Hydrogen car: Saving the environment might come with a hefty cost.

Hydrogen Car Test Driven — Will It Clean The Environment, Or Just Your Wallet?

In today’s green-conscious world, the hydrogen car could be a breakthrough in automotive technology. The problem with this may lie in what it will cost you, instead of how harmful it is to the environment.

The biggest problem with the mainstream automotive industry is the fact that carbon emissions from regular fuels are slowly destroying the environment. There are laws in place to cut the problem to a minimum, such as the requirement of emissions testing in order to keep the vehicle registered for another year. However, the gases are still doing their damage, depleting the ozone layer and perpetuating the problem of global warming. The cause may be slowing, but it’s not going away.

Alternative fuel vehicles are said to be the solution to this problem, but the cost of such a leap in technology keeps most of us with lower budgets staying with our oil-based fuels. For the moment, the price of automotive advancements leaves them available only to the upper-income levels.

The hydrogen car may be no different. According to New Scientist, it eliminates the emissions problem by emitting nothing but water vapor and hot air. Technically, it gives off the same emissions as your average coffee maker.

Other new low-emission vehicles depend heavily on electricity to give the vehicle its power, but the problem is that it requires more power to run it. It’s like driving a space heater on high, and it uses up energy faster than regular cars.

You might be thinking that it isn’t possible for an engine to give off nothing but clean gases. The need to lubricate the engine alone adds oil pollutants. If there is no engine lubrication, there is serious engine breakdown and high temperatures to contend with. It’s unknown publicly how it is done or how costly repairs could be if it breaks down. Also, a hydrogen cell, no lubrication, and summer heat could be a dangerous combination.

You might not even need to worry about repair costs, since the hydrogen car is planned to be sold as a subscription, much like the internet. This technically makes it a rental car, and it’s unknown what the price of a subscription will be when the car is expected to go public on a larger scale.

The Rasa, which is what the prototype hydrogen car from Riversimple is being called, uses a theoretical “perpetual motion” technology, which takes the energy created from the car running and converts it into power. The power is stored in a super-capacitor and re-used in a trickle to ignite the hydrogen for motion. The wheels are not on a set of axles like most cars, but each has its own motor that uses reverse motion for braking. The lack of friction theoretically saves wear and tear on brake pads and fluids.

It is built from the chassis up, and the car actually designed around the hydrogen cell. It is expected to be in its public test phase by the end of 2016 and in mass production by 2018, according to Sky News.

Darren Moss of Autocar also revealed another challenge that the hydrogen car faces if it goes public too quickly.

“As with all these things, it’s a lack of infrastructure. The Government has pledged to build 12 new [fueling] stations, but if you think of how many petrol stations there are across the UK, it’s a fraction of what’s needed. It’s taken electric cars almost two decades to get to this point, where we’re only just seeing them commercially available and on the road. It’s going to take hydrogen technology a similar time to get to that stage.”

What do you think of the hydrogen car? Will it be the big breakthrough that saves the environment, or just another drain on your wallet?

[Photo by David Becker/Getty Images]