Tata Motors Limited and ISRO have developed India’s first hydrogen powered automobile bus after several years of research. The fuel cell powered bus was recently demonstrated at Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, an ISRO facility in Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu.
Hydrogen powered vehicles, as the name suggests,use hydrogen– the simplest and most abundant element in the universe- along with fuel cells to power them. They are non-polluting as they emit steam instead of foul smelling exhaust gases.
The technology for using hydrogen to generate power has been around since a long time and several hydrogen cars are now in existence. However, most of them are concept cars and not available for commercial use.
The test run of India’s first hydrogen powered bus was carried out for 5 km. The next step will be to test the vehicle for 1,000 to 2,000 km cumulatively by running it for 100 to 200 km daily. Tata Motors, meanwhile, will carry out the formalities of making it roadworthy.
Technical details of a hydrogen powered vehicle:
Here is a brief yet comprehensive description of the working of a fuel cell as put forward by HowStuffWorks :
The type of fuel cell used in cars is the polymer exchange membrane (or PEM) fuel cell. PEM fuel cells have the advantage of being light and small. They consist of two electrodes (a negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode), a catalyst and a membrane. Hydrogen is forced into the fuel cell at the anode in the form of H2 molecules, each of which contains two hydrogen atoms. A catalyst at the anode breaks the molecules into hydrogen ions (the protons) and a flow of electricity (the electrons). The ions pass through the membrane, but the electricity has to go around. While it’s doing so, it can be harnessed to do work. Just as hydrogen is forced into the fuel cell at the anode, oxygen is forced in at the cathode. The protons and electrons reunite at the cathode and join with the oxygen to form water, most of which become the fuel cell’s exhaust. Fuel cells are designed to be flat and thin, mainly so they can be stacked. The more fuel cells in the stack, the greater the voltage of the electricity that the stack produces.