The technology that will not only coexist with the electric car, but will also be its main alternative

There are many who fear the transition that the automobile sector is undergoing because it is thought that the electric car will be the only plausible option. Nothing is further from reality, and this is made clear by the fuel cella technology designed not only to coexist with it, but also to be a plausible, effective and, depending on what aspects, better alternative.

However, for many this fuel cell is something completely unknown, or at least for now. And we are talking about a propulsion system not only little present in Spain, but in the market in general as there are very few vehicles that use it, but by 2030 it will be more than widespread.

What is a fuel cell in a car?

The first thing we should know is that fuel cell cars are, broadly speaking, electric cars. This is because it is an electric motor that ends up moving the vehicle, but with the difference that it is powered by hydrogen and not directly by electricity, and therein lies its main advantage and, in the current context, its main disadvantage.

And it is that in the fuel cell or hydrogen car we do not find a battery that stores electricity, but a fuel cell that transforms the hydrogen from which it feeds into electrical energy that ends up reaching the wheels. We could say that it is a system more similar to that of burning gasoline in a standard combustion car.

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Thus, oxygen is added to the hydrogen that enters the fuel cell once the first has dissociated to give two atoms. These, in turn, give up their single electron, and the proton passes through a porous polymer membrane. On the other side of this membrane, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to give waterwhich is what fuel cell cars end up expelling through their tailpipe.

That is, water is the residual product of the entire process, while the electricity generated is sent to a battery to later end up in the motor. However, we must know that the hydrogen car can send energy back to the battery through regenerative braking and, since it works with this element, this can allow the car to move without consuming hydrogen.

What are the main advantages of the fuel cell car?

The main advantage over combustion cars is that hydrogen vehicles are zero emissions, so they enjoy the same tax advantages, that is, the DGT ZERO label. But the high point and that really concerns us today is the advantage over electric cars, which is none other than the loading time.

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While in most cases we have to spend at least an hour charging the electric car -it could be less if there were a generous network of fast chargers in Spain-, the hydrogen only requires a few minutes to refuel. Yes, the process is slightly more complex than adding fuel given the conditions in which hydrogen is found to be able to store it, but it is as simple as arriving, attaching the hose and securing it, pressing the start button and waiting approximately five minutes.

Now, what are the disadvantages of the fuel cell car?

And it is that as it happens with electric and plug-in hybrids, fuel cell cars have a number of disadvantages. The first one does not depend so much on these, but on the manufacturers and governments, since these dictate how fast the process of adapting the hydrogen car is, and of course right now it is not, given the scarcity of recharging points that there are at least in Spain, and of which some are only for industrial use.

The second problem that we find about these is that, like the electric car, the hydrogen car is considerably expensive. Currently in Spain we can only get two hydrogen vehiclesthe Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo, and are priced at 65,000 and 73,450 euros respectively.

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And from there directly derives the third problem, and it is the little variety of vehicles on the market that show off this technology. This is due to its high cost and its complexity, leaving very few at the moment to resort to the fuel cell despite the fact that there are more cars in other markets.

Be that as it may, it will only be a matter of time that the hydrogen car becomes a plausible alternative given the many advantages it brings over electric vehicles. And it will not be unreasonable to see brands betting with more strength and impetus on the fuel cell car, an alternative that, together with synthetic fuels, will be the most logical options on the market between now and 2030.

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