In the last year there has been much discussion about alternative fuels and saving the planet – new green deal… “Bill Gates orders hydrogen superyacht and electric car…” But are we going in the right direction with today’s “alternative solutions” or are we only harming our planet even more?
In this article I present a comparison of the thermal efficiency of hydrogen, electricity and gasoline used in mobility.
Since we know that hydrogen is produced from 95% fossil fuel and electricity from 74%, we can easily say, besides the thermal efficiency, that it is also better from the perspective of CO2 emissions to use gasoline or gas directly in modern efficient combustion engines than to switch to hydrogen or electric.
Are “green, alternative” fuels really green?
About 95% of hydrogen is produced from natural gas – process steam reforming is done at high temperatures (700 – 1100 °C) and in the presence of a metal-based catalyst (nickel), steam reacts with methane to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen.
If we use highest efficiency 75% steam reforming and fuel cell efficiency 60%, the real efficiency of fuel cell is max. 45%.
And we are not speaking about circular economy. Hydrogen is 95% produced from fossil fuel.
An electric car typically runs at over 85% thermal efficiency, if we do not consider efficiency of electricity production. Coal power plant is, for example, only 38% efficient and this would make electric car less efficient than an older gasoline car.
World electricity generation by source and thermal efficiency.
Therefore,thetechnologyofelectricandhydrogencarstodayoffersnoaddedvaluetonatureintermsofthermalefficiency.Sinceweknowthathydrogenisproducedfrom95%fossilfuel (Methane)andelectricityfrom74% fossil fuels,wecaneasilysay,besidesthethermalefficiency,thatitisalsobetterfromtheperspectiveofCO2emissionstousegasolineorgasdirectlyinmodernefficientcombustionenginesthantoswitchtohydrogenorelectric. We lack the infrastructure to switch toelectricityorhydrogen. Highinvestmentsand the useofpublic money will be required,withoutknowingthatthisfuelisarealsolution.Theinfrastructureforcombustionenginesisavailable.Butweneedtodoresearchandlookforalternativesolutionsthatreallydoperformbetter.So,thequestionariseswhysuchgreatpoliticalpressureforcesustoabandongasoline,whichgivesusacertainresultwithregardtonatureandcirculartechnologyaselectricorhydrogen.Canwelettheresearchersdotheirwork,orwillthelobbyguidesciencethroughpoliticstofindtherightsolutionwhilespendingpublicmoney?
I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood. I am not saying that we should abandon electrical or hydrogen technology. I say we should give up the state subsidy that forces this so cold “clean” technology onto the market. Use these public funds for more intensive research at institutes and universities to discover real future technologies. Is it a better battery, clean power generation, improvement of infrastructure or clean production of hydrogen and better fuel cells? I’m open-minded. I believe in a clean world in the future, in the circular economy, but I fear that today’s “green” policies will destroy the world on the way there.