The UK is experimenting with heating homes with hydrogen ; Norway will ban all use of fuel oil for home heating by Also, if variable renewable energy sun and wind is to provide most or all of our energy, we will need some way to store that energy for when the sun and wind are falling short. We will need not just second-by-second or hourly storage which batteries can plausibly provide , but daily, monthly, or yearly storage for which batteries are not well-suited to ensure against longer-term variations in sun and wind.
It sure would be nice if we could store a lot of reserve energy as a stable, liquid fuel. In sum, the need, combined with the innovation, may finally mean that market-viable products are at hand. Johnson is tall, rangy, and blond, an inveterate maker and builder whose eyes light up when he talks engineering. After attending Seattle Pacific University, he spent the first 10 years of his year career in video compression. But a stint in Norway, working with Innovation Norway on hydrogen energy storage, gave him the hydrogen bug.
He has since become a true believer. It begins with the electrolyzer, which pulls the hydrogen out of the water. Suspended roughly in the center is a small titanium plate coated with a bespoke mix of electrocatalysts optimized to pull hydrogen and oxygen apart. The gases rise off the plate in a continuous stream of bubbles. Johnson boasts that his electrolyzer can produce hydrogen at about three or four times the rate of electrolyzers with similar footprints, using about a third the electrical current.
That represents a stepwise drop in costs.
The HHO mix lends intensity to the combustion, allowing the fuel to burn more completely, generating more oomph and less pollution. The ICA system can technically work on any internal combustion engine, but to begin with, HyTech is targeting the dirtiest engines with the fastest return on investment, namely diesel engines — in vehicles like trucks, delivery vans, buses, and forklifts, but also big, stationary diesel generators, which still provide backup and even primary power by the millions across the world.
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All those diesel engines produce carcinogenic smoke containing particulate pollution soot and nitrogen oxides NOx , which are hell on human health. States and cities around the world are cracking down on diesel air pollution.
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But the diesel particulate filters DPFs that screen out particulates are expensive, a maintenance hassle, and must be replaced frequently. And the selective catalytic reduction SCR fluids added to exhaust to remove NOx are pollutants themselves and must be changed frequently. In short, there are lots of diesel engines, they are very dirty responsible for as much as 50 percent of urban air pollution in the winter , and there are lots of people spending lots of money trying to clean them up. HyTech is not the first or only company to develop an HHO additive system, but nothing on the market comes close to those kinds of numbers.
The ICA achieves this efficiency thanks to a computerized timing controller that senses and analyzes the turning of the crankshafts and camshafts to determine the precise timing and size of the HHO injection. This level of precision allows the ICA to use much less hydrogen than its competitors, much more efficiently.
A small, onboard electrolyzer produces more than enough. In third-party testing, and in limited local sales around Redmond, the ICA has performed as promised. Later this year, HyTech will introduce its second product line: pure hydrogen retrofits for ICE vehicles. Put more simply, it will take any engine that runs on diesel, gasoline, propane, or CNG and switch it over to run on percent hydrogen. The company is currently in the process of getting its retrofit product certified by the California Air Resources Board as zero-emissions.
This would allow any driver to get a zero-emissions vehicle for substantially less than the cost of buying a new electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Instead, HyTech wants to clean up existing vehicles. For a pure-hydrogen as opposed to mixed HHO application like this, the electrolyzer is slightly different. The hydrogen is passed through a membrane that strips it of any remaining oxygen or nitrogen, leaving pure hydrogen for the vehicle to burn.
That makes the electrolyzer a proton exchange membrane, or PEM, electrolyzer, a variant familiar to hydrogen fans. As is his wont, Johnson designed his own membrane, remixing raw materials to create something more efficient and cheaper than other PEM products on the market.
The power demands of a vehicle engine are variable and can ramp up and down quickly, so the system needs to keep a bit of hydrogen stored as a buffer, in case it draws more than the electrolyzer can produce. Conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like the Toyota Mirai store their hydrogen as a highly compressed gas, at about 8, psi.
But compressed gas introduces all kinds of issues. It takes a lot of energy to compress the gas, it requires its own dedicated infrastructure, compressed-gas fueling stations are wildly expensive to build, and compressed hydrogen is, well, explosive, so every tank full of it is a potential bomb.
Johnson wants nothing to do with that. The challenge with hydrides has been twofold: a creating a bond weak enough to be broken without undue energy when the hydrogen needs to be released, and b increasing the energy density of the resulting fluid. To date, most hydride fluids have been less energy dense than compressed hydrogen, and far short of fossil fuels.
They weigh too much for the energy they provide. The slow way is to plug it in overnight, providing power for the electrolyzer to fill the tank. The fast way is to fill it up with hydride solution, which could be generated on site, either at home or a filling station, with nothing but an electrolyzer, some distilled water, and a tank. Finally, funded and capitalized by its retrofit products, HyTech will launch into energy storage. The vision behind hydrogen energy storage is that, someday soon, there will be regular periods when wind and solar are generating electricity well in excess of demand.
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Some of that hydrogen could be injected into existing natural gas pipelines, reducing the carbon intensity of gas. In order to reduce CO 2 emissions from coal processing in a carbon-constrained future, massive amounts of CO 2 would have to be captured and safely and reliably sequestered for hundreds of years. Key to the commercialization of a large-scale, coal-based hydrogen production option and also for natural-gas-based options is achieving broad public acceptance, along with additional technical development, for CO 2 sequestration.
