One of the greatest benefits of using hydrogen fuel is that it produces zero negative emissions. No carbon dioxide is involved in the process, and the only byproduct of using a vehicle powered with a hydrogen fuel cell is water. It may seem like this process would be complicated, but in reality, is quite simple.
Imagine a fuel cell as a shoebox lying on its side. A section on the very left side of the box is the anode and a section on the far right is the cathode. Hydrogen (H2) is pumped into the anode and oxygen (O2) is pumped into the cathode. Chemistry then takes over and the hydrogen instantly wants to head to the right and join with the oxygen. Human intervention makes it a bit more difficult for hydrogen.
A barrier stands between the two sides called the “electrolyte.” The electrolyte will only allow positively charged material to pass through. The hydrogen atom in its natural state doesn’t qualify. Hydrogen atoms are made up of 1 proton (positively charged) and 1 electron (negatively charged.) The effect is that hydrogen is neutral (-1 plus +1 equals 0).
A thin layer adheres to the right side of the anode called the “catalyst.” The purpose of the catalyst is to break apart the hydrogen atoms to help them move. The positive proton and negative electron are separated. The positive proton is now free to move through the electrolyte and enter the cathode while the electrons are stuck in a holding cell with nowhere to go. However, now this positive proton, stripped of its negative electron sidekick isn’t compatible with the oxygen. It really needs that electron.
To make that happen, a wire is used to connect the holding space containing the negative electrons directly to the cathode circumventing the electrolyte altogether. It’s a bit of an escape route and the electrons jump at the opportunity to get to the cathode. The wire transports the electrons around the barrier. This act of transporting electrons is “electricity” (now you know why electricity contains “electr”—it has the same root as “electrons”).
Imagine your shoebox with this wire running alongside it with electricity flowing from left to right. The electrons race into the cathode, join up with their positive counterparts, interact with the oxygen, and produce water (H2O). That electrical current is strong enough to power the vehicle’s engine. A hydrogen fuel cell really is that simple.
The Andretti Group and PowerTap Hydrogen Make Supplying this Fuel Simple, too.
Today, the ability to generate hydrogen to supply consumers who drive hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is easier than ever. PowerTap Hydrogen provides on-site hydrogen generator units that only require water, electricity, and natural gas to produce fuel on-site in as little as 1,000 square feet. Visit our website or contact us to learn more about how you can make this new clean energy option available for your customers.