Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles – The future of Our Automobiles?

What if your electric vehicle could be refueled in less than 5 minutes? No plug, no outlet required. The range anxiety that’s stymied sales of EVs? Forget about it.

Three EVs can meet these demands and allay concerns about owning an emissions-free vehicle.

There’s just one drawback. You can only find them in California.

Welcome to the world of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). A tiny market that includes Toyota’s Mirai, Hyundai’s Nexo and Honda Motor’s Clarity Fuel Cell, these “plug-less” EVs are the alternative to their battery electric cousins. Drivers can refuel FCEVs at a traditional gasoline station in less than 5 minutes.

The 2021 Mirai gets an EPA estimated 402 miles of range on the XLE trim with the Nexo close behind at 380 miles. Neither cold weather nor heated seats deplete the range, another added bonus.

“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are superior driving machines compared to traditional vehicles,” Jackie Birdsall, senior engineer on Toyota’s fuel cell team, told ABC News.

Toyota sees tremendous upside in fuel cell technology, which it has been perfecting for 25 years. More than 6,500 Mirais have been sold or leased in California since its launch in 2015. The second generation Mirai, on sale next month in San Francisco and Los Angeles, can store more hydrogen than its predecessor, giving the sleek sedan a 30% increase in range.

Toyota Motor

“When people hear electric they only think battery electric,” Birdsall said. “The BEV [battery electric vehicle] market is pretty saturated. If we want to have sustainability and longevity we need to be diverse.”

Toyota Motor

FCEVs work like this: Electricity is generated from an onboard supply of hydrogen. That electricity powers the electric motor. When hydrogen gas is converted into electricity, water and heat are released. An FCEV stores the hydrogen in high-pressure tanks (the Mirai, for example, has three). Non-toxic, compressed hydrogen gas flows into the tank when refueling.

“If we can build the stations, we can build the cars,” Keith Malone of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, an industry-government collaboration founded in 1999 to expand the domestic FCEV market, told ABC News. “These vehicles have met all the same safety standards globally. The tanks have undergone armor piercing bullet tests. There are no dangers.”

Malone, a longtime advocate of hydrogen-powered vehicles, did concede that the nascent industry has more hurdles to clear before it’s widely accepted.

“We are an early market and these cars are not cheap for lease or sale,” he said. “Most stations are concentrated in urban areas in California. But we’ve seen a lot of progress.

The real challenge is rolling out the fueling network. But the vehicles are here. They’re good, people love them.”


J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, remembers when Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor, vowed to revamp California’s highways as “Hydrogen Highways” in 2004. The infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel for transportation never materialized. DeShazo doubts it ever will.

“If there were stations everywhere, hydrogen would be an obvious solution,” he told ABC News. “Refueling stations are really expensive and require significant economies of scale to be cost effective and compete with gasoline and electricity.”


Betting on batteries

There are currently 42 hydrogen fueling stations in California though not all are online. The average price of hydrogen is $16 a kilogram versus $3.18 for a gallon of gasoline in the state. At least 8,890 FCEVs are on the road today, a far cry from the 53,000 the California Fuel Cell Partnership projected by the end of 2017.

“I don’t see a lot of automaker interest in hydrogen,” DeShazo argued. “Most automakers are betting on battery electric vehicles for the passenger market and delivery trucks.”

John Voelcker, the former editor of Green Car Reports who now covers electric cars and energy policy as a reporter and analyst, may be one of the industry’s most outspoken detractors. In a recent article for The Drive, he laid out the case for why FCEVs have not delivered on their many promises.

“Despite more than half a century of development, starting in 1966 with GM’s Electrovan, hydrogen fuel-cell cars remain low in volume, expensive to produce, and restricted to sales in the few countries or regions that have built hydrogen fueling stations,” he wrote.

When asked if hydrogen was the future of the automotive industry, Voelcker was unequivocal: “Absolutely not,” he told ABC News.

