How Do Extended Fuel Cells Work in Hybrid Cars?

Hybrid cars and electric vehicles are being developed for the mass car market worldwide in an effort to end our reliance on diesel and petrol powered cars. There are many advantages to doing this; it would reduce pressure on oil supplies and make more use of renewable and sustainable energy generation, and it would also reduce carbon emissions from the domestic vehicle sector.

Hybrid electric cars, as the name suggest, have two separate means of producing power to drive the vehicle. As well as having a standard internal combustion engine that is powered by either petrol or diesel, the car also has electrical fuel cells and an electric engine, which is used whenever and wherever possible as this is the more ecofriendly option. There are several types of vehicle; parallel hybrids allow both power systems to be used at once while series hybrids operate by electrical power or by using the ordinary engine – the driver has to switch from one to the other.

The Most Popular Hybrid Car

Hybrid cars haven’t been around very long; the first ones were developed for widespread distribution in the late 1990s, although the earliest prototype was actually built in 1900 by Porsche. The two leading models twenty years ago were the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight and the Prius has now leapt ahead in terms of sales. By the end of 2009, the USA had over 1.5 million registered hybrid cars that have electric fuel cells and over 800 000 were Toyota Prius.

How Fuel Cell Extenders Would be Used

The thinking behind using extended fuel cells is to overcome the main criticism of hybrid cars and electric cars; they don’t travel very far on one charge. Currently, the light vehicles powered by electrical fuel cells are used by several of the larger UK companies such as the Post Office and electricity generation companies but they can only travel about 160km before they need recharging. As the UK has not sorted out its infrastructure to support electric vehicles, recharging facilities are few and far between. The possibility of becoming stranded when travelling in an electric vehicle is quite high.

By adding extenders to fuel cells, fuel cell manufacturers are hoping to up the running power of vehicle fuel cells up to about 300km. This appears to be possible by adding a single fuel extender. The extra power would also make it more feasible to run electric cars with heating or air conditioning, without them running out of power after a few kilometres.

Taking Hybrid Cars into the Future

The generally accepted expert opinion is that hybrid cars will take the largest slice of the consumer market in domestic vehicles in the next 50 years. There are plans all over Europe to build new refuelling stations or to adapt current fuel stations to provide top ups of electrical charge for hybrid and electric cars. There are even plans for an electrical superhighway in Wales, and multiple refuelling points will be placed at regular intervals along the M4. Already, it is becoming more popular to use electric vehicles for short distance work – electric tractors are getting more popular, for example – and milk floats have been ahead in the electric vehicle stakes for some years.

The real way for electric vehicles to come into their own is to find acceptance as part of large scale public transport systems. Electric buses and trams would be less noisy, produce fewer carbon emissions if they could be made to run effectively using extended fuel cells.