What you need to know about Fuel cell electric vehicles
Fuel cell electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles are considered to be the eco-friendly technology and both technologies are powered by an electric motor and have different properties.
The battery technology companies are growing rapidly by some of the major automotive companies such as BMW, Tesla, Toyota, Hyundai, MG Motor, and Mercedes, etc started to introduce electric vehicles in the market. On the other hand, if we talk about the FCEV are still at the demonstration stage in spite of the fuel cell technology came into existence much before the introduction of electric vehicles.
What are Fuel cell electric vehicles?
A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has a hydrogen tank that feeds a fuel cell with high pressured hydrogen gas that will mix with oxygen. This mix starts an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity to power the electric motor.
In other words, the fuel cells convert the stored hydrogen gas into electricity by mixing it with oxygen. This electricity is then used to power an electric motor to run a fuel cell vehicle.
If we look for its efficiency, for example, 100 watts of electricity produced by a renewable source such as a wind turbine. To power an FCEV, this energy has to be converted into hydrogen, by electrolysis process. Around 25% of the electricity is automatically lost after electrolysis process.
Components of a hydrogen fuel cell electric car
- Battery (auxiliary)
- Battery pack
- DC/DC converter
- Electric traction motor (FCEV)
- Fuel cell stack
- Fuel filler
- Fuel tank (hydrogen)
- Power electronics controller (FCEV)
- Thermal system (cooling)
- Transmission (electric)
The energy efficiency is reduced to 75%. The hydrogen produced has to be compressed, chilled and transported to the hydrogen station, this process is around 90% efficient. Inside the vehicle, the hydrogen needs to be converted into electricity, which is 60% efficient. Finally, the electricity used in the motor to move the vehicle is around 95% efficient. So its only 38% of the original electricity which is 38 watts out of 100 watts is used.
Graphene use for more durable hydrogen fuel cells
According to the Queen Mary University of London research made by the scientists that graphene could be used to make more durable hydrogen fuel cells for cars. The Nanoscale researchers produces graphene through a special, scalable technique and used to develop hydrogen fuel cell catalysts. They have shown that this new type of graphene-based catalyst was more durable than commercially available catalysts and matched their performance.
On the recommendation of the US Department of Energy (DoE), the researchers confirmed that the durability of the graphene-based catalyst using a type of test. According to the tests, the scientists showed that the loss in activity over the same testing period was around 30 per cent lower in the newly developed graphene-based catalyst, compared with commercial catalysts.
In these fuel cells, platinum is mostly and widely use catalyst but it is of the high cost to commercialised them. So to tackle with the issue the commercial catalysts are typically made by decorating tiny nanoparticles of platinum onto cheaper carbon support that supports but the durability of the material will reduce the lifetime of current fuel cells.
Graphene can be ideal support material for fuel cells due to its corrosion resistance, high surface area and high conductivity. However, the use of graphene in the majority of the experiments contains many defects which means the predicted improved resistance has not yet been achieved.
The technique described in the study produces high-quality graphene which is decorated with platinum nanoparticles in a one-pot synthesis. This process could be scaled up for mass production, opening up the use of graphene-based catalysts for widespread energy applications.
India’s first hydrogen fuel cell-based electric vehicles project
The State-owned NTPC, India’s largest power producer is planning to undertake pilot projects on hydrogen fuel cell-based electric vehicles in India for demonstration and public transportation. At first, the five such buses and cars each in New Delhi and Leh (a district in union territory Ladakh) are planned and later on the project may extend in other cities.
The NTPC sought the global Expression of Interest (EOI) from manufacturers for the supply of hydrogen fuel cell buses and cars for the pilot project. The NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN) Limited has issued this EOI. This initiative was launched with the support of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. It will deal the renewable energy for the generation of hydrogen and develop its storage and dispensation facilities as part of pilot projects at Leh and Delhi. This is the first project in India to bring in hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles where we can obtain complete solutions for the green energy.
The project will be completed under the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II) scheme.
Fuel cell vehicles
There are many major automakers who are working and some have already launched fuel cells vehicles such as Hyundai Motor, Toyota, etc.
Hyundai a global leader of fuel cell technology
Hyundai Introduced a Hydrogen-Powered Truck, HDC-6 NEPTUNE Concept Class 8 and a clean energy refrigerated concept trailer, the HT Nitro ThermoTech. The company claims that both concepts add product detail to its Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) 2030 Vision.
HDC-6 NEPTUNE, the concept for the next-generation fuel-cell electric truck, represents the Hyundai Motor’s vision of mobility for a global hydrogen society. HDC-6 NEPTUNE delivers innovative futuristic architecture.
According to the company, the HDC-6 NEPTUNE Class 8 truck, is looking forward to the future in design, in-cab technology and propulsion system. Whereas, the HT Nitro ThermoTech creates a window into the future of transportation in the U.S. and around the world. It will use a cryogenic nitrogen refrigeration technology system.
The company claims that both concepts add product detail to its Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) 2030 Vision for the wide-spread deployment of hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology.
Hyundai is a global leader in fuel cell technology. In 2013, Hyundai launched the first mass-produced and commercially available fuel cell electric vehicle. In 2018, Hyundai launched the dedicated FCEV, NEXO. Later in December 2018, Hyundai invested USD 6.4 billion to boost up the development of a hydrogen driven society.
Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell electric car ‘Mirai’
The new hydrogen Mirai will be an improved stack for longer range and better performance. It will have a range of over 600 km on a single charge. The new Toyota Mirai is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell technology with a longer range when compared to the current generation Mirai having a 482 km per charge.
The new Mirai gives a range of 600 km on a single charge and the carmaker didn’t reveal the other details yet. It will first go on sale in Japan, North America and Europe. But it will not come to India this soon as India is not having hydrogen dispensing stations.
But this car is making a huge difference in the field of electric vehicles as the power used to run the vehicle is generated through hydrogen. Hopefully, this kind of technology too will come to India soon.
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