"I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine."
William Clay Ford Jr., Businessman
Hydrogen fuel cells are devices that convert energy stored in molecular bonds into electrical energy.
Hydrogen gas and oxygen gas are used to generate large amounts of power.
Since pure water may be enough to generate this kind of energy, hydrogen fuel cells are one of the most promising green energy sources for the future. In this article, the pros and cons of fuel cells are examined.
Fuel cells can be regarded to be the greenest energy source known to humanity at the current point in time. Contrary to conventional energy made out of fossil fuels, hydrogen power does literally not hurt our environment at all if it is generated solely from water.
Moreover, compared to other renewable energies like hydropower or biofuels which require large areas of land for energy production, the generation of hydrogen power does not require the use of large surface space, which makes it even greener since natural habitats can be protected.
Since hydrogen power can be generated out of water, it is fully renewable and sustainable as long as power production companies have access to sufficient water. Even though water will become a scarcer resource in the future due to global warming, the water supply for the use of fuel cells should be ensured, especially in the Northern hemisphere of our planet where temperatures should stay on a quite moderate level.
In contrast to conventional power sources, the use of hydrogen power does not imply any significant emissions. Thus, this make fuel cells superior in terms of pollution to many other power sources, including green energies like solar or wind power. Imagine a world in which we could produce almost unlimited power with pollution. Wouldn’t that be great?!
Unlike conventional fuels which often imply the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, fuel cells do not. In fact, if hydrogen power if fully generated from water and the energy production process is set up properly, there are literally no carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fuel cells at all.
Fuel cells can also be regarded to be superior in terms of efficiency compared to most other energy sources. Especially compared to other green energies, hydrogen power has a significant edge and will even improve its advantage in efficiency once research and technology develops further.
For cars operated by fuel cells, the charging time is usually quite low and it only takes a few minutes to fuel a car, quite similar to the use of conventional fuels like gasoline.
Thus, the charging time for cars operated by fuel cells is much lower compared to the charging time for electric cars.
Therefore, since people in our nowadays society are often stressed and value their time even more, hydrogen cars may become superior to electric cars at one point in time.
Fuel cells could also be used to fuel spacecrafts in order to explore an conquer remote planets and stars in our universe. If the technological advancements of fuel cells are big enough in the future, chances are that it will be a promising energy source for spacecraft adventures since it has more advantages compared to conventional fossil fuels.
Contrary to other alternative energies like wind energy, there is literally no noise pollution at all from the use of fossil fuels. If fuel cells are used in car engines, chances are that the overall noise level from traffic would become much lower since the loud noises from conventional car engines could be avoided, similar to the use of electric cars.
Other energy sources like biofuels or wind energy often imply significant levels of visual pollution. Hydrogen power has no real visual pollution effects since hydrogen power plants are quite clean and also do not need plenty of space to operate. Thus, also in terms of visual pollution, fuel cells could be regarded to be superior compared to other power sources.
Cars that are operated by fossil fuels can make up to 300 miles until they have to be refueled. Thus, there are some cars that use fuel cells which can reach similar distances like conventional cars. Moreover, fuel cells can also be used for several other purposes once technology progresses, which may make it even more attractive.
Especially quite remote regions which are not well connected to the public electricity grid, fuel cells may be a good alternative for energy generation in the next decades.
Imagine people who live in remote areas could produce their own energy by using hydrogen power cells.
This would mean an enormous improvement in living conditions since these people would now be much better connected to the outside world and could be supplied with sufficient energy for their daily lives.
Even though hydrogen power is often related to the use in cars, there are plenty of field of application for fuel cells. Clean energy could be used in several parts of our daily life once this technology becomes mature. This could include small devices like hairdryers or even big ones like heating systems.
Fuel cells are also known for their low maintenance efforts. After the initial installation, fuel cells can usually operate for a quite long time without issues. The maintenance efforts will likely be even lower in the future since technology progresses and processes related to hydrogen power will become even more sophisticated.
Many countries all over the world heavily rely on the supply of fossil fuels from countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. However, this kind of dependence is quite bad since it also implies significant dependence regarding political decisions.
Thus, by using fuel cells instead, countries could become independent from the supply of fossil fuels from other countries and could therefore also ensure their independence regarding their political attitudes.
The lower level of dependence on fossil fuels that could be accomplished through the expansion of hydrogen power could also lower the dependence on the world market prices for fossil fuels like oil. Since oil is a fossil fuel that will eventually become depleted, chances are that the world market price for oil will increase over the next decades.
Thus, in order to be not affected by those price increases, countries should expand their use of alternative energies as soon as possible, which may also include the use of hydrogen power in the future energy mix.
Once the technology behind fuel cells becomes mature, hydrogen power could be used for a huge variety of different devices. It is also quite easy to scale since the chemical processes behind fuel cells are rather simple and may firms will likely use it for several sorts of household devices as well as for other things of our daily life.
