IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN REEN
How green are fuel cell cars?
As with plug-in electric cars, fuel cell vehicles are only as green as the source of their power. Both types have zero tailpipe emissions, but just as an electric car plugged into a coal-powered grid has associated carbon dioxide emissions, a hydrogen fuel cell car can also have a CO2 footprint, depending on how the hydrogen was produced.
The most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen does not exist naturally in large quantities on Earth. It has to be separated from other compounds such as water or fossil fuels. The most common and cheapest way is through “steam reforming”, which mixes natural gas with steam to strip away the pure hydrogen from the water.
There are downsides. First, the reforming process produces CO2 and, second, the natural gas used is often harvested from shale rock via the fracking process, prompting several environmental concerns. An alternative method is to pass an electric current through water, giving scope to use solar or wind power.
Hyundai’s local refuelling station initially will use hydrogen from the reforming process but the maker aims to switch to solar energy by mid-year.