Is Hydrogen Fuel Safe?
Many of us remember watching the 1975 classic movie, The Hindenburg, based on the tragic explosion of the German dirigible om 1937. While the film itself was largely a bust, it has left an impression on moviegoers that hydrogen gas is a dangerous component that engineers should have never used in an airship. Is hydrogen fuel safe? Here’s a short explanation of what really happened on that fateful voyage and why hydrogen is much safer than gasoline.
Five reasons hydrogen fuel is safer than gasoline:
- Hydrogen is the lightest element. Hydrogen appears as the first element on the periodic table of elements as “H.” As such; it is the lightest of all the identified elements–16 times lighter than air, in fact. When hydrogen comes into contact with the atmosphere, it quickly rises and dissipates. In contrast, when gasoline fuel leaks from a tank, it pools on the ground, where it can ignite or travel into the water supply.
- Hydrogen fuel is highly compressed. Unlike gasoline that is simply poured into a tank, hydrogen fuel in a vehicle is pressurized up to 10,000 psi. Hydrogen fuel tanks are constructed and tested for extreme durability; however, if a puncture were to happen, the hydrogen fuel would instantaneously dissipate into the atmosphere at incredible speed (at approximately 45 miles per hour, to be exact.) In 2011, Toyota filmed what happens when a 50-caliber gun shoots a bullet from a point-blank range into a hydrogen fuel tank. Watch the video here.
- Hydrogen is a natural element. Hydrogen is the most common molecule known to exist and is found in almost every other earthly substance. When it is released into the atmosphere, it causes no harm. It does not pollute the environment or pose any danger to lifeforms.
- Hydrogen is safe to extract. Hydrogen fuel is safely produced by several methods, including steam-methane and electrolysis. While cost used to be the biggest obstacle in separating hydrogen from oxygen in water, new technologies make it feasible to manufacture hydrogen fuel on-site in as little as 1000 square feet of space.
- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles create electricity and have no exhaust. Vehicles and other equipment that use hydrogen fuel cells do not emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The only by-product of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is water.
So why did the Hindenburg explode?
The Hindenburg’s design used a balloon-like structure filled with hydrogen to lift the aircraft into the air. In the movie, a small bomb is used to set off an explosion of hydrogen gas, and the dirigible falls out of the sky in a ball of flames.
In reality, the hydrogen gas wasn’t the culprit. Indeed, the flame created by the bomb may have ignited the hydrogen gas, yet as soon as the dirigible was punctured, the gas would have quickly escaped the balloon. Remember the scene where the dirigible canvas tears and a maintenance worker performs a death-defying stunt to sew the canopy back together? That never happened, and if it had, a tremendous amount of hydrogen would have instantly escaped and brought the Hindenburg to the ground. Instead, the fire was fueled by the diesel gasoline in the airship’s engines and was extended by the flammable lacquer coating used on the exterior of the dirigible.
The Andretti Group and PowerTap Makes Providing Hydrogen Fuel Cost-Effective for all Fuel Stations
The combination of growing consumer awareness and greater availability of fuel cell vehicles on the market will increase the demand for hydrogen fuel nationwide. The Andretti Group and PowerTap Hydrogen make it easy and affordable for fuel station owners to add hydrogen fuel to their product offerings. PowerTap Hydrogen’s patented equipment using steam methane reforming technology allows fuel station owners to produce hydrogen fuel on-site and on-demand, eliminating the need for advanced orders or significant storage facilities.
In just over 1,000 square feet, you can be at the forefront of providing clean energy to commercial transport and consumer FCV owners. Visit us at https://andretti1.com/powertap-hydrogen or contact us to discuss how you can transform your business to address the energy demands of the near future.