Hydrogen fuel bubbles up the agenda as investments rocket
(The Guardian, 29 Jun 2020) Governments and carmakers press on with hydrogen fuel cells to power cars, buses, trains and even aircraft.
More than 50 years ago hydrogen fuel cells helped put Neil Armstrong on the moon, but mainstream usage of the technology has remained elusive since.
Now there are signs that may be changing, with a spate of new investments even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the UK, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, this week told MPs that the government will experiment with hydrogen fuel cells for an entire town’s bus network. Earlier this month, the Department for Transport gave £400,000 to the Hydroflex project, run by the University of Birmingham and rail-leasing company Porterbrook, to bring the first hydrogen train to UK main lines in the next few weeks.
Fuel cells function by running hydrogen over a catalyst, often platinum, stripping away electrons that run through an electrical circuit. The positively charged hydrogen ions combine with oxygen in the air to form water as its only emission, while the electricity generated can run the same motors as used in any electric vehicle, giving a fuel source with zero harmful exhaust emissions.