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Towards a greener future: the role of hydrogen technology in sustainable transport

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Post Date: 2024-03-25, AVX Corporation

The vehicles of the future will be more ecological and efficient - a perfect combination of hydrogen technology and artificial intelligence. The goal of a future based on safety, freedom and equality is the cornerstone of Hyundai Motor. The goal of low environmental impact means abandoning coal technology in favor of renewable energy. Coal is a fossil fuel that produces a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides.

These emissions contribute to climate change, which poses a major threat to our planet. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is an energy source that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. The main sources of renewable energy include solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy. 

Hydrogen energy source

Hydrogen is a clean and sustainable energy source that can be used to power cars, buildings and industry. According to market estimates and projections, in connection with the latest technological developments, hydrogen will increasingly emerge as a renewable energy source, similar to solar and wind energy. If used alone, this new clean energy source will not be as efficient if it is not used in conjunction with AI. In fact, many key factors can be improved thanks to AI, such as safety, efficiency and comfort, especially in the automotive sector.

Sustainable transport is a global challenge that requires broad commitment, but this energy transition must quickly incorporate all knowledge into new technologies that encourage the public to buy hydrogen vehicles. The future forecasts for this new energy source are very optimistic, as can be seen from the chart in Figure 1, the global share of the hydrogen fuel cell market is expected to grow from $4 billion in 2022 to nearly $40 billion by 2032, an annual growth of about 26%.

   

Hydrogen is the most abundant and lightest chemical element in the universe. It contains more energy per unit of mass  than other fuels. Unfortunately, it is also characterized by a low energy density per unit of volume,  so to achieve the same energy demands, larger volumes of hydrogen are needed relative with other fuels.

Hydrogen is not an energy source but an energy carrier. Its operation, therefore,  has correlations with electricity and is clean,  as no greenhouse gases or other polluting substances are produced with its use. In practice,  it can accumulate and subsequently provide energy. An example of this is fuel cells,  which generate electricity using a chemical reaction of hydrogen, producing only water, heat and, above all,  electricity as by-products.

Nowadays, half of the world's industrial sectors are incompatible with electrification;  As a result, efficient alternatives to fossil fuels are needed, and one of them is clean hydrogen,  also known as green hydrogen. If hydrogen comes from renewable, low-carbon sources,  it could be an important part of a clean planet. Green hydrogen is an element obtained through a special zero-emission  procedure. This process is carried out by electrolysis of water, using energy generated from renewable sources,  with the result that the water molecules split into hydrogen and oxygen. It is estimated that by 2050,  70% of hydrogen will be green, that is, from renewable sources, unlike blue and gray hydrogen,  which is obtained through the use of fossil fuels.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe,  but on Earth it is produced by a variety of methods and processes, including fossil fuels, natural gas, coal, water,  nuclear, biomass, wind and solar energy.

The process of electrolysis

Electrolysis (see Figure 2) is a process that uses electrical energy to force chemical reactions. They are caused by  oxidation and reduction phenomena that occur when the ions contained in the solution come into contact with the  electrodes of a current generator. Electrolysis with water allows the molecule to be broken,  releasing hydrogen and oxygen, according to the following chemical reaction:

      

This reaction can take place inside a container called an “electrolytic cell.” It is composed of a current generator  (pile or battery) to which two metal electrodes are connected,  immersed in a solution of water and salt to facilitate the passage of electrons. The chemical reaction is divided into  two secondary reactions:

● The reduction reaction takes place on the cathode (negative electrode), with the development of hydrogen gas.

● The oxidation reaction takes place on the anode (positive electrode), with the development of oxygen gas.

The volume of hydrogen produced is double that of oxygen, as the stoichiometric ratio of the two gases is 2:1.

    

When the gas is captured in a test tube, twice as much hydrogen is produced as oxygen. Just by connecting two electrodes to the battery, the development of the gas can be observed. Then, if a sufficient amount of hydrogen gas is collected and a lit match is placed near it, a small explosion will occur due to the combustion of the hydrogen gas itself. The process is renewable and does not produce any polluting emissions. In this case, the hydrogen produced is renewable, an excellent, very clean fuel, and from its combustion, water is produced again.

The initiatives of large companies

In anticipation of future uses of hydrogen technology,  many automotive companies are focusing their efforts in this direction to develop hydrogen vehicles that are more  efficient,  convenient and accessible to all. They are investing in research and development to improve the performance and  convenience of hydrogen vehicles for wider deployment among users in the near future.

Hyundai, for instance,  is committed to creating a more sustainable future. It undoubtedly plays a leading role in the transition toward more  sustainable mobility. The company is investing in the research and development of AI technologies for vehicles,  including autonomous driving,  driver assistance and fleet management. These technologies have the potential to make vehicles safer,  more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, Hyundai already has a wide range of hydrogen vehicles in production, including cars,  trucks and buses. Hydrogen vehicles are a clean and sustainable alternative to internal-combustion vehicles,  as they do not emit greenhouse gas emissions. Hyundai is investing in technologies to reduce pollution,  improve air quality and create green spaces. The company is collaborating with other companies and organizations to  develop innovative solutions to address the environmental challenges of our time. An example of these projects is the  recirculating hydrogen production technology to transform pollutants into clean hydrogen. This technology could have a  significant impact on reducing air pollution.

The production of hydrogen vehicles is still an emerging technology, but it is rapidly growing (see Figure 3),  and it is estimated that sales will grow at an annual rate of at least 26% in the coming years,  as shown earlier in the Figure 1. The growth of hydrogen vehicle production is driven by several key factors,  such as growing concern about climate change,  rising energy costs and government support. Hydrogen vehicles offer several advantages over internal-combustion vehicles  and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They have a longer range than BEVs and can be refueled in a few minutes.  Furthermore, hydrogen vehicles emit zero greenhouse gas emissions, making them a more sustainable mobility solution.

In addition to Hyundai, with its Nexo,  several companies produce hydrogen vehicles and are providing their technical contribution toward this new technology.  For example, Toyota already has vast experience in this field, and with its slogan, “Zero emissions,  only drops of water,” it has already marketed a good number of hydrogen vehicles:  Its new Mirai is proof of this,  with a driving range 30% greater than the first generation. BMW has also launched its own hydrogen cars and will further  increase its vehicle range in the years to come.

  

Car companies are investing in research and development to improve the performance and convenience of hydrogen vehicles. For now, they are still more expensive than internal combustion engines and pure electric vehicles; However, companies are trying to reduce the cost of components. Currently, the autonomy of hydrogen vehicles is limited, but the company is working to improve the efficiency of fuel cells and hydrogen tanks, always putting the safety aspect first. An increasingly extensive network of hydrogen refueling stations is gradually being developed. Automotive companies firmly believe that sustainable mobility is possible, and through their research and development commitments and strategic partnerships, they are creating a cleaner, more livable future for all.

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