Since fuel cells are in a quite early stage of development at the current point in time, there is plenty of room for improvements in the future. If there is sufficient research on this kind of technology, fuel cells might become the most promising technology in the future. Thus, researchers all over the world should work together in order to accelerate the technological advancements regarding hydrogen power.
Due to extensive research, fuel cells could become even more efficient in the future, which may also lead to lower prices for hydrogen power. Thus, at one point in the future, hydrogen power may even be cheaper than conventional fossil fuels, which may make its use even more attractive for the general public.
Due to all those advantages mentioned before, hydrogen power may be the most promising renewable energy source in the future. In the long run, it may even replace solar or wind energy since it can be considered to be even greener than other alternative energy sources.
Even though fuel cells might be one of the most promising alternative energy sources in the future, it is not yet a mature technology. In order to improve the processes and the efficiency of hydrogen power, large amounts of money have to be invested and also the political attitude towards fuel cells must change in a more supporting manner.
Since for the production of fuel cells, platinum and other precious materials have to be used, the initial costs for fuel cells could be quite high. This may deter many private people to invest in this kind of technology.
Since the technology behind fuel cells is not mature yet, it can not be considered to be a reliable power source at our current point in time. Moreover, there are not many occasions and loading stations for hydrogen power devices yet, which makes it not practical to solely rely on fuel cells.
Although this may change dramatically over the next years or decades, right now, the unit price for power produced from fuel cells is quite high compared to other energy sources. Even green energies like wind or solar energy can produce energy much cheaper than hydrogen power is able to.
Similar to electric cars, also cars that use fuel cells for their engine are often quite expensive compared to conventional cars. Thus, the incentive for private persons to switch from conventional to hydrogen power cars is rather low, especially for people in low or middle income groups which can simply not afford to spend large sums of money for a car.
Not only car prices related to fuel cells are high, also there is a quite limited number of car companies that engage in this kind of technology yet. Thus, there is only a limited number of models people can choose from and if no model fits individual preferences, chances are that people will still rely on conventional cars operated by fossil fuels.
In order to push hydrogen power to a state where it will be competitive in the alternative energy market in terms of prices and availability, plenty of research has to be done in order to improve the efficiency of processes. Only then will it be possible to supply a high number of people with energy produced by fuel cells for a reasonable price.
The overall lifespan of fuel cell devices is rather low at the current point in time since the technology behind hydrogen power is quite sensitive to extreme conditions. Thus, the average lifespan of engines that are driven by fuel cells may be much lower compared to other engine types.
Fuel cells are also quite sensitive to changes in temperature, especially to high temperatures. If temperatures become too high, fuel cells might no longer work properly, which may imply a loss in efficiency and may also lower the lifespan of fuel cell engines.
Another big problem related to hydrogen power is that there is simply insufficient infrastructure that supports this kind of technology. For instance, when using cars that are operated with fossil fuels, there are fuel stations every few miles.
In contrast, when using a car that is operated with fuel cells, it may take quite a long time until there is a fuel station that also provides hydrogen power.
Thus, due to this lack of suitable infrastructure, hydrogen power has a long way to go before it will become a serious alternative to fossil fuels.
There are also serious storage issues related to hydrogen power. The storage of hydrogen fuel is quite difficult and also implies high costs. Thus, this storage issue has to be solved before hydrogen power will become a suitable energy source on a broad scale.
Not only the storage, but also the transportation of hydrogen fuel is costly and expensive and has to be done with great care since hydrogen fuel is flammable and may lead to disasters if this transportation processes are not carried out properly.
Accidents related to hydrogen power should not be underestimated. If the production of hydrogen power is not done in a safe manner, explosions may cause serious damage and may also lead to the death of many workers. Thus, overall safety measures are crucial in order to avoid fatalities related to hydrogen power accidents.
Fuel Cell Pros
One of the greenest energy sources
Sustainable & renewable
Literally no emissions
Highly efficient energy source
Quick charging of hydrogen cars
Could be used in spacecraft
No noise pollution
No visual pollution
Fuel cells can run for a quite long time
May be perfect for remote areas
Suitable for several devices
Low maintenance efforts
Lower dependence on other countries
Lower dependence on fossil fuel prices
Room for improvements in the future
May become cheaper in the future
Fuel cells may become THE green technology
Fuel Cell Cons
Not mature yet
Raw materials are quite expensive
Not reliable yet
Quite expensive power source
Hydrogen cars are expensive
Only a few car firms engage in fuel cells
Plenty of research needed in the future
Durability may be quite short
Sensitivity regarding extreme temperatures
Hydrogen power infrastructure still missing
Potential serious accidents
Hydrogen power is one of the most promising green energy sources and may be THE energy source to ensure our energy supply in the future. However, hydrogen fuel cells are not a mature technology yet.
Plenty of research has to be done and the infrastructure around this technology has to be improved in order to make it a suitable alternative to other energy sources.
In the future, hydrogen energy may supply large amounts of energy to the local population in all parts of our daily life, without any sorts of emissions. Wouldn’t it be great to get almost unlimited amounts of energy without any pollution?!
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master's degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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