Fuel Cell Cars (Terra Futura)

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Fuel Cell Cars were electric cars that ran on fuel cells. They were very successful during the mid-21st century.

(Note: The background section of this page uses most of the same words as Terra Futura's page on electric cars to save time.)


The earliest cars were steam cars. In 1769, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot demonstrated his steam wagon. It was slow and did not replace the horse and carriage. The first practical gasoline-powered car came out in 1886. It was designed by Gottlieb Daimler of Germany. Later, Karl Benz, also of Germany, also developed his own car. These cars were still expensive. Steam cars were still available and so were primitive electric cars. In 1908, Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, invented the first assembly line. This made his Model T cheaper. The automobile became popular as a result. After World War I, the engine was moved to the front, closed bodies and standardized controls were part of every car. During the Great Depression, the car's body was fully closed, and fenders, wings, running boards, and headlights were integrated into the body of the car. Following World War II, there was an increase in engine power and speed limits. In 1964, the Ford Mustang came into existence. In the 1970s, the Arab oil embargo caused a trend toward increasing fuel efficiency. Independent suspension started being used. Fuel injection replaced the carburetor. Safety became a major focus. The turbocharger saw widespread use. Fuel efficiency would increase. In modern times, fuel injection was now ubiquitous. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive became widespread. However, in the early 21st century, it became clear that gasoline cars were producing greenhouse gas emissions that contributed to global warming. Regulations were brought about prevent this from causing a catastrophe. What would replace gasoline cars? No one knew, but diesel cars provided a possibility.

Diesel cars used a diesel engine which was invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1883. By 1898, he was a millionaire. However, it was not until the 1970s that diesel cars became increasingly common. Diesel engines had 50% efficiency, the highest of any internal combustion engine. One major problem was diesel fuel had a high sulfur content. In the developed world, technologies were commonly used that took the sulfur out. Another major problem was that the stratified charge compression ignition (SCCI) resulted in particulate matter coming out as smoke. A solution also adopted in the developed world was the diesel particulate filter which filtered out particulates. Both of these solutions made diesel engines cleaner. By the early 21st century, diesel cars were the most common car in Europe. However, they would eventually be replaced by other types of cars. These included natural gas cars.

Natural gas cars came in two versions: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Cars and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Cars. With Compressed Natural Gas, there was no need to lead foul the spark plugs because there was no lead to begin with. CNG vehicles had a lower maintenance cost. The fuel systems were sealed thus there were no spills. CNG was less likely to ignite on a hot surface. It produces very little greenhouse gas emissions and was more efficient than conventional cars, too. There was one problem. Fuel storage required a greater amount of space than in conventional cars. This was solved by Liquified Natural Gas. Liquified Natural Gas cars had all the same advantages as Compressed Natural Gas cars. LNG cars had the added advantage of fuel storage being more portable than in CNG cars. This became the most common fuel for internal combustion cars for a while before being replaced by hydrogen cars.

Hydrogen cars used Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI). HCCI combined the advantages of both gasoline and diesel engines. One advantage was that nitrogen oxides did not get produced. One disadvantage was that there were higher amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emitted from the tail-pipe. It was for both of these reasons that hydrogen was used in HCCI cars. At 40% efficiency, hydrogen cars were more efficient than gasoline cars. It was faster, too. With cars becoming driverless, that was safer than ever. There was one problem. Where would the hydrogen come from? One answer was from crops.

In the early 21st century, cars started running on biofuels. Early biofuels were made from food, especially corn. This was controversial because the price of food went up. Later biofuel cars used non-food crops. These included switch-grass which was used to make cellulosic ethanol. Algae was also used to make fuel. Even hydrogen was made using algae. Biohydrogen was the most common fuel in internal combustion cars by the 2020s. By then, all internal combustion engine cars were hybrids.

The first hybrid car to enter service was the Toyota Prius in 1997, followed by the Honda Insight in 1999. Initially, it was that due to the low cost of petroleum, hybrid cars would not replace gasoline cars. During the early 21st century, however, the price of petroleum started to rise. This meant that hybrids were becoming more common. When in idle, the gasoline engine was turned off. This start-stop system reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A regenerative braking system converted the car's kinetic energy into electric energy for the battery which Nickel-metal hydride, or later on, lithium-ion. Overall, less emissions were produced. Soon, hybrids gave way to plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in hybrid cars were entering the market in the early 21st century. Because they could be plugged in anywhere, they could be recharged anywhere. This also reduced dependency on gasoline. Plug-in hybrids also reduced greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The most famous plug-in hybrid was the Chevrolet (Chevy for short) Volt. It could use a lithium-ion battery for until its capacity dropped below threshold. Then, an internal combustion engine took over. Soon, these cars were replaced by all-electric cars.

Electric cars were coming back into use in the early 21st century amid issues of global warming and rising oil prices. The best bet for a battery for electric cars was a lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries remained expensive until 2015 when a new process involving making holes in layers of graphene through chemical oxidation allowed them to last longer. With that, electric cars became commonplace. By 2030, all new cars were electric. Not only that, they were driverless. By 2050, electric cars were becoming smaller and safer than ever before. Emissions were greatly reduced as a result. Lithium-ion batteries were often accompanied by ultracapacitors for extra power. Lithium-ion batteries were not the only source of power for electric cars. There was also fuel cells. Fuel cell cars were just as common as electric cars running on batteries.


Tech Level: 10-11

Cars that ran on fuel cells used hydrogen as fuel. The hydrogen went to the engine where it mixed with oxygen in the fuel cells generating electricity. The only emission that came out was water. There was a problem. Hydrogen had to be pumped under pressure. Other hydrogen vehicles had the same problem. The solution was chicken feathers. Heating the fibers that grew on the quills, a black material was created that could hold onto hydrogen reducing the amount of pressure needed. This helped bring hydrogen fuel cell cars to market alongside other electric cars that ran on batteries. These were common in the mid-21st century. Very soon, however, the discovery of room-temperature superconductors would render fuel cells and most batteries obsolete. Maglev cars were coming into service.

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