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The station will likely look similar to this self unit. It will cost about $3M USD and fuel 10 to 15 vehicles daily with hydrogen produced by hydrolysis. The energy to split the hydrogen from the oxygen will come from attached solar panels.  (Source: The Center for Energy Research)

SunHydro plans to make I-95, one of the busiest East Coast highways a "hydrogen highway".  (Source: AARoads)
Just as the future looks increasingly dim for hydrogen, the industry gets a boost

Prospects of seeing hydrogen vehicles available commercially anytime soon have looked increasingly bleak.  U.S. President Barack Obama has refused to provide significant federal funding to hydrogen vehicle development, supporting battery electric vehicles instead.  In addition, recent research reports indicate that hydrogen would actually release more net greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline, when analyzed over the entire life cycle.

However, there's a ray of light for the hydrogen industry amid the darkness.  Connecticut-based SunHydro has announced plans to transform Interstate 95 into a hydrogen highway.  Those who live in the U.S. East Coast know that I-95 stretches from Maine to Florida and is one of the nation's busiest interstate highways. 

SunHydro will construct 11 stations on the highway.  Each station will be a self-contained hydrolysis unit with solar power collectors attached.  The solar power will provide energy to create hydrogen from water via hydrolysis.  The hydrogen production system will come from an Proton Energy, an alternative energy start-up.  The net process is expected to be much more carbon friendly than transporting hydrogen by truck to fueling stations.

The plan is ambitious.  Explains company president Michael Grey, "Our goal is to make it possible for hydrogen car to drive from Maine to Miami strictly on sun and water.  Having talked to several of the auto manufacturers, the indication that we’ve received is that there has to be a network of stations on the east coast for them to bring the cars here.  They want to bring the cars here, but there’s nowhere to fuel them."

Currently, the hydrogen industry is stuck in a chicken and egg dilemma of sorts.  Lack of vehicles makes stations a poor business investment, while lack of stations make developing hydrogen vehicles problematic.  Paul Williamson of the University of Montana College of Technology, notes,"There’s no sense having hydrogen cars if there’s no place to refuel them. Most of the development is happening in California. Why? Because they have refueling stations."

The initial SunHydro station aim for a gradual build up, initially producing enough fuel to fill up 10 to 15 vehicles a day.  The stations will be located in Portland, Maine; Braintree, Massachusetts; Wallingford, Connecticut; South Hackensack, New Jersey; Claymont, Delaware; Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; and Orlando and Miami, Florida.

The stations may cost up to $3M USD a piece in private investment.  Mr. Grey says his company is taking a bold risk shouldering these high costs in order to bolster the market.  He states, "We’ve just decided that somebody needed to start this process. You have a lot of the big companies talk about it, but nobody’s stepped up to the plate and made it happen. You’ve got to have some visionary risk taking if you want to be a company of the future. Otherwise, you’ll fall by the wayside."

Currently, several companies still have hydrogen plans despite the cold reception by the research community and government.  GM has worked for several years on fuel cell-powered Equinox SUVs.  Honda has its FCX fuel cell test vehicle that has seen limited U.S. deployment.  And Mercedes-Benz plans to release F-Cell, a limited edition fuel cell vehicle to “selected customers” in Europe and the United States this spring.  Mazda and Volkswagen are also eying hydrogen plans.

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RE: Pfft...
By Penti on 1/28/2010 11:28:23 AM , Rating: 0
You can not produce hydrogen from solar to replace oil for transports.

Even little Sweden would need more solar (farms) then there is in the entire world.

Primary energy won't come from solar. That's why it's worse, it's inefficient as hell and requires more energy then todays cars and trucks.

Wind and solar isn't any where near enough, fact is a Three Gorges dam wouldn't be enough for Sweden and there's no possibility of extending hydro more here then a tenth of what that generates. A plug-in hybrid fleet with reasonable battery tech would only require a fraction of the energy. There, wind, solar and small scale hydro (thats plants of a few MW's) would be enough together with continued use of liquid and compressed gas fuels where a large parts cold be made from biomass (forest products). Our ten nuclear reactors wouldn't be near enough to produce hydrogen for cars and trucks from hydrolysis. Then there's also ships. (Trains are already powered by renewables here).

* Where is Sweden gonna get 190 Terawatt hours of electricity for hydrolysis? It's about that which is required to replace 120 TWh of oil-based fuels. That's two Three Gorges Dam's. Or 20 nuclear reactors. Both are unreasonable.

* How about the rest of the world?

Answer is that the hydrogen people are just disingenuous. Even if we would use oil and natural-gas to produce the hydrogen we couldn't do it and it would emit far more pollutants. Wind, solar and biomass won't help there. They are only useful in a world that uses energy efficiently. Like the district heating plant which supplies my apartment. However district heating in Sweden uses less energy then just the automobiles... Most renewables comes from hydro and from black liquor and other by products from the pulp industry here.

