Hydrogen

Hydrogen - AHYDROGEN ECONOMY Will m otorists s omeday f ill...

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AHYDROGEN ECONOMY • Will motorists someday fill up theirtanks with hydrogen? Many complex challenges must be overcome before a hydrogen·fueled future can become a reality. Using hydrogen to fuel cars may eventually slash oil consumption and carbon emissions, but it will take some time BY JOAN OGDEN OVERVIEW i,; Hydrogen fuel·cell cars could become commercially feasi- ble ifauto makers succeed In develop- ingsafe, Inexpen- sive, durable models that can travel long distances before refueling. ii, Energy companies could produ,,! large amountsofhydro· gen at prices compet· itlve with gasoline, but building the In· frastructure of dis tri- bution will be costly. Developing cleaner power sources for transportation is perhaps the tricki- est piece of the energy puzzle. The dif- ficulty sterns from two discouraging facts. First, the number of vehicles worldwide, now 750 million, is expect- ed to triple by 2050, thanks largely to the expanding buying power of custom- ers in China, India and other rapid Iy de- veloping countries. And second, 97 per- cent of transportation fuel currently comes from crude oil. In the near term, improving fuel economy is the best way to slow the rise in oil use and greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. But even if auto- makers triple the efficiency of their fleets and governments support mass transit and smart-growth strategies that lessen the public's reliance on cars, the explo- sive growth in the number of vehicles around the world will severely limit any reductions in oil consumption and car- bon dioxide emissions. To make deeper cuts, the transportation sector needs to switch to low-carbon, nonpetroleum fu- els. Liquid fuels derived from woody plants or synthesized from tar sands or coal may play important roles. Over the long term, however, the most feasible ways to power vehicles with high effi- ciency and zero emissions are through connections to the electric grid or the use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel. Unfortunately, the commercializa- tion of electric vehicles has been stymied by a daunting obstacle: even large ar- rays of batteries cannot store enough charge to keep cars running for distanc- es comparable to gasoline engines. For this reason, most auto companies have abandoned the technology. In contrast, fuel-cell vehicles-which combine hy- drogen fuel and oxygen from the air to generate the power to run electric mo- tors-face fewer technical hurd les and have the enthusiastic support of auto manufacturers, energy companies and policymakers. Fuel-cell vehicles are sev- eral times as efficient as today's conven- tional gasoline cars, and their only tail- pipe emission is water vapor. 94 sc I ENTI FI CAM ERICAN
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rcome dity.
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OPTIONS FOR A HYDROGEN INFRASTRUCTURE Energy companies could manufacture and distribute hydrogen fuel in many ways. In the near term, the most likely option is extracting hydrogen from nat ural gas, either in centralized reformer s that supply fueling stations by delivery truck or in smaller on-site re formers
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Hydrogen - AHYDROGEN ECONOMY Will m otorists s omeday f ill...

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