Powering the Hydrogen Economy

Fri, 08 Aug 2008 15:32:34 +0000

The progress that some auto companies are making on alternative fuel technologies is fascinating. Here's the latest overview of the Honda FCX Clarity, a zero-emission hydrogen-powered fuel cell car.

Okay, I know, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but that doesn't mean it just jumps into your car. (My layperson's view has this sinking suspicion that too much reliance on hydrogen from water will put pressure on fresh water supplies.) So what source is Honda advocating for its fuel cells? Among others, the Home Energy Station:

Increasing the number of convenient hydrogen refueling options is one of the last remaining hurdles to widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles. Honda took a proactive approach to this challenge, and our research and development in this area is ongoing.

We have experience in the development of power stations to generate heat and electricity (cogeneration technology), as well as experience with home-refueled electric and natural gas vehicles. So it was a natural next step for us to leverage that learning to explore potential solutions to the hydrogen refueling dilemma.

The Home Energy Station
Honda has operated an experimental Home Energy Station in Torrance, California, since 2003. The Home Energy Station, which generates hydrogen from natural gas, is designed to provide heat and electricity for the home through fuel cell cogeneration and to supply fuel for a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle.

Honda has worked in cooperation with technology partner Plug Power, Inc., to reduce size and increase convenience in each subsequent generation of the Home Energy Station. In 2007 Honda developed Home Energy Station IV-which is even more efficient and better suited for home use than previous versions. CO2 emissions for a household using the Home Energy Station are 30% lower than those for an average household using a gasoline-engine car and commercial electricity and heat.

Honda believes in a future society powered by hydrogen, and we are serious about our commitment to contribute to the development of refueling solutions we can all live with.

That 30% reduction is a lot less impressive than the "zero emissions" from the car itself. And it would be even less, I think, if the electricity delivered to the home itself were generated from renewable energy sources. I'd be happy to get some links from readers about the best way to obtain the hydrogen without using other fossil fuels or scarce water supplies.