Environment & Ecology, Science and Technology
In News: Recently hydrogen fuel cell bus developed by KPIT-CSIR in Pune was unveiled by Union minister of state for Science and Technology.
What is a hydrogen fuel cell?
- The hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen and air to generate electricity, producing only heat and water in the process.
- Fuel cells work in a similar manner to conventional batteries found in electric vehicles but they do not run out of charge and do not need to be recharged with electricity.
- It continues to produce electricity if there is a supply of hydrogen. Just like conventional cells, a fuel cell consists of an anode (negative electrode) and cathode (positive electrode) sandwiched around an electrolyte.
- Hydrogen is fed to the anode and air is fed to the cathode.
- The electrons go through an external circuit, creating a flow of electricity that can be used to power electric motors. The protons, on the other hand, move to the cathode through the electrolyte. Once there, they unite with oxygen and electrons to produce water and heat.
What is the advantage of hydrogen FCEV?
- The main of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is that they produce no tailpipe emissions.
- They are more efficient than internal combustion engine vehicles.
- When it comes to refuelling time, which makes them more practical than battery-powered electric vehicles for public transportation purposes.
What are the challenges with FCEVs?
- FCEVs do not generate gases that contribute to global warming; the process of making hydrogen needs energy — often from fossil fuel sources. This has raised questions over hydrogen’s green credentials.
- There are questions of safety — hydrogen is more explosive than petrol.
- Hydrogen fuel tanks in FCEVs such as the Mirai are made from highly durable carbon fibre, whose strength is assessed in crash tests, and trials where bullets are fired at it, which makes vehicles, more expensive, and fuel dispensing pumps are scarce.
How environment-friendly are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
- Using a battery-powered electric vehicle does not mean that the vehicles produce no emissions, but rather, that they produce no tailpipe emissions.
- Since most of the electricity in the country comes from fossil fuels, and the biggest source of hydrogen in the world currently is also fossil fuels, these vehicles do cause many emissions with their usage.
- However, just like we are moving towards renewable sources of electricity, we could also move towards renewable methods of generating hydrogen in the future.
- So, even if these vehicles do contribute to emissions right now, the fuel that they need could be produced using renewable methods such as solar and wind energy.
Source: Indian Express
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