The pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells

The pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells

Despite a 5.8% drop in global carbon emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions are still at critical levels. Global CO2 emissions were 31.5Gt – an increase of 54% since 1990.

With that in mind, the quest to find a viable alternative to carbon-based fuel and energy production processes is continually accelerating. From passenger vehicles to domestic energy, those at the forefront of alternative fuel and energy storage technology are exploring options.

One of these options is hydrogen fuel cells – an efficient energy source with low emissions. In this article, we’re looking at the pros and cons of the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells.


Pro: Low emissions and higher efficiency

Hydrogen fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical energy. The only emissions that result from this process are water (H20) and hot air – meaning that no harmful gases are released into the atmosphere, in contrast to the 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a typical passenger vehicle emits each year. In addition, hydrogen fuel is more efficient – internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles convert fuel into kinetic energy at 25% efficiency. Hydrogen fuel cells do so at 60% efficiency.


Pro: Relatively low barrier to entry

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have low barriers to entry in terms of societal change.

They operate and perform very similarly to the conventional ICE vehicles we are used to, allowing you to refuel at a station within minutes, as opposed to having to wait for an electric vehicle (EV) to charge. An electric vehicle typically has a range of around 230 miles, whereas FCEVs can reach 310-370 miles range without having to be refuelled. In addition, an EV can take up to 8 hours to charge from empty to full – it takes roughly 5 minutes to refuel a hydrogen tank.


Potential challenge: Storage

High-density hydrogen storage is a challenge for both portable and stationary applications. The storage solutions we have available currently typically require the storage of large volumes of hydrogen in gaseous form. To reach the performance and efficiency goals for light-duty FCEVs, large-volume, high-pressure compressed gas tanks would need to be used, which can have a significant footprint.


Pro: Effective in stationary and heavy-duty applications

While this is a challenge for “light-duty” FCEVs, it is less so for larger, heavy-duty vehicles and stationary applications, where the footprint of the gas tank is less of an issue. Bulkier vehicles that need to travel long distances, carry heavy loads and refuel with minimal downtime are good candidates. For that reason, hydrogen fuel has been tested in vehicles such as trucks, boats, trains and planes.

In addition, hydrogen could also be used to replace the compressed natural gas used in some domestic applications. A study by Swansea University found that up to 30% of domestic gas could be safely replaced with hydrogen without requiring changes to boilers or ovens.


Con: Less efficient than batteries

When comparing hydrogen fuel cells to other potential alternatives to hydrocarbon power, the picture becomes slightly less positive. The viability of FCEVs is being threatened by the continued development of more cost-effective battery technology and lowering costs of electricity-based transport systems. EV and hybrid vehicles overall offer better efficiency than FCEVs. Electric batteries lose only 17% of their initial input of energy through inefficiencies when charging and discharging. The cycle used to create electrical energy within a hydrogen fuel cell wastes more than 50% of its energy efficiency.


Hydrogen fuel cells and insulation

Just like batteries, hydrogen fuel cells produce electrical energy, and present their own unique safety and efficiency challenges – so there needs to be careful consideration in how the cells are insulated.

We’re committing ourselves to help our customers contribute towards the net-zero initiative. We’re currently working on a number of projects and solutions which will help to increase the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of alternative fuel. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions, get in touch.

3 key pieces of net zero legislation you should know about

3 key pieces of net zero legislation you should know about

Widespread change requires systemic change. Driving towards a net-zero society requires us to reexamine legislation and put in place sanctions and measures that will help to curb activities with severe environmental impact, and promote those with low impact.

Climate change has already been ramping up on the agendas of government bodies all over the world for the last decade or so – but with the problem becoming increasingly urgent, and a line in the sand of 2050 drawn for many countries to reach net-zero emissions, legislative changes are being proposed and being locked into the roadmap for the near future.

With that in mind, in this post, we’ll look at 3 key pieces of net zero-related legislation you need to be aware of.

Reducing carbon emissions from heavy industry

Reducing carbon emissions from heavy industry

Power and heavy industry sectors accounted for around 60% of annual emissions in 2019. Heavy industry describes sectors like steel, cement and petrochemical. The processes and fuels used in these sectors present significant and unique challenges when it comes to reducing emissions.

With the goal of net zero by 2050 fast-approaching, let’s take a look at some of the challenges of heavy industry and carbon emissions, and some of the ways they can be addressed. 

How the right insulation solves 3 challenges with battery storage

How the right insulation solves 3 challenges with battery storage

The drive towards promoting and utilising clean energy and the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will mean an increased reliance on battery storage. In a world where we’re not utilising fossil fuels for power, batteries will be vital in powering not just things like battery-operated electric vehicles (BEVs) but also off and on-grid storage.

How our innovative insulation materials improve sustainability

How our innovative insulation materials improve sustainability

With the US now back in the Paris Agreement, climate policy is very much front and center on the agenda for all of the world’s major economies. Here in the UK, key pieces of legislation are coming in in the next decade to support our government’s quest for “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions in 2050. Firstly, by 2025, all new developments will be banned from installing gas boilers. And by 2030, the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will also be banned.

Compression pads for batteries – why are they useful?

Compression pads for batteries – why are they useful?

As the electric vehicle (EV) market gains momentum, and we creep ever closer to the 2030 deadline for an end to the sale of fossil fuel vehicles in the UK, innovation in the field of EV batteries is happening at a rapid pace. 

Even closer deadlines include 2025 for Norway, meaning manufacturers must work to increase the storage capacity and life cycle of battery packs whilst balancing performance, cost and safety. 

In this article, we’re going to examine why compression pads for electric vehicle batteries are useful in ensuring optimal performance, extending the life of the battery pack and increasing the safety of the vehicle occupants.