Electric cars are a non starter, not literally – well not quite, I believe some of the latest one have such an improved range they would get me to the end of my drive before the batteries run down – so realistically how will we get around in future.
All the talk at the moment is of electric and hybrid cars. Though the problems of electric traction for personal transport are still proving insurmountable the “experts” who spends all their lives cocoon in universities, safe from the harsh world of reality mumble vaguely about new battery technologies that will give electric cars a decent range and not require all the passenger and luggage space for a battery pack big and powerful enough to move it’s own weight up a moderate hill and politicians talk about “green jobs” that will be created by the new, clean, sustainable technologies, no manufacturer has yet come up with an electric or hybrid car that is fit for purpose. Look at some of the concept cars displayed at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show if you want to know how unrealistic. Some are OK for going to the local shops and back but stymied on a family on account of only having one seat.
Electricity is not the future for cars. Despite all the wishful thinking there are no realistic new battery technology on the horizon. Public transport is not an option, we have been spoiled by the independence a private car gives us. So where do we go from here? There is a very promising option that has all the advantages of the conventional internal combustion engine but does not run on fuel made from precious oil. Better still it does not pollute the atmosphere. So what’s the magic new fuel fuel? Hydrogen — the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. And some people think we will be driving hydrogen-powered cars by 2035.
The idea of hydrogen powered private cars may sound like something from a science fiction film but the idea has been around a long time. In 1839 a Welsh scientist, Sir William Robert Grove, reversed the familiar electrochemical process of electrolysis, which a to produce hydrogen from water thus generating electricity and water from hydrogen and the oxygen in air. He called his invention a gas voltaic battery. One hundred and seventy years later his technique has evolved into the a hydrogen fuel cell which is what will power our cars in future.
A hydrogen car’s fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity, giving off only heat and water as byproducts. Because it’s non-polluting, hydrogen seems like the ideal fuel for the 21st century. A lot of people in the government and the auto industry are excited about its potential. There are still many technical problems to be overcome before hydrogen becomes the fuel of choice for enough people to have any impact on our hunger for fossil fuels. For instance, where will we get the hydrogen? How expensive will these fuel-efficient cars be to purchase? Will you be able to find a hydrogen fuelling station to refill your tank? And, perhaps most importantly, as a fuel, is hydrogen really as non-polluting as it seems?