Hydrogen fuel can power vehicles in two ways: by burning fuel in a combustion engine and by converting hydrogen into electricity with a fuel cell. As the United States and other countries increase their focus on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, both types of engines are being produced to achieve cleaner emission standards. Most passenger cars are constructed as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), but commercial eighteen-wheelers are using both types of engines for their fleets. For those gearing up to provide fuel and maintenance services to this industry, it’s important to understand the difference between a hydrogen engine and a fuel cell.
How does a hydrogen engine work?
Vehicles that use an internal combustion engine can burn hydrogen similarly to the way a diesel engine works. Known as Hydrogen ICE, they have many of the same components such as an engine block, crank, mounts, and flywheel housings.
Hydrogen engines run cleaner than gasoline or diesel engines, but they still produce Nitrogen oxides (NOx.) NOx are toxic gas molecules that are chemical compounds between nitrogen and oxygen. The good news is that there are ways to control the amount of NOx produced. When hydrogen burns in the presence of a high amount of oxygen, little NOx is created. Today’s hydrogen combustion engines are designed to supply twice as much air to the cylinders as their gasoline and diesel counterparts. They may also have an exhaust treatment system to remove residual NOx.
How does a hydrogen fuel cell work?
Hydrogen fuel cells work by combining hydrogen (the fuel) with oxygen (air intake.) A reaction takes place across an electrochemical cell similar to that of a battery. Electricity, water, and heat are produced. The vehicle uses the electricity produced by the fuel cell to operate.
Why use a hydrogen engine versus a fuel cell?
Many commercial vehicle manufacturers are producing hydrogen engine trucks because of their physical similarity to diesel engines. Fuel cells, on the other hand, use different technology and require significant changes to the construction of the vehicle for fuel and battery storage. OEM equipment manufacturers can easily build a truck with a hydrogen engine without having to make major design changes to the rest of the vehicle. Once it’s in operation, most diesel mechanics are able to service the engines because the hydrogen unit is so similar to a diesel engine. Companies have been happy with their investments, as hydrogen engines are proving to have the same reliability and durability as diesel engines.
Why do consumer vehicle manufacturers use fuel cells?
Because they are smaller than a semi-truck, it’s easier to customize a car to use hydrogen fuel cells. That’s great news because hydrogen fuel cells provide many benefits a hydrogen engine does not. For example, hydrogen fuel cells burn completely clean. The only emission is water. Next, they burn hydrogen much more efficiently. With a hydrogen engine, only 25% of the fuel’s energy is used. In a fuel cell, that percentage is 50 or more. That means vehicle owners get more miles for their buck using a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Regardless of the Difference Between a Hydrogen Engine and a Fuel Cell, the demand for hydrogen fuel is anticipated to increase in the near future.
Both of these technologies use the same fuel, and that’s great news for fuel stations! If you’re exploring ways your business can be a part of this new revolution, now’s the time to take a look at PowerTap Hydrogen.
PowerTap Hydrogen is the perfect solution for fuel station owners. In only 1,000 square feet of space, you can produce hydrogen fuel onsite for your customers. Our hydrogen generators can manufacture up to 50 kilograms per day, allowing you to have adequate fuel on hand for your customers without runouts or excess storage facilities. Produce as much as you need when you need it–for only $2 to $3 per kilogram. All you need to supply is electricity, natural gas, and access to city water.
Sound exciting? Taking the first steps towards providing our next essential alternative fuel is simple. Contact PowerTap Hydrogen today to learn more about our onsite industrial hydrogen generator and how you can diversify your portfolio and increase your profitability. The future is here. Make sure your business is ready.