Is hydrogen power an alternative to Li-ion batteries in EVs?

Article By : Bonnie Baker

Alternative power mediums like hydrogen address Li-ion recharge/distance ratio challenge as hydrogen recharge time is equivalent to the current gasoline charge time.

Today, Tesla dominates the electric vehicle (EV) market with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. This energy storage system comprises 6,831 individual Li-ion cells, and the automotive battery weighs about 900 pounds with the approximate size of a car’s storage trunk.

Besides the physical size limitations, the Li-ion EV battery chemistry poses new challenges. The vehicle requires charging over several hours instead of the current, old-fashion gasoline quick charge of a few minutes. The charging time and the EV distance ratio are a difficult challenge, which restricts long-distance traveling. The charging time and the EV distance ratio restrict travel to short daily distances of several hundred miles.

Is there an alternative?

Hydrogen power

Alternative power mediums, such as hydrogen, address the Li-ion recharge/distance ratio challenge. A hydrogen recharge is equivalent to the current gasoline charge time. Believe it or not, there are several hydrogen sources to choose from—such as black, gray, blue and green—each requiring different feedstocks.

  • Black — feedstocks: brown or black coal
  • Gray — feedstocks: natural gas
  • Blue — feedstocks: high heat, pressure and steam
  • Green — feedstocks: water

Black hydrogen is a coal gasification product that produces twenty times the mass of CO2 to the hydrogen. Gray hydrogen is from the steam reformation of natural gas and generates ten times CO2 to hydrogen. “Blue” hydrogen is either gray or black hydrogen, where the fossil fuel industry is heavily promoting the excess CO2. Blue gas is manufactured from hydrogen and carbon feedstocks as gasoline or diesel.

Figure 1 A side by side comparison highlights the anatomy of blue and green hydrogen power. Source: Ballard Power Systems

Green hydrogen is the only viable hydrogen source. It comes from running water through proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis units. The renewably generated electricity separates the oxygen and hydrogen.

Hydrogen creation process

The creation of a hydrogen source requires the identification of the feedstock and a production process. For example, green hydrogen creation has a production process with the application of an electrolysis process to the feedstock (Figure 2).

Figure 2 The green hydrogen production process has the application of an electrolysis process to water (H2O). This process separates the hydrogen from the water to create green hydrogen. Source: Bonnie Baker

The green hydrogen generation process starts with water as the feedstock. The green energy in this process comes from wind and solar. The electrolysis process splits hydrogen from the oxygen and sends the hydrogen to a storage device. As the name suggests, green hydrogen is environmentally friendly. A renewable fuel pathway has three components: feedstock, production process, and fuel type.

So, while the Li-ion batteries are the EV power supply of choice for now, with emerging new technologies, new storage options are opening. Hydrogen as a new fuel venue is a case in point.

This article was originally published on Planet Analog.

Bonnie Baker is a seasoned analog, mixed-signal, and signal chain professional and electronics engineer. Baker has published and authored hundreds of technical articles and blogs in industry publications. She is also the author of the book “A Baker’s Dozen: Real Analog Solutions for Digital Designers” as well as coauthor of several other books.


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