Fuel cell power for cars are the bright future of the auto industry, but sometimes there is more than meets the eye. In a modern age when things that are too good to be true almost always present falsehoods, Empa Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology believes their new research has shown that that fuel cell powered cars may not be as great for the environment as they have claimed to be.
Held in such high esteem as the future of the automobile industry, some scientists believe it’s important to study the environmental impacts of these vehicles before they are the only vehicles we drive.
The bottom line with fuel cell power
The main point made by the Empa Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology is, if–and only if–we can create the fuel cells from renewable resources, fuel cell power will be a viable alternative over our current methods of energy production in the future.
Empa plainly states the general conclusion that they have drawn about drawing energy from fuel cells, “Fuel cells for cars are only ecologically sound if they are able to run on hydrogen from renewable energy sources. It doesn’t make any sense to draw electricity from the European power grid, use it to produce hydrogen via hydro-electrolysis and fuel cars with it; the CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity would be far too high using this method.”
While there would still be positive effects from fuel cell power if the resources used to generate the hydrogen were non-renewable, they would hardly be worth the effort of converting to fuel cell power.
How can we use fuel cell power in a way that really does reduce emissions?
There is really only one way that fuel cell power can be one hundred percent emission free, and this involves going all the way to the source of our power. The fundamental ways that we generate energy have to change in order for the zero emission power cell to become a reality.
Once we are able to rely more on solar and wind energy, we can generate the hydrogen needed for the power cells with these renewable resources. Empa describes the only conditions in which zero emissions can truly live up to its name, “…the fuel cell could be a key future technology – especially when surplus electricity from wind power and solar energy is stored temporarily in the form of hydrogen and thus becomes accessible for household heating or mobility.“
Fuel cells can be the future, but we have to iron out the details first
Calculations have led the team of researchers to the conclusion that fuel cell power is actually one of the worst forms of energy as of right now, “Today, a small fuel-cell car that uses EU electricity to generate hydrogen would easily be the worst option. The car would have the same environmental impact as a luxury sports car with a gasoline consumption of 12.1 l /100 km.” There is a bright future for fuel cells, and while they will have a significant positive impact on the Earth eventually, they just aren’t ready to make the big difference they claim to make right now.