As more and more automakers focus on the future of electric vehicles, it is clear that improving battery technology is a key goal. But at least some automakers, including Toyota and Hyundai, continue to focus on powering electric cars with hydrogen fuel cells. This is despite the fact that, at least in the United States, hydrogen-powered electric vehicles have yet to really hit the market. But a new development by a German research institute could help change that.
Why are hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles not yet established?
2021 Toyota Mirai front 3/4 | Toyota
Like many battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles struggle with supporting infrastructure. Basically, unless you live in California, there are no real hydrogen fueling stations. But hydrogen EVs have another problem: storage.
Hydrogen production, whether by electrolysis of water or some other process, can be done locally, reports Car and Driver. And it’s a potentially more efficient method of storage than lithium-ion batteries, reports Autoweek. Once produced, however, it must be compressed into liquefied petroleum gas or high-pressure gas for storage, transportation and use, Chemistry World explains. This has several disadvantages.
First, compressing hydrogen for use in fuel cell vehicles requires a significant amount of energy, which also increases the price. Second, it requires special high-pressure tanks, which are often expensive and somewhat heavy, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. But to be fair, an electric car with batteries and a hydrogen fuel cell would be even heavier, reports Autoweek. And as with batteries for electric vehicles, simply adding a larger tank will reduce the efficiency and range of a hydrogen vehicle, which requires a larger tank…. You got it.
PowerPaste from the Fraunhofer Institute could solve the problem of hydrogen car storage
Fraunhofer Institute’s PowerPaste for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles | Fraunhofer Institute IFAM
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This is where the German Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research comes in. Fraunhofer. A research institute recently announced the launch of PowerPaste, which solves the problem of storing hydrogen on paper, reports Autoblog.
This PowerPaste is made of magnesium hydride and several stabilizing compounds, reports Popular Mechanics. And it would be 10 times denser than a lithium-ion battery. It is contained in a special cartridge that has a metal piston and is connected to a separate water tank.
Tabletop generator working with the hydrogen storage process PowerPaste from the Fraunhofer InstituteTable top generator working with the hydrogen storage process PowerPaste from the Fraunhofer InstituteTable top generator working with the hydrogen storage process IFAM from the Fraunhofer Institute
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Whenever a car or other fuel cell vehicle needs electricity, the piston pushes the paste out of the cartridge. There it mixes with the water in the tank; the magnesium hydride and water react to form magnesium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. Once this is done, the hydrogen is sent to the fuel cell to produce electricity.
One of the advantages of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles over battery electric vehicles is the time it takes to refuel and recharge. While even a fast EV battery takes about 30 minutes to charge, charging a hydrogen EV takes about 10 minutes, reports Road & Track. And according to the Fraunhofer Institute, the system should be just as fast: Simply replace the used cartridge and fill the tank with water.
Will this dough really be mass produced?
The Fraunhofer Institute initially developed the PowerPaste system with electric scooters and motorcycles. And by 2021, a pilot plant with an annual production capacity of 4 tons should be in operation, reports CE Energy News.
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The Fraunhofer Institute claims to be able to adapt the PowerPaste system for cars. It all depends on how the first tests go. It should be noted, however, that starting in 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute will be part of a government-funded program to improve the battery expertise of German automakers, Automotive News reports. So maybe this gray mud will reach the auto industry sooner than we think.
This could mean that hydrogen-powered electric cars will get a second chance.
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frequently asked questions
Are hydrogen fuel cells practical?
Hydrogen fuel cells have low theoretical and practical efficiency. … There is no infrastructure to distribute or even produce hydrogen in large quantities. That won’t be for 20 or 30 years at the earliest, even if we start building like crazy today. Hydrogen is actually quite difficult to produce.
What is the disadvantage of using hydrogen as a fuel for cars?
It is also the safest form of energy for such an energy-intensive task. Hydrogen energy is essentially 3 times more efficient than gasoline and other fossil fuels. … One of the disadvantages of using hydrogen in cars is that it is almost impossible to store it in cryogenic or high pressure tanks.
What is the future of hydrogen/fuel cell vehicles?
To some extent this is true, but hydrogen cars should not replace EVs. Instead, hydrogen will complement electricity for manufacturers like Toyota, and there’s a good reason for that: It will be the cleanest fuel.
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