This is NASA’s preferred fuel and promises to revolutionize the way we move

It is the first in the Periodic Table of the Elements (1 Hydrogen 1,008) and the lightest of all. It is one of the most abundant components of the planet, since it is found practically everywhere, although scarcely in a pure state or in isolated form (gaseous), but rather combined with other elements such as oxygen, forming water molecules, or with carbon, in fossil fuels and organic matter. Therefore, you have to look for it and put it away.

Science maintains that it constitutes approximately 75% of the matter in the Universe and that it is the fuel consumed by the stars. He was such henry cavendish who discovered it in 1766, when by putting acid on some metals, he noticed that a hitherto unknown flammable gas was released.

the chemist Antoine Lavoisier He baptized it with that name in 1783, by combining the Greek terms “hydro” (water) and “genos” (generate), that is, a “water generator”. Hence, it is essential for life, because without this chemical element there would be no water (H2O).

There are several ways to refer to it or define it and for years it has been mentioned more and more frequently in the jargon of the automotive industry. Its inclusion in the list of energy sources for mobility has a fairly long history, since it has been flying over the minds of engineers and technicians for decades.

Although its evolution is largely due to the space race, since It is the basis of NASA’s favorite fuel to power rockets, its relationship with transportation dates back to the ascents of the first balloons filled with hydrogen. Then it was adopted by airships, and Ferdinand von Zeppelin -German count-, one of its promoters. Hence the advent of the “zeppelins” and their development, hand in hand with Helium.

While fossil fuels produce CO2 that remains in the atmosphere as a pollutant and is one of the main causes of the so-called “greenhouse effect”, The good thing about hydrogen is that it is non-toxic and its impact on the environment is considerably low. Its use as a means to generate electricity only produces water vapor in the form of droplets.

When fossil fuel reserves (oil or gas) sooner or later come to an end, hydrogen will remain inexhaustible, in absolute abundance. At this point and in theory, this element would already be gaining by a landslide for its use in the industry, even before battery electric ones.

However, the issue is not that simple: the effort for its production, the technology and construction of the fuel cell, plus the tanks that must withstand so much pressure, currently make the costs very high. That limits manufacturing at scale and that’s why these cars remain expensive.

Collection and storage

There are different techniques to get it and store it. Among the best known is the process called electrolysis that, through electricity, allows the decomposition of water by separating hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Ideally, this electricity should come from wind or solar generation, because both are renewable and that is why it could be defined as “green hydrogen”. It can also be extracted from fossil fuels (“blue hydrogen”), which contain it in its molecule, or natural gas can be used to obtain it, known as “grey hydrogen”. All allow it to be separated from other chemical elements.

Already separated and ready for use in a vehicle, it is stored in tanks at very high pressure, up to 700 bars, almost 300 times higher than that of a tire. In this way, between 4 and 7 kg of this fuel can be transported, which translates into a real range of about 500 kilometres.

The size of the pressure level forces the storage tanks to be shielded and that causes costs to skyrocket. Can your storage represent a risk? The danger of explosion is lower than in other fuelsbecause its high volatility means that, in the event of a leak, it dissipates without concentrating enough to produce a detonation.

Two schools in the industry

There are not a few brands that look at hydrogen with absolute affection for use in vehicles, and it is that it represents interesting advantages compared to battery electric ones. The main: they have more autonomy and their tanks fill up faster (in just 3 to 5 minutes) than it takes to recharge a battery pack. They are also less sensitive to extreme temperatures.

The first point to clarify is that a hydrogen vehicle is not necessarily electric. There are two paths that the automotive industry finds -at least today-: that of liquid hydrogen as an energy generator to store in a battery that will later feed the 100% electric motor, and that of hydrogen as a fuel to be burned directly in the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine.

In the first, generally known as FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) works the so-called fuel cell (or cell) that generates a chemical reaction by mixing hydrogen with oxygen, from which energy comes out that is converted into electricity, without combustion. some. The other school is similar to that of CNG or LNG engines, using an internal combustion engine (four times for intake, compression, ignition and exhaust) in which hydrogen is burned. And here it is necessary to make a section, since this type of engine has been used for a long time in vehicles known as “bifuel”, that is, it can work with this gas or with gasoline, therefore, they also have a fuel tank. This is how some models worked, such as the case of BMW or the Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, a minivan that could continue to run on gasoline if the hydrogen ran out.

