Imagine an automobile powered by the sun! No, we’re not talking about solar-powered cars, although that could happen one day. We’re talking about automobiles that are a miniature sun themselves. Ever hear of “fuel cell” vehicles? They could be the future in the automotive industry.
Hydrogen Vehicles and the Hydrogen Highway
To start understanding fuel cell vehicles, one needs to know about hydrogen vehicles. One could call it a miniature sun, for what is the sun other than a giant nuclear fusion reactor with an abundant source of hydrogen? Next comes helium and all the other elements that make up the universe and the human body. Yeah, your body was once a star – think about that for a moment.
We’re getting off track though; a hydrogen vehicle is, as the name states, a vehicle that utilizes hydrogen as its onboard fuel source. We wonder if this is how hybrid vehicle developers felt when first coming out with a new car that didn’t rely solely on gasoline, diesel, or a fossil fuel. Hydrogen vehicles are on the horizon, and big names like Toyota, Hyundai, and soon Kia will be getting hydrogen vehicles known as “fuel cell vehicles.”
To manufacture and market hydrogen vehicles, there are three roadblocks – manufacturing costs, marketability, and the implementation of hydrogen infrastructures. The last one on the list is sure to raise concern – a facility housing a large supply of hydrogen? That’s a bomb waiting to happen.
Once upon a time however, gas stations may have been thought to be just as dangerous, and yet hundreds upon thousands of people visit them every day. You can find gas stations on nearly every street, and charging stations are popping up more frequently too. Next up could be hydrogen highways, or chains of hydrogen infrastructures along roads and highways to keep hydrogen vehicles going.
Fuel Cell Vehicle and Kia
It’s a ways away, but in 2018, the Hyundai Group will be debut a next-generation fuel cell system in a Hyundai-branded vehicle. This sounds like a new thing, but apparently the auto industry has been making the move on this for some time now. If we thought the competition for autonomous cars was heating up, the hydrogen vehicle market is expected to head towards critical mass in 2020, with Daimler, BMW, Toyota, Honda, and General Motors releasing fuel cell vehicles – there are already three vehicles in the market to date.
That’s about the same time we’ll also see a fuel cell vehicle wearing the Kia brand. A part of the Hyundai Group, Kia will be taking a back seat for now while Hyundai paves the way and takes the sticker price flack. They already debuted a fuel cell vehicle at the Geneva auto show, and between now and 2020, the auto group will be working on reducing the costs of materials to make mass-manufacturing of fuel cell vehicles not just a probability, but a possibility.
Hydrogen is largely generated from the burning of fossil fuels today, but there are other routes, such as natural gas, coal, or simply separating the hydrogen from water via electrolysis. Can the auto market really pass on an endless supply of fuel? Hybrids and electric vehicles were thought to be revolutionary, but they’re just paving the way for something greater.
Photo Sources: St.MotorTrend.com and spaceplace.nasa.gov
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