Simply comparing the performance and economic efficiency of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) and Electric Vehicles (EV) is a fragmentary approach. Before diving into a more in-depth discussion on FCEV and its merits, we need to understand what hydrogen energy is.
At the moment, a staggering 85% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Although fossil fuels can be efficient sources of energy, various environmental issues and concerns over the depletion of fossil fuels in the future have driven several countries around the world to explore alternative energy sources that can help them break away from the firm grip of fossil fuels. In particular, most countries are looking to increase their infrastructures for sustainable and environmentally friendly renewable energy such as solar power or wind power. As for Korea, the government has announced its plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 20% of all energy output by 2030.
Renewable energy, however, involves harnessing natural elements and as such, it is limited by a few of its inherent characteristics e.g. intermittent availability, structural rigidity, regional variations, etc. In other words, renewable energy will, at some point or another, experience a surplus or shortage of power. To resolve issues stemming from the surplus/shortage of power supply, the energy infrastructure for renewable energy requires the means to store and transport any potential over-production of energy. That is where hydrogen energy comes in.
Hydrogen energy, produced by electrolyzing water, is a secondary energy that is easy to store and transport in substantial quantities. Renewable energy operators can use any leftover power on their hands to produce and store hydrogen, transport it to where the end-users are, and then generate power using fuel cells. This can help overcome some of the inherent limitations of renewable energy, and utilize power in a more stable and efficient way. (P2G, H-ESS) In other words, hydrogen energy’s role as an “energy carrier” is crucial in further popularizing renewable energy.
For hydrogen energy to serve its role effectively, however, it requires sophisticated fuel cell technology as well as advanced hydrogen production, storage, and transportation systems. Moving forward, FCEV are expected to push the envelope of hydrogen energy technology and propel the entire industry forward. First of all, technological requirements for fuel cells used in transportation are much higher than the requirements for fuel cells used for residential purposes or power generation. As such, technological innovations gleaned from FCEV can lead to better hydrogen
energy-related technologies and systems when they spill over to other sectors. Also, the increased use of FCEV can spearhead technological development in the production, storage, and transportation of hydrogen, which will, ultimately, serve as a catalyst that helps the entire hydrogen energy industry grow.
A fuel cell electric vehicle, or an FCEV, drives using the electricity that is generated when the hydrogen stored in the vehicle is joined with air. The vehicle emits zero pollution, and the only thing that is discharged from the vehicle when it generates power is pure water (H2O).
It is also called the ‘air purifier on the road ‘ as it is capable for removing 99.9% of ultra-fine dust (PM2.5) from the atmosphere. An FCEV which has a tank that stores hydrogen instead of fuel for an internal combustion engine can have a range that is equal to that of internal combustion engines.
Also, the time it takes to charge the hydrogen is similar to filling up a gasoline tank at a gas station, around three to five minutes. Also, the power system of an FCEV can be used as a commercial power generator, so that the vehicle can transmit its power to the grid.
Rather than burning hydrogen supplied from a hydrogen tank to produce energy, FCEV produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air, and then use that electricity to drive an electric motor. It produces water as a byproduct and, compared to electric motors, it generates less noise.
FCEV use power generated through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air, whereas electric vehicles use electricity stored onto a battery. On the other hand, hybrid vehicles use power generated through an internal combustion engine and a battery.
FCEV are perfectly suited for vehicles that require quick recharge times (3~5 minutes), travel long distances, and require more carrying capacity than standard passenger vehicles (i.e. trucks, buses, etc.) In particular, FCEV do not emit any harmful exhaust gases. Instead, they purify the air, which makes them the perfect vehicles for our environment.
EV How they work : The driving motor supports battery-powered operation.
FCEV How they work : Drivers the motor by generating power through the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.
Sometimes people mistakenly worry about storing hydrogen in a tank under a pressure of 700bar, which is very high, mounted on a vehicle. However, what is being used in an FCEV is the normal ‘hydrogen molecules.’ It is nothing like a hydrogen bomb, where tritium or heavy hydrogen is needed to trigger a nuclear fusion at a temperature exceeding 100 million degrees and under several thousand bars of pressure.
Also, the FCEV of Hyundai Motor Group have been certified for the safety of its hydrogen tanks, for their resistance against permeation, that is, preventing the hydrogen from leaking out from the tank, flame resistance to prevent the tank from exploding when the vehicle catches fire, and impact resistance to protect the tank in a collision accident. The tanks satisfy not only the South Korean standard but also the European standard, and even the world’s toughest standard which is the UN’s global, integrated standard.
World’s First Mass-Production FCEV
(2013, Tucson iX FCEV) Succeeded in mass-production of FCEV for the first time in the world in 2013
Selected as the world’s top 10 engine
(Tucson FCEV) In 2015, an American research firm named WardsAuto named it as one of the top 10 engines of the world, which was the first time for an FCEV.
World’s Best FCEV launched in the
market (2018, NEXO)