Monday, August 17, 2009
This coming week, Charleston WV will open its first hydrogen fueling station. The station will be located at Yeager Airport as part of a testing phase; the airport will also be receiving several hydrogen powered vehicles from the Department of Energy to use on the grounds. The station will be built in a fashion so that new parts and components can hopefully be easily interchanged to improve efficiency and cost as time goes one without having toe rebuild the entire thing from scratch.
This is big news for energy advocates looking for ways to get us off of oil. Hydrogen fuel is more readily available than fossil fuels and runs cleaner; the exhaust is water vapor. The idea behind the technology is that fuel cells and car engines that use them will eventually be able to efficiently run off of water, of which to the two main ingredients are hydrogen and oxygen. The car of the future could be attached to your garden hose! Then, the engine would separate the two elements and use the hydrogen to power the cell. The exhaust is water because there is some left over hydrogen which them recombines with oxygen; in this system the exhaust could potentially be redistributed back into the tank, adding a bit more efficiency.
Of course, this is a few decades off. For now, the efficiency of hydrogen vehicles is offset by the fossil fuel energy used to create the hydrogen. And hydrogen isn't cost efficient yet either, but its getting there. In fact, estimates are that a kilogram of hydrogen fuel would cost about five dollars. That's considered roughly the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. Consider that hydrogen cars actually run more efficiently than fossil fuel cars; they compare as high as 70 mpg. Suddenly, that makes $5 look more like $2. And if hydrogen fuel were government subsidized like gasoline is now...
The exciting part about this new station is its actually the first stage of a planned corridor of hydrogen ready highway that would lead from Charleston through Morgantown to Pittsburgh. That's I-79 if you're wondering. There is potential to take that corridor even further to either DC or New York, both already home to their own hydrogen stations. Again, that's a ways off, but it does sound promising for people in both the energy and environmental fields. It was disappointing to hear the Obama administration declare their intention to cut hydrogen fuel cell funding back in May, but at least the momentum for it didn't last long. And now we are seeing the Department of Energy taking a roll in furthering this promising technology. Its not a matter of if hydrogen becomes viable, its a matter of when.
My source on this story is here. It basically says the same as what I said here but with a little less conjecture and opinion. There was also a snippet about it on NPR over the weekend. Sphere: Related Content