Hydrogen is our lightest element, a no-emissions source of energy that produces nothing in the way of waste but ordinary water. The energy from hydrogen is produced by a chemical reaction. Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen power is a good bet.
Rexroth has been working with hydrogen for years now, developing a new way of compressing hydrogen for use in fueling stations. Hydrogen will fuel cars and planes, but it is already excellent for long-distance applications like buses and long-haul trucks.
Rexroth intends to have their technology in 4,000 fuel stations worldwide by 2030. Other industry leaders have committed $320 billion and the Biden administration is chipping in $19.5 billion.
With this kind of investment, hydrogen could power not only motor vehicles, but also factories. It’s currently used for refining oil, but it has the potential to power industrial production.
What about the Hindenburg?
The Hindenburg was a German zeppelin, the largest ever rigid airship. It was powered by hydrogen. In 1937, it developed a leak. Some of the hydrogen fuel mixed with oxygen. Sparked perhaps by static electricity, it caught on fire and exploded. 36 people lost their lives.
For some people, hydrogen fuel immediately brings the Hindenburg to mind. They don’t want to use it in their cars, than you very much. They do not want it on a train, they do not want it on a plane… You get the picture.
Is that a reasonable fear?
Hydrogen is flammable, just as gasoline is. Compressed hydrogen could ignite and explode if it mixes with oxygen. However, if there’s a crash, it will usually dissipate very quickly — too. quickly for flames to begin. The Hindenburg, according to archaeologists, was constructed with highly flammable lacquer. ABC Science called it “rocket fuel.” Touched off by St. Elmo’s fire, this incendiary substance caught on fire. The fire was red, not blue as burning hydrogen is. It is probably that the hydrogen dissipated as expected, while the lacquer flamed.
That’s not going to happen in a car or in a factory.
Hydrogen is a clean fuel with great possibilities for the future. Investors will need to get past the fear that the Hindenburg attaches to it. Once that’s done, hydrogen could be the renewable energy source we’ve all been waiting for.
Image from James Vaugh under Creative Commons license