“If China suddenly decided its auto industry will adopt hydrogen vehicles, things might change,” he went on. “I am not a believer of FCEVs. It costs tens of billions of dollars to set up a hydrogen fueling network that has industrial strength compression equipment” to fuel these vehicles, he said.

Both Voelcker and DeShazo pointed out that the production of hydrogen — if not made from renewable energy such as natural gas or solar — causes greenhouse emissions.

“If the goal is reducing climate change gas per mile driven, electricity is simply better at doing that,” Voelcker said. “More CO2 is associated with hydrogen cars.”

Mixed outlook for automakers

Not all automakers are convinced that hydrogen can help them meet their emissions targets. Audi will stop development of its hydrogen-powered vehicles, including its flashy h-tron concept that was expected to hit the market in 2025, according to German newspaper Die Zeit.

“We will not be able to produce sufficient quantities of the hydrogen required for propulsion in the next few decades in a CO2-neutral manner. I therefore do not believe in hydrogen for use in cars,” Markus Duesmann, Audi’s CEO, said in an interview.

Volkswagen has also decided against the technology, with Herbert Dies, the company’s chief, telling industry insiders in July: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point to think about bringing hydrogen into passenger cars.”

Unlike its German counterparts, BMW has not ruled out hydrogen. The Bavarian automaker said in a tweet that it would produce an X5 SUV with its second generation hydrogen fuel cell powertrain by 2022. General Motors, along with partner Honda, said it remains “committed to fuel cells as a complement to battery-electric propulsion” and the manufacture of fuel cells will take place at the company’s facility in Brownstown, Michigan.

GM will also supply its Hydrotech fuel cell systems to electric start-up Nikola’s heavy duty semi-trucks.

Honda Motor

Whether hydrogen can succeed depends on how willing the stakeholders — automakers, station developers and local governments — are willing to invest in the technology. Honda has only sold 1,617 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles in nearly four years and the company is “pursuing multiple ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) pathways” in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, a spokesperson said.

Toyota is actively working with elected officials, NGOs, utilities and energy companies to increase the access to hydrogen. A number of refueling stations have been built or are almost complete in the Northeast with Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Texas eyed as the next growth areas.

Toyota engineer Birdsall said 2021 Mirai owners will receive $15,000 in free hydrogen, or enough money to cover the first 67,000 miles. It costs about $90 to fill up the car’s 5.6 kilogram tank. These giveaways could help change consumers’ minds — at least in California — to try an FCEV. Hydrogen’s limitations, however, may be too much for any automaker to overcome in the long term.

“We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” Birdsall noted. “Both BEVs and hydrogen fuel cells are the future.”

Watch Our YouTube Video for the Next Phase of our Nano Enabled Battery and Super Capacitors – “The Magnum”


Fuel Cells to Receive Boost with pledge of 10M Vehicles

Toyota released the first mass-produced fuel cell  automobile, the Mirai, in 2014. But because of high costs, the technology has been slow to catch on.

Global ministers meeting will focus on ways to increase the technology’s use

An international conference on fuel cells that is scheduled to open here Wednesday is set to call for powering 10 million vehicles — including trains, planes and automobiles — with the environmentally friendly technology in 10 years, Nikkei has learned.

Currently, only around 10,000 vehicles around the world run on fuel cells, which use hydrogen to produce electricity without emitting Earth-warming carbon dioxide.

Japanese Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara will chair the second Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting that will be attended by officials from the U.S., Europe and the Mideast. He has included the 10 million goal in his draft chairman’s statement, which also includes a goal to increase the number of hydrogen fueling stations to 10,000 in 10 years. There are now several hundred fueling stations globally.

The goal of 10 million vehicles is not a commitment, but is seen as an ambitious, common global target, the draft notes.

Toyota Motor introduced the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in 2014. Japan has considered the technology important even as battery-powered electric vehicles have been widely adopted overseas.

The chairman’s statement will also include a call for common standards and research agenda.

