There is death. There are taxes. And there is the US Department of Energy (DOE) periodically funding millions of dollars worth of grants towards advancing hydrogen fuel-cell technology. This time, the DOE says it will write checks for $20 million, and the goal is pretty specific: bringing the production and distribution costs of hydrogen to less than the equivalent of $4 a gallon.
Splitting water into its constituent elements – hydrogen and oxygen – is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is pass an electric current through it and the molecules will break up ... slowly. Doing it efficiently requires the addition of a catalyst. Unfortunately, as in so many chemical reactions, the best catalyst is platinum – which happens to be extremely expensive (currently about $2,000 an ounce).
While the media buzz might make people believe hydrogen fuel cells are around the corner, significant hurdles still need to be crossed. Even though some prototype fuel cell cars are showing promise in delivering an experience similar to existing cars, cost, hydrogen storage, and lack of infrastructure are major issues. More importantly, though, in my opinion, is where is all the hydrogen needed to meet our transportation need going to come from? Unlike gasoline, hydrogen is not considered a fuel
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