Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Many of us know it as H or the first element on the Periodic Table from our high school and college chemistry classes. What you might not realize is that it has the potential to disrupt future energy markets around transportation and portable devices.
In simplest form, hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity through an electrochemical process. National Geographic describes the configuration of fuel cells as having three components; an electrolyte and two electrodes. But other combinations of fuel and oxidants can be used depending on the electrodes. The biggest benefit? Hydrogen-fueled cars emit only heat and water so they’re essentially carbon-neutral.
And spurred by the recent success of electric vehicles, many automakers are starting to consider consumer demand for low emission, eco-friendly vehicles. As a result, the automobile industry is leading consumer awareness of hydrogen technology. Toyota and Honda are on schedule to bring this technology to the consumer market in 2015. Both companies plan to build 1,000 fuel cell vehicles each next year and steadily increase production. The pace of the rollout will be determined by the availability of hydrogen refueling infrastructure and pricing.
Because Hydrogen fuel cells can be used in any machine that uses batteries, they just might power your next tablet or laptop. After all, consumers are always seeking gadgets with improved battery life. Intelligent Energy’s Upp rechargeable hydrogen fuel cell charger is expected to hit the market this year and provide those in emerging markets who lack adequate electricity or outdoor adventurists the ability to recharge USB compatible devices such as smartphones, tablets, GPS equipment up to five times on a single charge.
Hydrogen fuel cells are entering the market with lots of potential, but ultimately it will be consumer adoption which drives this technology.
As infrastructure comes online, what future do you think hydrogen fuel cells have in the marketplace? What other ways can this technology be used to lower emissions and improve the environment?