Why explore hydrogen as an alternative fuel

Hydrogen is proving particularly popular with corporations that are looking to exploit and commercialize an untapped resource. Many industries have invested huge amounts in researching this alternative energy, which has already been successfully demonstrated in forklift trucks, buses and cars. The latter holds the greatest potential in terms of market size and environmental impact.

Automotive companies are developing fuel cell cars that combine hydrogen stored in an onboard tank with oxygen from the air to generate electricity. The electricity then powers the electric motor, which turns the car’s wheels.

Industry experts say the new vehicles will not produce any emissions locally and none at all when produced from renewable sources, making them more environmentally friendly than standard petrol or diesel cars.

Fuel cell vehicles have the capacity to run longer and go further than other on-petrol or diesel motors, such as electric cars.

Instead of emitting fumes, the exhaust pipes on hydrogen cars will release only small amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere.

The first serial-produced fuel cell cars are expected to hit the road in the near future, with Hyundai revealing that it will start building hydrogen-powered models and offering them on lease in early 2013.

Honda, Daimler and Toyota are also planning to start making hydrogen cars in the next few years. In the meantime, engineering and industrial gases company, The Linde Group, is helping build more refueling stations across Germany, the UK and elsewhere. For example, the UK’s first public hydrogen refueling station opened in 2012 near the Honda manufacturing plant in Swindon.

Other projects that The Linde Group is involved in include a public transport initiative in the US and a new refueling station at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, currently under construction.

Sustainability and green issues are key concerns for many governments and corporations, so a car that produces zero emissions is bound to prove popular. The consensus is that, if they become widely available, hydrogen cars should help reduce the carbon footprint in major cities. In fact, international studies reveal that hydrogen cars will have to play a role in order to comply with long-term emission reduction targets, while allowing consumers to stick to existing driving patterns with regard to personal mobility (i.e., long range, short filling times).

On the downside, a dearth of refueling stations is one of the major stumbling blocks to a wider market acceptance of fuel cell cars – at least for the moment. To overcome this hurdle, The Linde Group has teamed up with major car producers, oil multinationals and other industry partners to jointly enlarge the hydrogen-refueling infrastructure. The reality is that ramping up production of fuel cell cars and increasing their supply infrastructure have to go hand in hand.

The complete article was written by:

  • Rob Morris
    Business journalist, Wardour, UK

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