The meeting will endeavor to map out what a hydrogen supply chain might look like. Hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water, and once liquefied is easy to transport and store. The draft statement raises the possibility of cross-border trading and calls for determining international shipping routes and support for market trading.

One issue for fuel cell vehicles has been cost — Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, has a sticker price of more than 7 million yen ($65,000), about 3 million more than a conventional hybrid. The Japanese government believes that by expanding the market, costs will fall, creating a positive feedback cycle.

In the U.S., there are around 25,000 fuel cell forklifts in operation. These types of industrial vehicles are included in the 10 million goal.


Re-Posted from Nikkei Asian Review

NREL Establishes World Record for Solar Hydrogen Production

NREL Solar to Hydrogen 20170412-42601NREL researchers Myles Steiner (left), John Turner, Todd Deutsch and James Young stand in front of an atmospheric pressure MDCVD reactor used to grow crystalline semiconductor structures. They are co-authors of the paper “Direct Solar-to-Hydrogen Conversion via Inverted Metamorphic Multijunction Semiconductor Architectures” published in Nature Energy. Photo by Dennis Schroeder.


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recaptured the record for highest efficiency in solar hydrogen production via a photo-electrochemical (PEC) water-splitting process.

The new solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency record is 16.2 percent, topping a reported 14 percent efficiency in 2015 by an international team made up of researchers from Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, TU Ilmenau, Fraunhofer ISE and the California Institute of Technology. A paper in Nature Energy titled Direct Solar-to-hydrogen Conversion via Inverted Metamorphic Multijunction Semiconductor Architectures outlines how NREL’s new record was achieved. The authors are James Young, Myles Steiner, Ryan France, John Turner, and Todd Deutsch, all from NREL, and Henning Döscher of Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany. Döscher has an affiliation with NREL.

solar-hydrogen-system-illustrationThe record-setting PEC cell represents a significant change from the concept device Turner developed at NREL in the 1990s.

Both the old and new PEC processes employ stacks of light-absorbing tandem semiconductors that are immersed in an acid/water solution (electrolyte) where the water-splitting reaction occurs to form hydrogen and oxygen gases. But unlike the original device made of gallium indium phosphide (GaInP2) grown on top of gallium arsenide (GaAs), the new PEC cell is grown upside-down, from top to bottom, resulting in a so-called inverted metamorphic multijunction (IMM) device.

This IMM advancement allowed the NREL researchers to substitute indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) for the conventional GaAs layers, improving the device efficiency considerably. A second key distinguishing feature of the new advancement was depositing a very thin aluminum indium phosphide (AlInP) “window layer” on top of the device, followed by a second thin layer of GaInP2. These extra layers served both to eliminate defects at the surface that otherwise reduce efficiency and to partially protect the critical underlying layers from the corrosive electrolyte solution that degrades the semiconductor material and limits the lifespan of the PEC cell.

Turner’s initial breakthrough created an interesting new way to efficiently split water using sunlight as the only energy input to make renewable hydrogen. Other methods that use sunlight entail additional loss-generating steps. For example: Electricity generated by commercial solar cells can be sent through power conversion systems to an electrolyzer to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen at an approximate STH efficiency of 12 percent. Turner’s direct method set a long-unmatched STH efficiency record of 12.4 percent, which has been surpassed by NREL’s new PEC cell.

Before the PEC technology can be commercially viable, the cost of hydrogen production needs to come down to meet DOE’s target of less than $2 per kilogram of hydrogen.solarhydrogen


Continued improvements in cell efficiency and lifetime are needed to meet this target. Further enhanced efficiency would increase the hydrogen production rate per unit area, which decreases hydrogen cost by reducing balance-of-system expenditures. In conjunction with efficiency improvements, durability of the current cell configuration needs to be significantly extended beyond its several hours of operational life to dramatically bring down costs. NREL researchers are actively pursuing methods of increasing the lifespan of the PEC device in addition to further efficiency gains.

