Hydrogen is currently a hot topic when speaking of the decarbonization of the energy system. We want to enlighten you about the advantages of hydrogen and its vitality for a sustainable future.
Hydrogen, like electricity, is what we call an energy carrier. It is not an energy source since hydrogen does not occur naturally on earth, meaning we must produce it ourselves first. Hydrogen must be extracted from other molecules, a process which requires energy but results in a highly energy-dense molecule. This way energy is stored in the hydrogen molecules and retrieved in the form of electricity or heat whenever needed. This makes hydrogen a very versatile energy carrier. Check out our “What is hydrogen?” video to learn how hydrogen is made.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, even the sun is mostly composed of hydrogen!
Our hydrogen car only emits H2O!
A typical combustion engine is only 25% energy efficient, but the efficiency for our fuel cell stands at 67%!
Hydrogen is believed to be one of the three elements produced in the Big Bang, the others are Helium and Lithium.
Hydrogen becomes liquid at -253 Celsius and solid at -259 Celsius.
Hoogeveen is the first Dutch village with a whole residential area running on hydrogen!
Hydrogen can be moved and stored quite easily compared to electricity. So, we can use electricity to produce hydrogen, and thereby store and transport an excess of green energy! Green hydrogen now functions as an energy carrier, and can be converted back into electricity whenever this is needed. This way, hydrogen acts as a buffer to match the energy supply and demand. By storing energy in the form of hydrogen we don’t miss out on any renewable energy!
There are several ways to produce hydrogen. These production methods are each indicated by a certain color. The three most known processes are indicated by the colors green, blue and grey. But what do these different colors of hydrogen mean?
Hydrogen offers a solution to the challenges of storing and transporting energy. Hydrogen can store large amounts of energy for long durations of time, and transport it over large distances.
Choosing a hydrogen carrier or storage technology depends on for example the specific applications, transportation modes, distances, and costs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is why several options for hydrogen transportation and storage are explained below.
Gaseous Hydrogen at atmospheric pressure has a low density and can take up a lot of space, but by keeping hydrogen compressed under high pressures (350 – 700 bar) we can increase the density up to 800 times as much.
This compressed Hydrogen can then be easily stored, for example in high-pressure cylinders. By installing these on trailers or ships, we can transport the hydrogen all over the world. Larger volumes of gaseous hydrogen can be stored underground, for example in salt caverns. These caverns are extremely big hollowed out holes under the ground, each so big that the Eiffel tower would fit into them!
From this underground storage, the most convenient way to transport hydrogen gas is through pipelines. In the Netherlands for example, the current natural gas infrastructure can be altered to transport hydrogen. Check the podcast with Helmie Botter for more information!
Liquid hydrogen takes up even less space than the gas form, since it has a higher density. Though, storing hydrogen in a liquid state is only possible under extremely low temperatures, up to -253 degrees Celsius. A disadvantage of cooling the hydrogen this much is that it takes up a lot of energy: about one fourth of the energy that the hydrogen is carrying. However, liquid hydrogen can be a suitable option, for example as a fuel for certain types of heavy transport (like aviation). We can store liquid hydrogen in cryogenic liquid tanks, and transport these tanks by ship, truck or train. Listen to the podcast with Michel van Ierland to learn more about flying on hydrogen!
Hydrogen can also be ‘packed’ in another material. By chemically converting hydrogen into other molecules with a higher energy density, they can be easier to transport. Examples of these storage materials are ammonia and Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC).
Hydrogen is also a growing fuel in the transport sector, where hydrogen powered vehicles will be complementary to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). These hydrogen cars are also known as Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). In such a car the fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity, which then powers an electric motor to create motion. You could also burn hydrogen in a combustion engine to create motion. But, by burning hydrogen molecules there will still be an emission of greenhouse gasses. Hydrogen is not completely new to the transport sector. Some modes of transport already have a FCEV-option. For example, the first trucks on hydrogen are being produced as we speak. The first hydrogen passenger cars are already on the road as well. The Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo are currently the only production cars using a hydrogen-fuel cell as a power source. We draw inspiration from these cars as they already show the world the positive effects of driving on Hydrogen! What we need now is more companies to follow the example of the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo, as well as more hydrogen refuelling stations for these vehicles!
At Eco-Runner Team Delft we believe that hydrogen will play a key-role in the energy transition. In the current energy system, transport accounts for a large share of emissions and needs to contribute to the global decarbonization race. Luckily, the popularity of BEVs is growing in cities, increasing the number of zero emission vehicles. It is important to realise that FCEVs complement BEVs as they can increase the range of these non-polluting vehicles. A combined world with both these technologies will be greener, faster and cheaper than one that relies on only a single technology. This way we can reach our goal of 100% sustainable even faster!
© Stichting Eco-Runner Team Delft 2023-2024