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How do Hydrogen Cars Work?

How do Hydrogen Cars Work?

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2011
Alternative energy vehicles automobiles that are propelled by something other than traditional petroleum-based fuels are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer the promise of environmentally friendly transportation. One of the cleanest in today's marketplace is the hydrogen vehicle its only tailpipe emission is harmless water vapor. But how do hydrogen cars work?

Hydrogen vehicles run on hydrogen gas. The gas is stored in a compressed state in high-pressure tanks, located either in the trunk or under the floor of the vehicle. While the hydrogen gas is very flammable, it is not burned. Instead, the gas is passed through a fuel cell stack that mixes the pure hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen to generate electric current. The electricity is then used to power one or more electric motors driving the wheels. The only thing emitted out of the exhaust pipe is residual water vapor said to be clean enough to drink, theoretically of course.

Like hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, a hydrogen car also utilizes a battery pack. However, since it is only used to boost acceleration and not for primary propulsion, the battery pack can be much smaller. The battery pack is charged through regenerative braking and with excess energy created by the hydrogen fuel cell.

From the driver's seat, a hydrogen vehicle drives just like an electric vehicle there is little to no noise other than that of the rushing wind and the road passing beneath the tires, which now appear to be more prominent due to the lack of engine and exhaust noises. Power from the electric motors is strong, and electric motors make full torque at zero RPM, so acceleration is brisk.