While an alternative configuration where the device isn’t submerged in acidic electrolyte and instead is wired to an external electrolyzer would solve the durability challenge, a techno-economic analysis commissioned by DOE has shown that submerged devices have the potential to produce hydrogen at a lower cost.

The latest research was funded by the Energy Department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Umea University: An Efficient Path from Carbon to Renewable Fuel Production

Nano fuel cells c2cs35307e-f1Earth-abundant materials based primarily on carbon, nitrogen and transition metal oxides can be combined into highly efficient energy conversion devices. These devices can be used in fuel cells as well as in electrolysis. This is shown experimentally by Tiva Sharifi, physicist at Umeå University, Sweden. She defends her thesis on 31 March. 

As the world runs short of oil, the hunt for new alternative energy resources is intensified. Hydrogen production — by splitting water to oxygen and hydrogen using sunlight as the driving force — is an interesting approach to fuel production.

Tiva Sharifi’s focus has been to address the problems of energy conversion processes, aiming mainly to fabricate durable electrode materials that allow up-scaling of electrochemical cells.

“I have created an electrocatalyst with outstanding performance and stability for several important energy conversion processes,” says Tiva Sharifi.

Since electrochemical processes are not spontaneous, they need efficient electrocatalyst materials to §run smoothly. Commonly, the electrocatalyst is synthesised separately and then loaded onto the surface of a conductive material, which plays the role of current collector. This combination works as the electrode — cathode or anode — in the electrochemical cell.

In such an approach, up-scaling is inhibited and the whole process is limited to laboratory scale. Furthermore, the fabricated electrode is not durable and the catalyst material easily peels off from the conductive substrate during the electrochemical reaction.

Tiva Sharifi has solved these problems by fabricating electrode materials in such a way that these two steps — electrocatalyst synthesis and loading onto a conductive material — are combined. She grew electrocatalyst material directly on the surface of a current collector in a bottom-up self-assembly process.

An inexpensive conductive substrate made of carbon paper was chosen as current collector. It has an acceptable conductivity and the capability of easy handling and up-scaling. Instead of using scarce and hence expensive noble metals — like platinum and ruthenium — as catalyst materials she chose all organic carbon materials, transition metal oxides — such as cobalt oxide and iron oxide — or their combination.

Tiva Sharifi also investigated nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes (NCNT’s) as an electrocatalyst, since their properties are interesting when it comes to manufacturing all organic metal-free catalysts. She discovered that NCNT’s — grown directly on the current collector — is a highly efficient electrocatalyst.

The NCNT’s exhibit strong electrocatalytic activity for some fundamental energy conversion reactions, such as oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells. They are formed by introducing nitrogen in the pure hexagonal carbon structure of carbon nanotubes. Interestingly, it is possible to keep track of nitrogen in the carbon framework, and depending on where the nitrogen replaces carbon in the structure, the nanotubes behave catalytically different. In her thesis, Tiva Sharifi shows that it is possible to transfer nitrogen from non-favourable sites to catalytically active sites in already synthesised NCNT’s.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Umeå universitet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Novel water-splitting photocatalyst (with solar energy) operable over wide range of the visible light spectrum

1-solar qdot-images-6

Clean renewable energy can be produced by photocatalytically splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with solar energy. Most of the conventionally developed water-splitting photocatalysts, however, were only active under UV irradiation, and only a few have been demonstrated to operate under visible light, at up to 500 nm. For making high-efficiency use of solar energy, it was necessary to develop a photocatalyst that can utilize longer wavelength light.
To accomplish this, a photocatalyst that is operable under lower-energy light needed to be developed, but since the energy that can be used for the water-splitting reaction would also be smaller, more advanced material design was required, which posed a very difficult challenge.

Water Splitting Graph 150318074230-large

 Graph. A water-splitting photocatalyst that is operable at up to 600nm has been developed for the first time, using a transition-metal oxynitride whose electronic structure is suitable for long wavelength absorption.

