Hydrogen Followup: Thanks Google

Ya know… every blogger out there should bow down to Google and kiss it’s feet cuz without it we wouldn’t be able to pretend like we knew what we talked about nearly as well! Oh, wait, you didn’t hear that last part.

In the last thread about Hydrogen. Bunker asked:

What would all that steam do to our vehicles in traffic?! Could we still see to drive?

Well, that’s something I don’t think many people think about that. People think, “Hey it only produces water that I could drink!”. But if that water is actually vapor… especially in colder climates, that could be a major problem! What if it’s like a zamboni driving down the 401!

This could be a problem for the North East and Prairies! 🙂

Now I’ve done some searching and haven’t found anything, yet, on what the “pure water” emission actually looks like, but I have come across some interesting documents and studies.



Both studies talk about the transition to the Hydrogen economy and how Hydrogen can be first introduced in “hybrid” internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that use both hydrogen and natual gas (CNG).

The first PDF is from the California Air Resources Board.

It is a nice presentation and compares green house gas emissions (GHG) from standard Diesel and Gas High Efficiency (HEVs) Vehicles like the Toyota and Honda Hybrid vehicles with Hydrogen/CNG powered vehicles.

Their main point is that Hydrogen is the only fuel that provides a pathway towards zero emission vehicles.


They then extrapolate over time the advantage of Hydrogen powered vehicles. They come up with some rather arbitrary dates and assumptions on when the technology will actually be viable… but the conclusions are none-the-less startling, though very long-term.


Perhaps their most compelling finding is the following graph that shows that over the next 100 years Hydrogen Fuel Cell and HEVs would produce between 20 and 30% of the total emissions of various pollutants that the status-quo would produce over that time.


Finally, there is the second report, from the University of Alabama which actually tests the emissions from current Hydrogen/CNG hybrids and compares them with current emissions standards. They put an emphasis on practical results rather than estimates:

Any assessment of the potential for large-scale deployment of these hydrogen technologies must be based on measured vehicle performance characteristics, not simply estimates. Only with realistic emissions and vehicle performance measures can we develop reasonable estimates of what impacts a large-scale deployment would have on air quality and which vehicle technologies offer the most promising near-term and long-term benefits.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the performance characteristics of various hydrogen vehicle technologies, identify the most promising near-and long-term technologies, and fully understand the infrastructure that a large-scale deployment will require.

Emissions data were collected for carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), total hydrocarbons (THC), nitrous oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. The equivalent miles per gallon fuel consumption was also monitored. Results were obtained using cold starts, hot starts, standard vehicle testing, and highway testing. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) compared the results with typical (high and low) emissions performance for CO, THC, and NOx, for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. The results indicated that using the 50% hythane fuel mixture, reductions in CO, THC, and NOx exceeded 97%, 95%, and 94%, respectively, indicating that the emissions were reduced by more than an order of magnitude.

Impressive numbers.

That report was from 2003. I’m looking for the final report, as they should have concluded it or at least issued another progress report sometime last year or this year. I will continue searching.

Found it!

The 2004 Progress report broadens their goals to looking at storage of the hydrogen fuel as well as government regulations and codes.

The results they came up with are pretty sparse at best… but they do make some very important preliminary assessments after testing the F150 with varying mixtures of Hydrogen and CNG as fuel.

  • Total hydrocarbons, CO, and CO2 decreased with an increase in hydrogen concentration
  • NOx emissions increased with an increase in hydrogen concentration
  • Hydrogen concentration did not have a significant effect on the efficiency of different driving cycles

They have not yet tested a Hydrogen/CNG “Hybrid” electric engine, nor have they tested a 100% hydrogen ICE or Fuel cell. Hopefully we’ll see the results when they are published.


I’ve found the Powerpoint presentation of last years report. It indicates the project was to run until February 2005. It also has some interesting details on how the project was run and the challenges they had (like keeping the Hydrogen levels in the project area below explosive levels!).

Update 3

Here’s a great “motherload” site hosted at the Department of Energy on continuing research in Hydrogen fuel technology… everything from studies on using Hydrogen fuel for Mining vehicles, to studies developing and converting refueling technologies.

Update 4

The New Scientist reports today:

Reactors in many UK nuclear power stations are in danger of developing cracks in their graphite cores. This could force some plants to close down earlier than expected, dealing a blow to the idea that nuclear power can become a “green” option in the fight against global warming.

Widespread cracks in these bricks could cause the core to distort, overheat and leak radiation. To ensure this does not happen, the NII has asked British Energy to conduct more inspections of the bricks. This means that reactors may have to be closed down for maintenance more frequently and for longer, at a cost in lost income of £250,000 a day for each reactor that is shut down.

Pete Roche, a consultant to the anti-nuclear group Greenpeace, says graphite cracking highlights the unreliability of nuclear power. “Generic problems can shut down several large nuclear stations all at the same time,” he says. “So they are not the best solution to combat climate change.”

I disagree with that statement… just because nuclear power stations might be shut down across the board to deal with a potential problem doesn’t mean they are not viable. The Airline industry works like this as well… quite often, one type of plane is grounded for inspection due to mishaps, actions, or new information… in the mean time, the industry calls on other resources to pick up the slack.

Relying more on Nuclear power doesn’t mean completely shunning fossil fuel. They could still have a place as “backup” power when situations like this arise. The challenge is to get to the point where we rely on renewable energy for our day-to-day needs that way fossil fuels can still be used for emergencies.

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