Why hydrogen fuel will only get greener

   What do Walmart, Toyota, Hyundai, FedEx, Lowe’s, and many other well-known companies have in common? They have either pursued or have implemented hydrogen fuel technologies in order to reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy efficiencies. In fact, according to a recent report by the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association (PDF), 9% of Fortune 500 companies and 23% of Fortune 100 companies are using fuel cells in some aspect of their operations.

   Hydrogen fuel is a tremendous alternative to fossil fuels when it comes to powering both consumer and commercial applications. You may have read about them: cars, forklifts, refrigerated trucks, aircrafts, and now even personal electronics such as laptops and cell phones, such as the ones recently debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2016.

   This high growth market has many around the world excited about hydrogen’s present and future, but consider this - hydrogen fuel technology is only in its infancy! The potential for both efficiency and long-term sustainability is limitless.

   So yes, many will tell you that hydrogen fuel products are expanding in terms of both industry application and viability - both of which are true. However, rarely do mainstream audiences inquire as to where this hydrogen fuel comes from.

   The common misconception about hydrogen fuel is that it’s completely renewable. It’s not, as most hydrogen fuel is produced from natural gas - a known fossil fuel - through a steam-reforming process. Many of those aware of this fact refer to this form of hydrogen as “brown hydrogen” although it important to note that this form of hydrogen is still much better than gasoline or diesel in terms of environmental impact.

   “Green hydrogen,” as you may likely guess, is hydrogen that is created from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and other technologies. This completely renewable process is much greener for the environment, as many of these technologies require primarily sunlight and water that act as a form of artificial photosynthesis. Ideally the water left behind as the only byproduct can be used as wastewater, which requires treatment before being used in other various firms. Many believe that a completely renewable process may be more cost effective in the long run as it doesn’t require as much infrastructure and can be produced closer to the point of distribution, such as behind a Walmart distribution center, or at a fuel cell vehicle filling station.

   The free market system is expected to be the main driver of advancement of renewable hydrogen fuel technologies. In California, there is mandate that at least 33% of hydrogen-produced fuel for fueling stations be developed using renewable means. However, the most popular process requires large solar panels and an expensive electrolyzer in order to use solar. Many believe that this gap in technology and cost will be bridged by a company commercializes a completely renewable process to create hydrogen fuel that is both cost-efficient and requires few barriers to implementation.

   So where do we go from here? As big box retailers and utilities turn to hydrogen fuel for more industrial use, they too must adapt to continue reducing their carbon footprint. Likewise, consumers who choose to drive hydrogen fuel cell vehicles require infrastructure (filling stations) that consistently provides abundant fuel to power these vehicles. Renewable hydrogen possesses the vast potential to fill this market void that would finally wean global businesses and consumers off the fossil fuels that have created environmental, economical, and social challenges we experience today.


By Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar, a publicly traded company with renewable hydrogen fuel producing technology.

The Huffington Post

April 25, 2016