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New Report Shows Hydrogen Vehicles Will Drive Change

Washington DC–Today, the National Hydrogen Association released a new report called the “Energy Evolution:  An Analysis of Alternative Vehicles and Fuels to 2100.”  The Energy Evolution shows that a scenario which initially includes a mix of alternative vehicles, and is later dominated by hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles sales is the only way to simultaneously cut U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by 80% below 1990 levels; reach petroleum quasi-independence by mid-century; and eliminate nearly all controllable air pollution by the end of the century.  The report also shows that an expansion of hydrogen stations is more affordable than most people think.

In all, the report compares more than 15 of the most promising fuel and vehicle alternatives over a 100-year period, using data and models to create scenarios where one fuel and vehicle alternative becomes dominant in the mix of vehicles over time. The scenarios evaluate the performance and viability of the 15+ alternatives in terms of greenhouse gases, oil imports, urban air pollution and societal costs.

A task force of experts conducted the “Energy Evolution” analysis under the leadership of Xcel Energy’s Frank Novacheck, with significant input from H2Gen Innovation’s Dr. Sandy Thomas.  To verify the objectivity of the methods and conclusions, experts from organizations such as the U.S Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Fuel Cell Council have reviewed the report.

Quite honestly, the results surprised even us, but the data speak for themselves. They show quantitatively why it is absolutely critical that we continue significant efforts make hydrogen vehicles and stations more widely available to consumers,” said Jeff Serfass, President of the National Hydrogen Association.

Most people forget that hydrogen technologies like fuel cells are compatible with the other alternatives.  For example, development of plug-in hybrid technology advances the development of the same electric drive technology used in hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.  So the point we want to make today is that we need to work on all the best alternatives together, not one as a replacement for another.  And hydrogen is essential to get us to the desired environmental and energy endpoints.”

The task force assumed success for the various alternative vehicle technologies and fuels, including advancements in batteries, commercialization of non-corn biofuels, “greening” of the electric grid and increased efficiencies in conventional combustion engines.  These assumptions were made to fairly compare the hydrogen vehicle scenario to fully mature alternative technologies.  The conclusions of the “Energy Evolution” complement previous studies such as the National Research Council’s “Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies-A Focus on Hydrogen” and the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s “Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle and Station Deployment Plan: A Strategy for Meeting the Challenge Ahead.”
To obtain a copy of the full report or the four-page brief, visit:

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May 2, 2009 - 8:47 PM Comments (3)

Hydrogen Fuel Tank gets cooler and cleaner

Scientists have improved the performance of ammonia borane as a hydrogen storage material – making it more practical for a fuel tank in hydrogen-powered vehicles. The material was enhanced by the addition of catalytic nanoparticles to the structure, allowing it to release hydrogen more cleanly and at lower temperatures.

Finding ways to store hydrogen to run next-generation fuel cell vehicles is a challenge, since traditional metal canisters filled with compressed or liquefied hydrogen gas are heavy, bulky and expensive. A better solution is to use a solid material, and the most promising candidate for this is ammonia borane (NH3BH3) – a waxy solid consisting largely of hydrogen.

However, there are drawbacks to using this material. Releasing the hydrogen can be tricky, usually requiring heating at over 100°C, which is too hot for polymer-based fuel cells to operate. In addition, the material is prone to become unstable – expanding rapidly or turning into foam – and released hydrogen can be poisoned by other gases released from the heated material.

Now, Ping Chen and colleagues at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, in Dalian, China, have modified the structure of ammonia borane to eliminate these problems. ‘By introducing nanoparticles of cobalt and nickel catalysts into the structure we can hold nearly 6 per cent by weight of hydrogen at a temperature as low as 59°C – with no byproduct and sample foaming,’ Chen told Chemistry World.

Better breakdown

The team worked in collaboration with researchers at the National University of Singaporeand used a ‘co-precipitation’ method to uniformly distribute a small amount of catalytic nanoparticles throughout the ammonia borane structure. The new material releases hydrogen at the lowest temperature so far – and the high stability makes it an attractive candidate for further investigation as a practical onboard hydrogen storage material.

‘This system lowers the temperature for hydrogen gas release and therefore has potential as an efficient way to supply hydrogen to a fuel cell,’ says Tom Autrey at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, US, who led the first investigations into the storage potentials of ammonia borane. ‘This process also reduces the concentration of borazine – an unwanted impurity in the hydrogen that can arise from AB decomposition.’

But there is still work to be done, Autrey notes, before this technology is truly able to blossom. Since the process is not yet easily reversible, a system will be needed that allows the fuel tank to easily be recharged with hydrogen.

Lewis Brindley


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May 2, 2009 - 12:07 PM No Comments