Hydrogen Sources
  • Initial Hydrogen Source. The computer model assumes that all hydrogen is initially made by reforming natural gas, which is how most hydrogen is generated for industrial uses today. The steam reforming of natural gas is represented by the chemical equation:
  • CH4 + 2H2O = CO2 + 4H2
  • This equation illustrates that each methane molecule (CH4), the main constituent of natural gas, produces four molecules of hydrogen.  Half of the hydrogen comes from water (H2O), which releases no carbon. In addition, a hydrogen-powered FCEV is more than twice as efficient as a gasoline car.
  • The net result is that using hydrogen made from natural gas and water used in a FCEV reduces greenhouse gases approximately 50% compared to burning gasoline in a regular car.Every FCEV placed on the road immediately cuts GHGs in half and eliminates all oil use from the car it displaces. This is in sharp contrast to battery electric vehicles that do not decrease GHGs (and may increase GHGs) in many parts of the US, since much of our electricity comes from burning coal, the dirtiest (highest carbon content) fuel.
  • Greening of Hydrogen Sources.  Making hydrogen from natural gas is a temporary bridge to an even greener future. It is the least costly method of producing hydrogen today. But natural gas--like oil-- is a finite fossil fuel that will eventually become too expensive to extract as supplies diminish and as society recognizes the true environmental and national security costs of consuming fossil fuels.
  • Hydrogen can be made from a wide variety of sources, the same as electricity.  In this model, we assume that the carbon content of hydrogen feedstocks, already low when using natural gas, will decrease even further. Over time, hydrogen will be made from:
  • Reforming liquid biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol or butanol at the fueling station
  • Gasifying biomass at a regional center with pipeline distribution of hydrogen(Alternative: distributed hydrogen generation using the digester gas from waste water treatment plants or from farm or animal waste or from landfill gas.[1])
  • Gasifying coal at an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • Electrolyzing water using zero-carbon electricity sources such as nuclear and renewable (wind, solar, geothermal) energy
  • This graph shows how we have modeled the transition from reformed natural gas to the other zero or near-zero carbon sources of hydrogen over the century:

  • [1] Several years after this model was written, the Orange County Sanitation District in California installed a molten carbonate stationary fuel cell (MCFC) system at their waste water treatment plant. This stationary fuel cell system provides electricity to help run the plant, significantly reducing operating costs. In addition, they produce hydrogen to run FCEVs from the digester gas. This is the first distributed renewable hydrogen production system that produces no GHGs and does not require hydrogen pipelines (This system produces hydrogen for FCEVs at a major freeway interchange in Fountain Valley, California.)  The savings in electricity costs can pay for the cost of the stationary fuel cell system, so the hydrogen can be very inexpensive.  The MCFC company, FuelCell Energy, has installed more than a dozen systems around the world that can be fueled by digester gas from waste water treatment plants, a cost-effective renewable hydrogen option today. See sidebar ====> 

[Scenarios],[Electricity Sources],[LDV VMT & Sales],[Vehicle Fuel Economy]

Hydrogen made from solar energy (PV-photovoltaic solar cells) used in a fuel cell electric vehicle is totally sustainable with zero greenhouse gas emissions, zero air pollution and zero dependence on fossil fuels:

One company, SunHydro, was planning to build 12 to 15 solar hydrogen fueling stations along the East Coast to produce zero-carbon hydrogen fuel for FCEVs, but they have since decided to build a cluster of solar hydrogen stations around their first station opened in Wallingford, Connecticut in October 2010.

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[Alternative Vehicles Compared] [Societal Threats] [Alternative Vehicle Choices] [Simulation Assumptions] [Scenarios] [Electricity Sources] [Hydrogen Sources] [LDV VMT & Sales] [Vehicle Fuel Economy] [Simulation Results] [Batteries or Fuel Cells?] [Hydrogen Safety] [FAQ] [Natural Gas Vehicles] [Links] [About Us] [Contact Us]

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