Could hydrogen fuel cells beat the battery?
09/04/2020 by MRL
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Electric vehicles may have been tipped as a revolutionary development in the journey towards removing fossil-fuel cars from the roads, but long charging times and limitations of range have proved a challenge for the eco-conscious drivers eager to adopt. At present, the best-selling affordable EV alternative (the Nissan Leaf) requires seven hours of charging to reach full capacity using a 208V-240V home-charging system which, according to the manufacturer, allows the driver to travel 100 miles.
Without an accessible infrastructure enabling an EV to fully recharge in a reasonable time-frame, motorists will naturally be apprehensive to purchase one – even with the promise of enhanced performance and reduced costs. While high speed chargers can charge EV cars in 15-30 minutes, these are costly for both consumers and businesses wanting to invest in charging points.
So, while some have invested in battery technology, others have been exploring hydrogen fuel cells. In 2018, it was revealed that scientists at the University of Glasgow were working to develop refillable (or ‘flow’) batteries that can be refuelled in minutes at converted gas stations. As European governments have made the continued production of petrol or diesel based vehicles unsustainable for automotive businesses, legacy OEMs must now decide how best to proceed – and with which fuel source.
Alongside the infrastructure challenges, there are questions over the sustainability of batteries, and the long term effect they could have on the environment. The problem is what to do with the battery at the end of its life – one faced similarly by mobile phone producers. Americans alone throw away 416,000 cell phones every single day, taking up a huge amount of landfill space. Automotive manufacturers and consumers are wary of adding to this problem.
But, while hydrogen fuel cells may reduce waste, the associated costs are high. It is expensive to break molecules to isolate hydrogen, and the safe distribution of hydrogen is also expensive. Indeed, the technology was first introduced in 1839, but advancement has been slow due to the prohibiting factors. Until these concerns are overcome, it seems as though we will fall short of finding the ‘ultimate’ solution.
Candidates in the ever-closer sectors of automotive and energy face the same choice as automotive producers: which technology to specialise in. While there are currently more roles available within batteries, due to the number of organisations already investing in this area, the opportunities within hydrogen fuel cells may be more exciting.
Due to the pressing need to revolutionise the automotive industry, which is currently undergoing massive disruption, businesses and governments around the globe are increasingly investing in alternative fuels, and specialising in hydrogen gives individuals the opportunity to be involved in new and emerging innovative technologies.
So, while businesses are considering which alternative fuel to invest in, candidates must ask themselves the same question. Either way, as the automotive market continues to reinvent itself, now is an incredible time to be part of the industry.
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