Credit: NIMS
A research group led by Chengsi Pan, Postdoctoral Researcher, and Tsuyoshi Takata, NIMS Special Researcher, at the Global Research Center for Environment and Energy Based on Nanomaterials Science (GREEN; Director-General: Kohei Uosaki) of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS; President: Sukekatsu Ushioda), and Kazunari Domen, a professor of the Department of Chemical System Engineering, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo (President: Junichi Hamada) newly developed a water-splitting photocatalyst that is operable over a wider range of the visible light spectrum than before.

In this research, a water-splitting photocatalyst that is operable at up to 600nm was developed for the first time, using a transition-metal oxynitride whose electronic structure is suitable for long wavelength absorption. As a development approach, solid solutions were formed between two existing perovskite-type compounds, LaTaON2 and LaMg2/3Ta1/3O3 (La: lanthanum, Ta: tantalum, O: oxygen, N: nitrogen, Mg: magnesium), and electronic structure was adjusted. This made LaMg1/3Ta2/3O2N solid solutions usable for water-splitting reactions by visible light irradiation, but since the degradation of the photocatalyst and the reverse reaction simultaneously occurred, a steady water-splitting reaction could not be achieved. To overcome this problem, the photocatalyst particle surface was covered with a layer of amorphous oxyhydroxide in order to inhibit the degradation of the photocatalyst and reverse reaction, and made the steady water-splitting reaction possible. This oxyhydroxide coating plays a role to control chemical reactions on the photocatalyst surface.

This research result established a new effective method in water-splitting photocatalyst development. Also, by applying this method to other photocatalyst materials, the development of photocatalysts with higher activity can be expected. At present, the quantum yield is still low, and the improvement of the yield is the challenge for the future.

This research was performed jointly with a group led by Yuichi Ikuhara, Professor of the Institute of Engineering Innovation, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo. Also, this research was supported in part by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research, “Development of innovative water splitting photocatalysts based on photocarrier dynamics at solid/liquid interfaces,” and projects commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), “Program for Development of Environmental Technology using Nanotechnology,” “Nanotechnology Platform Japan,” and “Area of Advanced Environmental Materials, Green Network of Excellence (GRENE): Creation of the Network of Excellence for the Human Resource Development, and Advanced Environmental Materials and Devices toward Environment and Energy Technology.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Toward a low-cost ‘artificial leaf’ that produces clean hydrogen fuel

Articicial Leaf III towardalowcoFor years, scientists have been pursuing “artificial leaf” technology, a green approach to making hydrogen fuel that copies plants’ ability to convert sunlight into a form of energy they can use. Now, one team reports progress toward a stand-alone system that lends itself to large-scale, low-cost production. They describe their nanowire mesh design in the journal ACS Nano.

Peidong Yang, Bin Liu and colleagues note that harnessing sunlight to split water and harvest hydrogen is one of the most intriguing ways to achieve clean energy. Automakers have started introducing cell vehicles, which only emit water when driven. But making hydrogen, which mostly comes from natural gas, requires electricity from conventional carbon dioxide-emitting power plants.

Articicial Leaf III towardalowco

Producing hydrogen at low cost from water using the from the sun would make this form of energy, which could also power homes and businesses, far more environmentally friendly. Building on a decade of work in this area, Yang’s team has taken one more step toward this goal.

The researchers took a page from the paper industry, using one of its processes to make a flat mesh out of light-absorbing semiconductor nanowires that, when immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, produces . The scientists say that the technique could allow their technology to be scaled up at low cost. Although boosting efficiency remains a challenge, their approach—unlike other artificial leaf systems—is free-standing and doesn’t require any additional wires or other external devices that would add to the environmental footprint.

