Yesterday, I mentioned ethanol as a good interim step to provide relief at the gas pumps from high oil prices now and in the near future with hydrogen technology being 5 years away. Another interesting scenario would be the ramping up of ethanol cars and infrastructure now as a natural transition to hydrogen cars at a later date.
Consider this. Hydrogen can be produced from ethanol. So, once we have a robust ethanol infrastructure in place including ethanol cars and vehicles, manufacturing and distribution this may make for an easier transition than building a total hydrogen infrastructure from the ground up.
Ethanol to hydrogen reformers would be the key here. Reformers could be implemented at the ethanol processing plants, or at the fueling stations to create ethanol-to-hydrogen on demand or inside the hydrogen cars and vehicles themselves as onboard reformers. The vehicles could be fueled with ethanol at the pumps and the reformers could extract the hydrogen and supply it to the fuel cell to power the vehicles.
The Gas Technology Institute has developed at two-step steam reforming-shift fuel processor that will convert ethanol into hydrogen. Their goal is to use this system in a hydrogen fueling station platform.
In addition, according to Technology Research News, “Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Patras in Greece have devised a way to extract hydrogen directly from ethanol, which would make for a renewable energy cycle … The researchers’ method is relatively simple, and an ethanol-to-hydrogen converter designed for home use would be not much larger than a coffee mug.”
According to the University of Minnesota engineers, “…a bushel of corn would yield three times as much power if its energy were channeled into hydrogen fuel cells rather than burned along with gasoline … Ethanol in car engines is burned with 20 percent efficiency, but if you used ethanol to make hydrogen for a fuel cell, you would get 60 percent efficiency.”
Still think ethanol to hydrogen is far-fetched?