Saturday, April 4, 2009

Future of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Economy: Hydrogen any hope ?

In the so called “hydrogen economy”, it is envisaged that hydrogen replaces oil and natural gas for most uses, including transportation and heating.

Hydrogen, like electricity, is not an energy resource but an energy carrier. It takes more energy to extract hydrogen from water than that produced after burning the hydrogen. The losses in storage, transmission and final mechanical or heating applications need to be accounted. The efficiency and safety of the entire chain of conversion, from the energy source (fossil, solar or other) to the final use also need to be addressed. This is in contrast to the renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, that are used for the direct creation of electricity, which could then be introduced into the existing grid without requiring a vast investment, like that required for a new hydrogen distribution system.

Despite EU's aggressive but less specific energy strategy, just two nations, Iceland and Brazil, have specific targets and timetables for hydrogen fuel cells or vehicle production. None of these plans, however, are very certain. Thus serious questions about the sustainability of a hydrogen economy can be raised.

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