Review: ILEA on Hydrogen

The Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment has recently published an interesting assessment (executive summary) "Carrying the Energy Future", comparing hydrogen and electricity as alternatives for energy transportation and storage.  

Hydrogen is a topic we've covered here before, and the ILEA assessment is hardly more positive than ours. As the summary briefly states, " Using renewable electricity to generate hydrogen would reduce global warming emissions. But other uses of the renewable energy can reduce emissions much more, while technologies that employ electricity directly provide greater end use benefits than H2 technologies."

In one example scenario, generating hydrogen from wind turbines and piping it from the Great Plains states to Chicago, vs. electric transmission of the same distance, the ILEA analysis finds "Wind energy sent as electricity provides roughly twice the end use benefits as wind energy delivered as H2." As an energy storage medium, the authors find "other storage options deliver far more of the economic and environmental benefits of intermittent renewables than H2."

What about vehicle fuels? "Batteries outcompete hydrogen in price, safety, calendar life and gross material availability. On cycle life, recyclability and toxicity, fuel cells do not show decidedly superior performance." The authors do note that electric drivetrains and related developments for fuel-cell vehicles and battery-electric (or plugin hybrid) vehicles are technologies that both major options can benefit from.

Their vehicle comparisons are interesting, and suggest electric vehicles (particularly plugin hybrids) may be mass-market ready in the next year or so. The efficiency improvements alone will make a huge difference in greenhouse-gas emissions, and of course our dependence on fossil fuels generally. Now if we can just boost renewable electric supply, we'll be starting to make real progress.

Created: 2005-03-04 04:02:15 by Arthur Smith
Modified: 2005-03-05 03:35:27 by Arthur Smith