Electric cars get most of the press nowadays, but they aren’t the only eco-friendly car technology in town. Fuel cell vehicles are another alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars, offering zero carbon emissions. They offer some significant advantages over both gasoline and electric cars, but also have some pretty big downsides, too.
Curious about what fuel cell cars are like? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the technology.
Pro: Fuel Cell Cars Don’t Emit CO2 (Though Aren’t as Clean as Electric Cars)
The name of the eco game these days is reducing carbon emissions, and the good news is that fuel cell cars emit the same amount of carbon as electric cars do: zero. Here’s how fuel cell cars power themselves:
- Hydrogen gas enters the fuel cell and an electrode takes the hydrogen’s electrons as the gas passes through
- The electrons become an electrical current and run through the car’s electrical system
- The hydrogen gas and its electrons meet back up at another electrode, which recombines them
- The hydrogen gas exits the fuel cell, and combines with oxygen to become water
- The water is expelled from the car; nothing burns, so the car produces no pollutants
Though this sounds pretty eco-friendly, fuel cell cars aren’t quite as clean as electric cars because it’s difficult to get clean sources of hydrogen. Usually, the hydrogen gas used by fuel cell cars is acquired by processing natural gas—a process which uses fossil fuels. It’s still a cleaner process than burning gasoline, but all-electric cars will be cleaner, assuming they are in a location that uses renewable energy.
Pro: When You Become a Mechanic, You Might See That Fuel Cell Cars Can Fill Up Quickly
One of the biggest downsides of all-electric cars is that they take a long time to charge. A Tesla Supercharger, which is designed to get cars charged as quickly as possible, can take over 20 minutes to charge a car to full battery capacity. For long road trips, this can be quite restrictive, given that even the best electric cars can drive around 200-350 km on a full charge.
Because fuel cell vehicles run on a type of gas, they can be refuelled much more quickly. A typical fuel cell vehicle nearing an empty tank can get filled up within five minutes, and will usually get close to 500 km of range when full. For the range-anxious, eco-conscious clients you encounter after you become a mechanic, this kind of car could be a good buy.
Con: After You Become a Mechanic, You May Notice That Hydrogen Fuel Is Hard to Find
One of the biggest problems with fuel cell vehicles is that they are really, really hard to fuel. There are hardly any hydrogen fueling stations in Canada or America, so people who own a fuel cell car often can’t take advantage of the range benefits of their green technology of choice. Worse, it’s really expensive to create, transport, and store hydrogen gas. Whereas all-electric cars are much cheaper to run than a gasoline-powered car is, fuel cell vehicles are quite a bit more expensive to fuel.
Because there are so few fueling stations in the country, it’s unlikely that you’ll see many fuel cell vehicles after you become an auto mechanic in Montreal (it’s worth noting that there aren’t any in Montreal at all). But, if the industry makes a big push to increase availability of these stations, this could change in the coming years.
Fuel cell cars are promising in the amount of range they offer, and are quite clean in comparison to standard vehicles. Until current issues with fuel price and availability change, though, it’s unlikely that this technology will become very popular.
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