How safe are hydrogen fuel cell cars in a crash?May 22, 2023
Cars powered by gasoline need firewalls to protect from fire, but what about safety in alternative fuels?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are becoming increasingly promising as the technology develops, particularly in the shipping and goods transportation industries as well as industries such as mining.
That said, one of the main hurdles faced by this alternative energy is in perception of its safety.
There are currently only a few types of hydrogen cars around the world. When it comes to passenger cars, the focus has been greatly directed toward rechargeable electric battery powered options. Still, there are heavier trucks, ships, trams, trains and machinery powered by H2.
Moreover, there are only a handful of cars available, such as the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai. They each have storage tanks for the H2 and function by converting it into electricity which powers their drive wheels. The only emission resulting from this process is water, making this it eco-friendly and attractive for that reason.
UPDATED LIST OF HYDROGEN CARS IN PRODUCTION 2022:
2008–2014 – Honda FCX Clarity – was discontinued when they came out with the Clarity Fuel Cell.
2013–2018 – Hyundai Tucson/ix35 Fuel Cell
2015–2022 – Toyota Mirai
2016–2021 – Honda Clarity Fuel Cell (stopped production in August of 2021 but still available for lease through 2022)
2018 – 2022 Hyundai Nexo
2022 – Toyota Mirai II
Many people fear the risk of explosion when they think of hydrogen fuel vehicles.
Though many of us think of this type of fuel as highly explosive, this is based on a common misconception. The Hindenburg is a typical example of what people consider to be the dangers associated with hydrogen, however, that disaster was caused by the fabric of the blimp and not nearly as much by the gas.
Hyundai video on how safe is hydrogen in cars and hydrogen gas stations :
In fact, many feel that H2 can be considered to be considerably safer than cars powered by gasoline. Primarily, if there is a gasoline leak, there is a mess and a significant fire risk. In the event of a hydrogen leak, the gas simply dissipates harmlessly.
Moreover, the tanks that contain H2 are thick walled and carefully designed to prevent leaking, even after a substantial crash. The tanks in the Mirai, for example, are carbon fiber wrapped and can withstand a .50 caliber bullet without suffering a leak. The Nexo are made differently but can withstand the pressure of the gas up to 10,000 psi.
The tanks in hydrogen fuel vehicles also feature relief devices that cause the gas to be vented in certain circumstances in order to avoid heat-induced explosions.
For example, should the tanks ever be punctured, the device allows for a managed venting of the gas. Sensors throughout the vehicle also work to detect unexpected gas presence to shut everything down and bring the vehicle to a stop before anything can be permitted to ignite.
Article Updated 5/22/23
The future of hydrogen combustion engine technology is promising but still requires more development, according to Toyota’s WRC boss.
Toyota has been leading the charge in the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology, and their latest venture is the GR Yaris H2 – a hydrogen-powered vehicle that has been widely tested on several World Rally Championship stages. While Toyota is committed to making the technology commercially viable, Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota’s WRC boss, believes that there is still some way to go before it can become a realistic alternative to traditional internal combustion engines. The main challenge, according to Latvala, is increasing the range of these vehicles, as well as ensuring the safety of the tanks used to store the hydrogen fuel. Despite these challenges, Toyota remains optimistic about the future of hydrogen combustion engine technology and plans to continue its investment in this area.
Indeed, many experts believe that hydrogen fuel is actually safer than gasoline because of the way it behaves in the event of a leak. In contrast to gasoline, which poses a significant fire risk in the event of a leak, hydrogen gas dissipates harmlessly into the air. As a result, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are designed with safety at the forefront of their engineering, including the use of thick-walled tanks and relief devices to prevent leaks or explosions. While there is still much work to be done to make hydrogen fuel cell technology commercially viable, it’s clear that this alternative energy source holds great promise for the future of transportation.