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Car Ratings Car Shopping Guides What Are Hydrogen Cars? – J.D. Power

by Nov 9, 2022Blog0 comments

In recent years, there have been numerous innovations in the automotive market. One that stands out, in particular, is hydrogen-powered cars, also called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). 
What Are Hydrogen Cars
Their principle of operation is similar to that of ordinary vehicles running on gas or diesel. There are no moving parts that start the action; instead, a fuel cell device turns chemical energy into electricity, which then powers an electric motor.
In 2021, two hydrogen cars were publicly available for purchase. These include the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo. The Honda Clarity was available, but its production stopped the same year.
Whether you own a hydrogen car, are looking to buy one, or are just wondering what they’re all about, this article will help you sort things out. We will review the pros and cons of these vehicles, compare them to electric and other cars, and discuss whether this innovative but complex technology has a future.
The history of vehicles running on hydrogen dates back to 1807 when Swiss inventor Francois Isaac de Rivaz created the first four-wheel vehicle powered by hydrogen and oxygen. 
Many companies founded after the 1970s oil crisis focused on hydrogen cell technology as a clean, renewable source of energy. There was a breakthrough in the area of fuel-powered technology in the 1990s when a research team at Ballard Power Systems in Canada managed to increase the power density of hydrogen, upping the average figure from 200 Watts/liter to some 1,500.
Two hundred years after the first vehicles running on hydrogen were invented, the first commercially produced hydrogen car was introduced in 2013. It was the Hyundai ix35 FCEV. Then the auto giant was followed by Toyota and Honda, who manufactured their own versions of the vehicles.
The main difference between “normal” cars and those powered with hydrogen is that there is no internal combustion engine in the car at all. Instead, there’s a fuel cell, which generates electricity using hydrogen.
However, unlike a battery-electric car, hydrogen-powered vehicles don't require charging. You refuel them with hydrogen gas, which is pumped in the same way as you would fill up conventional petrol or diesel. It takes several minutes to fill a full tank.
As the energy storage of such cars is densely packed, they are usually able to achieve longer distances. For example, while most fully electric vehicles can travel between 100-200 miles on a single charge, hydrogen ones can get up to 300 miles.
Just like electric cars, FCVs run silently and produce no exhaust fumes, meaning that there is no noise or air pollution, while they also consume no energy when stationary.
Hydrogen cars are still quite pricey, so they belong to the premium segment of the automotive market. These vehicles start at $50,000. 
As the industry is young, the fuel cost is also not cheap. One kilogram of hydrogen gas costs about $16. Some car-manufacturing companies offer benefits to their clients. For example, Toyota provides all Mirai owners a hydrogen gas card that has $15,000 on it. 
As more research and development comes into play, hydrogen gas will hopefully be made more affordable to drivers.
The pros of FCVs include:
As for the cons, they are as follows: 
In the US, there are currently 39 public hydrogen fueling stations in California (with another 25 in development), along with a couple in Hawaii. The East Coast is getting its own infrastructure. A handful of stations are up and running, and more are in the works in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Consumer hydrogen refueling stations are also increasing in number in other parts of the world.
There is still some debate about whether hydrogen is the answer, and there are some automobile companies developing hydrogen cars who have switched their focus to battery electric vehicles. 
However, this kind of green transportation technology still has prospects. For example, Toyota representatives expect sales to increase as more fueling stations open. In 2018, the FCV market was valued at about $650 million, but it is projected to grow considerably and reach about $42 billion by 2026. 
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© 2019 J.D.Power. All rights reserved.