Filling up your car with hydrogen, a future danger for the planet?

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A non-governmental organization has warned of the risks of global warming posed by hydrogen leaks, from manufacturing to usage.

Hydrogen, as an alternative to XXL batteries and charging stations, is still in the race to offer energy in the event that the electric motor is ready to assert itself in Europe. This method has the benefit of restoring full autonomy in a few minutes, the time required to refuel at the station.

As evidence of the interest in fuel cells, numerous manufacturers are developing this sort of propulsion. BMW, for instance, has just announced the release of many hydrogen-powered vehicles. However, the American NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) warns of the dangers associated with this energy source.

EDF argues that the growth of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle business could contribute to global warming. The surge in sales could negate the environmental benefits of this technology, since hydrogen-powered vehicles emit only water as exhaust.

However, once released into the atmosphere, hydrogen has a far more significant contaminating effect than carbon dioxide. However, owing of the small size of its molecules, it is an extremely volatile gas. It is easily evadable. EDF is consequently concerned about all instances where dihydrogen can leak, including during its production, transport, and arrival in a vehicle’s fuel tank.

Everything, according to the NGO, will depend on the leak rate. Hydrogen, produced in a decarbonized manner and at a rate of 1%, can minimize the climate impact over 20 years by 95% compared to fossil fuels, if it is green hydrogen. The advantage remains 70% with blue hydrogen produced from fossil sources (with CO2 collection).

Nonetheless, if the rate of leakage is 10%, the reduction in climatic effect with green hydrogen falls to 66%. Furthermore, with blue, the situation is flipped, with a 25% increase in climatic effect over 20 years!

Multiple variables exist on both the hydrogen and fossil energy sides of the equation, so the results should be interpreted with caution. However, the NGO seeks to call attention to a potential problem-causing solution.

Nedim Husomanovic

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