Explore further: Harvesting hydrogen fuel from the Sun using Earth-abundant materials

More information: “All Inorganic Semiconductor Nanowire Mesh for Direct Solar Water Splitting” ACS Nano, 2014, 8 (11), pp 11739–11744. DOI: 10.1021/nn5051954

The generation of chemical fuels via direct solar-to-fuel conversion from a fully integrated artificial photosynthetic system is an attractive approach for clean and sustainable energy, but so far there has yet to be a system that would have the acceptable efficiency, durability and can be manufactured at a reasonable cost. Here, we show that a semiconductor mesh made from all inorganic nanowires can achieve unassisted solar-driven, overall water-splitting without using any electron mediators. Free-standing nanowire mesh networks could be made in large scales using solution synthesis and vacuum filtration, making this approach attractive for low cost implementation.

Graphene may help Fuel cell technology

Graphene-help-Fuel-cell-technologyAccording to researchers, a weak spot found in graphene, could benefit the fuel cell technology. As per a research at Britain’s Manchester University, graphene is not that impermeable as thought and will allow protons to easily pass through it.

The research was led by Andre Geim, who shared a Nobel Prize for the discovery of graphene and Professor Wu Hengan from the University of Science and Technology of China. Researchers suggest that graphene membranes could be created in future which could filter hydrogen gas directly out of the air to be used to generate electricity.

A co-researcher in Geim’s study, Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo said that the results are really exciting and this opens a new area of graphene applications in clean energy harvesting and hydrogen-based technologies.


Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and used in impermeable packaging and corrosion-proof coating, because of it is impermeablity to atoms of any gas or liquid.

A barrier is required in fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies, which permits only protons to pass through it. Geim and his researchers are expecting that hydrogen protons may pass through the graphene. This indicates that graphene could be used in fuel cells.

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Currently fuel cells have a problem of leakage of fuels across their membranes and it decreases the cell’s efficiency. And the researchers are expecting graphene to solve this problem.

“When you know how it should work, it is a very simple setup. You put a hydrogen-containing gas on one side, apply small electric current and collect pure hydrogen on the other side. This hydrogen can then be burned in a fuel cell”, says Lozada-Hidalgo.

The graphene could be created in square meter sheets these days and soon it could be used in commercial fuel cells, said researcher Sheng Hu.

Semiconductor nanowire mesh produces clean hydrogen fuel

Nano Hydro ananosizedhyFor years, scientists have been pursuing “artificial leaf” technology, a green approach to making hydrogen fuel that copies plants’ ability to convert sunlight into a form of energy they can use. Now, one team reports progress toward a stand-alone system that lends itself to large-scale, low-cost production. They describe their nanowire mesh design in the journal ACS Nano (“All Inorganic Semiconductor Nanowire Mesh for Direct Solar Water Splitting”).
Peidong Yang, Bin Liu and colleagues note that harnessing sunlight to split water and harvest hydrogen is one of the most intriguing ways to achieve clean energy. Automakers have started introducing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which only emit water when driven. But making hydrogen, which mostly comes from natural gas, requires electricity from conventional carbon dioxide-emitting power plants. Producing hydrogen at low cost from water using the clean energy from the sun would make this form of energy, which could also power homes and businesses, far more environmentally friendly. Building on a decade of work in this area, Yang’s team has taken one more step toward this goal.
The researchers took a page from the paper industry, using one of its processes to make a flat mesh out of light-absorbing semiconductor nanowires that, when immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, produces hydrogen gas. The scientists say that the technique could allow their technology to be scaled up at low cost. Although boosting efficiency remains a challenge, their approach — unlike other artificial leaf systems — is free-standing and doesn’t require any additional wires or other external devices that would add to the environmental footprint.
Source: American Chemical Society

Read more: Semiconductor nanowire mesh produces clean hydrogen fuel

Could hydrogen vehicles take over as the “green” car of choice?

1-Toyota Hydro 1416262251402Now that car makers have demonstrated through hybrid vehicle success that consumers want less-polluting tailpipes, they are shifting even greener. In 2015, Toyota will roll out the first hydrogen fuel-cell car for personal use that emits only water. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explains how hydrogen could supplant hybrid and electric car technology — and someday, even spur the demise of the gasoline engine.

Melody M. Bomgardner, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that the first fuel-cell vehicles will be sold in Japan, then California to start. Although Toyota is the only one poised to sell fuel-cell vehicles very soon, other companies are also investing billions of dollars in the technology. Hyundai, General Motors, Honda and Daimler have all announced plans to offer their own hydrogen models in the near future. The first cars will set customers back about $70,000, but this marks a 95 percent cut in system costs in less than 10 years. As they improve the technology further, car manufacturers expect that prices will come down to more affordable levels.

1-Toyota Hydro 1416262251402

In 2015, Toyota will be the first car maker to bring a personal, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to the market.

Credit: Toyota            

 But does that translate into a practical edge for consumers? With a hydrogen vehicle, filling up only takes about three minutes, compared to an overnight charge for an all-electric car. Fuel-cell vehicles can go 400 miles on one fill-up, which is fewer than a hybrid but with no polluting emissions. Although electrics also boast zero tailpipe emissions, they will have a tough time competing with that kind of range. Given these advantages, some experts suggest hydrogen fuel cells could someday overtake hybrid, electric and even internal combustion technologies.


Source: American Chemical Society

Cheap Hydrogen Fuel from the Sun without Rare Metals: Video

CheapHydrogenThe race is on to optimize solar energy’s performance. More efficient silicon photovoltaic panels, dye-sensitized solar cells, concentrated cells and thermodynamic solar plants all pursue the same goal: to produce a maximum amount of electrons from sunlight. Those electrons can then be converted into electricity to turn on lights and power your refrigerator.

At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL, led by Michael Grätzel, where scientists invented dye solar cells that mimic photosynthesis in plants, they have also developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting. To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.

By using the latter technique, Grätzel’s post-doctoral student Jingshan Luo and his colleagues were able to obtain a performance so spectacular that their achievement is being published in the journal Science. Their device converts into hydrogen 12.3% of the energy diffused by the sun on perovskite absorbers—a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel.

Bottled sun

This high efficiency provides stiff competition for other techniques used to convert solar energy. But this method has several advantages over others:

“Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap,” explained Jingshan Luo. “However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.”

Published on Sep 25, 2014

Science published on September 25, 2014 the latest developments in Michael Grätzel’s laboratory at EPFL in the field of hydrogen production from water. By combining a pair of perovskite solar cells and low price electrodes without using rare metals, scientists have obtained a 12.3% conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record with earth-abundant materials. Jingshan Luo, post-doctoral researcher, explains how.
For more info, please find our press kit here: http://bit.ly/GraetzelHydrogenScience…

On the other hand, the conversion of solar energy into hydrogen makes its storage possible, which addresses one of the biggest disadvantages faced by renewable electricity—the requirement to use it at the time it is produced.

“Once you have hydrogen, you store it in a bottle and you can do with it whatever you want to, whenever you want it,” said Michael Grätzel. Such a gas can indeed be burned—in a boiler or engine—releasing only water vapor. It can also pass into a fuel cell to generate electricity on demand. And the 12.3% conversion efficiency achieved at EPFL “will soon get even higher,” promised Grätzel.

More powerful cells

These high efficiency values are based on a characteristic of perovskite cells: their ability to generate an open circuit voltage greater than 1 V (silicon cells stop at 0.7 V, for comparison).

“A voltage of 1.7 V or more is required for water electrolysis to occur and to obtain exploitable gases,” explained Jingshan Luo. To get these numbers, three or more silicon cells are needed, whereas just two perovskite cells are enough. As a result, there is more efficiency with respect to the surface of the light absorbers required. “This is the first time we have been able to get hydrogen through electrolysis with only two cells!” Luo adds.

The profusion of tiny bubbles escaping from the electrodes as soon as the solar cells are exposed to light say it better than words ever could: the combination of sun and water paves a promising and effervescent way for developing the energy of the future.

Water photolysis at 12.3% efficiency via perovskite photovoltaics and Earth-abundant catalysts

Source: EPFL