Elective transportation fuel have been not too far off for whatever length of time that the vast majority of us can recall, some of them appearing very near business utilize, somewhere in the range of far off. One of the choices is hydrogen.
Hydra is working closely with engineers and chemists at the University of British Columbia and was just awarded a significant cash prize through the Ignite Awards program run by the BC Innovation Council.
Not coincidentally, Hydra’s chief -technology officer is Jo Borck, who has 30 years of hydrogen fuel cell experience, including 20 at Ballard Power Systems
in nearby Burnaby. That company remains the global leader in fuel-cell research and development.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen itself is the most abundant -element known to man, as well as being the simplest – just one electron and a -solitary proton – but every other atom starts with a combination of hydrogen nuclei. Meaning that it has to be -separated from other compounds before it can be used. It can’t simply be collected.
The fundamental downside of using hydrogen to produce motive force is that its separation from other elements demands power. Getting enough hydrogen to equal the energy content of 3.7 liters (1 US gallon) of gasoline, for instance, requires about 7.5 liters (2 US gallons) of water and 45 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
As a means to move trucks – or cars and buses and trains and even planes – in an age of environmental awareness, the point is emissions. Or lack of them. The fuel cell in that Nikola tractor powers electric motors to move the truck and emits nothing but water vapor. There are no carbons involved.
Hold on. The thing is, to split water into its two component parts – hydrogen and oxygen, or H2 and O – the most common means by far is a process called steam reformation of methane derived from natural gas. About 95% of the world’s industrial hydrogen is produced this way. And natural gas being just another fossil fuel, there are, of course, unwanted emissions resulting from the process.
A much better choice in environmental terms would be to use biomass in place of natural gas, but we’re not there yet with a commercialized – –
read, affordable -– way to do it. Other options exist but they’re no closer to real-world use.