Hydrogen can be made out of water and water is endless. So, it seems to be the perfect source of energy. Moreover, after the hydrogen was burned in a car’s engine, the water is given back to nature in the form of water vapor.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with the idea of a “Hydrogen Highway” in order to combine economic growth and environmental protection. The main idea of his “Vision 2010” plan is that every citizen in California can reach a hydrogen fuel station in the range of 20 miles. He thinks that easy access to hydrogen fuel will encourage many people to buy hydrogen cars. Therefore a network of more than 150 hydrogen stations is to be built. The Air Resources Board will dispense $7.7 million to construct and improve the hydrogen station network.
By 2014 there should be more than 7,500 zero emission cars in California. However, there are many problems to be dealt with on the way to a hydrogen future. Fuel cells are very expensive and the storage of hydrogen is complicated. Besides, the production of hydrogen is quite energy-consuming and therefore less ecofriendly than it might seem. Unless the power to produce hydrogen is taken from renewable sources such as solar and wind energy, a lot of CO2 is generated.
But despite all this, the project is a sensible step towards more diversified energy sources and makes hydrogen cars at least a bit more marketable. Schwarzenegger realized that neither the car companies nor the people would make the first step. Without the state’s interference, there wouldn’t have been demand for hydrogen cars, nor for hydrogen stations and no progress could be made.
The next issue to be addressed is how to produce and distribute hydrogen efficiently and in an adequate amount. Nuclear Hydrogen plants – nuclear plants which produce hydrogen through electrolysis – are one option to produce hydrogen on a large scale. From to plants it could be transported by pipeline or by truck to the stations.
Though all efforts to make hydrogen marketable, the competing hybrid and electric cars will dominate the alternative fuel fleet for quite some time. Plug-in hybrid cars and electric cars benefit from the dense electricity infrastructure and they are much cheaper in both, purchase and use. But hydrogen engines could also be combined with either gasoline or electric engines.
A BMW 7 which can be driven by both, gasoline and hydrogen: