The idea that hydrogen would replace fossil fuels has been around for a very long time. In 1923 J. S. B. Haldane gave a famous lecture at Cambridge predicting that wind power would be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen via electrolysis, and that hydrogen would provide storable energy, to be used as and when required to drive industry, transport and the whole economy. There have over the decades been many technological developments, and hydrogen fuel cells are used in a huge range of niche markets from fork lift truck to submarines. So far there has not been a massive switch from fossil fuels to renewably generated hydrogen for mainstream transport and power. Is that about to change?
In March this year Europe’s largest hydrogen bus refuelling station opened in Aberdeen, with 10 new hydrogen fuel cell buses. At Junction 33 on the M1 in South Yorkshire ITM Power has just opened the first publicly accessible hydrogen car refuelling station with an on-site wind turbine producing the hydrogen on-site. The same company are also opening a solar powered hydrogen refuelling station on the A13 in Essex. ITM are also now working with European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney Islands, where they’ll be making hydrogen from tidal energy. Last October I blogged about Frankfurt installing ITM’s impressive wind to power via hydrogen technology, in August I blogged about Qingdao Sifang producing the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell tram, and several times on this blog I’ve sung the praises of the Riversimple hydrogen fuel cell cars, that should soon be in production. Globally the technology giants are moving toward hydrogen. In October the sixth World Hydrogen Technologies Convention is due to open in Sydney, Australia, where Toyota is promoting the hydrogen powered Mirai, the first mass production hydrogen fuel cell car. Lots of other developments are happening all over the World. All these are encouraging signs.
Perhaps it is too early to claim that the fossil-fuel era is over, but the indications of a better, less polluting technological basis to a new kind of economy are emerging. Renewable energy will be at the heart of these changes, and hydrogen fuel cells will be one of many important supplementary technologies.
Aberdeen hydrogen buses http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_hydrogenfuel_110315.asp
ITM hydrogen via:- wind, Yorkshire http://www.itm-power.com/news-item/launch-of-m1-wind-hydrogen-refuelling-station and Orkney tidal http://www.itm-power.com/news-item/0-5mw-electrolyser-sale-to-emec and Essex solar http://www.itm-power.com/news-item/agreement-to-deploy-a-solar-hydrogen-refuelling-station-on-the-a13