Does a Hydrogen Car Need Batteries?February 26, 2022
Fuel cell vehicles are often discussed as though they have nothing in common with battery electrics.
Hydrogen cars are powered by H2 and are equipped with fuel cells and storage tanks, but do they also need batteries? This is a common question, since fuel cell vehicles are frequently talked about as though they are completely unrelated to EVs
Just as traditional internal combustion engine powered vehicles need batteries, so do fuel cell vehicles.
Even though hydrogen cars produce their own electricity through their fuel cells, it’s still necessary that a buffer be in place in the form of a small high-voltage battery. The electricity from a fuel cell is difficult to control since the fuel cell’s reaction rate isn’t considered entirely smooth.
That said, when a driver applies the accelerator, it’s important that the reaction be smooth and linear. To do this, an electronic control system comparable to a battery electric car is used. At least, that’s the case in the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo. Still, it’s important to note that the battery capacity is about 1.5 kilowatt-hours, which is small.
Overall, there are a number of different reasons why a hydrogen car still needs a small battery.
Among these reasons include that a battery is used in a fuel cell vehicle:
- To keep the vehicle powered so it can operate even as the fuel cell gets started, since a fuel cell must reach 50ºC before it starts producing electricity. Therefore, there will be a short delay in warm weather, and a slightly longer one in cold weather.
- To drive the air pump, warm the fuel cell and start the reaction. In a Toyota Mirai, for instance, there is a 20kW air pump.
- To boost the vehicle’s throttle response, since a fuel cell needs an increase in air flow and H2 for larger power production.
- To boost the efficiency of the regenerative braking energy.
- To provide onboard electronics with power.
Though it might be possible to operate hydrogen cars with an H2 combustion engine without a battery using alternative technology, batteries likely provide the most practical, affordable and efficient option for fast starting and other purposes.
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