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Hydrogen’s Recent Ascension as Fuel for Future Electric Cars

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Fuel cells produce electrical energy directly from the chemical potential energy that is stored in H2 and O2 molecules. Using a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM), the unit needs only to be supplied with pressurized H2. Fuel cells are inherently more efficient and reliable than combustion engines, and their only by-product is water. These advantages make them a favourable technology in the quest of alternative energy sources.

Fuel cells have already made their way in the market, and even though the available capacity is currently limited, facilities are increasing. Fuel cell-powered buses and forklifts are in operation across the USA and public refueling stations are increasing worldwide, to provide hydrogen for electric automobiles.

In Canada, Toyota and Honda teamed up to build a hydrogen facility close to Montreal this year. Their joined venture is backed by the government of Quebec, and will utilize the hydropower which is abundant in the area in order to electrolyze hydrogen from water. Another hydrogen facility is under development in Quebec city. Each of the facilities has a capacity of producing some 200kg of hydrogen daily- enough for 50 fuel-cell vehicle refills.

Image credit: Toyota

It is no coincidence that Toyota and Hyundai are investing in hydrogen stations. Both companies have a keen interest in fuel cell technology and have developed fuel cell-powered electric vehicles. Sales in the US and Japan are increasing, and research is ongoing towards the construction of cost-efficient fuel cell systems providing longer ranges (currently averaging between 312-380miles).

GM has a joint venture with Honda for the production of fuel cell stacks, and Ford and Fiat are also investing in research on fuel cell technologies. Scaling up the technology and expanding existing infrastructures may be the key to reducing costs and making fuel-cell technologies more accessible.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Hey – its the guy who ‘actually has information’ compared to, y’know, the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, billions in investment in the last year alone, etc – thank God you are here Tyler to put us out of the misery of ignorance that we foolishly allow ourselves to accept as the truth.

    So, lets go through this, and see what the issues are. I am guessing you have investments and do not wish those investments to erode in value. Perhaps you have ideological or philosophic problems with hydrogen.

    Whatever the case, its important that this kind of casual undermining of the only realistic alternative to many current energy applications does not go unchecked.

    Okay – so yes, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels. However, as recent reports show, the delivery cost of hydrogen outweighs the slight cost increase of producing hydrogen on-site, at the refueling station. Also, because the use of electrolysers will eventually represent a large percentage of overall renewables output; this percentage acts as a demand response mechanism for grid operators – meaning that when there is an oversupply of electricity, this electricity can be converted to hydrogen. In this way hydrogen production and renewable energy such as solar and wind balance each other neatly.

    There are other reasons, but I think its quite easy to realise what they are after a while.

  2. I am hoping to see these fleets of vehicles being used to go into areas to be used as filling stations themselves until filling stations are being built and therefore get the supply needed faster -just like the oil trucks that do home delivery but in larger trucks.

  3. The problem with hydrogen is that it’s not very efficient or environmentally friendly. The vast majority of hydrogen commercially produced comes from the oil refining process. Refining oil requires a lot of energy and most of that energy is produced by running generators at the refinery. Then a fleet of vehicles is required to transport the fuel to the filling stations. Those vehicles require energy, and produce waste in the process of being manufactured, driven and maintained. The H2 filling stations themselves cost millions of dollars compared to hundreds, or thousands of dollars for EVSE stations. If the goal is to make EVs as quick and easy to fill as ICE vehicles, H2 makes perfect sense. However, it the goal is to cut environmental emissions, H2 is a horrible idea. H2 at best is only marginally better than diesel without the particulate emissions. Hydrogen fuel cells is just another stupid idea like battery swapping put forth by people who don’t drive EVs or understand how they are used in the real world. Fast charging industry wide is getting faster. Super capacitors and better batteries or capacitor/battery hybrids will soon close the gap with ICE refueling times. If society is committed to H2 from solar and wind produced locally (at or near the refueling site), H2 could be a viable option for long-haul trucking. Otherwise, it’s a dead end environmentally speaking.

    • You’ve lost the argument. Hydrogen is for much more than cars these days, like drones, submarines, forklifts, buses, trucks and trains. China has prioritized the tech and are, right now, mass producing fuel cells and related equipment. Korea is transitioning to a hydrogen society along with Japan. Hydrogen is how to store renewable energy. The more hydrogen is used, the more uses will be found. No one can stop the hydrogen revolution now.

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