There are only 2 ways to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, increase our own production or decrease our demand. However the most promising route is to create alternative sources of energy, a source that is readily available in the United States, hydrogen. Hydrogen is plentiful, more effective at storing energy than batteries, burns twice as effectively in a fuel cell than gasoline, and leaves only water in it’s wake, not chemicals.
Cars give off “carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide,” and contribute to “urban smog, rural air pollution, acid rain, and the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” (Nadis and Mackenzie 14). We need our cars, but we also need to reduce the pollution. The only way to completely escape this pollution is by using electric motors (Begley and Hager 108). Vehicles using electric motors are completely emission-free and generally get their electricity from batteries, the sun, or hydrogen fuel cells.
Hydrogen is consumed by a pollution-free chemical reaction–not combustion–in a fuel cell. The fuel cell simply combines hydrogen and oxygen chemically to produce electricity, water, and waste heat (MacKenzie 62-3). Nothing else. And hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, constituting about 93% of all atoms. “It is found in water, fossil fuels, and all plants and animals. What better replacement for finite, nonrenewable gasoline? Hydrogen has often been called the perfect fuel. Its major reserve on earth (water) is inexhaustible. The use of hydrogen is compatible with nature. We will never run out of hydrogen.
Ford says hydrogen powered vehicles might reach American showrooms in five years. There are several types of fuel cells, but the one most suited for cars is called the proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. Some of its main features are its ability to start quickly and to run at moderate temperatures, which will help because it does not need to heat up very much in order to run. The PEM fuel cell is compact and lightweight: a big advantage for cars. Furthermore, its maximum efficiency of 60% (energy delivered from hydrogen to motor as electricity) is about 3 times greater than the efficiency of internal combustion engines (most of the energy from combustion is lost in heat and friction before it even pushes down on the pistons).
The range of fuel-cell-powered vehicles is not limited by batteries, but by the amount of fuel in the storage tank. Recent developments in hydrogen storage technology have come up with “carbon-adsorption” systems. These are refrigerated and pressurized tanks that can store massive amounts of hydrogen. Calculations estimate that over 7 gallons of hydrogen could be stored in a single gram of this new material. This allows a range of nearly 5,000 miles from a single tank!. These tanks would weigh less than 200 pounds, occupy about half the amount of space used by current gasoline tanks (H&FCL), and could be refueled in 4-5 minutes (Mac Kenzie 75)
Hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered cars are the best alternatives to polluting, gasoline-powered cars for several reasons: (1) the cars are completely emission-free, (2) the fuel cells have no moving parts, (3) hydrogen is renewable and abundant, (4) the cars are compatible with cold weather, (5) the fuel cells are compact and lightweight–not overly bulky or heavy, (6) the cars are about 3 times as efficient as gasoline-powered cars, (7) the cars will have incredible mile ranges, (8) the tanks will be refueled quickly, and (9) hydrogen is safe, has been tested rigorously for use in vehicles, and is being used in many vehicles already.
Buying these emission-free vehicles is the best way to reduce the pollution without giving up our cars.