ITM Power's managed to use electrolysis to boost hydrogen production efficiently enough to bring the refueling cost-per-mile cost of hydrogen down to about half of diesel fuel's refueling costs per mile. Yes, diesel in the UK, where ITM is based, is rather expensive (about $8 a gallon), but the company's gains remain impressive.

ITM, per reports from Green Car Congress, has boosted hydrogen-production efficiency to substantially bring down the cost of hydrogen production in this year alone. The chemistry behind electrolysis involves electrodes, water and currents and more stuff some reporters have a hard time grasping, but the bottom line is that ITM says its hydrogen-production cost is down 33 percent from a year ago before measuring amortization of the investment in the new technology, and down 23 percent when amortization's factored in.

With the Hyundai ix35 fuel-cell vehicle being used as a hydrogen-measurement test mule of sorts, ITM says that, factoring in the crossover's 370-mile driving range on a full tank of hydrogen, it costs about 23 cents a mile to refuel the vehicle, about half the per-mile diesel cost in the UK and with none of the exhaust.

Autoblog has been covering ITM's discoveries for quite a while now, reporting way back in 2007 that the UK company built a "low-cost electrolyser" that could convert wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy into hydrogen, which is kind of neat.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 74 Comments
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      2WM hasn't been paying attention, so I'll repeat. The cost of fueling an FCV is dramatically lower than the cost of fueling an ICE. FCVs will initially sell at a premium, but over time and through the wonders of mass production, the cost to produce FCVs is expected to be similar to the cost to produce ICEs. So, before long, we'll have FCVs that are cost-competitive with ICEs, and that also have a dramatically lower cost of ownership. Oh, and zero-emissions, which is the primary concern on ABG, right?
      EVnerdGene
      • 1 Year Ago
      white wash ? green wash ? hog wash ? Comparing it to something we can't verify or compare is a salesman's way of selling BS. Give us hard numbers and facts so we can see if it makes any sense. 1 kg of H2 has ~120 mJ of energy. 120 mJ = 33.333 kW-hr of energy ( by coincidence, that is very very close to the energy content of a gallon of gasoline - US ) efficiency is output over input 33.333 kW-hr / 55 kw-hr x 100 = .6 or 60% efficient. Then compress for on-board storage, run it thru the FC, store part for surges, invert, run thru the electric drivetrain. I get roughly 25% efficiency (don't want to give efficiencies for each step - currently avoiding pissing contests with the science and math challenged ). But that analysis starts with 55 kW-hr. of electric energy. Where did you get it ? If you go back to source, it would make burning coal in your on-board steam engine look good. OK, slight exaggeration. If you generated the electric energy with NG - it makes much more sense just to burn natural gas in an engine instead of using it to make H2 with electrolysis. And don't take me wrong; I'm not a proponent of burning NG in engines. hyprogen yes, it might have a future in storing RE
      Mike
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you read the source story, you will see that this system from ITM requires 55kWh electricity input to produce 1kg of hydrogen. It also says that the ix35 consumes 0.95kg/100km. If you do the math, the efficiency of the ix35 just on the electricity put into the hydrogen is 1.19mi/kWh. My RAV4 EV, which is similar in utility to the ix35, gets about 3mi/kWh. Even if you back out the charger efficiency, I'm getting more than 2.5mi/kWh of electricity input - double that of the ix35. I understand the benefits of using hydrogen as an energy storage medium and all, but this "return on electricity" really stood out to me. They also used $0.05/kWh for their electricity cost and 70% as their plant utilization. Even with really optimistic off-peak demand-response pricing, I don't see how you can run their electrolyzer 70% of the time and still average $0.05/kWh.
        mycommentemail
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike
        As a "fuel source" for transportation this doesn't really seem to make much sense (in part for the reasons you pointed out). But I wonder if this could be used as energy storage for renewables such as solar or wind. I guess it would depend on how much of that 55kWh you could get back out of the 1kg of hydrogen...
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mycommentemail
          Perhaps you should learn more about energy storage before you begin to assert incorrect claims.
          archos
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mycommentemail
          Seasonal storage? I didn't know people stored their energy like they do their grain. Too bad the foolcell will conk out before long. Too bad its lower battery costs which are widely anticipated to revolutionize solar and wind energy, and not foolcells.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mycommentemail
          Batteries (like sodium-sulfur, zinc bromine, sodium metal halide) are generally better for short-term energy storage. Taking an overnight production surplus and storing until needed the next afternoon. Hydrogen can store energy on a vastly longer timescale, allowing seasonal storage of energy: taking peak solar and wind generation during spring and summer and then utilizing it in the fall and winter. Hydrogen storage life expectancy is also much longer, as cycling affects hydrogen storage to a much lesser extent than batteries, which helps to bring the overall cost of hydrogen storage to a lower cost than batter storage when long-term storage is required.
          archos
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mycommentemail
          I would think batteries would be cheaper for storage.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike
        " They also used $0.05/kWh for their electricity cost " So they use 5 cents per KWH and when people compare EVs then then use 12 cents per KWH. That's not putting your thumb on the scale, that's jumping onto the scale.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          It's the difference between a commercial-level consumer price and a retail-level price. That cost was used because that's what the cost will be. The company that uses electrolysis to make hydrogen will typically get a much lower rate than the individual homeowner - excepting (naturally) those like paulwesterberg who are on a special rate plan. Of course, it's certainly possible that a private business may have a way of getting electricity at even lower than market rates (just as some homeowners can with solar panels). A business may invest in their own electric generation capability (perhaps SOFCs, perhaps solar) and at that point the cost of electricity for electrolysis can be effectively removed from the equation.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike
