- After the introduction of modern hydrogen technology in early 2000s, hydrogen started grabbing more attention in the transport industry.
- If a car design allows a particular flow of electrons using hydrogen and oxygen, the vehicle can operate as an electric car.
- However, implementing hydrogen technology for mass car production would involve creating a different infrastructure, thus restricting their usage in the transport sector.
In a world where the need for sustainable energy is growing by the day, engineers are facing a crucial task of finding new resources.
After NASA started using hydrogen fuel for their spaceships, hydrogen as an element leapt to the limelight. It is the oldest and the most widespread chemical element in the whole universe and is therefore not likely to run out anytime soon.
The most popular molecule, water (H2O), contains 66 per cent of hydrogen. Just how it appears in the water molecule, hydrogen is always a combination of at least one other compound, as pure hydrogen cannot exist naturally. That is where the process of electrolysis comes to the rescue.
What does electrolysis do?
Electrolysis is described as the process of extracting hydrogen from the water molecule by using electricity. The method was first developed in 1800, when the first electrolysis device - the electrolyser, was invented. However, the process of electrolysis is not quite done with developing to its maximum capacity as scientists around the world are still improving the procedure.
Once electrolysis is performed, hydrogen is extracted in a 99.999 per cent pure form. The technique is extraordinary because it produces a fully sustainable source of electricity, which is sounder for the environment.
Why is hydrogen popular today?
Hydrogen has certainly gained popularity due to its efficient features.
Most importantly, hydrogen can be stored for days, weeks, or even months, as a clean source of energy. Scientists recognised the potential of this element and started implementing hydrogen into solar batteries, which could operate the entire home or even substantially sized businesses, once fully charged.
Apart from being used in buildings, hydrogen can also be used in vehicles run by sustainable energy. If the car design allows a particular flow of electrons using hydrogen and oxygen, the vehicle can operate as an electric car.
It is important to mention that devices and vehicles which use pure hydrogen energy are extremely eco-friendly. Not only does electrolysis reduce carbon emissions (the only by-product of the method is more water), but it also does not pollute the natural environment.
Space companies like NASA acclaimed hydrogen for that particular feature – engineering space rockets that are run by powerful hydrogen technology. NASA saw the opportunity in having water as the side-effect and designed space crafts where the crew could easily drink that same water while in space.
Is hydrogen technology as revolutionary as some claim?
Unquestionably, hydrogen has become more popular in the last two decades. According to some experts in the 2000s, hydrogen was anticipated to be used as the leading element for electric vehicles.
However, their prediction has not come true so far. There are a couple of possible reasons for that:
- Implementing hydrogen for mass car production would involve creating a different infrastructure. Batteries, as we know, could be charged at any place that has a power outlet. This is why they are currently dominating the market.
- Humankind has been familiar with battery engineering and the way it works for a very long time. Hydrogen still remains an unknown part in the equation and needs to be explored more before it can be familiarised further with the general public.
Even though hydrogen has a lot of potential that needs to be discovered, engineers are slowly finding ways and creating machines supported by hydrogen.
Batteries have shown some drastic disadvantages compared to hydrogen, such as not being strong enough, or being too heavy. On the contrary, hydrogen is lighter than air so the only thing that stops hydrogen from becoming a regular part of life is lack of technology and engineering.
Where is hydrogen being used now?
Currently, the UK might be the biggest hydrogen market up to this date. The Brits have put hydrogen in construction diggers, replacing fossil fuels and creating a pure clean driven vehicle.
JCB, the company that owns those diggers, has more expansion plans for hydrogen. The firm has ordered a few dozens of double deckers that will be fully powered by hydrogen. The main problem for now is charging, however, JCB might soon install hydrogen pumps at major motorways for vehicles that need to operate for long hours.
Another plan is to supply hydrogen into public transport. Some aeroplanes have already performed test flights while using hydrogen fuels only. Europe might be seeing hydrogen-fuelled trains soon, as Germany has already invested seven billion euros in the infrastructural project.
However, one Australian company might have the most successful design of them all, The Lavo solar hydrogen battery.
What is Lavo hydrogen battery?
Lavo battery is the first-ever battery powered by the hybrid system – both by hydrogen and solar panels in personal homes. The hydrogen battery was designed to bring clean and efficient energy to homes and businesses, brought by a start-up company Lavo Hydrogen Technology Ltd.
Once charged, Lavo is thought to have three times more power than Tesla’s Powerwall. It was designed to fit the Australian standard of climate (-10 to 50 degrees Celsius) for the first model.
RELATED: A look at Tesla’s Powerwall
Lavo has a 40-kWh capacity, and a lifetime of 20,000 cycles. Experts estimate that Lavo battery can boost a whole Australian home for more than two days when fully charged.
Lavo Hydrogen Technology CEO Alan Yu has announced November as the starting time for Lavo battery sale, while installations will kick off in June next year. The current Yu’s plan is to sell 10,000 Lavo products by 2022.
The hydrogen battery is currently priced at A$34,750, which is three times more expensive than critically acclaimed Tesla Powerwall.
Having mentioned Tesla, its CEO Elon Musk does not seem to welcome the novel technology. According to Musk, no hydrogen-driven product can be as powerful as lithium ion battery. On some occasions, Mr Musk has even gone to the extent of addressing hydrogen as fool cells.
When can people expect a wide use of hydrogen?
As Lavo Hydrogen Technology delivers a promising product, investors might become more interested after hydrogen batteries prove to be effective.
However, hydrogen might need some time to get wider acknowledgement. According to experts, it would be incredibly difficult to produce as much hydrogen power as needed for a fully sustainable ecosystem. Current electrolysers will need a lot more power before machines like Powerwall get cheaper and used worldwide.