What’s That You Got Over There by the Fridge?

<>< Josh Rule : : 2008 MCPP Intern

ITM-Power, a UK-based enterprise dedicated to “provid[ing] all aspects of the technology necessary to make the “hydrogen economy” a commercial reality”, has recently announced a product that could place them one step closer to that goal.  Today, they introduced a home refueling station that uses electrolysis to create hydrogen that could be used to power a car, heat a home, cook food, or even power a refridgerator.  ITM-Power plans to have the device, which takes slightly less space than said refridgerator, on the market within two years for under £2000 (about $3947.44 on today’s exchange).

The development should be welcomed for a number of reasons, the most apparent of which is the beginnings of viable competition with an oil-based fuel economy.  In the past, hydrogen has been relegated to the shadows largely because it was unaffordable.  The materials, among which Platinum played an important role, were quite expensive, and the hydrogen itself was difficult to store.  ITM-Power has worked to solve those problems by introducing this new product, which makes no use of Platinum, making hydrogen at roughly 1% of the cost of previous devices.  Further, the station is relatively affordable, and runs off simply water and electricity, so ITM-Power is hoping businesses and individuals will create a decentralized network of fueling stations worldwide.  Although, I suppose only time will tell.  What do you think about hydrogen fuel cells and the call for ridding the world of fossil fuel dependence?  Are they viable products and realistic claims, or the work of idealists and dreamers?  Let us know in the comments below.


2 thoughts on “What’s That You Got Over There by the Fridge?

  1. The most important thing to remember is that hydrogen is not an energy source, rather it’s an energy storer. It’s like a battery, but it takes up four times as much space as a traditional battery, watt for watt.

    This may be a great solution for cars (I’m not up on questions of safety, viability, refueling on the go, and storable quantity), but it doesn’t solve that the energy still has to come from somewhere. And why would you run your fridge or heating off of hydrogen instead of directly off electricity? With every conversion of energy, energy is lost.

  2. You are right. Hydrogen is not a source of energy. And yes, hydrogen gas takes up a lot of space. Although, you have to remember that space is not the same thing as weight. Compressed gas is still fairly light compared to a lithium-ion battery.

    However, using fairly clean ways to power our cars and other currently fossil fuel powered products seems like it could be a good thing. Ultimately, I would think air pollution would concentrate at power plants, which could then be heavily scrubbed. So, completely diffused pollution would become concentrated, making it perhaps easier to manage.

    As far as heating a home and cooking with hydrogen, those are proposed because many people enjoy cooking and heating with a flame than with simple electricity. Actually, it has been my experience as well that cooking on an electric range (at least the mid-priced ones) does not compare with mid-priced gas ranges. The latter simply cook better.

    In the end, electricity is perhaps our best bet for powering transportation, at least the transportation that cannot be done by bicycle, canoe, or walking.

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