Will Hydrogen Power provide the Answer?
December 27, 2019
Hydrogen Power is Launching a Challenge.
Steve Sell 27 Dec 2019
Currently Lithium-ion battery technology is the leading technology powering the clean car and truck energy market.
There is a challenge being mounted by Hydrogen Power. Liquid hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell technologies that are currently being developed.
This technology is being developed around fuel cells and liquid hydrogen.
What is the Difference Between Liquid Hydrogen and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology?
Liquid hydrogen is gas concentrated form liquid hydrogen storage.
As with any gas, storing it as liquid takes less space than storing it as a gas at normal temperature and pressure.
Liquid Hydrogen Power could replace fossil fuels as an energy source without major modifications to an internal combustion engine.
Liquid hydrogen is currently used as rocket fuel. The U.S. space program uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen mixed to power rockets.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Use Hdrogen Gas to Power an Electric Motor.
Conventional internal combustion engines/vehicles which run on gasoline or diesel, burn fuel whilst fuel cell cars and trucks combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which runs a motor.
Because they’re powered by electricity, fuel cell vehicles are considered to be electric vehicles. Unlike other electric vehicles their range and refuelling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks.
When hydrogen gas is converted to electricity the only by product or emission produced is water and heat.
This means fuel cell vehicles don’t expel any tailpipe pollution.
Even though producing hydrogen itself can create pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, one of the dirtiest sources of hydrogen production is using natural gas.
Even using natural gas to produce hydrogen today’s fuel cell cars and trucks can cut emission and pollution considerably when compared with their gasoline-powered counterparts.
Future renewable fuel standards could make hydrogen even cleaner.
The Hydrogen Council
“The Hydrogen Council is a global initiative of leading energy, transport and industry companies with a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition.
Launched during the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, the growing coalition of CEOs have the ambition to:
- Accelerate their significant investment in the development and commercialisation of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors.
- Encourage key stakeholders to increase their backing of hydrogen as part of the future energy mix with appropriate policies and supporting schemes.
The Hydrogen Council are Very Bullish on a Hydrogen Powered Future.
The hydrogen council forecasts that by 2050, hydrogen will power more than 400 million passenger cars worldwide and up to 20 million trucks and 5 million buses.
It expects hydrogen technologies to provide 18% of the world’s total energy needs by that time, with the annual sales generated from the hydrogen fuel cell market reaching $2.5 trillion while creating 30 million jobs globally.”
There are currently very low sales numbers at present so any increase is going to be exponential and there are very good reasons to expect that sales will increase.
At the present time hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not readily available to purchase by the public and there is a serious lack of refuelling stations, sales and servicing infrastructure.
It is important to consider that liquid hydrogen fuel cell technology is still developing.
The cost of producing hydrogen fuel cells is dropping steadily as the technology improves and scale increases.
Further research and development of hydrogen fuel technology could mean that a hydrogen fuel cell reactor the size of your laptop will be able to generate enough energy to power an entire house.
Governments and industry leaders from all over the world have begun investing in research and development relating to Hydrogen power.
The US Department of Energy and the US Military.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it will collaborate with the U.S. Army on the development of hydrogen fuel cell technologies for military and civilian use.
Working with the military could fast track the development of hydrogen fuel cells, making them more affordable, efficient, and faster than they currently are.
Toyota have been active in the research and development of hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles.
So far high costs, lack of infrastructure, and limited production have limited sales.
BMW have produced Liquid Hydrogen and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology.
As fuel cell technology becomes more affordable, the market is expected grow.
Good Science Building The Case For Hydrogen Power
The science behind the case for hydrogen fuel cells is hard to argue against.
The energy density of hydrogen is higher than any lithium-ion battery, making for faster re fuelling and a longer range.
Even though hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, it’s usually bonded with something else, like oxygen to make water.
Producing hydrogen for fuel is very energy intensive and can be expensive and hard to store economically.
Currently this results in high costs at the hydrogen pump for consumers.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is still developing
Can Hydrogen be a viable alternative to battery and fossil fuels?
Yes, when the costs of technology and fuel come down and most importantly when the infrastructure is built.
But fuel cells are just one segment of the future of the hydrogen industry.
The aviation industry is a major contributor to carbon emissions and global warming.
An airline flight of around 11,000 km equates to the same amount of emissions as the average household produces heating their home for an entire year.
This is the same as to fly roundtrip from New York to London.
Currently direct emissions from aviation account for more than 2% of the total greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
The EU’s website says: If global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters.
Finding engineering solutions for fossil fuel alternatives to use in ground-based vehicles (cars, trucks, even trains) is much easier than it is with aircraft, which require far more power.
One solution, however, might be liquid hydrogen.
Do not to confuse this with hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen fuel cell is a separate technology.
The concept is that liquid hydrogen would replace the jet fuels used today.
At ambient temperature, hydrogen is a gas.
When it is cooled, hydrogen becomes liquid. This liquid hydrogen could be used as fuel for aircraft.
Liquid hydrogen is very light. A litre of liquid hydrogen at its boiling point weighs 71 grams.
Compare that to a litre of water, which weighs 1,000 grams.
A 747 carries nearly 240,000 litres of fuel when full. This weighs 240,000 kilos.
The equivalent in liquid hydrogen would weigh 17,040 kilos.
This is a huge saving.
Weight is always a crucial consideration in aviation and a lighter fuel could drastically increase efficiency and drastically reduce emissions.
Switching to liquid hydrogen would make the most sense technologically and economically for airlines.
Using liquid hydrogen wouldn’t require any major design changes to aircraft.
If the airlines are going decrease their emissions and carbon footprint the technology needs to be available to convert their existing fleets to make them less polluting.
Any conversion from using jet fuel to electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells is not feasible especially in the short term.
Switching from jet fuel to liquid hydrogen requires much fewer design changes, and much lower conversion costs.
Liquid hydrogen as fuel isn’t a new concept.
BMW has produced the Hydrogen 7, a limited-production passenger vehicle that could run on either gasoline or liquid hydrogen.
This is separate from the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles being built today by Toyota and BMW.
Cutting Edge Research
HES Energy Systems of Singapore has announced plans to build a small hydrogen-powered aircraft capable of carrying up to four people.
They have named it Element One, HES calls it “the world’s first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft.”
What’s important there is “hydrogen-electric.” this aircraft is being designed to incorporate hydrogen fuel cells, not rely on them completely to power the plane.
In the unveiling press release, the company says:
“Designed as a zero-emissions aircraft, Element One merges HES’ ultra-light hydrogen fuel cell technologies with a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design. Element One is designed to fly 4 passengers for 500 km to 5000 km depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form.”
Hydrogen in Mass Passenger Transport.
In 2017 China in an effort to reduce air pollution put hydrogen-powered buses on the road.
In 2018 Germany launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered train.
The UK will have a hydrogen powered train in service by 2020.
HES Systems are planning on having the first hydrogen-electric plane with zero emissions due to off by 2025.