Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

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Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work? Cars that run on hydrogen are called fuel-cell vehicles. They are electric vehicles that get their energy from a fuel-cell stack rather than a battery pack.

A hydrogen vehicle is a vehicle that runs on hydrogen fuel. Space rockets powered by hydrogen, as well as ships and aircraft, are examples of hydrogen vehicles.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Table of Content-Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

History of Hydrogen Vehicle

As of 2021, two hydrogen car models are publicly available in select markets: the Toyota Mirai (2014-), the world’s first mass-produced dedicated fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and the Hyundai Nexo (2018–). There are also hydrogen fuel cell buses. Hydrogen aircraft are unlikely to carry many passengers over long distances before the 2030s.

Hydrogen Production Units

As of 2019, steam methane reforming produces 98% of hydrogen, which emits carbon dioxide.It can be produced through water electrolysis, thermochemical or pyrolytic processes using renewable feedstocks, but the processes are currently expensive.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen Production Units– Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Various technologies are being developed with the goal of delivering costs and quantities low enough to compete with natural gas-based hydrogen production.

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The production and compression of hydrogen, and the investment required to build refuelling infrastructure around the world to dispense hydrogen, and transportation of hydrogen.

Commercially available hydrogen vehicles

As of 2021, two hydrogen vehicles are commercially available in select markets: the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo.

The Honda Clarity was manufactured between 2016 and 2021. The Hyundai Tucson FCEV, a conversion of the Tucson that was only available in left-hand drive, was launched in 2013 and became the world’s first commercially mass-produced vehicle of its type.

Hyundai Nexo, which replaced the Tucson in 2018, was named the “safest SUV” by Euro NCAP in 2018 and received a “Good” rating in an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety side crash test.

Toyota introduced the Mirai, the world’s first dedicated mass-produced fuel cell vehicle (FCV), in Japan at the end of 2014 and began sales in California, primarily in Los Angeles area and also in selected markets in Europe, the UK, Germany and Denmark.

Advantages and Disadvantage OF Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles

Fuel-cell vehicles, according to proponents of hydrogen, have an advantage over battery electric cars in a world of low emissions because they perform nearly as well as petrol and diesel cars.

Except that the tailpipe emits only clean water.

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“In terms of performance, acceleration, and comfort, hydrogen cars are comparable with conventional cars,” a pre-production fuel-cell Mercedes-Benz B-Class estimates that it can drive approximately 350 kilometres on a tank of hydrogen or approximately 250 kilometres if he is driving at higher speeds on the highway.

 Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Most battery electric vehicles have a limited range and require hours to recharge.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, on the other hand, can travel the same distances as combustion engines and refuel in minutes. They generate their own electricity by combining oxygen and hydrogen.

Vehicles powered by hydrogen technology have a long range on a single refuelling. On the other hand, hydrogen vehicles have several disadvantages, including high carbon emissions when hydrogen is produced from natural gas, a high capital cost burden, a low energy content per unit volume at ambient conditions.

Advantages hydrogen vehicles

  • Exciting to drive
  • Power that is smooth and consistent with instant torque High-tech
  • Easy to maintain
  • There are no emissions.
  • Rapid refuelling (3-5 minutes)
  • Access to carpool lanes as well as other benefits
  • Attractive lease pricing is frequently bundled with free fuel and maintenance.

Production of Hydrogen

Because hydrogen, unlike fossil fuels, is not found in reservoirs or natural deposits, it must be produced from natural gas or biomass, or electrolyzed from water.

One advantage of hydrogen power is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, especially when produced using renewable electricity to convert water into hydrogen.

 Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

While hydrogen can be produced using fossil fuels such as natural gas, this produces greenhouse gas emissions, removing or reducing the environmental benefits.

As a result, renewable energy sources appear to be the answer, as in Iceland, where geothermal power is used to produce hydrogen, or in Denmark, where wind power is used.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Fuel cell vehicles are propelled by compressed hydrogen gas, which is fed into an onboard fuel cell “stack” that converts the chemical energy of the fuel into electrical energy rather than burning it.

This electricity then powers the electric motors in the car. There are no tailpipe emissions, and the only waste produced is pure water.

 Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

The fuel cell is built in the same way that a battery is. Hydrogen enters the anode and makes contact with a catalyst, which promotes the separation of hydrogen atoms into an electron and a proton.

The electrons are collected by the conductive current collector, which is linked to the car’s high-voltage circuitry and supplies power to the onboard battery and/or the motors that turn the wheels.

Fuel Cell Stack – A collection of fuel cells that use oxygen and hydrogen to generate electricity and power an electric motor.

Fuel Tank – To provide fuel to the fuel-cell stack, hydrogen gas is stored in carbon-fiber reinforced tanks.

Electric motor – Provides power to the vehicle by utilising the energy generated by the fuel cell stack.

Battery – Captures regenerative braking energy and supplies additional power to the electric motor.

Water vapour is emitted through the exhaust as a byproduct of the reaction occurring in the fuel cell stack.


Major automakers sell or lease fuel cell vehicles in popular vehicle types such as sedans and compact SUVs. As the number of drivers increases, stakeholders are working to make hydrogen more widely available. Search vehicles to see what models are available.


Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are quiet, very energy efficient, emit no emissions, and have the same range and performance as gasoline vehicles. Drivers value vehicle characteristics such as range, refuelling time, emissions, power, and performance.


While buying a fuel cell car is more expensive than buying a comparable sized conventional car, current leasing packages usually include fuel, service, and maintenance to compensate.

With these incentives, the total cost of ownership for a fuel cell vehicle can be comparable to that of a conventional vehicle.


Fuel cell vehicles are eligible for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Projects.

They are also eligible for the Clean Air Vehicle decal, which allows them to drive alone in carpool lanes, as well as various programs that encourage clean transportation ownership in low-income and disadvantaged communities.  


Fuel cell cars can carry enough hydrogen fuel for a range of 300-400 miles, and their tanks can be refilled as quickly as a standard car’s gas tank. Current lease deals frequently include up to three years of free fuel.

At the pump, hydrogen costs significantly more than gasoline; however, a fuel cell car can travel roughly twice as far as a conventional car on the same amount of fuel.

Hydrogen Storage

Concerns have been raised about the storage of hydrogen in automobiles. When the gas is pumped into the car, it is stored in a high-pressure cylinder, which has some concerned about the safety of storing a highly flammable gas in the vehicle. All cars on the market, however, must pass stringent safety tests.

 Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

In terms of transportation, studies have been conducted on the use of ammonia borane, a hydrogen storage compound from which hydrogen can be separated using a membrane. This has transportation benefits because ammonia is easier to store safely in tankers than pure hydrogen.

In addition to vehicle fuel tanks and transportation issues, hydrogen must be stored at hydrogen filling stations.

Infrastructure for Hydrogen

To make hydrogen fuel cell cars the mode of transportation of the future, the infrastructure surrounding the vehicles must be improved.

This will entail increasing the number of hydrogen fuel stations around the world and in the UK, which will need to be supplied by compressed hydrogen tube trailers, liquid hydrogen tank trucks, hydrogen pipelines, or some form of dedicated on-site production.

 Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars: And How Do They Work?

Creating this infrastructure to meet consumer needs could be costly, even though some propose building home hydrogen fuel stations.

Standards and codes

Another factor that could delay the widespread use of hydrogen is the development of the necessary codes and standards for gas safety and storage. These will have to be created for a variety of hydrogen electric vehicles and across different nations.

Vehicle Production and Cost

Hydrogen-powered cars are currently prohibitively expensive to purchase, with the Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Nexo, and Honda Clarity among the first to hit the market. Not only can current costs exceed an entry price of around £50,000, but production rates for these vehicles remain relatively low, implying a potentially lengthy wait after placing an order for a car. However, as more companies enter the hydrogen fuel cell car market, prices should begin to fall over time, as with most new technologies.

What are the advantages and disadvantagesHydrogen fuel cell vehicles?


Lower Tax

Hydrogen fuel cell cars, like electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, are classified as ‘ultra low emission vehicles,’ which means they are taxed at a low rate. Furthermore, because there are no CO2 emissions, owners will not have to pay vehicle excise duty (road tax) – with the exception of a low annual supplement for cars over £40,000 for the first five years.

Congestion fees

Those who drive a fuel cell vehicle into Central London or other areas with congestion charges will not have to pay.


