The Future In Automobile Technology Essay

1750 words - 7 pages

You are cruising down the road at 60 mph in the newest sports car; you step on the gas expecting to hear a roar from the engine, instead, you hear nothing at all. You think to yourself for a brief moment, "there must not be an engine." You know that that isn't correct as you try to re-inflate your lungs due to the g-forces that you experienced during acceleration. What in the world? Is this a dream? No, it is the future of automobile technology. No doubt you have heard talks of "fuel cells," and "hybrid automobiles." To most people, this is a foreign language. There is only one-way to clear up the confusion, that is to explain what they are, how they work, what problems there are with them, and how readily available the technology is. A fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into water. When this change occurs, energy is created in the form of heat and more importantly electricity. It is essentially a battery that can be recharged while using it. There is one big advantage over batteries. A fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen instead of electricity to recharge itself. A fuel cell has water as its only byproduct. The water that leaves the tailpipe is clean enough to drink by most people's standards. Environmentally sound? You better bet your britches. A hybrid automobile is a little different. A hybrid automobile is a vehicle that combines a gasoline engine and an electric motor. These cars are not as efficient as the fuel celled vehicles and are not as environmentally pure. However they are considered to be ultra-efficient by today's standards. The Honda Insight, a hybrid automobile, gets 66 mpg on the highway; this is compared to 37 mpg on a Honda Civic, one of the most fuel-efficient gasoline powered automobiles on the market. (Fuel Economy, 2004) Now I will explain how they work. A fuel cell can work many different ways. The proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is said to be the most promising technologies to date. A PEMFC contains four major parts: an anode, a cathode, and electrolyte, and a catalyst. An anode, the negative pole, conducts the electrons that are released by the hydrogen molecules. These molecules are then used in an external circuit. The anode has channels, similar to a washboard, which allows the hydrogen gas to be distributed evenly over the catalyst's surface. The cathode, the positive pole, distributes the oxygen gas evenly over the catalyst's surface via "washboard channels." It also conducts the electrons from the external circuit to the catalyst where they can recombine with the hydrogen ions and oxygen to form water; this means that the only byproduct of this engine is water and energy. The electrolyte is the proton exchange membrane in the PEMFC. It conducts only protons and blocks electrons. It resembles something like saran wrap. Finally, the catalyst, it is a material that allows the reaction of oxygen and hydrogen to take place. It is generally made of a thin coat of platinum powder on...

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