We have been using fossil fuels now for so many years with the concern of “running out” of resources. We have been plagued with the rising costs of fuel at the pumps, the environmental damages and the international energy crisis. Everyone is asking about alternatives and the most available alternative has been literally right under our noses. It has been in the air we breathe and the water we drink. The most abundant alternative is Hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a perfect fit for our multiple energy problems. In some regions, our carbon monoxide problems are so severe that we are in eminent health risks. Continuing to operate carbon monoxide emitting vehicles does not make sense when alternatives are around. Our vehicles require high quality fuels to maintain the performance that they were designed for. This will be no different as we develop more vehicles that will operate on different fuels. The development of hydrogen as a fuel alternative and the fuel cell industry is at hand. Researchers have been developing the vehicles and the technology for this new wave of transportation. Some of our major states such as California and Florida are already working on hydrogen fueling stations.
There are other alternatives other than hydrogen fuels. We have been using propane or natural gas as an alternative for many years now. The problem here again is that these are still fossil fuels that produce a lot of tailpipe emission problems from their hydrocarbon makeup.
Two other alternatives are the battery-powered vehicles and the solar-powered vehicles. The battery-powered vehicle is powered by an electrical engine. The electric engine is emission free and has fewer moving parts than the conventional internal combustion engine. The drawback is that the batteries have a very limited range capacity. This is generally around 100 miles. It is also time consuming to recharge the batteries. The battery-powered vehicle also is dependent on using electricity to recharge and thus negates the desire to replace dependence on fossil fuels. The solar powered vehicle is also electrically driven. The benefit again is the emission problems are eliminated. When the vehicle is driven in daylight, the vehicle can be driven and/or recharged. Of course the drawback is when the sun is not shining, the vehicle cannot be driven or charged based on solar power. Solar power may be stored by recharging batteries to operate the vehicle when the sun is not shining. Again, the range of these vehicles is very limited.
This brings us back to Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. When we think about alternative energy, we are often looking for alternative fuel for use in vehicles. This is the focus of this article. There will be some references to other energy sources as it affects our discussion on the use of alternative energy and alternative fuels.
Hydrogen is the perfect alternative fuel because of its overall abundance. It comprises over 90% of all atoms here on earth. It is extremely abundant in our atmosphere as well as our water. The use of hydrogen is by means of fuel cell technology. Hydrogen powered vehicle use hydrogen as a fuel source to create electricity to run the electric motor of the vehicle. Hydrogen as the fuel source is converted through a chemical reaction to water. With the fuel cell process, the emissions are water and air. The electric motor that is powered by the fuel cell is emission free.
Hydrogen is abundant without question but it has to be separated from other compounds. The easiest compound to separate hydrogen from would be water. In the water compound, there are 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. The hydrogen is split from the oxygen in a process called electrolysis. The hydrogen is stored in a tank to fuel the vehicle. The use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel is an entirely new industry shift and with every shift, there is a shift in technology. The designs of the storage tanks for the fuel are in research and development with some amazing results appearing that will greatly increase the capacity of fuel storage and range of the vehicles.
Fuel cells are a processing component of the hydrogen-powered vehicles. The fuel cell is where hydrogen and oxygen (from air) is combined to create electricity. The emissions from the process are water and air.
The technology has not been sufficiently developed as yet to be able to bring the costs down to replace the current internal combustion engines. The industry is still moving forward but it is in competition with other alternative fuels and alternative energy programs. There is not a single clear-cut blueprint plan to follow, as there are several versions of fuel cells, storage tanks and sources of hydrogen as the fuel. Some research is focused on using hydrogen as just hydrogen whereas other researchers are planning to use hydrogen in a compound form such as Ammonia (which is 1 atom of nitrogen and 3 atoms of hydrogen) or methane (which is 1 atom of carbon and 4 atoms of hydrogen). There are also other concerns with using hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Some of the processing to produce hydrogen gas utilizes energy to separate the hydrogen. This energy may of course be from our conventional resources and we are back at the use and reliance on fossil fuels. There is some development of wind-powered plants to produce the hydrogen gas. In addition, with the further development of hydroelectric power plants and the current use of these plants in some regions and some countries, we can attain a real replacement of our dependence on fossil fuels. (In some countries hydroelectricity is a main source of energy but most countries is not even using 50% of their capacity.)
There are a lot of considerations to be addressed and a lot of research yet to be done in this field. The question is not if this is possible but when will we see this in mass use? There are vehicles in operation right not to prove it is possible. For more information, visit the following website. There are a lot of websites with a lot of information and you can find some of their links in this website as well.