Hydrogen

Background
Hydrogen (H2) is an emissions-free energy carrier that can be produced from diverse energy sources and used in a fuel cell to power vehicles.

Hydrogen FuelingHydrogen itself is the third most abundant element on the earth's surface, where it is found primarily in water and organic compounds. It is generally produced from hydrocarbons (such as methane, CH4) or water (H2O). There are several technologies with the potential to produce hydrogen to meet future energy demands. These technologies include: thermochemical, electrochemical, photoelectrochemical and photobiological hydrogen production.

Fuel cells can be used to power vehicles, provide electricity, and heat buildings. Fuel cells generate electricity from a catalyst-facilitated chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen ions in a cell. A fuel cell converts the chemical energy of a fuel directly into electricity without any intermediate thermal or mechanical processes. The electrical energy can be used to do useful work directly, while the heat is either wasted or used for other purposes. A fuel cell is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.

Because hydrogen has a low volumetric energy density, fuel cell vehicles have smaller ranges than conventional vehicles. Additional technology development is needed to store enough hydrogen onboard fuel cell vehicles to achieve a typical driving range. Most current applications use high-pressure tanks capable of storing hydrogen at either 5,000 or 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

Research and commercial efforts are ongoing to lower the cost of hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cells and build the hydrogen fueling infrastructure that will make it practical for widespread transportation use.

Benefits of Using Hydrogen as a Transportation Fuel
When used to power highly efficient fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen holds the promise of offsetting the use of petroleum in transportation, adding to the U.S.’s energy security. Much like electricity, the production of hydrogen may produce air emissions, but hydrogen fuel cells emit only water vapor and warm air. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. Hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy is virtually emissions free.

Hydrogen (Fuel Cell) Vehicles
Fuel Cell VehicleHydrogen is used in fuel cell vehicles. These vehicles contain a fuel cell stack that combines hydrogen gas stored onboard with oxygen from the air to create electricity that powers an electric motor.

Fuel cell vehicles are beginning to enter consumer markets in localized domestic regions with hydrogen fueling infrastructure, such as southern and northern California. Consumers can use the Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Search to search for available hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Currently, the cost of fuel cell vehicles is a barrier to their widespread adoption.

Hydrogen Fueling Stations in New Mexico
Currently, there are no hydrogen fueling stations in New Mexico. California leads the nation in hydrogen fueling stations and has approximately 50 existing public stations.

Additional Information
Alternative Fuels Data Center (U.S. DOE) – Hydrogen
U.S. DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office

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