With the launch of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell car, Honda’s trail blazing investments in that technology, and California’s commitment to deploy filling stations throughout the state, a new era in transportation has arrived.
An electric car, with an on board fuel cell able to generate its own power, is the holy grail of automotive engineering. It promises to free transportation from the grip of carbon fuel, a change that will have a profound global effect on how we interact with the environment, as we move about our world using motorized, assisted travel. From every angle, this is the technology of the future. Let’s take a look at some details.
Starting with the mechanical design of the vehicle, an electric powered car is nothing short of engineering elegance. There are no transmissions, no differentials, no belts, no hydraulic pumps, and no exhaust, intake or ignition systems. Propulsion is from a direct drive electric motor, which is infinitely simpler and more compact, than a piston engine. Electric motors are also quiet, an underrated characteristic, that has profound and wide ranging effects on the tranquility of every living creature on the planet. All controls are electronic, including the steering and braking systems, thereby eliminating the need for mechanical linkage between the driver and the wheels. The need for batteries is greatly diminished, as well. Since fuel cells produce electricity on demand, just a small fraction of electrical storage capacity is required to run accessories off line and buffer the fuel cell output to the motor. From a maintenance perspective, an owner does little more than fill the vehicle with fuel, rotate the tires and wash the car. We are talking about a quantum leap in technology and none too soon.
But the benefits don’t stop with the vehicle itself. The infrastructure required to support it is the beneficiary of its design as well. The roads we travel, the filling stations and the industries that provide fuel will all feel an unburdening as well. Roads won’t be coated with oil and soot from the vehicles that use them. They will last longer and be less slippery during rains. Filling stations will no longer need tanker trucks to haul explosive gas from refineries. They will use solar panels to separate hydrogen from water at the station, becoming a self-contained source of the fuel they sell. The water line into the filling station is the primary fuel distribution infrastructure. Drilling for oil, refining it into gas and transporting it to every station in the country, will become a thing of the past. Carbon resources, best left safely sequestered in the ground, can remain there and the disastrous consequences they engender can be avoided.
In a world of complex, interdependent issues, it’s nice to see an opportunity with such promise coming over the horizon. Here’s a link to what that future will look like, as it arrives: http://t.autos.msn.com/news/toyota-launching-hydrogen-car