Obviously, recent developments focus on the exclusivity of hydrogen, although for now they have not managed to make it the cleanest form either, since, although in really low figures, it continues to generate CO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions due to the high temperature and pressure inside the combustion chamber. That is why so far the fuel cell ones are really cleaner and harmless and, in addition, by using regenerative braking they can improve their overall efficiency. The good news, further development, is that both systems can be supported to power common hydrogen production, transportation, and distribution infrastructure, and can also use the same storage tanks for their vehicles.

From the pioneers to the present

The industry’s attraction to hydrogen is nothing new. You have to go back 56 years to find the first of the vehicles. The author of the advance was General Motors, which with the Electrovan put the pioneer of fuel cells to the test, which in turn was invented in 1842 by William Grove (Welsh physicist), who presented the device that generates that chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. That prototype carried two gas bottles, one with liquid hydrogen and the other with liquid oxygen. And going back to astronautics, it turns out that fuel cells as they are known today are a derivative of space technology, since it came from the Apollo Program.

Today, Toyota with the second generation of the Mirai, Honda with the Clarity and Hyundai with the Nexo are among the brands that have one or more exponents of the hydrogen family. The same goes for the developments of BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda and Nissan. The Renault Group, for its part, is on both paths. Based on an alliance with the American battery company Plug Power, he launched the company HYVIA (“HY” for hydrogen and “VIA” for the Latin meaning road), dedicated to the manufacture of hydrogen-powered vehicles as an alternative to their electric E-Tech. They promise great autonomy for light commercials such as Master Van H2-Tech for urban delivery in very intensive use, and Master City Bus H2-TECH with capacity for 15 passengers and designed for companies and public services.

Meanwhile, with his sports brand Alpine, those of the rhombus explore the technique of direct injection of hydrogen into the combustion chamber. It was at the Paris Salon where the Alpenglow prototype was exhibited as an exponent of this modality that seems to appear as a serious candidate to extend the life of spark ignition engines.

These days, Hyundai is developing a new generation of 100 and 200 kW fuel cells, much more powerful and efficient than current ones. Peugeot and Citroën do the same with their commercial models, either with the e-Expert or ë-Jumpy Hydrogen, as well as Opel (another brand of the Stellantis group) with the Vivaro-e, as “fuel cell” exponents with 400 kms. of autonomy. NamX is a startup of French origin that presented the HUV concept car -with Pininfarina seal- boasting two power options: a rear-wheel drive with 300 CV to reach a maximum speed of 200 km/h and a 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds; and another all-wheel drive with 550 hp, capable of reaching about 250 km/h and accelerating from 0 to 100 in 4.5 seconds. It was reported that it would hit the market in 2025.

The first model to set foot on our soil was the Mirai and although it is not for sale in Argentina and neither is it in Toyota’s plans for the short and medium term, it is a demonstration of what the Japanese brand is doing in this matter. It is a sedan with a coupe-type rear cut powered by a 134 kW electric motor that delivers 182 CV, which is powered by a 1.24 kWh lithium-ion battery whose electricity is generated by three tanks totaling 5.6 kg. . It can reach a range of 650 km on one charge. To refuel the unit it has in our country, it installed a small “hydrogen” at its plant in Zárate, based on an agreement with Linde, a company specializing in industrial and medical gases.

And when much is said about Argentine lithium for the production of batteries, there has also already been some flirtation within the hydrogen sector, such as that of an Australian company that this year announced an investment of US$8.4 billion to produce green hydrogen in the province of Black river. The challenge is great, even for developed countries such as the United States, Japan, Germany and France, where “hydrogens” are already a reality, although they are still rare and the construction of a network that can support a growing flow of vehicles means a whole challenge.

It will depend on the level of public-private investment to guarantee production and supply, as well as lowering the cost of technology. Experts maintain that in the next 10 years the production costs of green hydrogen will fall by up to 70% and even more if the conditions are right. Even with all these challenges ahead, hydrogen has great chances of establishing itself as the future of mobility.

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Elton Gardner

Elton Gardner is a seasoned writer and editor for He is a graduate of a prestigious journalism school and has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines. Elton is an expert in various fields, including sports, entertainment, and technology. He is widely respected for his insights and engaging writing style. As an editor, Elton oversees a team of writers and ensures the website stays current with the latest trends and breaking news. His writing is characterized by its depth, clarity, and accessibility. Elton's spare time is spent with his family, playing sports, reading, and traveling to explore new cultures. With his talent, experience, and dedication, Elton Gardner is a prominent figure in online media and will continue to make waves in the years to come.

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