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Hydrogen- The Fuel of the Future

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March 02, 2022

Why in news?

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is emerging globally as a valuable multisector alternative for fossil fuels.

What is the need for the push towards alternative energy sources?

  • Combating climate change
  • Preventing the ecological degradation
  • Reaching the net-zero emissions goal in the next few decades
  • Reducing the carbon footprint

What is the fuel cell technology?

  • A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity.
  • If hydrogen is the fuel, the only products are electricity, water, and heat.
  • Working- Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging.
  • They produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.
  • A fuel cell consists of two electrodes—anode and cathode sandwiched around an electrolyte.
  • A fuel, such as hydrogen, is fed to the anode, and air is fed to the cathode.
  • The electrons go through an external circuit, creating a flow of electricity.
  • The protons migrate through the electrolyte to the cathode, where they unite with oxygen and the electrons to produce water and heat.

/fuelcell

What are fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)?

  • Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are powered by hydrogen.
  • FCEVs use electricity to power an electric motor but instead of using electricity through batteries, FCEVs generate electricity using a fuel cell stack powered by hydrogen, which is stored on-board.
  • FCEVs are among the cleanest modes of transportations as they release no harmful emissions, and only emit water vapour and warm air.
  • With future technical enhancements, there will be a forecasted improvement in overall WTW (well-to-wheel) efficiency for FCEVs which is pegged at around 30–35 % today.
  • Benefits
    • Achieve energy security
    • Fulfill de-carbonisation goals
    • Possess higher energy density (more energy per unit mass)
    • Require shorter fuelling durations
    • Have long-range applications that are not viable with battery electric vehicles because of the constraints of LI-Ion batteries
    • Inherent renewability component
    • Helps in reducing greenhouse emissions
    • No emissions and environmental friendly

What are the challenges?

  • Hydrogen technology is still at a very nascent stage in the country, and there is limited infrastructure and scale of hydrogen dispensing units available.
  •  This makes the acquisition and total cost of ownership for FCEVs higher.
  • Most hydrogen production methods deployed today rely on fossil fuels.

What is the road ahead?

  • The government incentives and localisation of core aggregates are likely to reduce costs and improve the overall economics of FCEV.
  • The newly introduced National Hydrogen Energy Mission Programme aims to bring open access to renewable energy and increase the production of green hydrogen.
  • With these positive steps, one can expect a decisive move towards a sustainable future of mobility, with hydrogen fuel cell technology playing a predominant role across segments, in public transport, commercial vehicles, and passenger vehicles.

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/fuel-of-the-future/article65143828.ece
  2. https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/fuel-cells
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David-Murray-Smith/publication/337991572/figure/fig1/AS:837173670600705@1576609165968/Schematic-diagram-of-hydrogen-fuel-cell.png

 

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