Recent challenges of hydrogen storage technologies for fuel cell vehicles

Quick and reliable personal mobility is one of modern society’s most increasing desires, especially with the progress of a world economy. However, current personal mobility (i.e. automobiles and airplanes) is powered by “dirty” and environmentally harmful sources derived from fossil fuels. Mori et al. (2009) believe that fuel cell technology will address the issues of unhealthy urban air quality and the threat of global warming associated with the current inefficient and environmentally damaging technology. Fuel cell technology is powered by hydrogen, which can be produced from a wide variety of non-fossil sources such as biomass-based production, electrolysis of water as well as natural gas and coal gasification. Unfortunately, fuel cell technology faces an enormous barrier of on-board hydrogen storage before it can be commercially viable and cost-effective for the average consumer. Current state-of-the-art hydrogen storage technology can only store 1/10 of energy of gasoline in the same volume due to hydrogen’s low-density.  In order for a “hydrogen” society to transpire, increased storable hydrogen and efficiency will need to be achieved to have gasoline-comparable driving range. — Blake Kos 
Mori, D., Hirose, K., 2009. Recent challenges of hydrogen storage technologies for fuel cell vehicles. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 34, 4569–4574.

 Mori and Hirose from the Fuel Cell Development Division of the Toyota Motor Corporation investigate the latest material and system development to solve some of the difficulties of the on-board hydrogen storage. By addressing the on-board storage issue, they believe a hydrogen economy will be a near future possibility and the goal of a cleaner, sustainable and inexpensive energy system will be met.

Hydrogen is expected to be the clean and renewable energy carrier to replace the current dirty and damaging energy source, fossil fuel. Unfortunately, the enormous challenge of on-board hydrogen storage without compromising standard vehicle requirements (i.e. safety, performance, cost, technical adaptation for the infrastructure and scalability) needs to be resolved. To solve this challenge, increases in both storage of hydrogen and efficiency will need to be achieve for a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle range. Researchers have developed a possible solution for extending fuel cell vehicle range. This solution uses a composite high-pressure tank, which is characterized by charge-discharge easiness and a simplified structure. This proposed high-pressured (70 MPa) tank results in 40–50% increases in storage and if coupled with the optimal materials and winding strategies, the tank can result in a 65% increase of storable hydrogen. Hydrogen-absorbing tanks have been determined as another possible solution. These tanks have the advantage of storing about 2.5 times more hydrogen. Also, these tanks have a lower hydrogen weight per tank weight, which makes the vehicle much lighter, thus more efficient. With these proposed, more efficient storage tanks, researchers are on the right track to achieving an on-board storage system that incorporates a lighter tank with increases of storable hydrogen. 

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