VIEWS: Is Hydrogen the New Power Fuel?

Dispatch from SSC Intern Crystal Kirsch

As we work our way through another energy crisis, we continue to contemplate new types of fuels that are at our disposal. At this point, we have exhausted an incredibly large amount of oil and relations with the Middle East never seem to be on the up and up. America is demanding a new and better fuel to be available for our disposal but what are our options? Sure, there are hybrid models available that use less fuel and work from battery power, but it only helps with the crisis and doesn’t solve it. There are fully electric vehicles, but the issue of keeping them powered long enough for the demanding lifestyle of many Americans means that these vehicles just can’t keep up.

What about hydrogen? In a recent article at Gas 2.0 (gas2.org), students in Turkey created a vehicle that gets up to 1336 MPG (visit Students Build Hydrogen Vehicle That Gets 1,336 MPG for the article). That sounds pretty amazing considering the best hybrid models tend to top-out around 45MPG. The car is far from marketable as it isn’t the safest option weighing less than 250 lbs and costing over $170,000 to build but it does show what is possible with a little ingenuity.

So if it’s so great, why aren’t we using it? Mostly, hydrogen must be used and stored in liquid form and is highly combustible thus making it a dangerous fuel. Not that it has stopped us before – gasoline is highly combustible as well. However, another large drawback is that in order to keep hydrogen in a liquid state it requires a large amount of other fuel power – usually carbon-based. So while getting over a thousand miles per gallon sounds fantastic, we are far from introducing hydrogen-fuelled cars on a lardge scale. But keep your eyes open, sooner or later, we’re going to have to make the change somewhere.