Is hydrogen fuel still our future?

Researchers are beginning to develop new ways to economically produce hydrogen for transportation fuel in America.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe but doesn’t exist on Earth in it’s elemental form. The biggest challenge in the production of hydrogen is the cost. Before we can fuel our hydrogen powered cars, we must get the production cost down to $2 to $3 equivalent to the price of gasoline. This means the amount of Hydrogen’s energy content compared to a gallon of gas.

Producing hydrogen using Natural Gas Reforming is the most cost efficient and widely used method to make hydrogen today. 95% of all hydrogen use comes from this method. Using high temperature steam, we are able to extract hydrogen from methane. Another way using natural gas, called partial oxidation, burns methane in air to to produce hydrogen. Both methods create a “synthesis gas,” which is then reacted with water to produce more hydrogen. Using natural gas is only a near term way to produce the fuel as it is a fossil fuel and won’t be around forever.

Possibly the most environmentally friendly way to produce hydrogen is by Renewable Electrolysis. Electrolysis uses an electric current to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The energy needed to produce the current can be created from available renewable energy sources such as, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. By heating the water from a nuclear reactor, less electricity is required to split the oxygen and hydrogen.

Another water splitting method uses high temperatures generated by solar concentrators to drive a series of chemical reactions that split the water. All the chemicals are recycled back into the system to reuse.

So there we are, coming closer to bring hydrogen powered vehicles into the world and eliminating green house gas emissions from vehicles.