For a viable hydrogen transportation system to emerge, all four of these challenges must be addressed. Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Monday, February 3, Washington, D. There will likely be a lengthy transition period during which fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen are not competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles, including conventional gasoline and diesel fuel vehicles, and hybrid gasoline electric vehicles.
The committee believes that the transition to a hydrogen fuel system will best be accomplished initially through distributed production of hydrogen, because distributed generation avoids many of the substantial infrastructure barriers faced by centralized generation. Small hydrogen-production units located at dispensing stations can produce hydrogen through natural gas reforming or electrolysis.
Natural gas pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution systems already exist; for distributed generation of hydrogen, these systems would need to be expanded only moderately in the early years of the transition. During this transition period, distributed renewable energy e. A transition emphasizing distributed production allows time for the development of new technologies and concepts capable of potentially overcoming the challenges facing the widespread use of hydrogen. The distributed transition approach allows time for the market to develop before too much fixed investment is set in place.
While this approach allows time for the ultimate hydrogen infrastructure to emerge, the committee believes that it cannot yet be fully identified and defined. In order to analyze these impacts, the committee posited that fuel cell vehicle technology would be developed successfully and that hydrogen would be available to fuel light-duty vehicles cars and light trucks. These findings are as follows:. The demand for hydrogen in about would be about equal to the current production of 9 million short tons tons per year, which would be only a small fraction of the million tons required for full replacement of gasoline light-duty vehicles with hydrogen vehicles, posited to take place in If coal, renewable energy, or nuclear energy is used to produce hydrogen, a transition to a light-duty fleet of vehicles fueled entirely by hydrogen would reduce total energy imports by the amount of oil consumption displaced.
However, if natural gas is used to produce hydrogen, and if, on the margin, natural gas is imported, there would be little if any reduction in total energy imports, because natural gas for hydrogen would displace petroleum for gasoline. CO 2 emissions from vehicles can be cut significantly if the hydrogen is produced entirely from renewables or nuclear energy, or from fossil fuels with sequestration of CO 2.
The use of a combination of natural gas without sequestration and renewable energy can also significantly reduce CO 2 emissions. However, emissions of CO 2 associated with light-duty vehicles contribute only a portion of projected CO 2 emissions; thus, sharply reducing overall CO 2 releases will require carbon reductions in other parts of the economy, particularly in electricity production.
Overall, although a transition to hydrogen could greatly transform the U. The U. Some of the drivers for such change are already recognized, including at present the geology and geopolitics of fossil fuels and, perhaps eventually, the rising CO 2 concentration in the atmosphere. Other drivers will emerge from options made available by new technologies. Moreover, more-energy-efficient technologies for the household, office, factory, and vehicle will continue to be developed and introduced into the energy system. The role of the DOE hydrogen program 3 in the restructuring of the overall national energy system will evolve with time.
To help shape the DOE hydrogen program, the committee sees a critical role for systems analysis. Internal coordination must address the many primary sources from which hydrogen can be produced, the various. There is no single program with this title. Integration within the overall DOE effort must address the place of hydrogen relative to other secondary energy sources—helping, in particular, to clarify the competition between electricity-based, liquid-fuel-based e.
This is particularly important as clean alternative fuel internal combustion engines, fuel cells, and batteries evolve. Integration within the overall DOE effort must also address interactions with end-use energy efficiency, as represented, for example, by high-fuel-economy options such as hybrid vehicles.
Implications of safety, security, and environmental concerns will need to be better understood. So will issues of timing and sequencing: depending on the details of system design, a hydrogen transportation system initially based on distributed hydrogen production, for example, might or might not easily evolve into a centralized system as density of use increases. Recommendation ES The Department of Energy should continue to develop its hydrogen initiative as a potential long-term contributor to improving U.
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The program plan should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect progress, potential synergisms within the program, and interactions with other energy programs and partnerships e. In order to achieve this objective, the committee recommends that the DOE develop and employ a systems analysis approach to understanding full costs, defining options, evaluating research results, and helping balance its hydrogen program for the short, medium, and long term.
Such an approach should be implemented for all U. The DOE should estimate what levels of investment over time are required—and in which program and project areas—in order to achieve a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from passenger vehicles by midcentury. The committee observes that the federal government has been active in fuel cell research for roughly 40 years, while proton exchange membrane PEM fuel cells applied to hydrogen vehicle systems are a relatively recent development as of the late s. Accordingly, the challenges of developing PEM fuel cells for automotive applications are large, and the solutions to overcoming these challenges are uncertain.
Automakers have demonstrated FCVs in which hydrogen is stored on board in different ways, primarily as high-pressure compressed gas or as a cryogenic liquid. At the current state of development, both of these options have serious shortcomings that are likely to preclude their long-term commercial viability.
New solutions are needed in order to lead to vehicles that have at least a mile driving range; that are compact, lightweight, and inexpensive; and that meet future safety standards. Given the current state of knowledge with respect to fuel cell durability, on-board storage systems, and existing component costs, the committee believes that the near-term DOE milestones for FCVs are unrealistically aggressive.
Given that large improvements are still needed in fuel cell technology and given that industry is investing considerable funding in technology development, increased government funding on research and development should be dedicated to the research on breakthroughs in on-board storage systems, in fuel cell costs, and in materials for durability in order to attack known inhibitors of the high-volume production of fuel cell vehicles.
A nationwide, high-quality, safe, and efficient hydrogen infrastructure will be required in order for hydrogen to be used widely in the consumer sector.