Hydrogen is too flammable to use as a fuel. Petrol and gas are far more suited to the task.
Actually, hydrogen stacks up pretty favourably against petrol and gas. Hydrogen has almost 3 times more energy density than either, is less likely to ignite in the event of a leak and produces water when it burns.
In other words, hydrogen is about as safe to use as petrol and gas. It’s also non-toxic.
In fact, if it wasn’t for two major challenges, which we’ll go into later on, our homes, industries and transport sectors would already be knee-deep in hydrogen.
While hydrogen is, indeed, highly flammable, burning easily is actually a prerequisite for fuels that are used in combustion.
In fact, we’re exposed to highly flammable fuels every day. Our cars run on petrol; we pipe natural gas to our homes—yet both are arguably more prone to ignite than hydrogen in the event of a leak.
Whereas petrol and natural gas are both heavier than air and ‘pool’ near the ground when they are released, hydrogen is lighter than air and will rise upwards—at almost 20 metres per second—and very quickly become a non-flammable concentration.
In fact, hydrogen compares very favourably to petrol and gas in a number of ways:
First of all, hydrogen is non-toxic—if it does escape into the air, it doesn’t contaminate the environment or threaten the health of people or wildlife.
Secondly, unlike fossil fuels, it’s never going to run out. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe—it has kept stars like our own sun burning for billions of years. The availability of water to produce it from is really the only limit.
Thirdly, hydrogen has nearly three times the energy density of petrol and natural gas. A single kilogram of hydrogen carries the same energy as nearly 2.8 kg or petrol, for example. However, hydrogen is very light and stores less energy by volume than petrol or gas. Fortunately, there are ways to address this.
Finally, when hydrogen burns, the only by-product is water.
There can be simply no argument about the potential of hydrogen as a fuel and energy carrier. Indeed, it’s already the fuel that powers some space rockets.
In fact, if it wasn’t for two major challenges, our homes, industries and transport sectors would already be knee-deep in hydrogen.