Wednesday, March 26, 2008

fuel cell vehicles (FCVs)

This emerging technology has the potential to significantly reduce energy use and harmful emissions, as well as our dependence on foreign oil. FCVs will have other benefits as well.

A Radical Departure

FCVs represent a radical departure from vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines. Like battery-electric vehicles, FCVs are propelled by electric motors. But while battery electric vehicles use electricity from an external source (and store it in a battery), FCVs create their own electricity. Fuel cells onboard the vehicle create electricity through a chemical process using hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air.

FCVs can be fueled with pure hydrogen gas stored onboard in high-pressure tanks. They also can be fueled with hydrogen-rich fuels; such as methanol, natural gas, or even gasoline; but these fuels must first be converted into hydrogen gas by an onboard device called a "reformer."

FCVs fueled with pure hydrogen emit no pollutants; only water and heat; while those using hydrogen-rich fuels and a reformer produce only small amounts of air pollutants. In addition, FCVs can be twice as efficient as similarly sized conventional vehicles and may also incorporate other advanced technologies to increase efficiency.

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