RE: Pfft...
By itzmec on 1/28/2010 4:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
you should let sunhydro know all this, before they make a big mistake

RE: Pfft...
By Penti on 1/28/2010 7:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
They know it and as said are disingenuous.

20 nuclear reactors for Sweden or 9.3 million people with i-country living standard is totally unreasonable. Just for the god damn hydrolysis. Nice to rate me down.

That's over 14 000 reactors world wide if everybody would use nuclear power for producing hydrogen by electrolysis. If everyone would use the same amount as Swedes. It's not much better if we where to use thermochemical hydrogen production from the high-temperature coolant water from Gen IV reactors. They would probably cost more. Even if you could use 35% fewer. Today there's around ~440 nuclear reactors. They took 40-50 years to build. This infrastructure if attempted would cost several times the world GDP if tried.

So the analysis that a large scale hydrogen project would require more fossil energy then just using the fossil fuels directly is true. This is also what any report do say. The primary energy in the world is oil, coal and gas, that's what would be used for any larger scale hydrogen. Direct reformation is troublesome as it would eventually poison the fuel cell. Electrolysis from electricity generated by fossil fuels are even more retarded then nuclear. To generate say 190 TWh of electricity you would need at least 345 - 380 TWh of fossil fuels to input. For the 120 TWh of hydrogen gas. And it's not like you can run power plants on crude. That would be more then doubling the need for fossil fuels in transportation regarding Sweden as an example. If you instead just run the cars on natural gas you might even save energy from running on the oil as there's not the same need to refine the gas. It would at least require just 35% of the energy of running on electrolysis produced hydrogen with electricity from modern fossil fuel plants. SunHydro makes money that's all they care about (they sell their stations). Everybody knows you can't role out hydrogen on full scale or the so called Hydrogen economy. There isn't energy for it, there isn't money for it.

The Honda FCX Clarity requires somewhere in the order of 343 Wh per kilometers. 343 Wh hydrogen gas requires at least 545 Wh's of electricity to be produced. To generate said electricity with a modern combined cycle natural gas plant you need at least the equivalent of 0.91 kWh of natural gas. A gasoline car will use anything from 370 Wh to 855 Wh per kilometer. (Or more if V8, large V6 and so on). A electric car or plug in hybrid will use ~200 Wh per kilometer in electric mode. A FCX Clarity would roughly use 170 Wh per km from the battery in a pure electric mode. Something like the hydrogen concept of GM Equinox uses in the order of 521 Wh of hydrogen per kilometer. Running on hydrogen produces from fossil fueled electricity will always yield higher emissions. And that's the only realistic energy source. All the wind power in the united states wouldn't be enough to run little Sweden's transportation on hydrogen. There's not enough production capacity for solar to make a difference in this area either. Hydrogen is not a good idea neither is corn. That doesn't mean people will not try to make money of it.

RE: Pfft...
By Penti on 1/28/2010 8:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
That btw means even steam reforming of natural gas yields no better fuel use then running on a CNG (natural gas) powered car (ICE).

RE: Pfft...
By Haruchai on 1/28/2010 6:15:45 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not a big believer in hydrogen for cars but I do think fuel cells could play a big role in large installations.

At the same time, I wouldn't discount wind & solar too quickly. Read the following SciAm article -

(You'll have to subscribe to read it all or buy or borrow the magazine)

RE: Pfft...
By Penti on 1/28/2010 8:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
I don't, Sweden essentially plans to produce 20-25 TWh of wind power, or up to 15 TWh is the political goal for now. This will be built in just a few years. But even US's well developed wind power market wouldn't deliver anywhere near enough to on hydrogen drive the transportation sector of Sweden. Or maybe 0.66% of you own transports. And you can't scale to onehundredfifty-onehundredsixty times the size. Only way to power countries with any significant portion of renewables is to drastically use less energy. Sweden is already at ~30% renewables, 30% oil/fossils and 30% nuclear in primary energy. We could essentially get by without any nuclear and fossil fuels. But we would have to be without personal transportation. Rebuild our houses and close down most industry. Most countries aren't that blessed with hydro and renewables (forestry) though.

We got a lot of preferable circumstances, we got more hydro per head then Germany uses for it's entire society but we uses way to much energy. However we couldn't even dream on running a hydrogen economy. It's just too inefficient.

Btw you could easily run 20 million passenger cars of plug-in type with your current wind power. If that would be the only thing they were used for. And fuel for range extending would be up to 80% less then just using gasoline. So it's only natural for that to have more of an appeal, there's a real market for it for the car companies. Fuel cells will always play a minor role. We got better ways of energy storage.

There's no way you just can replace 127 450 TWh's (14.5 TW average) of energy with ANY other sources. You also must produce the plants to use the potential energy. As said you can do it with ridiculous amounts of nuclear power if we could build hundreds of reactors every year... construction costs will be several times the world combined GDP either way. 86%+ of the worlds energy is fossil fuels. Pipe dreams aren't implementable. I don't really like it but I expect fossil fuels will dominate pretty much forever.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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