Hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is compressed and stored in the vehicle. Most hydrogen vehicles react hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to run electric motors. So effectively a fuel-cell vehicle is a form of electric vehicle.
Pike Research predicts that 37 percent of the 2.8 million fuel-cell vehicles sold by 2020 will be in Western Europe, 36 percent will be in the Asia-Pacific region and just 25 percent will be in North America. Several major automakers have recently announced their intentions to get fuel-cell models into showrooms by 2015.
However, in 2009 the U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced that fuel cell hydrogen vehicles “will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years” and that the U.S. government would cut off funds for development of such vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles have also been criticized as being more costly and less efficient at reducing carbon emissions than alternatives.
Norway opened its first hydrogen station in Stavanger in 2003. Since then, an additional three stations have opened, and 20 hydrogen vehicles have been put into operation. Similar efforts are underway in Sweden and Denmark through a joint collaboration effort called Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership (SHHP).
The SHHP plans to have at least 15 hydrogen stations in place by 2015. Presently seven stations are in operation and a further three stations are under construction. The public support for R&D and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Scandinavia is in the range of €40-50 million ($53-66 million) per year. In Norway and Denmark there is no car registration tax on hydrogen vehicles. Normally, car registration taxes can be up to 180% of the base vehicle price.
The new station will feature on-site hydrogen production and 700-bar refueling in a few minutes. 700 bar is the pressure under which the hydrogen is stored onboard the vehicle. The higher the pressure, the more hydrogen is stored onboard and the longer the range of the vehicle on one refueling. The station will include an alkaline electrolyzer enabling production of hydrogen using electricity from solar panels.
Refueling time is 2.6 minutes, excluding handling time. The range of a hydrogen vehicle varies but can be up to 800 km (Toyota). So hydrogen enables an electric vehicle to have a similar range to a gasoline-powered vehicle and a similar refueling time. Hydrogen fuel cells can also be used to power anything from homes and mobile phones to entire mobile networks.
This story, written by Ciara Byrne, was originally posted on VentureBeat's GreenBeat, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.