Pros and Cons of Hydrogen Energy
According to some predictions, hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology is the energy of the future. Certainly, the idea of hydrogen power has numerous advantages over current types of energy production. However, there are also a couple major drawbacks that presently limit its applications on a large scale. If you’d like to start learning more about this new power source, including the cost of hydrogen energy, read on for a brief overview that will get you started.
Advantages of Hydrogen Power
One of the most heralded benefits of hydrogen is that it is a clean-burning fuel. Whereas coal, fossil fuels, and other energy sources create greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen combustion results solely in heat and water. As a result, hydrogen is a much better fuel for the environment. Additionally, hydrogen is far more readily available than fossil fuels and coal. In fact, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. And since hydrogen reverts back to water when it burns, it can be described as a sustainable renewable source of energy.
Another advantage of hydrogen is its efficiency. Present processes suggest that about 90 percent of hydrogen fuel directly contributes to energy conversion when used in vehicles. In comparison, gasoline is only half as efficient. Similarly, solar energy currently only has a maximum efficiency of about 40 percent.
Costs of Hydrogen Energy
The largest barrier to using this power source is the cost of hydrogen energy. This is mostly due to the fact that free hydrogen does not occur naturally in the world. Rather, it must be generated through the process of water electrolysis. This process has proven exceptionally expensive. Additionally, current electrolysis procedures require more energy to extract the hydrogen then the total amount of energy provided by the manufactured hydrogen fuel.
Storage of Hydrogen Power
Another problem with hydrogen energy is storage. In order to be efficient enough for power purposes, hydrogen energy must be stored in a liquid state. However, liquid hydrogen must be stored at severely low temperatures and kept under high pressures in order to maintain its effectiveness as a fuel source. Additionally, very large tanks are necessary to carry hydrogen because it has a lower density than gasoline. For these reasons, the transportation and widespread use of hydrogen fuel is currently not feasible.
Current Hydrogen Energy Use
Although there are certainly challenges to using hydrogen energy widely, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t already uses for it. In the US alone each year, over 9 million metric tons of hydrogen are produced. To put that in perspective, you could power 30 million cars with that kind of energy. Of course, until the challenges associated with hydrogen energy cost and storage are combatted, the hydrogen we produce right now goes to refining metals, processing food, and for creating fuel for spacecraft.