What if the most abundant element on Earth could be used to fuel our vehicles? And not only would this fuel be plentiful, but it would emit steam instead of harmful emissions? Generating power from hydrogen is a concept that’s been around before the invention of cars. Currently, hydrogen-powered cars exist, but they are still in the concept phases.
Using hydrogen as fuel
To run on hydrogen, a car must have a fuel cell so that it can convert the hydrogen to electricity. A big advantage to create electricity from hydrogen is that it only produces two byproducts: water and heat. Although it is clean-burning, the practicality of using hydrogen as fuel is still questionable especially since new types of cars would have to be manufactured.
Since 90% of the Earth’s atoms are hydrogen, using it as fuel seems like a no brainer. But harvesting hydrogen isn’t that simple. Unless bonded with other atoms or elements to form a molecule, uncontained hydrogen will immediately float off into space because it is the lightest atom in the universe.
As of now, the most common method used to isolate hydrogen is called steam reformation. In this process, hydrogen atoms are separated from the carbon in natural gas. However, since we are trying to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, this method is not preferred.
Water is a more eco-friendly means of obtaining hydrogen. If an electric current is passed through water in a process known as electrolysis, H20 molecules can be broken down so that hydrogen atoms can be collected. This process can be performed on a large scale but the only drawback is that it is a slow process.
Right now, hydrogen cars have several setbacks so it may be decades before we see them on the roads, if even at all. Whether or not hydrogen will ever be adopted as an alternative fuel, we’ll just have to see. But it looks promising.