Automakers Stretch Reach for Alternative Fuels


The Detroit Bureau - October 8, 2012

Nissan and Hyundai are among automakers willing to putting fuel-cell vehicles into production.

There’s an ‘up-side’ and a ‘down-side’ to the venture.

The good news:

The energy produced by a fuel cell stack, meanwhile, could be used to run the same sort of motor drive system found in today’s electric vehicles. But, since a tank of hydrogen could readily be refilled in a matter of minutes – rather than the hours it takes to charge up an electric vehicle – proponents often referred to the fuel cell as a “refillable battery.”

The primary problems:

  • While hydrogen is abundant, it is always found in a chemical form, such as the hydrocarbons that make up gasoline, requiring lots of energy to free up the gas;
  • Distributing hydrogen is technically complex and there’s no mass infrastructure in place to rival today’s gasoline station network;
  • Storing hydrogen onboard a vehicle is costly and difficult; and
  • Fuel cells remain expensive and difficult to mass produce.