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Debate: Hydrogen vehicles

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What are the pros and cons of hydrogen vehicles for consumers and government?


Background and Context of Debate:

Global warming: Will hydrogen vehicles help solve global warming?


  • 0-emission energy sources can power production of hydrogen. "So far, hydrogen-powered cars are fuel for future thoughts". USA Today. 21 July 2008 - "While fossil fuels might be burned to produce much of the energy required for hydrogen production, some electricity would also come from burning biomass or from solar, wind and hydroelectric generation. Generally, these non-fossil fuel power sources are becoming a larger part of the electrical power generation grid and should eventually supplant fossil fuels."


  • Hydrogen vehicles will arrive too late to help global warming. A National Research Council report that pegs 2020 for the arrival of the mass-market fuel cell vehicle. According to USA Today, "That's the best case scenario, of course, assuming technology, government, industry and the public all cooperate on bringing hydrogen cars to the nation's highways."[1] Yet, the IPCC says that steps must be taken immediately to stop global warming. This means that hydrogen fuel cell technology is out of sink with the immediacy required in solving global warming.
  • Too much energy is required in producing hydrogen. "So far, hydrogen-powered cars are fuel for future thoughts". USA Today. 21 July 2008 - "According to Frank Kreith (J. of Energy Resources Technology, December 2004) more energy is required to produce the hydrogen fuel than is available from 'burning' that hydrogen in a fuel cell. Substantially more electricity could be produced by burning the hydrocarbon in a conventional electric utility than could be produced in a fuel cell from the same material converted to hydrogen; too many conversion steps in the hydrogen production process."
  • Producing hydrogen often requires burning fossil fuels. Producing hydrogen requires energy. Some or even all of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels. This is obviously bad for global warming.

Economics: Are hydrogen fuel cells economical?


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  • Hydrogen is not readily available for use on Earth. "So far, hydrogen-powered cars are fuel for future thoughts". USA Today. 21 July 2008 - "Unfortunately there is no readily available source of molecular hydrogen (H2) to be found on our planet. There is lots of hydrogen, but it is found as part of larger molecules, most commonly water or hydrocarbons. To be able to use hydrogen in a fuel cell, those hydrogen atoms must be stripped from hydrocarbons and reformed into H2 or electrically disassociated from oxygen in water."

Safety: Are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles safe?



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