How do hydrogen cars work?


Derived from the energy source of oil, gasoline and diesel can start a car, but their use is very polluting. However, hydrogen can also be used to move a vehicle, since it is a fuel. But it is not a conventional one, but it is characterized by being clean and sustainable, because instead of CO2 it emits water vapour, which makes it an ideal option to respect the environment. And it is that this gas, called H2, is odorless, tasteless and colorless, and is currently becoming fashionable within the automotive industry. 

How do hydrogen cars work

Types of hydrogen engines

The process of operation of hydrogen engines has its origin in the chemical reaction that occurs after the ignition of the engine. During this, the hydrogen is combined in a membrane with the ambient air, causing a flow of electricity that, when directed towards the engine, manages to start the car.

There are two types of hydrogen engines:

  • Combustion: as in the case of gasoline, hydrogen is burned in the internal combustion engine. It is not free from producing polluting emissions, so its use is not the most recommended.
  • Fuel cell: when hydrogen is oxidized, electrons are lost that start to work as electric current, circulating through the fuel cells that give movement to the motors, so this method is similar to the operation of a battery. Unlike the combustion system, this system produces zero emissions

Therefore, the combustion engine burns hydrogen as if it were gasoline and the fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity.

combustion engines

This alternative energy works by burning hydrogen in the internal combustion engine, as gasoline would. However, in this case the levels of pollution in the environment are not reduced, and for this reason it is most appropriate to choose a hydrogen car with a fuel cell engine.

fuel cell engines

Producing zero emissions without emitting any type of waste (only water vapor), the fuel cell electric car transforms hydrogen into electrical energy, which is directed to the battery and causes the engine to work.

In this system, the battery consumes a series of reagents that are constantly replenished. When the incoming hydrogen —the anodes, with positive energy— mixes with the incoming oxygen —the cathodes, with negative energy— an exchange of protons is carried out on a membrane, while the electrons that are lost go to the batteries and from there, to the engine. On the other hand, this procedure releases nitrogen through the hydrogen channel and water vapor through the oxygen channel, but not carbon dioxide or other polluting gases.


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