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New technologies: hydrogen fuel cells


Our world is powered by an energy system based mainly on fossil fuels since the beginning of the XX century. How much could it last? Some years? Some decades? Certainly not an entire century. It’s time for alternative energy. An energy system based on renewables can last for centuries instead.

Hydrogen cells represents part of the future of energy and its continuing development will have an effect on the reduction of fossil fuels usage. Hydrogen can be used to power vehicles with fuel‐cell engine. A miniature fuel cell is light and economical than to an ordinary battery. This would allow to supply even small appliances. The hydrogen fuel cell is an electrochemical generator in which the electricity is produced by the reaction between a fuel (hydrogen) and a gaseous oxidizer compound (oxygen or air). Together with electricity, heat and water are produced. Hydrogen cells have a high electrical efficiency and a low environmental impact.

Right now many US companies, such as Wal‐Mart, AT&T, FedEx and Hyundai, are using hydrogen cells and increasing the usage. Since the process produces little or no greenhouse gases, hydrogen power stands to get a boost in the wake of President Barack Obama’s recent call for tighter controls on carbon emissions. And what is the real support to hydrogen from the US government. Apparently it's high, they dedicate hydrogen an entire program and a website… well, part of a website (hydrogen.energy.gov).

A few years ago hydrogen power powered just 1% of power worldwide, according to EIA (Energy Information Administration). Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu was skeptical and called for a 44% reduction in funding for hydrogen research. Also Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Musk was and still is skeptical. “I’m not the biggest fan of fuel cells,” Musk said “I usually call them ‘fool cells.’” Not the best joke ever but when Sandia National Laboratories, the Department of Energy, Hyundai, Wal-Mart, etc. tell that hydrogen power is a green way to reduce fossil fuels, I tend to believe them.

Many companies are increase hydrogen use, such as those previously mentioned and the grocery chain Kroger Co. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. And now it's time for transport companies: Hyundai will begin deliveries of its fuel‐cell Tucson SUV next week. Honda Motor Co. already offers one there and Toyota Motor Corp. will follow next year. Although Tesla will remain a little bit longer without hydrogen cells since the CEO's strong opposition. Automakers may be selling 1.76 million fuel‐cell vehicles a year worldwide by 2025, according to Deloitte Consulting.

For years hydrogen cells producers were losing money but now their profits are highly increasing. Plug Power is up more than 1,000 percent in the past year, the best performer on the Nasdaq Index. Ballard has doubled and FuelCell has gained 49 percent, compared with a 23 percent gain for the broader market index. The current administration is supporting this green way to reduce carbon emissions and the future for these companies is now easier and brighter.

More information on hydrogen.energy.gov and Fuelcells.org

References from Bloomberg.com

Photo from Getty Images


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