        Hi MIke. If you have a look at the source of this article, GCC, you will see that in the comments I went into the question of their low electricity rates combined with high plant utilisation, and have in fact e-mailed them, as it doesn't seem credible to me. The comparative efficiencies of batteries and hydrogen here though are via electrolysis, which of course is lossy. For NG reforming which is the usual method versus battery charging using the US grid well to wheels they are pretty even at around 1MJ/mile. The idea of a lot of electrolysis to get the hydrogen is to use resources which would otherwise go to waste in renewables, such as stranded wind, at least as much as possible. The countries such as Germany which are really going big for renewables as a large part of the grid also tend to have very developed local district heating systems, and so can utilise the otherwise wasted heat from both reforming and electrolysis, which makes the overall efficiency quite a bit higher,
          archos
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Hear that folks? spammart called someone on being unrealistically optimistic, so of course he's the real deal! He's not the throthing hydro-nut we've all come to know, who lurks in every hydrogen related post like a 40 year old creep trolling a playground. My bad!
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          It would be odd if a PR flack picked the client up for being over-optimistic in its costs, as I have done. Do try to display a little intelligence, although it is obviously difficult for you.
          archos
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Why does every single one of your posts sound like its straight from the back office of some PR firm.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike
        Good analysis. Doesn't surprise me. There is typically a pair of rose colored glasses handed out with these numbers on hydrogen. I just assume it's BS until i see some real world figures. Admittedly, EVs had the same BS 'n hype thing going on in the late 2000's. If the manufacturer said that the car went 200 miles on a charge, then most people thought it went 200 miles on a charge, for example.
      Cavaron
      • 1 Year Ago
      Problem is, that most of these $8 a gallon is taxes. It seems that hydrogen is still more expansive to produce than the diesel on a net calculation. Also it seems, that long time storage and much more the cost of the fuel cells are remaining mayor problems. On the other Hand - there is much need for a technology to store power from renewables in the private segment. Would be great to see some cheap electrolysis combined with a heating system (burn it instead of fuel-celling it). Could also be a power-heat cogeneration system. Would make more sense than putting it in your car imo.
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cavaron
        " It seems that hydrogen is still more expansive to produce than the diesel on a net calculation. " Keep in mind that this is the most expensive, least efficient way to produce hydrogen. Cold electrolysis is likely to only make up a small percentage of the hydrogen production market, just as it currently does.
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hard time grasping? Sigh...pure water requires lots of energy, so usually a salt is added, or other chemical to make the water acidic or basic. But, to make things simple, here is water only: Reduction at cathode: 2 H+(aq) + 2e− → H2(g) At the positively charged anode, an oxidation reaction occurs, generating oxygen gas and giving electrons to the anode to complete the circuit: Anode (oxidation): 2 H2O(l) → O2(g) + 4 H+(aq) + 4e−
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm actually pleased to see that Joeviocoe has taken the high road, and avoided this post. It's quite refreshing to have a discussion about a specific topic within the hydrogen sphere, without having to rehash every old argument about other vaguely-related aspects.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sidenote to PW I too enjoy dusting other cars at stoplights in my wife's 2011 Honda Civic. Still get around 35mpg combined, too, easily beating EPA.
      Dave
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Most of the hydrogen in the United States is produced by steam reforming of natural gas. For the near term, this production method will continue to dominate. Researchers at NREL are developing advanced processes to produce hydrogen economically from sustainable resources. These R&D efforts include: •Fermentation •Biological Water Splitting •Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting •Conversion of Biomass and Wastes •Solar Thermal Water Splitting •Renewable Electrolysis." http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/proj_production_delivery.html
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dave
        "A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel. The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader. As a metal oxide compound heats up, it releases oxygen atoms, changing its material composition and causing the newly formed compound to seek out new oxygen atoms, said Weimer. The team showed that the addition of steam to the system -- which could be produced by boiling water in the reactor with the concentrated sunlight beamed to the tower -- would cause oxygen from the water molecules to adhere to the surface of the metal oxide, freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas. “We have designed something here that is very different from other methods and frankly something that nobody thought was possible before,” said Weimer of the chemical and biological engineering department. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy.”" See more at: http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2013/08/01/cu-boulder-team-develops-new-water-splitting-technique-could-produce#main-content
      Ray Blackburn
      • 1 Year Ago
      He said, "Troll post from Danny" Why don't you just ignore his comment???
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok, and your excuse for quoting efficiency numbers for the 2012 leaf is...
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      blah
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Even selling hydrogen for the same price as gas would mean that an FCV drive would halve their fuel costs over gasoline due to the FCV 2-3x better fuel efficiency. But I do agree, the oil companies are quite interested in supplying hydrogen as a fuel. It's relatively cheap for them to make, especially compared to the billions they spend on oil exploration. Even the station cost isn't as much a factor as some would make it - a typical gas station costs around $1 million to build, and the oil companies spend billions on building refueling infrastructure annually already.
    • Load More Comments