Hydrogen is great, but I feel like there are some structural and technical issues that have to be solved before...you know...the angels fly down to save us and hugs and bunnies abound. Popular Mechanics introduces a note of realism to the debate on alternative fuels with a great article on hydrogen fuel:
At first glance, hydrogen would seem an ideal substitute for these problematic fuels. Pound for pound, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as natural gas, and when consumed its only emission is pure, plain water. But unlike oil and gas, hydrogen is not a fuel. It is a way of storing or transporting energy. You have to make it before you can use it -- generally by extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels, or by using electricity to split it from water.
And while oil and gas are easy to transport in pipelines and fuel tanks -- they pack a lot of energy into a dense, stable form -- hydrogen presents a host of technical and economic challenges. The lightest gas in the universe isn't easy to corral. Skeptics say that hydrogen promises to be a needlessly expensive solution for applications for which simpler, cheaper and cleaner alternatives already exist. "You have to step back and ask, 'What is the point?'" says Joseph Romm, executive director of the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions.
Though advocates promote hydrogen as a panacea for energy needs ranging from consumer electronics to home power, its real impact will likely occur on the nation's highways. After all, transportation represents two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption. "We're working on biofuels, ethanol, biodiesel and other technologies," says David Garmin, assistant secretary of energy, "but it's only hydrogen, ultimately, over the long term, that can delink light-duty transportation from petroleum entirely."
The Big Three U.S. automakers, as well as Toyota, Honda, BMW and Nissan, have all been preparing for that day. Fuel cell vehicles can now travel 300 miles on 17.6 pounds of hydrogen and achieve speeds of up to 132 mph. But without critical infrastructure, there will be no hydrogen economy. And the practical employment of hydrogen power involves major hurdles at every step -- production, storage, distribution and use. Here's how those challenges stack up.
Read the whole thing.