The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

hydrogen

Hydrogen is often mentioned as being the best option for a clean-burning future fuel. Hydrogen is depicted as being used either in combustion or in the production of electricity via a fuel cell that mixes hydrogen and oxygen. While it is true that the waste products of hydrogen-powered vehicles would be almost completely devoid of pollutants, the use of hydrogen as a fuel source is not currently economically or environmentally viable. This is because it takes significantly more energy to actually produce the fuel itself than that which is released when it is used in an engine.  Hydrogen fuel does not occur naturally on Earth and thus is not an energy source, but is an energy carrier. 

In a 2002 article in Automotive Fleet, the research company Frost & Sullivan outlined  the "pros and cons" of hydrogen fuel.

Much has been made in recent years of the possibility that fuel-cell-powered electric vehicles (FCEV) might provide substantial reductions in automotive energy consumption and emissions. However, while some automakers concentrate on developing FCEVs, others are developing vehicles that burn hydrogen instead of gasoline in internal combustion engines (ICE). According to research done by Frost & Sullivan, advantages of hydrogen as a fuel in internal combustion engines are:

  • Hydrogen is a renewable fuel that can be derived from water through electrolysis, and it can be extracted from petroleum or natural gas.
  • Since there is no carbon in hydrogen fuel, there are virtually no tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide (CO2). Thus, hydrogen may help automakers meet the CO2 regulation that California is considering.
  • Automakers have substantial experience with internal combustion engines, while fuel cells are a relatively new technology.
  • Research by the company indicates that energy efficiency of a hydrogen ICE is 20 to 25 percent better than that of a gasoline ICE because a hydrogen ICE resembles a diesel engine in some of its operating characteristics. Specifically: Hydrogen can be used at very lean air:fuel ratios.
  • Hydrogen can be used in higher-compression engines.
  • A hydrogen-fueled engine can be controlled without a throttle.  Unfortunately, hydrogen also has a number of disadvantages in this use. According to the com-pany, if hydrogen is combusted near its stoichiometric air:fuel ratio, high combustion temperatures result in the formation of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which have to be cleaned up by a catalytic converter. By volume, a vehicle uses 3.5 times more liquid hydrogen than gasoline, so fuel storage takes substantial space onboard a vehicle. (This problem can be mitigated by designing a vehicle specifically for hydrogen storage.
  • Today's test vehicles are converted gasoline-powered cars.) Whether as a compressed gas or a super-cooled liquid, hydrogen is more difficult to handle than gasoline. Refueling with compressed hydrogen is similar to refueling with compressed natural gas. The cost of hydrogen may be higher on a per-mile basis than today's cost of gasoline, even when hydrogen is produced in large volume for use as a fuel. In particular, liquefaction (turning gaseous hydrogen into a super-cooled liquid) is expensive.
  • A hydrogen refueling infrastructure would have to be developed. Liquid hydrogen tanks have to be well-insulated and gaseous hydrogen tanks have to withstand high pressure, so they add to a vehicle's cost. Up to two percent of the fuel in a liquid hydrogen tank can be lost to evaporation per day. BMW and Ford Motor Company are two leading developers of hydrogen-fueled ICE vehicles. BMW regards ICE-powered vehicles as more suited to its performance orientation than FCEVs, and doubts that fuel cells will be robust enough for automotive application any time soon. Ford regards FCEVs as the ultimate goal, with hydrogen-fueled ICE vehicles as possibly easing a transition to FCEVs. Ford is developing hydrogen ICE and FCEV technologies simultaneously. If demand existed, hydrogen-fueled ICE vehicles could be put into large-scale production within a few years, because these vehicles represent a relatively small leap in technology.
  • According to the company, hydrogen-fueled ICE vehicles are technically feasible, but the economic aspect of supplying hydrogen remains a major hurdle.

 

Previous

Hubler, Heydon

Comment On This Item

Name:  
Email:  
Comment: (Maximum 10000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that comments may be moderated.

Blog

Market Trends

Mike Antich
Spec’ing Today’s Trucks to Meet Tomorrow’s Needs

By Mike Antich
When you spec truck assets today, many of these vehicles will be in service for 10 to 15 years or longer. While these assets are adequate for today’s business, will this still be true 10 to 15 years from now? This is an important question because some fleet managers tend to focus on today’s needs and neglect the long-term considerations as to how job requirements may evolve in the future.

Human Nature Prone to Take Advantage of Docile Autonomous Vehicles

By Mike Antich

View All

Driving Notes

Paul Clinton
2017 Ford F-150 with 10-Speed

By Paul Clinton
While higher-gear transmission have traditionally been reserved for European luxury sedans, Ford's application of the gearbox to its leading seller is so inspired a choice that it almost feels inevitable.

2017 BMW 540i

By Paul Clinton

View All

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Sherb Brown
Remembering the Coach

By Sherb Brown
Three years have gone by since our founder Ed Bobit passed away. In many ways it feels like an eternity but in other ways it feels like he was just here yesterday. He was a larger-than-life force and left quite an impact on me, and on the fleet industry.

The House of Electric Vehicles

By Sherb Brown

View All

Data Points

Dylan Brown
Demand More From Your Fuel Card Provider

By Dylan Brown
The advantages of tracking driver spending can't be overstated, as the data provided can help fleet managers assess if drivers are efficiently purchasing fuel, as well as identify high-performing vehicles and drivers who can serve as examples to the rest of the fleet.

Does Telematics Branding Translate to Adoption?

By Dylan Brown

View All

In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

Ed Bobit
Thinking of the Newbies of the Future

By Ed Bobit
A lot has changed in the past 10-15 years, so we can only imagine this momentum will continue into the next decade-plus. How will this change impact the fleet manager of tomorrow?

Managing a Car vs. Work Truck Fleet

By Ed Bobit

View All

STORE

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher