Many critics as well as uniformed people cite hydrogen fires and explosions as their main concerns about hydrogen cars. Many will talk about the Hindenburg fallacy when stating their cases as to why we should not pursue hydrogen vehicles in the first place.
And, yes it is true that hydrogen is a flammable and combustible fuel. But, so is gasoline, diesel, natural gas, ethanol and many other fuels. But, the truth is that hydrogen has been around for many years and thousands of people have been trained in how to handle hydrogen leaks.
For instance, the only H2 fueling station in Washington DC, a Shell station had a hydrogen leak recently. The Shell Hydrogen station carries both liquid and compressed hydrogen gas.
It was the liquid hydrogen tank that had a leak. The owner of the station along with fire department and EMT’s were called to the scene. The owner shut off the valve, repairs were made and no more hydrogen was detected after the repair.
In another incident at a truck stop in Connecticut there was a minor accident with a truck carrying liquid hydrogen. Fire officials and EPA officials showed up and evacuated the truck stop just in case there was a leak.
But, upon further investigation, no leak was detected. Hydrogen is not like gasoline in that when H2 burns it burns straight upwards and doesn’t pool along the ground and burn like gasoline does. This is because hydrogen is the lightest element, much lighter than air and moves upwards very quickly.
The third incident that caught my eye was a hydrogen leak at a nuclear power plant in Michigan. Hydrogen is used as a coolant for the water system inside the generator on the non-nuclear side of the power plant.
The hydrogen was shut down and they expect the repairs to take about a week. So, what the general public doesn’t realize is that hydrogen leaks happen all the time without incident. Hydrogen does have to be handled with care like most other fuels. While the thought of a hydrogen leak is scary and must be handled with caution by trained personnel this shouldn’t be any more frightening than leaks from other kinds of flammable and combustible fuels.