People are continually interested in creative ways to get rid of waste. The world has too much of it, so how could technology solve that problem by addressing another need? Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are an emerging possibility.
The processes used by many forward-thinking companies center on converting waste into hydrogen energy. Here’s a look at what the future may hold.
Waste-to-Energy Projects Are Happening
Converting waste into power for a hydrogen car is not a far-fetched idea. It’s already happening.
Municipal leaders in Wuppertal, Germany, will use municipal waste to run electric buses equipped with hydrogen fuel cells. The initiative will reportedly eliminate approximately 700 tons of carbon dioxide annually for every 10 buses used. The first of these vehicles arrived in Wuppertal in 2019. People may also convert taxis and airport vehicles from diesel power so that they accept hydrogen.
Another effort, which recently received funding from the Welsh government, uses a process called photo-reforming. It uses sunlight to turn discarded medical items into hydrogen fuel. That option kills viruses while transforming the non-recyclable objects. Additionally, unlike incineration — the currently utilized medical waste disposal method — this technique does not generate greenhouse gases.
These efforts should collectively create progress that highlights hydrogen fuel’s potential. Although some projects are in the early stages, success could bring more financial and time-related investments.
Hydrogen Vehicles Could Align With Company Sustainability Goals
Many businesses have single-stream recycling programs, water-saving mechanisms in the bathrooms and data analytics tools that show users precisely which industrial processes use the most energy and suggest improvements. Given those realities, it is not a stretch to assume companies may soon invest in hydrogen-powered vehicles for their fleets.
It’s already common for enterprise garbage to end up in specialized facilities that turn the waste into energy. Those locations have filters that cut the emissions released into the air. Company decision-makers could capitalize on sustainability even more by investing in company vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells.
PowerHouse Energy is a United Kingdom-based company that developed a process for turning plastic trash into a blend of hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. The approach enables separating the hydrogen to power vehicles. The brand will move ahead with an 11-site expansion soon. Representatives may also strategically place some of the company’s plants close to hydrogen vehicle refueling points to minimize the emissions associated with transporting the gas.
Toyota Updates Its Hydrogen-Powered Consumer Car
People who follow clean energy trends got excited by the recent news that Toyota created a 2021 version of its Mirai hydrogen car. The update marks the first time the automaker offered the model in several trim variants.
Efficiency is one of hydrogen’s advantages. Vehicles can go up to 400 miles per tank while using the gas, which is on par with conventional automobiles. Toyota representatives say the 2021 Mirai’s range surpasses 400 miles. If the vehicle’s owners consistently verify that fact through regular usage, their reports would signal continual progress in hydrogen-powered driving options.
The lack of fueling infrastructure may restrict widespread adoption of the cars, however. People are used to seeing gas stations frequently situated along their routes, but that’s not possible yet for hydrogen stations.
States such as California have put forth significant investments, however. Additionally, a company in Edinburgh, Scotland, is behind the first refueling station in Europe. It uses a new flexible refueling system that reduces the facility’s capital and operating expenses. Sources say that approach could become the European standard.
A Promising Future
Using garbage to power hydrogen cars is not yet a widespread technology. However, people are hard at work, seeing what’s possible and perfecting existing processes. Something to keep in mind is that today’s hydrogen refueling stations don’t specify that the gas comes from former waste. If operators get their supply that way, calling attention to it could get people even more interested in cars with hydrogen fuel cells.
In any case, technological advancements like the ones described here show people what’s possible. Green energy technologies collectively comprise a big business — and one that’s caught interest worldwide.
Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. Jane covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, green technology, renewable energy and more.