The Hydrogen Car and Pollution Reduction

Introduction

The automotive industry has gone through major technological developments in terms of designs, processing, and system upgrades. In an attempt to curb carbon emission, governments are signing treaties that bind them toward the achievement of this goal; manufacturing companies are adopting newer technologies that promise on clean energy utilization, and the citizens are increasingly becoming aware of the dangers posed by destructive processes that slowly destabilize the ecological systems with negative consequences. According to the US Department of Energy (2013), about 1.6 billion metric tons of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are released into the atmosphere every year, with the common gas being carbon dioxide (CO2), which largely contributes towards air pollution. It is argued that ‘Each gallon of gasoline you burn creates 20 pounds of CO2. That's roughly 5 to 9 tons of CO2 each year for a typical vehicle’ (ibid).

To reduce on the GHGs emissions especially carbon dioxide, various ways that can help do this include: using a car with a better gas mileage, getting the best fuel economy out of an automobile, the use of low-carbon fuels among others. Majority of automobiles rely on fossil fuels, which unfortunately contribute to pollution. The simple reasoning behind the hydrogen car is that it is powered by a fuel cell that runs on hydrogen. To utilize hydrogen for provision of energy in cars, two methods are used: hydrogen undergoes combustion in a modified car engine. BMW and Mazda companies have been working on this engine technology. Though the engine has a 20% less power output, the by-product of burning hydrogen using this technology is emission of water, mostly, from the tailpipe. Other by-products include small amounts of nitrogen oxides and lesser amounts of hydrocarbons. Therefore, a hydrogen-powered car causes less pollution than a petrol-powered car.

The other method of hydrogen utilization is through the use of a fuel cell in electric cars. The battery is made in such a way that they take in hydrogen and oxygen and emit water. Hydrogen is liquefied and stored in temperatures of minus 2600C, or the hydrogen is shoved into a metal such as magnesium occupying the spaces between the spaces of the atom. A hydrogen vehicle thus uses hydrogen as its onboard fuel to power itself. Hydrogen cars convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into mechanical energy as per the first law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this study shall be to show that the adoption of new technology used in the production of hydrogen-powered cars is critical in the achievement of a hydrogen economy and its significance in the reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). Consequently, the dependence on non-renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels that have over time contributed to environmental pollution shall diminish.

The objectives of this study shall to:

  1. Determine how hydrogen-powered cars contribute to reduction of environmental pollution
  2. Establish the feasibility of adoption of hydrogen cars in the achievement an hydrogen economy
  3. Determine the bottlenecks in embracing this new technology.

Background Information

According to Perham (2011) hydrogen is the energy provider for the future due to the low-carbon. Numerous sources provide hydrogen and they include water through the use of solar, wind, or nuclear and converted into useful energy with minimal negative environmental impacts. The importance of hydrogen as a source of energy to the automobile industry is witnessed in the recent joint research efforts of car manufacturers in trying to produce a viable fuel cell. Rich (2013) reports that Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan are working on a joint project that aims at developing a new technology for fuel cell that is cost effective.

The sharing of resources, both financial, technology and human capital by the automakers in a joint venture is geared towards the creation of  a market niche for the hydrogen driven car, minimize the costs of production, and reduce the over-dependence on bio-fuels. This technology enables the cars to emit heat and water only unlike the fossil fuel powered cars.

Literature Review

Many companies are coming up with cutting-edge technologies that are aimed at utilization of hydrogen as a source of energy. According to Longshore (2013) Cella energy of the United Kingdom is reported to be working on a technological breakthrough that is said to change the transportation industry for good. This technology is a hydrogen-based fuel that promises zero carbon emission, will cost approximately $1.50 per gallon no matter what the oil market prices

This scientific technology uses complex hydrides, which are a combination of hydrogen and other elements. These hydrides store energy and hydrogen in batteries and fuel cell respectively. This process of coaxial electrospraying, or electrospinning works by trapping chemical hydrides and filtering dangerous chemicals. The resultant chemicals are known as micro-beads with properties like liquids. These micro-beads can actually be added to petrol or gasoline to minimize CO2 emissions. Longshore notes that ‘These hydrogen-based micro-beads produce no carbon emissions when burned, much like electric vehicles. As an added benefit, developers believe these micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without requiring any engine modification’.

Korchinski (2007) states that hydrogen car concept captured the imagination of many people among them politicians in America. Hydrogen has been hailed as a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable source of energy. It is considered as the alternative source of energy in the automobile industry. Muller (2003) states that the then united states president, W. Bush ‘proposed  $1.2 billion in research funding that he said would enable the United States to “lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles’.

However, not all people are enthusiastic about the hydrogen car as the former president of the United States. As Lynn (2003) reports ‘According to the administration's National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, drafted last year in concert with the energy industry, up to 90 percent of all hydrogen will be refined from oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels -- in a process using energy generated by burning oil, coal, and natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will be cracked from water using nuclear energy’. This process of generating hydrogen for the market consumption eliminates any advantages offered by hydrogen. It is important though to note that the problem is not hydrogen per se but its production in large quantities to satisfy the market.

Writing Process

In writing the thesis, the report shall be divided into the relevant sections. Importantly, the background, purpose and objectives, literature review shall be tackled first. These sections shall provide the necessary platform to address the issues raised by the topic.

It is important to note that the timeline for the completion shall be confined within the framework of the budgetary allocation, the time available, and the availability of the necessary resources. However, this study is to be conducted within a period of six (6) months and the report to be produced two (2) months later.

Executive summary

The hydrogen car promises a break from the past in over-reliance on bio-fuels. Non-renewable energy sources have been depleted over time, and their pollution of the environment has led to catastrophic consequences to the environment. The adoption of the new technologies has assured a cleaner and greener environment. Just like any other novel idea, the hydrogen-powered automobiles face numerous challenges like high costs of production, poor hydrogen supply infrastructure, large quantities of hydrogen production dilemmas and durability issues.

It is therefore pertinent that this new scientific breakthroughs are well funded, extensive research carried out to ensure the efficiency of the new technologies, and embracing the bigger picture of environmental protection.

Conclusion

For the achievement of a clean environment, it is crucial that governments should enact laws and policies that address transportation and the over-reliance of bio-fuels that immensely contribute to greenhouse emissions. With the alarming climatic changes that have resulted in devastating man-made and natural disasters, embracing of new technologies that promise zero carbon emissions should be the way to go.

To achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions, fuel efficiency strategies should be implemented across the world. For instance the use of plug-in hybrid (PHEV), hydrogen fuel cells redesigned to achieve efficiency should be encouraged. All stakeholders should be actively involved in ensuring that the hurdles that the hydrogen utilization as a source of energy must be overcome. These includes: the high cost of hydrogen cars should be reduced to make them affordable to all, construction and improvement of fuel infrastructure, and ensuring that mass production of hydrogen does not have the negative impact on the environment.

The full realization of an affordable hydrogen car, reachable fuel infrastructure and acceptance of the car itself is a noble and enormous task that must be nurtured like any good idea should for it to come to fruition. It may take time, but the dream must live on.

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