Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , ,

This miracle fuel has a few problems


In the space of an hour on a recent evening, a couple dozen cars refilled their gas tanks at a Valero service station just off the Redwood Highway in Mill Valley, a northbound stop on the way into California’s Marin County. During that time, the only pumping station that sat mostly unused was the cobalt blue one supplying hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen pump received only three visitors: two of the 3,800 hydrogen-powered sedans on California’s roads, each looking for a quick fill-up, and one old station wagon that parked there for a few minutes. An attendant who’s worked at the Valero for three years says that’s a pretty busy day for the hydrogen pump, which usually fuels one car per hour.

That’s not much of a return on the roughly $100 million California has spent over the past several years to build fueling stations for hydrogen vehicles. Each of the 31 hydrogen pumps around the state cost at least $2.5 million and was heavily subsidized with funds from the public and from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and other automakers. Demand, however, remains so low that even with subsidies, they aren’t busy enough to turn a profit. (A typical fill-up costs customers about $45, but that’s heavily subsidized, and most lessors cover fuel costs.)

At Governor Jerry Brown’s direction, the state is spending more than $2.5 billion in clean energy funds to accelerate sales of hydrogen and battery vehicles. That includes $900 million earmarked to complete 200 hydrogen stations and 250,000 charging stations by 2025. A larger hydrogen network will help make the market more sustainable, the thinking goes—part of a kitchen sink approach to reducing carbon emissions alongside electric cars. Brown’s office referred requests for comment to the California Energy Commission, which said in a statement that the governor aims to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030, and that hydrogen is a part of that calculus.


Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Hydrogen split from water using an AAA battery


In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.

Now scientists at Stanford University have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.  The battery sends an electric current through two electrodes that split liquid water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.

"Using nickel and iron, which are cheap materials, we were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. "This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low. It’s quite remarkable, because normally you need expensive metals, like platinum or iridium, to achieve that voltage."

In addition to producing hydrogen, the novel water splitter could be used to make chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide, an important industrial chemical, according to Dai. He and his colleagues describe the new device in a study published in the Aug. 22 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Read more via Stanford scientists develop water splitter that runs on an ordinary AAA battery | Precourt Institute for Energy.