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Hydrogen for cars: the most common questions


Of hydrogen for cars it has been talked about for a long time, but it is in recent years that applications have made great strides. Despite this, few still know that the hydrogen technology already offers the opportunity to drive today fuel cell cars with the same performance as diesel. In addition, thehydrogen offers a credible technical answer to issues such as pollution (zero emissions), dependence on fossil fuels (hydrogen can be produced everywhere) and the future of renewable energy (to produce hydrogen you need electricity that can be supplied by renewables , enhancing them).

Since one of the barriers to large-scale diffusion of hydrogen for cars is the lack of knowledge of this technology, we do something to learn more by answering the most common questions that come to mind when it comes to hydrogen powered vehicles. Reminding everyone that in Bolzano, therefore in Italy and not on the other side of the world, a hydrogen production center is active at the Institute for Technological Innovation (IIT) where 5 fuel cell buses are already filling up in scheduled service and 13 Hyundai ix35FGuelCell leased from local companies.

Are hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles 'rivals' to battery powered vehicles?

Both battery-powered and hydrogen-powered cars are electric vehicles and therefore are part of electromobility. The two types of electric vehicles offer different advantages and disadvantages depending on the needs of the driver. According to their needs, the customer chooses the most suitable type of electric car.

THE hydrogen vehicles guarantee a range of 400-500 km and shorter refueling times (3 minutes) than battery-powered vehicles, but the latter have lower operating costs and consumption. We can say that battery-powered vehicles are suitable for short distances and urban mobility, while hydrogen vehicles can travel long distances even over interurban and mountainous stretches.

Dimensions and performance also change depending on the type of vehicle. Battery-powered cars are designed to cover the city car segment, while a hydrogen fuel cells higher categories such as SUVs, family cars and buses for scheduled service.

It can be safely said that battery-powered vehicles and i hydrogen vehicles they do not compete with each other, but serve different market segments and meet different consumer needs within electric mobility.

A new approach has been emerging for some time now, which consists of combining the best of both technologies. This is confirmed by the fact that from 2016 onwards the battery-powered BMW i3 could be equipped with a fuel cell as a range extender.

How is hydrogen produced?

The so-called 'green hydrogen' is produced by electrolysis using energy from renewable sources and stored in the form of gas. The hydrogen production center of the IIT in Bolzano, the first in Italy, amazes for the simplicity with which it is built and, properly engineered, can be replicated in any modern filling station. On-site production is necessary because transporting hydrogen over distances of more than 300 km would make the technology inexpensive.

How much does a full tank of hydrogen cost?

The price of a full of hydrogen for cars it is comparable to that of a diesel vehicle: to travel 100 km a fuel cell vehicle consumes about 1 kg of hydrogen, which is sold at the H2 station in Bolzano for € 11.29 / kg plus VAT; 100km with a diesel vehicle of the same category can cost up to € 13.50, depending on the fuel price.

What is the efficiency of hydrogen technology?

Comparing the well-to-wheel ('from source to wheel') efficiency of locally produced hydrogen with that of petroleum, it can be seen that hydrogen technology has twice the efficiency of petrol / diesel technology.

Technically, the overall efficiency of oil is about 14% (result of losses during transport, efficiency of refineries and diesel engine), while that of hydrogen is about 30% (efficiency of hydroelectric plants, transmission, electrolysis and fuel).

When can you buy a hydrogen vehicle?

Major manufacturers have announced the launch of the first on the European market shortly hydrogen vehicles:

  • Hyundai: in 2015
  • Toyota: in 2015
  • Honda: in 2016
  • Daimler: in 2017
  • BMW: currently working on several models; from 2016 the i3 model will probably be equipped with a fuel cell; pure fuel cell models (i5) are under development and testing.
  • Lexus: in 2017
  • VW / Audi: presented three fuel cell models at the 2014 Los Angeles Motor Show: Audi A7 Sportback h-tron, VW Golf and Passat. The manufacturer said the mechatronics is ready for commercialization, but the development of the market and refueling infrastructure is expected.

How much does a hydrogen vehicle cost?

Toyota and Hyundai have released reference prices for their a hydrogen fuel cell, the others not yet. The Toyota Mirai will be offered for around 50 thousand euros in Japan thanks to the support of the Japanese government; the same should happen in the USA. In Germany, the target price will be around 79,000 euros, without government subsidies. The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell SUV can already be purchased in Germany for around 65 thousand euros.

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