Tomorrow’s hydrogen infrastructure will not be the same as today’s gasoline infrastructure. The naysayers of hydrogen technology point out how overwhelming it will be to set up a hydrogen infrastructure that models the current gasoline infrastructure and they may be right.
Producing hydrogen gas in centralized facilities and then piping, trucking or sending it by train to remote locations would be difficult indeed. Momentous breakthroughs in hydrogen gas storage technology would be needed to make this scenario happen. On the other hand, centralized production and transportation of hydrogen-rich chemical compounds, solid or liquid, that may be converted to hydrogen gas may not be as daunting of a task.
What we need to make the hydrogen infrastructure work in a decentralized manner, though, is some outside-the-box thinking. For instance, if researchers can come up with economical ways to create hydrogen onsite and on-demand, then this means fueling stations across the country could have hydrogen pumps servicing vehicles. These onsite pumps could use water or another hydrogen rich gas, liquid or solid chemical compound and extract the H2 from it as needed.
Several manufactures like General Electric, General Motors and Honda are developing onsite hydrogen production stations that could be used to service cars on a smaller scale. If similar devices are scaled up to provide higher output then these can be implemented commercially. And, onsite hydrogen-on-demand pumps won’t have to be limited to fueling stations run by the oil companies either.
If created correctly, onsite hydrogen pumps could pop up at local minimarts that also serve coffee, Twinkies and lottery tickets. Onsite hydrogen pumps could show up at mall parking lots, wholesale warehouses, new car dealerships, at green supermarkets and restaurants to name a few places. Small-time entrepreneurs could set up small roadside “hydrogen islands” across the highways and byways of the nation.
Having a home hydrogen fueling station would also cut down on traveling to any facility to fill up except in the case of a road trip. Onsite, hydrogen-on-demand pumps could also be powered electricity from the grid. But, they may also be powered by solar or wind, making them very green indeed.
Another scenario is that if hydrogen-on-demand technology moves inside the car, so that the vehicles use hydrogen rich gas, liquid or solid chemical compounds to create H2 and run it through a fuel cell or internal combustion engine, this would create a different kind of infrastructure.
This chemical compound may be sold at today’s fueling stations. But, it could also be sold through the local Wal-Mart, Target or Home Depot stores as well. Internet users could buy the compound online and perhaps even one-day find it on eBay. Of course, this would depend upon the stability of the compound. If the compound turns out to be water, then this could come from the tap or bottle.
If the compound, however, turns out to be hydrogen peroxide or some other less stable compound, then this will limit how the compound is sold and handled. But, the main idea to get across is to stop thinking about building a hydrogen infrastructure that mimics the current oil infrastructure.
In order to go green with hydrogen we will need a concerted movement to develop and place onsite generators in locations one would not normally find fuel. When gasoline powered cars were first gaining popularity and there were no gas stations from which to find fuel, people went to their local drugstores to buy gasoline. The hydrogen infrastructure may develop in a similarly analogous fashion.