Today, powering fuel cells with hydrogen can create more greenhouse gasses than powering directly from fossil fuels, because hydrogen is most often made using traditional gas- or coal-fired electricity. Today, renewable sources produce only 2% of the world’s electricity. Consider the math for a PEM based fuel cell car:

Burning coal to generate one megawatt-hour of electricity produces about 2100 pounds of carbon dioxide. Using that electricity to make hydrogen would yield enough fuel for a fuel-cell [PEM] car to travel about 1,000 miles. But driving those 1,000 miles in a gasoline-powered car that gets 40 miles per gallon would produce just 485 pounds of carbon dioxide.

From “Hell and Hydrogen”, David Talbot, Technology Review, March/April 2007

Of course, most cars today do not get 40 mpg, either…The point is, fuel-flexible SOFCs using traditional fuels like natural gas make less CO2 than hydrogen-burning PEMs (PEMs cannot operate easily from hydrocarbons since CO poisons them). When you factor in the losses due to hydrogen generation alone, not including storage in tanks, the true efficiency of PEMs is reduced to less than 10%. SOFCs reach over 40% efficiency with natural gas. Of course, SOFCs can operate from hydrogen as well. Fuel cells hold the promise of world-saving, pollution-free, reliable, electricity – when clean, efficient hydrogen generation becomes a reality.

Hydrogen – The Fuel of the Future Providing Energy Today

Transitioning to a hydrogen-based economy can deliver three main benefits:

  • Energy Security – Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of sources including renewables, which can help diversify our energy supplies and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Economic Growth – Hydrogen can contribute to economic growth through job creation in a developing industry and investment opportunities.
  • Environmental Health – Hydrogen can be produced and used in ways that improve health-related air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen Facts:

  • Hydrogen is the lightest of all elements. This causes it to be buoyant and to rapidly disperse when released in air, so a leak is quickly diluted and rendered harmless.
  • Hydrogen is colorless, odorless and has no taste.
  • Hydrogen is non-toxic and non-poisonous, and there are no significant environmental hazards associated with accidental discharge.
  • A hydrogen fire radiates very little heat compared to a petroleum fire.
  • For a flammable mixture to exist, a four times higher concentration of hydrogen is required than that of gasoline (4% versus 1%). An electrostatic spark from the human body is just as likely to ignite gasoline as hydrogen at these minimum concentrations.

Hydrogen has been mass-produced for more than 50 years.

End Result?

While hydrogen fuel cells are readily available, the commercial adoption of these technologies is hindered by the inability to produce hydrogen safely, efficiently and economically. Consequently, developments in hydrogen fuel cell technologies have slowed and the technology remains too costly for average consumers. Unless we can find better methods of storing and delivering hydrogen, the realization of a hydrogen economy will remain a distant hope. Only through solving the problems and deficiencies in storage and delivery of hydrogen, will we see the price points of fuel cells and other hydrogen based technologies decrease to levels that are economical for the masses.

If and when all these obstacles are overcome Ambassador Energy will be there providing hydrogen solutions.