Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cracking the problem of hydrogen-fuel future

Honda Clarity's cell produces similar power to one of their conventional four-cylinder petrol engines, and the car performs like a typical family saloon Photo: WES ALLISON

By James May 5:08PM GMT 24 Feb 2011

Right then. A few of you, over on the internet forum, have requested it, so here it is: James’s Ladybird Book of How It Works - the hydrogen fuel-cell motor car. Are you sitting comfortably? Smashing. The first thing to understand is that a fuel-cell car, such as Honda’s FCX Clarity, is still an electric one. The wheels are driven by an electric motor, just as they are in a G-Whiz, but whereas the G-Whiz relies on rechargeable batteries the Clarity comes with its own on-board electricity generating station. This is the fuel cell. A battery car has to be recharged with a flex dangling from the eighth-floor window of your flat, and the operation may take all morning. The fuel-cell car is refilled with hydrogen from a forecourt pump, rather in the way a petrol tank is replenished, and this takes just a few minutes. The fuel cell has been understood since the first half of the 19th century, as has the electric motor. So both technologies pre-date the internal combustion engine, and this is encouraging. Inside the fuel cell - and this is a ruthless simplification - hydrogen (from the tank) is combined with oxygen (from the surrounding air) and causes a small electric current to flow through a wire, and for reasons that needn’t concern us. Interesting article here

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