How Safe Are Hydrogen Cars?
Surprisingly, hydrogen cars can be safer than traditional fuels - they aren't as dangerous as you might think. Find out more about hydrogen car safety here.
How safe are hydrogen cars?
The truth is that whether you choose a hydrogen fuel cell, battery-powered or internal combustion engine vehicle, there will be flammable elements to your car. There are different risks involved with each, but on balance, hydrogen is no less safe than any other option.
Do hydrogen cars explode?
Hydrogen is of course highly flammable, that’s why it makes such a good fuel, however, because it is in a gas state at normal pressure it can be seen as safer than petrol or diesel. That’s because if the fuel tank were to somehow suffer a puncture, then the hydrogen would simply disperse into the air. Compare that to conventional fuel which could pool around the engine and potentially create a bigger fire risk.
Another more important reason that an explosion would be extremely unlikely is that, as with all fuels, hydrogen needs oxygen to cause a fire, and this wouldn’t be possible until the hydrogen had left the tank and mixed with enough oxygen. So therefore, in the extremely unlikely event of a fire, it would happen outside of the tank and wouldn’t cause the vehicle to explode.
Are hydrogen engines a bad idea?
Hydrogen does have some drawbacks like all fuel options but it also has many benefits.
Compared to electric cars it is less efficient because the fuel is in effect turned back into electricity before being used, which uses energy. It is also more difficult to distribute than electricity, which we already have the infrastructure to do. Similarly, we do not currently have the capacity to generate enough hydrogen on the massive scale required, and it is not so easy to store.
However, it’s important to remember there are plenty of positives associated with hydrogen too, firstly it’s extremely clean to use, the only output is water. Hydrogen fuel cells are also thought to be more durable than electric car batteries and should last much longer before needing to be replaced or repaired. It is also much currently quicker to refuel a hydrogen car than an electric one because you simply need to fill the tank rather than waiting for a battery to charge.
How dangerous is hydrogen compared to other fuels?
Every fuel has different properties and therefore particular risks associated with it, though of course these dangers are mitigated by how they are handled. For example, hydrogen is very highly flammable, however, because of the way it is stored for use in a vehicle the likelihood of an accident is at least as low as with any other fuel. This is because hydrogen is kept in a pressurised tank and so the gas does not have a sufficient supply of oxygen to catch fire at its source.
Some other properties of hydrogen make it a much safer fuel than petrol, diesel or electricity. Firstly, it is lighter than air, which means that if it were to escape from its tank at any stage then it would very quickly dissipate into the environment. This is in contrast to fossil fuels or the chemicals used in batteries which are liquids at normal pressure and could gather and pose the possibility of a fire.
Another factor that makes hydrogen safer than other alternatives is that it is non-toxic. Studies have shown that breathing hydrogen or coming into contact with it on your skin will have no negative effects on your health (in fact it can even have benefits in small amounts!), contrast this with petrol, diesel and battery acid, all of which are highly toxic, and you can see that this is a notable advantage. In the case of internal combustion engine vehicles, this is also of course borne out when the fuels are burned, and highly harmful substances are created in the process. Pollution from these fuel sources is certainly not safer than hydrogen, which only creates water as a by-product when it is used.
Why do we not use hydrogen fuel in many cars?
The truth is that, whilst there are many benefits to hydrogen vehicles, the infrastructure is simply not there yet to support their uptake. Most of the current refuelling stations are in London and the South East, but there are plans for several other stations across the country and in other major cities. The current target is to achieve nationwide coverage by 2030, at which point hydrogen vehicles will be a much more viable option. Five years on in 2035, the aim is for the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to be outlawed completely, it seems likely that by this point hydrogen cars could make up a significant amount of new vehicle sales.
What can be done to make hydrogen cars safer?
As explained above, when used to power a vehicle hydrogen is not inherently riskier than any other fuel per se, and how it is handled mitigates these risks. Therefore, you could argue that the biggest risk of a hydrogen vehicle is currently a lack of knowledge, understanding and infrastructure to deal with potential issues, which will no doubt improve as the use of the fuel becomes more widespread.
Does Tesla use hydrogen fuel cells?
All Tesla vehicles are battery-powered and charged with electricity, in fact, some of the company’s most important innovations have been in the field of battery technology. Whilst one of Tesla’s aims is to produce vehicles that do not harm the environment, and hydrogen can certainly help to achieve this, it seems unlikely that the company will start to build hydrogen vehicles at this point, and would no doubt see the fuel as a rival technology.
What hydrogen cars are available?
You can learn more about hydrogen car leasing and view our currently available vehicles over on our Hydrogen Car Leasing hub. There is loads of information about the pros and cons of leasing a hydrogen car here.. If you have more any questions though don’t be shy, pick up the phone and contact one of our team here today and they’ll get you right up to speed with everything you need to know.