Hydrogen is a perfectly clean fuel, because the only waste it produces is water vapor. In its free state it is composed of two atoms (H) that, when combined with oxygen (O) during use (combustion or, more commonly, in a fuel cell), generate water (H2O). Hydrocarbons, on the other hand, are composed of carbon and hydrogen and, during combustion, when combined with oxygen, produce carbon dioxide (CO) and other wastes harmful to the environment and human health (oxides of nitrogen and sulfur). The combustion engine, launched in the mid-19th century and never abandoned since then, allows the car to move thanks to combustion between fuel and air, which is converted into thermal energy and, in turn, into mechanical energy.
In almost 200 years, this engine has achieved maximum performance and optimization and is currently no longer sustainable due to the strong environmental impact of the waste produced. On the contrary, the hydrogen combustion engine uses technology that stands out for the absence of harmful emissions. However, its main use is not in the combustion engine but in a fuel cell, developed for space exploration since the 1960s, through which an electrochemical process combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical energy, which in turn powers an efficient electric motor. As many companies look for an emission-free alternative to internal combustion engines in their forklifts, some are turning to hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Hydrogen fuel cells do not produce any CO2 emissions during operation, even if their production is not necessarily carbon-free. To improve the processes and efficiency of hydrogen energy, large amounts of money must be invested and, in addition, the political attitude towards fuel cells must change in a more favorable way. Once the technology behind fuel cells matures, hydrogen energy could be used for a wide variety of different devices. Therefore, the average lifespan of engines that run on fuel cells can be much lower compared to other types of engines.
While this may change dramatically over the next few years or decades, right now, the unit price of energy produced from fuel cells is quite high compared to other energy sources. While it is true that hydrogen fuel cells do not emit harmful gases during operation, the same is not the case with the production process for producing hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen is obtained through the electrolysis of water, a simple method in which a low voltage current flows through water to form oxygen and hydrogen gas. However, for industrial applications, the hydrogen fuel cell makes more sense for those who can afford the infrastructure needed to support it.
In addition, there are still not many occasions or charging stations for devices that run on hydrogen, making it impractical to rely solely on fuel cells. Not only the storage, but also the transportation of hydrogen fuel is expensive and expensive, and must be done with great care, since hydrogen fuel is flammable and can cause disasters if these transport processes are not carried out correctly. If the “ecological” advantage of using hydrogen is also preserved during the production phase, refueling a car should only include green hydrogen. Especially in fairly remote regions that are not well connected to the public power grid, fuel cells may be a good alternative for power generation in the coming decades.
Hydrogen fuel cells work through a chemical reaction of hydrogen gas with oxygen inside a fuel cell, which generates electricity and water as by-products. In addition, fuel cells can also be used for other purposes once technology advances, which can make it even more attractive. .