Automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are still a thing for the future. Despite almost a decade of predictions that the technology was about to mature there are still many problems with powering a car with water split into hydrogen and oxygen. One of the primary ones is that disasters like the Hindenburg explosion are possible when hydrogen and oxygen are in close proximity to each other. There are many other technical difficulties remaining to be overcome for full-sized vehicles, although researchers continue to inch forward.
However, there is a functional, real, accomplished hydrogen-powered vehicle. It is called the H-racer, or the H2. It can go over three hundred feet on a fill-up. That’s a lot since the vehicle is only about the size of a box of matches. This toy car sells for $115 and is manufactured by a company based in Shanghai, China.
While continuing their research on fuel cells for full-sized cars, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies is manufacturing these tiny hydrogen-powered vehicles. The main benefit of the small size is that so little hydrogen is used that even if there is a malfunction, the car will not spontaneously combust, explode, or otherwise singe your carpet. It may be kind of pricey for a miniature toy car, but one day any that survive will almost certainly be valuable collector’s items.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology uses electrolysis to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water (H2O). These chemicals are then recombined in a process that creates a DC current, heat, and water. Barring explosions, it is a clean and ideal earth-friendly power source.
Water is, of course, one of the most plentiful chemical compounds on earth, and the fuel cell’s waste products of heat and water are far less damaging to the environment than the hydrocarbons and heat produced as waste by the standard internal combustion gasoline engine. With the price of gas on the rise, all sorts of alternative technologies are inching toward market viability.
Whether the car of the future will be powered by water, sunlight, methane, plugged in periodically to the existing power grid, or by some other fuel remains to be seen. But, the gas companies are certainly aware that their long-standing importance as the primary source of motive power for the world is under assault, and will almost certainly only last for a few more decades. Maybe that’s why the current prices are so high.