Everything you don’t know about hydrogen cars




The ‘battery’ electric car is not the only option for the future to reduce CO2 emissions. There are many companies that work on liquid fuels, similar to diesel and gasoline or current LPG, that are developing affordable technology that allows the use of both hydrogen and synthetic fuels. These would have the advantage that a supply infrastructure already exists, through the current networks of service stations, which allow a faster refueling than the current recharge times of electric cars, and which leave a carbon neutral cycle, since in most cases, the CO2 generated is the same or less than that consumed.

Hydrogen technology, largely unknown to the general public in Spain, still has a lot to say since it is expected that 5,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles will circulate in 2030 alone in our country. And if infrastructures grow at a good pace and this technology is promoted by the Government, experts say that the cost of a hydrogen vehicle could be similar to that of a diesel. But there are still key questions about this fuel, which the
General direction of traffic
(DGT) responds:

How does it work? A hydrogen car is an electric car that produces its own electricity on board when hydrogen stored in high-pressure tanks reacts with oxygen in the air in a mini-plant called a fuel cell, perhaps the most expensive and important part of this technology. From the process, the only thing that comes out of the exhaust pipe is water.

What future does it have? In the automotive world, in the medium and long term, hydrogen will be decisive in heavy road transport, in the field of urban commercial vehicles and in public service vehicles such as taxis and VTC. The slow growth of a network of hydrofoil stations throughout the Spanish geography will delay the implementation of this technology at the level of private vehicles.

It is safe? Hydrogen cars have great security measures, but, in addition, hydrogen is very volatile, so that in the event of a leak it would dissipate easily without concentrating sufficient amounts of risk. Hydrogen is not toxic and the models sold comply with the regulations and show the same safety as a gasoline or diesel car. As an example, the hydrogen Hyundai ‘Nexo’ has 5 stars in the EuroNcap crash test.

Its advantages. For now and until the electric ones do not offer more autonomy, a hydrogen car does more kilometers on a charge. They also take much less time than an electric to refuel, since it takes between five and eight minutes to fill their tanks. Its batteries do not need to be as big and heavy as those of a traditional electric. And hydrogen has a higher calorific value / weight ratio than any other fuel.

Drawbacks. On the opposite side of the scale, the price, especially with respect to an equivalent gasoline model, since none falls below 65,000 euros without aid. Also the limited supply of models and a hydrogen recharge network still in its infancy. In Spain there are seven hydrogen stations, the last one open in Madrid and the only one that serves it at 700 bars of pressure and with a purity of 99.9%, but none are for public use. The Government has approved the installation of a network of one hundred public hydrogenerators by 2030.

How much does it cost to fill the tank? Today hydrogen is sold in existing hydrofoils (hydrogenerators should be called the place where hydrogen is produced) at a price of between 10 and 12 euros / kilogram. This means that filling the three tanks of a Toyota ‘Mirai’ would cost between 56 and 67 euros, an amount that would allow traveling around 650 kilometers, which is the official autonomy of the Japanese model by approving an average WLTP consumption of 0.79 kg every 100 km. Taking this into account, the average fuel cost per 100 km of a hydrogen model would be set at around 9.5 euros. An equivalent gasoline model would spend about 7.3 l / 100 km euros, a minimum saving that of hydrogen that should increase as there is more demand.

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