Surely many of you wonder why they do not launch more hydrogen-powered vehicles on the market , being a technology sufficiently evolved for its massive use and that it does not pollute. Time passes and they do not quite prevail and, then, some begin to suspect the oil companies and, also, the automobile companies, accusing them of paralyzing the development of cleaner and more ecological combustion methods.
Without denying that the pressures of this type of companies exist, since, after all, they would be left without business, the issue is more complicated than it seems at first glance. There are certain conditions in favor of hydrogen: the technology is totally viable, robust and has indisputable environmental advantages. In AgroCorrn, we are going to explain why hydrogen is not a triumph as a vehicle fuel.
Hydrogen production methods
The only pollutant that hydrogen-powered cars emit are nitrogen oxides, and this only at very high temperatures. Carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are almost nil. Therefore, it would not contribute to climate change. So why is its use not widespread?
There are several obstacles, but two of them are difficult to overcome: hydrogen cannot be produced with a cheap and clean method and, on the other hand, there is no general distribution network , of hydrofoils, for example.
For hydrogen to be used massively, a system for the production, transport and storage of the fuel must be created. The hydrogen that cars need does not exist in nature. That is, you have to create it. On the other hand, fossil fuels only have to be taken from the interior of the earth, processed and carried where they want to be used. (Of course, at a very high environmental cost, both in extraction and in distribution and use.)
At present, there are several methods that allow hydrogen to be produced easily and at a reasonable cost. If gasoline is replaced by hydrogen, a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be achieved.
Some techniques for obtaining hydrogen use coal or natural gas and inevitably generate carbon dioxide (CO2), but it is done in a centralized way that allows the pollutant gas to be separated and managed. In the case of using biomass as raw material, the process is much cleaner.
Another method is electrolysis, which consists of breaking down the water by applying an electric current. As long as this electrical current is generated in a renewable way, hydrogen will be produced with very low greenhouse gas emissions. In this sense, the thermochemical decomposition of water, taking advantage of the high temperatures of nuclear reactors or solar concentrators, produces hydrogen through one of the cleanest production processes that exist.
There are also processes that are based on altering the metabolism of bacteria or algae thanks to sunlight. They are clean processes, but they must be improved to increase efficiency.
The other major obstacle that the hydrogen sector for use in vehicles must overcome is its transport and distribution. Currently, the distribution costs are much higher than those of gasoline or diesel. In principle, it is only profitable if hydrogen is produced near or in the same place where it is to be used.
A possible solution to distribution would be to create a global infrastructure through a general network of pipelines, but that is a huge initial investment. What if we used what already exists, the networks that allow oil, the pipelines? In fact, the use of natural gas distribution infrastructure is already being tested: hydrogen is injected into the pipelines and separated at the point of destination. A gas pipeline can transport up to 20% by volume of hydrogen with minimal changes in the network.
Another advantage of hydrogen is that it can be mixed with natural gas. In this way, the lack of that distribution infrastructure can be compensated by mixing the two compounds. When it comes to transport and storage, the biggest problem is safety.
In short, there are some problems to be solved, but, little by little, science will advance so that hydrogen can become a substitute for petroleum derivatives in transportation.
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