I occasionally get asked from battery electric vehicle (BEV) advocates about putting electricity directly into BEVs instead of using it to electrolyze water and create hydrogen for FCVs (fuel cell vehicles).
Simply put, hydrogen is a better battery.
Here are some other reasons to use electricity to produce hydrogen for cars:
- If you use electricity and put it directly into a BEV you are still stuck with a vehicle with long recharge times and limited driving range.
- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be refueled in 5 minutes and have a range of over 300 miles similar to a gasoline-powered vehicle.
- There are some places in the world where solar panels and wind turbines over-produce energy for the grid and need to be shut down. Instead of shutting down, they can use the extra energy to produce hydrogen from water. Storing this same energy in batteries would not be as efficient.
- Fuel cell systems are easier to scale up and are already used in trucks, buses and hydrail trains. Their EV counterparts have massive batteries, limited range and long charge times.
- In emergencies, some FCVs are capable of powering your home for comparatively long periods of time.
- Using an FCV as an escape vehicle in an emergency situation (fire, flood, tornado) may be a better choice than a BEV with a depleted battery.
- Some BEV advocates say they want to recharge at home and with hydrogen it’s impossible. Not so as the Joule Box Hydrogen Charge Station is but one example.
- Critics say electrolysis takes too much energy. I agree that brute force electrolysis requires a lot of energy. But there are many other methods of electrolysis that require a lot less energy. One example is the University of Glasgow and their redox mediator sponge. And there are many other methods in which to get hydrogen from water that don’t use electrolysis including chemical, biological and direct sunlight to hydrogen conversions.
So, to recap, putting a couple of bare wires into a Mason jar filled with distilled water and electrolyzing it (brute force) to create hydrogen may not compare favorably to directly charging a battery. But, there are so many other methods of producing hydrogen from water that DO make sense. Hydrogen critics and naysayers would do well to take another look.