As previously stated, the absence of harmful emissions means that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are gentler on the environment.

This advantage must be qualified by how the hydrogen is generated, with renewable energy sources being the most advantageous. Even when fossil fuels are used to produce hydrogen, it emits fewer harmful emissions than burning gasoline or diesel. Furthermore, hydrogen vehicles avoid the environmental issues associated with the extraction of gasoline or diesel for traditional combustion engines.
Even with new technologies that dramatically improve charging times, range anxiety has become a factor for electric vehicles. This is unlikely to be an issue for hydrogen cars, which can travel 300 miles on a single tank.


Stocking up

Filling up your vehicle is currently a major issue due to the scarcity of hydrogen refuelling stations. However, the UK government has established a multi-million pound fund to improve refuelling infrastructure to support the new technology, implying that refuelling should be less of an issue in the future.
Operating expenses

Aside from finding a gas station, there are also concerns about fuel prices. Because hydrogen is currently more expensive than gasoline or diesel, driving a hydrogen car may cost consumers more money for the time being.

Tanks of fuel

As mentioned above in the section on hydrogen storage, there are some concerns about the safety of driving around with a tank full of highly flammable hydrogen gas.

While hydrogen is highly combustible, so is gasoline, and the tanks used for hydrogen are especially strong.

While this adds weight and cost to the vehicles, they must meet safety standards before being commercially available, so this should not be an issue.

Improvements to Hydrogen Vehicle Technology and Infrastructure

Many of the perceived disadvantages of hydrogen vehicles can be mitigated by investments in infrastructure and technology.

Dedicated hydrogen fueling stations are more expensive than installing charging stations for electric vehicles, and this investment is unlikely to be promoted unless the use of hydrogen vehicles increases.

The technology that powers the vehicles will also improve over time, and this technology will become more affordable as the range of hydrogen cars increases.

Lower costs, improved efficiency, and expanded supporting infrastructure will all help to boost consumer confidence and adoption of hydrogen vehicles in the future.

Are Hydrogen Cars Safe?

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just as safe as traditional vehicles, if not safer! Hydrogen is a non-polluting energy source that accounts for 70% of all matter in the universe. While hydrogen is safer to handle than gasoline or diesel, its high combustibility has raised some concerns.

Are Hydrogen Cars the Way of the Future?

As we move away from the use of fossil fuels, clean hydrogen, along with biofuels, hybrid technologies, autogas, and other alternatives, could become part of a vehicle energy mix.

Will Hydrogen Cars Replace Electric?

It is expected that hydrogen will be used in heavy goods vehicles, buses, and rail, as well as shipping and aviation. As this use grows, so will the supporting infrastructure, paving the way for hydrogen cars to become a more viable option, potentially replacing electric. 

Are Hydrogen Cars good for the Environment?

Hydrogen cars are better for the environment because they emit fewer pollutants than gasoline or diesel vehicles. Fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen emit only water (H2O) and warm air.
If the hydrogen is produced via electrolysis with electricity derived from renewable energy sources such as wind power, this ‘green hydrogen’ is completely clean and environmentally friendly.

How do Hydrogen Cars Store Hydrogen?

Hydrogen can be stored as either a gas or a liquid. Gas storage is typically the method used by hydrogen cars, using high-pressure tanks of 350–700 bar (5,000–10,000 psi) tank pressure.

Are Hydrogen Cars Fast?

As with any other car, some hydrogen cars are faster than others. Toyota Mirai takes 9.1 seconds to reach 60 mph, but the H2 Speed can accelerate to the same speeds in just 3.4 seconds. Plus, the H2 Speed can reach a top speed of 186mph (299km/h), showing that hydrogen cars do have the capability to drive fast.

How do Hydrogen Cars Store Hydrogen?

Hydrogen can be stored as either a gas or a liquid. Gas storage is typically the method used by hydrogen cars, using high-pressure tanks of 350–700 bar (5,000–10,000 psi) tank pressure.

Are Hydrogen Cars Better than Electric?

Hydrogen cars have many of the same advantages as electric vehicles (EV), such as low polluting emissions. However, hydrogen cars have some advantages over their electric counterparts in that they can be refuelled much faster and currently have a longer range than EVs.

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