By now, I think we are all aware that battery powered cars are becoming more and more common. However, as long as our main power source is coal – battery powered cars are still not environmentally friendly – because every time you charge your car, most likely coal will be burned to create that energy.
One day in Chemistry class, I thought Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, it would be silly to not use it as an energy source. Coincidentally, later that day I read about the Toyota Mirai. Toyota developed this car in 2015 and it is the first hydrogen powered car to enter the market. Previously, it was believed that hydrogen powered cars would be impossible to build. In 2003, the Department of Energy estimated that a Hydrogen powered car would cost $100,000. However in 7 years that cost fell by 80%! This is thanks to the falling cost of the fuel cell.
A hydrogen powered car works like this – hydrogen is filled into the fuel cell, then the cell strips the electrons from the protons. The electrons are used as a pure form of electricity. The byproduct of this process is steam (Lampton).
Getting Hydrogen is harder than you think. Even though Hydrogen comprises of 90% of the atoms around you, it is hard to harvest because it is always bound to something like water or air. The process to get Hydrogen is actually 150 years old, we know it as Electrolysis. This is a process where an electric current is placed in water. The H2O separates into oxygen and hydrogen. This process contains an anode and a cathode (inert metals). The Hydrogen will go to the cathode, and the Oxygen will go to the anode.
Going back to the Mirai, The Mirai will begin selling in California at a price of $58,335. It will have a fuel economy of 66 miles per gallon and a range of 555 miles. Both figures are very impressive considering that the car is only in its first year of production.
The Mirai marks a turning point in alternative energy. I am sure that as the manufacturing process of fuel cells is refined, costs will go down. I hope to see hydrogen technology advance in not only the automobile sector, but especially the energy creation sector where countries like the US, China, and India have yet to significantly reduce their reliance on Coal and Natural Gas.