Hydrogen fuel

May 18, 2009

Hydrogen fuel refers to use of hydrogen for its combustive qualities as a fuel and energy carrier. The hydrogen must first be broken out from its compound form with oxygen as water (H2O) using electrolysis or gathered by other means as it does not naturally occur by itself. Hydrogen cannot be mined or drilled as with fossil fuels and requires more energy input to produce it than is generated with its combustion.

Advocates of hydrogen fuel believe solar power, wind power or other renewable and environmentally friendly technologies can be used to make hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen can then be transported and used for various applications. This might have environmental advantages over burning fossil fuels for motive power and other uses.

Hydrogen is a potential fuel for motive power, including cars, boats and airplanes. It can also be used in smaller devices using fuel cells. Some environmentalists believe a hydrogen economy could greatly reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and therefore play a major role in tackling global warming. Countries without oil, but with renewable energy resources could use hydrogen as a clean burning energy store.

Advantages of hydrogen fuel

  • When hydrogen is burned, the only emission it makes is water vapor, so a key advantage of hydrogen is that when burned, carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced.
  • Clearly, hydrogen is less of a pollutant in the air because it omits little tail pipe pollution.
  • Hydrogen has the potential to run a fuel-cell engine with greater efficiency over an internal combustion engine.
  • The same amount of hydrogen will take a fuel-cell car at least twice as far as a car running on gasoline.

Disadvantages of hydrogen fuel

  • Currently, it still costs a considerable amount of money to run a hydrogen vehicle because it takes a large amount of energy to liquefy the fuel.
  • Research shows that cars could store hydrogen in high pressure tanks like those used for compressed natural gas. It would need to be packed tightly into a car’s tank in order to avoid countless trips to the filling station every few miles.
  • The Department of Energy’s goal is to produce hydrogen at $2 to $3 per gallon by 2015. Right now, the cost per gallon is between $6 and $8.
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