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Alternative Fuels - Part 1 Hydrogen

Posted by Blake Nijs on August 4 at 10:00 AM  Our reliance on oil and gas never dissipates, even with alternative fuels that have been around for years. These alternative fuels seem to come and go as quickly as they were developed. The most recent to be publicly broadcasted were: Hydrogen, Ethanol and Bio diesel. 

The automotive world was shook to its core when the idea of a vehicle, having water as its only emission, came to the table. The problem with hydrogen does not lie within the actual process of energy creation but rather the manufacturing of the fuel [1]. There are three ways to produce hydrogen on a mass scale: Natural Gas, Electrolysis, and Nuclear Power.  

Natural gas is where most hydrogen is created today, through the process of steam methane reformation. The process results in hydrogen being broken off of carbon oxides, which are then released in to the atmosphere adding to green house gas emissions. The fact is that we are still using a non-renewable fuel to produce a similar by-product. 

Electrolysis uses power from city grid to separate the hydrogen from oxygen. Because most city power is drawn from coal-powered plants, we again are using a non-renewable fuel. Electrolysis does provide another greener alternative, if the electricity used for this process was to come from solar, wind or geothermal heat, we could loosen our hold on fossil fuels.  

Lastly the other alternative to creating hydrogen is using Nuclear power plants. The heat generated from nuclear power is more than enough to incorporate the process of creating hydrogen. The only problem is that this system would need to be implemented on the new generation of nuclear power plants, which will not be available until the year 2020.  

The use of hydrogen-power is not completely tossed. Refueling stations have been built and people are purchasing hydrogen vehicles. But there are too few refueling stations making it impractical to use this technology on a large scale. Companies are producing smaller hydrogen generators that allow gas-powered vehicles to run on a mix of the systems, improving the engine performance as well as the gas mileage [2]. Home-generated hydrogen systems have also gone into production, which allow an average household to create fuel for their vehicles. These may be good stepping-stones to the bigger picture, but it still is not easy to own a hydrogen-powered vehicle.


[1] Wise, J.W. (2006, November 01). The Truth about hydrogen. Popular mechanics, Retrieved from http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/next-generation/4199381

[2] Unknown, (n.d.). Hydrogen power. Retrieved from http://hydrogenpower.com/


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