An article in EurActiv.com called, “Hydrogen and fuel cells: fake promises?” talks about all of the problems associated with moving to a hydrogen economy and hydrogen infrastructure within the transportation industry. Granted, there are many problems that need to be fixed in order for a smooth transition to hydrogen to occur.
But, like so many naysayers about the upcoming hydrogen economy, this website also believes that the development of the hydrogen infrastructure must parallel the development of the gasoline infrastructure that came before it. According to EurActiv.com, ” … a hydrogen-based transport system requires a network of fuelling stations that will cost vast sums of money to set up. In a study published in December last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said trillions of dollars will be needed to develop infrastructure before the widespread use of hydrogen.”
This may be true if the only rollout of a new hydrogen infrastructure that is possible is one that mimics the current gasoline infrastructure model. What the doomsdayers and naysayers don’t tell you, though is that with a little outside-the-minimart thinking, the hydrogen rollout doesn’t have to mimic the gasoline infrastructure at all.
The assumption that the hydrogen rollout mimics the current gasoline infrastructure is one based on familiarity. We already have this in place, consumers are comfortable with it, so let’s give consumers what they are comfortable with, Okay? This does make sense from a practical, consumer-oriented point-of-view, but not a financial one.
Yesterday, I blogged about a company in Michigan that is using photovoltaic cells on the roof of the fueling station to generate electricity, electrolyze water and create hydrogen, which they use to fuel up their hydrogen car. With this method, hydrogen is created cleanly and greenly and no hydrogen has to be produced in centralized locations and hauled by truck or pipeline. It’s onsite, on-demand, all the time. This same setup can be used by large companies to supply hydrogen to their employees’ cars as well. Wind power in some regions may also be a reasonable substitute.
General Electric this year has come up with a small hydrogen generator that electrolyzes water and creates hydrogen for about $3 per gallon (equivalent to gasoline). With further technological advancements, the price will come down even more.
General Motors has announced that they are developing a home hydrogen fueling station that will electrolyze water via wall current or solar power and will be competitive with gasoline prices. These units can fit in one’s garage for home fueling or may be used by commercial fueling stations to create hydrogen onsite and on-demand.
Another assumption that will most likely turn out to be false is that we will have to produce the same amount of hydrogen to replace current gasoline consumption. Both Toyota and General Motors are working on plug-in hybrid vehicles that they will demonstrate in 2007 that are projected to receive fuel ratings over or above 100 mpg. If plug-in hybrids are adapted like current non-plug in hybrids have been, this will cut consumption of all fuels, gasoline, ethanol, diesel and hydrogen across the board. Less fuel consumption means less infrastructure will need to be built to support the hydrogen vehicles.
And, one last scenario that may just rock the whole fueling infrastructure as we know it today, is that a company called Hydrogen Power Incorporated, which I blogged about several days ago as well, has created a prototype vehicle that uses water, aluminum and an environmentally friendly catalyst to create hydrogen-on-demand inside the vehicle. If this invention takes root and takes hold this will be the ultimate water car and no hydrogen infrastructure whatsoever would need to be built to support this vehicle. All that will be required will be filling the car with water and changing out the aluminum compound in the canister every so often.