|Hydrogen Fuel and Electricity in Transportation|
|Dr. Geoffrey E.H. Ballard|
The overall theme for this talk is that, if the hydrogen economy emerges in the transportation sector as I believe it will, then nuclear power generation will have to play a paramount part in its evolution.
As I will explain, hydrogen is a ‘currency’ of an energy system, not a source of energy. To create the currency, hydrogen, primary power must be utilized. The most likely candidate to produce this power is nuclear.
I would like to start off with a general overview of the fuel cell. Our respective disciplines are so different that I think it would be a useful introduction.
Slide 1: Energy sources with time
Slide 2: Architecture of energy systems
Slide 3: A five link chain
Slide 4: Evolution of land transportation
Slide 5: How a fuel cell works
Slide 6: Fuel cell comparisons
Slide 7: Fuel cell technology
Slide 8: Proton Exchange Membrane FC
Slide 9: Typical Ballard Fuel Cell Stack
Slide 10: Early DB Stack
Slide 11: Globe 90 Demo
Slide 12: Stack Development
Slide 13: Early Ballard Bus
With the advent of an economic hydrogen fuel cell, for the first time electricity can be stored efficiently in large quantities. Prior to the hydrogen fuel cell, large amounts of electricity could not be stored economically, and hence energy systems were basically single-source dependent, and generating capacity had to be designed for peak loads rather than for average energy consumption.
The hydrogen fuel cell allows us to use any primary energy source to fuel our economy: geothermal, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, coal and petroleum. With the hydrogen economy we are at ‘choice’. Any primary energy source can be used to produce electricity. And electricity can produce hydrogen. Hydrogen can be stored, used and shipped to again make electricity. This interchangeability will ensure that electricity and hydrogen are our currencies of choice.
A number of recent studies in the United States and Europe start with a preamble that expresses concerns with the supply of petroleum. I hold no such fears. Studies by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna clearly show that there is at least 200 years’ supply of petroleum available even under very pessimistic circumstances. We should not be changing the energy system because of a fear of limited petroleum reserves. We should change the energy system because the current system militates against energy security, unacceptably destroys our earth’s atmosphere, and makes our children sick with inner city pollution. Petroleum should be focused towards the petro-chemical industry, not towards energy supply.
The overall plan should be to move towards a hydrogen economy. To do this we must recognize that the primary energy source should be directed towards electrical production. The excess electrical production at any moment can be converted into hydrogen. HYDROGEN INSTEAD OF GASOLINE CAN BE THE FOCUS OF OUR LAND TRANSPORTATION NEEDS.
With this focus in mind, a nation’s entire energy system can gradually shift away from dependence on oil and petroleum without a massive disruption of the economy. We can control the evolution of a nation’s energy utilisation into directions and systems which are appropriate for each nation and least disruptive of our global ecology.
It must be noted, as I have stressed throughout this talk, that hydrogen is not an energy source. Hydrogen is only a currency, but it is a currency that makes all sources of energy available to the energy economy. It is the first truly reversible currency.
As the world progresses to the hydrogen economy, I believe hydrogen and electricity will become so indistinguishable from each other that they will be referred to as a joint currency called HYDRICITYTM. The hydrogen economy will be realized in the transportation sector, because there it will clean up the inner-city, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and form the foundation for energy and homeland security. I believe that we will eventually emerge to the HYDRICITYTM ECONOMY.
There is much debate and worldwide concern about resurrecting the nuclear energy dream. Advocates of other systems point to wind and solar energy, but environmentally desirable as the non-carbon and non-nuclear sources of energy are, they are unlikely to provide the vast amounts of primary energy that social progress will demand.
If carbon-based energy sources must be set aside, and I believe that they must, then the only remaining viable source, at this stage in our development, is nuclear.
To put some numbers on the framework I am projecting for the transportation sector:
Two general themes have dominated my work for the last decade, cleaning up the inner city air and, on-road transportation vehicles as the key to our energy future.
Air pollution takes many adverse forms on earth, but the worst one, to my mind, is the foul atmosphere that we inflict on inhabitants of the inner city. This has been widely ignored in the environmental debates, where the arguments are directed to cleaning up the upper atmosphere, ozone holes and depletion, and warming trends that could inundate the coast.
Cleaning up the inner city, by cleaning up transportation, has the associated effect of making a major contribution to cleaning up the upper atmosphere of the greenhouse gases that have such a bad image in the public’s imagination.
I think that many factors are aligning to bring about the hydrogen economy for transportation systems.
It will take a combined effort of academia, government and industry to bring about the change from a gasoline economy to a Hydricity Economy. The forces are building and progress is being made. It is of major importance that a change of this magnitude is not forced on unwilling participants; but that all of us work for an economically viable path to change.
© copyright The World Nuclear Association 2002