Take a look at the essential concepts, terms, and phenomena from the static and current parts of the UPSC-CSE. Also, check the answer to the previous MCQ.
Relevance: Technological development from the perspective of the environment is always special for exams. Moreover, this one involves government initiative. FCEV was in news earlier too. Know about this term from almost all perspectives. High potential for prelims. Utilise it as an example in mains GS III. Don’t miss to solve the MCQ below.
— A hydrogen fuel cell bus developed by KPIT-CSIR in Pune was unveiled by Jitendra Singh, Union minister of state for Science and Technology, recently.
— The hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen and air to generate electricity, producing only heat and water in the process.
— A hydrogen fuel cell bus is a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) that produces electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The two gases react across an electrochemical cell similar to a conventional battery cell to produce electricity, water and small amounts of heat. This electricity is then used by electric motors to propel the vehicle forward.
What is a hydrogen fuel cell?
— Fuel cells work in a similar manner to conventional batteries found in electric vehicles but they do not run out of charge and don’t need to be recharged with electricity.
— They continue to produce electricity as long as there is a supply of hydrogen. Just like conventional cells, a fuel cell consists of an anode (negative electrode) and cathode (positive electrode) sandwiched around an electrolyte.
— Hydrogen is fed to the anode and air is fed to the cathode. At the anode, a catalyst separates the hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons and both subatomic particles take different paths to the cathode.
— The electrons go through an external circuit, creating a flow of electricity that can be used to power electric motors. The protons, on the other hand, move to the cathode through the electrolyte. Once there, they unite with oxygen and electrons to produce water and heat.
What is the advantage of a hydrogen FCEV?
— The primary advantage of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is that they produce no tailpipe emissions. They only emit water vapour and warm air.
— Another advantage is that they are more efficient than internal combustion engine vehicles.
— Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles have another advantage when it comes to refuelling time, which makes them more practical than battery-powered electric vehicles for public transportation purposes. Even with the fastest charging technologies, it could take hours to charge a battery-powered electric bus.
— Meanwhile, hydrogen can be refilled in a fuel cell vehicle in a matter of minutes, nearly as fast as an internal combustion engine can be refilled with fossil fuels.
Note: While this disadvantage may not be a major issue for battery-powered personal vehicles, for buses and other public vehicles, it could mean that an important asset is out of use for a large part of the day because it needs to be charged.
What are the challenges with FCEVs?
—While FCEVs do not generate gases that contribute to global warming, the process of making hydrogen needs energy — often from fossil fuel sources. That has raised questions over hydrogen’s green credentials.
—Also, there are questions of safety — hydrogen is more explosive than petrol. Opponents of the technology cite the case of the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg airship in 1937. But Japanese auto industry players The Indian Express spoke to argued that a comparison was misplaced because most of the fire was attributed to diesel fuel for the airship’s engines and a flammable lacquer coating on the outside.
— Hydrogen fuel tanks in FCEVs such as the Mirai are made from highly durable carbon fibre, whose strength is assessed in crash tests, and also trials where bullets are fired at it. The Mirai and Clarity have a triple-layer hydrogen tanks made of woven carbon fibre, which the manufacturers claim is completely safe.
— The other major hurdle is that the vehicles are expensive, and fuel dispensing pumps are scarce. But this should get better as scale and distribution improves.
How environment-friendly are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
— Using a battery-powered electric vehicle doesn’t mean that the vehicles produce no emissions, but rather, that they produce no tailpipe emissions.
— Since a majority of the electricity in the country comes from fossil fuels, and the biggest source of hydrogen in the world currently is also fossil fuels, these vehicles do cause a large number of emissions with their usage.
— However, just like we are moving towards renewable sources of electricity, we could also move towards renewable methods of generating hydrogen in the future.
— So, even if these vehicles do contribute to emissions right now, the fuel that they need could be produced using renewable methods such as solar and wind energy.
Point to ponder: What are pros and cons of hydrogen as an alternative fuel?
Which of the following statements is not true with respect to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
a) Hydrogen can be refilled in a fuel cell vehicle nearly as fast as an internal combustion engine can be refilled with fossil fuels.
b) Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is that they produce no tailpipe emissions.
c) Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) are more efficient than internal combustion engine vehicles.
d) A hydrogen fuel cell bus is a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) that produces electricity by combining hydrogen and carbon atoms.
Answer to the previous MCQ: UPSC Essentials: One word a day – SCO (d)
A bad year may get worse for Snapchat, Facebook owners
Manas Srivastava<span class="il">Manas</span> writes and works on UPSC-related projec... read more