Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. It is the fuel that powers our sun and eventually our long term hope for the future, fusion.
In the meantime, hydrogen can help lower carbon emissions and renewable energy storage, replacing batteries.
Hydrogen is extracted from water through a process known as electrolysis. The conventional extraction methods rely upon fossil fuel generated electricity, but progress converting to solar powered extraction plants is underway.
When produced using renewable energy, hydrogen could cost nearly the equivalent of 50-cent-per-gallon gasoline, according to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The NREL plan assumes large-scale production of hydrogen through electrolysis, but with renewable energy used to provide the majority of electricity in place of fuels that produce high levels of carbon emissions.
The NREL argues that excess electricity generated by these renewable sources could be used to produce cheap hydrogen—a much greener solution than batteries.
During periods of peak energy demand, producing one kilogram of hydrogen costs around $4.20, while producing hydrogen during off-peak periods costs $2.24 per kg.
With anticipated technological improvements to the electrolysis process, the NREL expects average costs to drop to $1.14 in the near future.
Because fuel cells are more energy efficient, the actual cost would really be closer to $0.57 per kg, Charlie Freese—General Motors’ executive director for global fuel-cell activities—told WardsAuto.