With the introduction of the global warming issue, the role of fossil fuels to power our cars, trucks and trains has come under attack. Many environmentalists have proposed that we switch to hydrogen as the ultimate fuel. As is the case in most issues, there are two sides to this solution.
Hydrogen is the ultimate fuel for our cars.
Primary Reference: Hydrogencarsnow
- Hydrogen is the cleanest burning fuel there is. It offers the promise of zero emissions. When hydrogen combines with oxygen, it produces only clean and natural water vapor.
- As a transition to the future, existing gasoline powered internal combustion engines can be modified to operate on either gasoline or hydrogen.
- Cars in the future will be powered by hydrogen powered fuel-cells. Fuel cells promise cleaner more efficient operation than our current internal combustion engines.
- Hydrogen powered cars would not contribute any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
- Using hydrogen, produced in the USA, to power our vehicles would help our trade deficit and lessen our dependence on energy supplies from the unstable OPEC countries and the big U.S. oil companies.
- Hydrogen does not need to be stored as a compressed gas or as a super-cold liquid. Researchers are working on alternate hydrogen storage approaches including using hydrogen peroxide which currently is used in race cars and jet packs.
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Hydrogen fuel is not all its cracked up to be.
Primary Reference: Wikipedia
- Many "experts" say, due to all the technical hurdles, it will be at least 40 years before hydrogen could have any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption. Hydrogen research is diverting resources from solutions that would have a more immediate impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
- The fuel cell is not necessarily the ultimate solution. Currently they are very expensive and not well suited for rough operation.
- Cold weather is a major problem for fuel cells. Not only do they have difficulty starting but their flaunted clean emissions of water vapor leads to the significant potential for freezing damage to the fuel cell.
- The infrastructure to distribute hydrogen would be expensive. The cost could reach $500 billion($4390 per household).
- Hydrogen is an inefficient carrier of energy. Energy is lost in the production of the hydrogen. In addition, due to it's small molecular size, it will leak easily past many seals just like helium leaks out of balloons. It is expected that 10 to 20% of the hydrogen would be lost due to leaks in the distribution system.
- Leaking hydrogen also poses a risk to the ozone layer. Since it is light, it is expected that a lot of the leaked hydrogen will migrate to the upper atmosphere where it could react with the UV protective ozone.
- Storage of hydrogen is potentially dangerous. On vehicles, the hydrogen would need to be stored as a highly pressurized gas.
- Storage as concentrated hydrogen peroxide also is very dangerous. It is explosive at concentrations greater than 70% and also very caustic to handle.
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