Over the years I’ve gotten quite a few comments regarding whether or not hydrogen fuel cell cars will contribute more to greenhouse gases (GHG) and global warming than their gasoline counterparts. Hydrogen car delayers and deniers state it as fact that H2 production and FCV’s will contribute more.
But I’ve also gotten a number of questions from well-meaning students who usually say something like this, “If hydrogen is produced and run through a fuel cell vehicle creating water vapor, won’t this greatly contribute to greenhouse gases?”
According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, “Well-to-wheels studies look at fuel from production through consumption. All studies conclude that hydrogen used in a fuel cell vehicle has about 40% fewer GHGs than a gasoline hybrid. Only one production pathway produces more GHGs—using electricity from a coal-fired power plant to electrolyze water. However, most hydrogen from electrolysis is generated at the station usually using solar or wind energy, which has zero GHGs.”
The U. S. Department of Energy reiterates this point, “Relative to gasoline vehicles fueled by reformulated gasoline, hydrogen production for all fuel pathways creates fewer GHG emissions except when the fuel is produced by electrolysis from typical grid electricity.”
So, there you have it. If we throw out coal-fired electrolysis of water (which is a good idea) then hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are cleaner than their gasoline counterparts in every way imaginable.