catalysts in fuel cells is time-consuming and expensive.
Solar and wind energy are two safer options for obtaining hydrogen fuel cell power, which is unavailable in some areas. Hence, the use of fossil fuel sources is maximized!
3. Considerable Investment For Development
Hydrogen fuel cells require high investment to progress to the point where they are a viable energy source. This will also necessitate a governmental willingness to invest time and resources in advancing the technology.
The cost-effective method is required for the global counterargument of sustainable and ubiquitous hydrogen energy to balance the energy requirements.
4. Hydrogen Accommodation
Hydrogen can be stashed as a gas in high-pressure reservoirs or as a liquid in cryogenic temperatures, but it needs to be retained as a gas to be put into lift truck fuel cells.
Both methods of storing hydrogen have an underlying energy loss as flattening the hydrogen necessitates approximately 13% of the total energy content of the hydrogen, and liquefying it requires approximately 40%.
Hydrogen gas is highly flammable and has a high rate of escape. Metals can corrode if hydrogen gas leaks from cabinet space. As a result, these infected metals may become brittle and susceptible to breaking.
Hence, hydrogen transportation and storage are more complex than those required for fossil fuels. This adds to the costs of using hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source.
5. Sensitivity To Temperature Changes
Hydrogen fuel cells are highly receptive to temperature changes, particularly at high temperatures.
If temperatures rise too high, fuel cells may cease to function correctly, resulting in a loss of performance and a reduction in the life expectancy of fuel cell engines.
6. Safety issues and potential hazards
The potential of hydrogen sources of energy should not be undervalued. Hydrogen is an extraordinarily combustible and volatile compound that often makes headlines due to its potential hazards.
Compared to gas, hydrogen has no odor, making leak detection nearly impossible. Facilities must install sensor nodes to detect leaks.
Likewise, accidents involving power from hydrogen fuel should not be taken lightly; in air, hydrogen gas fires at a concentration range ranging from 4 to 75%. There are understandable security concerns due to the explosive nature of hydrogen.
Explosions may result in severe injuries and even the death of many employees if hydrogen power is not produced in a secure environment. As a result, overall safety precautions are critical to avoid hydrogen power-related fatalities.
7. Regulatory Problems
There are also constraints related to regulatory issues relating to the structure that embodies commercial application scenarios.
Commercial projects may experience difficulties obtaining a financial investment decision. Without explicit regulatory frameworks for hydrogen-based fuel, investors might fail to acknowledge their cost and revenue basis (FID).
Summary (Hydrogen Fuel Cells advantages and disadvantages)
|Fast Charging Times|
|Decentralization Of Power Supply|
|Lower Operational Costs|
|Minimal Sound And Visual Pollution|
|Limited Infrastructure And Research|
|Fossil Fuels Dependency|
|Considerable Investment For Development|
|Sensitivity To Temperature Changes|
|Safety issues and potential hazards|
Hydrogen fuel cells are an exciting innovation as a clean and renewable energy source. It takes far less time to fill a car with hydrogen than to charge a battery, and when it comes to transportation, time is precious.
While EVs have a head start in the emerging post-fossil fuel era, hydrogen fuel still has much to offer.
However, hydrogen fuel cells are still a developing technology. Much research needs to be done, and this technology’s infrastructure needs to be improved before it can be considered a viable substitute for other energy sources like nuclear energy.
Wouldn’t it be great to have almost limitless energy without causing pollution?
(Last Updated on November 1, 2022)