Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells In Our Future?
The collapse of the Texas energy grid illuminates how fragile our utility supply systems are. The dependence on gas-fired generation of electricity is a major mistake, but California’s march to all electricity is also putting us all at similar risk. We need as many alternatives, options and long-term vision as possible in order look into our future.
The most plentiful element in our universe could be our cleanest future energy source. Hydrogen power via H-cells have been known for some years, but the cost of production is still high. Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity through electrolysis. That power currently comes from the grid, but more affordable sustainable methods are yet to come.
Hydrogen as a fuel is the most sustainable, green alternative to fossil fuels. While the world is looking at electric engines with lithium batteries, hydrogen fuel cells could change our transportation needs and ultimately our total energy use for future generations. Here are a few advantages:
It’s renewable and very accessible: Hydrogen is everywhere. We won’t run out of it, unlike fossil fuels. It’s clean and perfect for our future
Hydrogen fuel cells are the cleanest source of energy: Depending on how it is made, it doesn’t require huge land areas as does solar or wind renewables. It is toxic free and superior to all fossil fuels.
More efficient than fossil fuels: Hydrogen can be the most powerful source of good, reliable energy and three times more powerful than fossil fuels.
Near zero emissions: No carbon dioxide is created because the hydrogen reacts with the oxygen and only creates water as a by-product. There are no greenhouse gases released and the carbon footprint is zero.
Fuel cells charge fast: Charging stations in the future are incredibly fast, not much different than a gas station today. Even the most powerful electric vehicles require a minimum of 30 minutes and usually several hours or overnight. Far more flexibility than electric cars.
No noise or visual pollution: Hydrogen powered vehicles are even quieter than electric cars, let alone conventional gas engines. And the fight over the creation of solar panels or mountains of swirling turbines becomes mute in the future.
Higher efficiency and usage: Hydrogen vehicles have the same 300 mile range as fossil fuels, with less moving parts and are superior energy users to electric. In order to gain greater range, electric cars need bigger batteries which are expensive to produce and environmentally incorrect.
Wider range of uses: Not only can transportation benefit, but eventually small appliances, handheld devices and even spacecraft can use hydrogen technology.Beam me up Scotty!
Of course, there are disadvantages as well:
Hydrogen doesn’t exist on its own: Hydrogen must be extracted from water via electrolysis or removed from carbon, this requires significant amount of energy. Currently, we produce more renewable energy in the middle of the day when people are at work, however, our homes need electricity in the mornings and evenings. This excess power could be used during the day to extract hydrogen for efficiency.
Large investments and political Will: With a capital “W”…. to make this the next venture, like our trip to the moon, it will require more than a wish and a dream: It will require commitment and resolve. Good luck on that!
High initial cost: Because hydrogen fuel cell production costs currently are greater, there is reluctance to invest, but like solar and wind, their overall costs have dropped significantly, and reliability has increased phenomenally.
Storage, transportation and flammability: Hydrogen is considered highly flammable like natural gas and pumping through current pipelines in big quantities could be risky. Transportation via trucks will be a new specialty. A whole new infrastructure process must be created.
Fuel cell technology is here today. There are multiple hydrogen-fueled automobiles available today. Fuel cells are being tested for every electric using product, but I don’t see them replacing all fossil fuels or electric engines in the immediate future.
Nonetheless, if we are to work towards a fully sustainable and green energy future, this will ultimately be the way. Here is one of the most important advantages: Independence from International blackmail for carbon fuel production. This should be a national vision, not a dream.