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Thursday, November 01, 2007
Hydrogen - An Investment In Gas
Image: courtesy of Honda Motor Co. (www.honda.com)

2008 - Debut Of The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle

2008 will be the year of the commercial introduction of fuel cell vehicles to the automative marketplace. Honda Motor Company of Japan is scheduled to launch a limited introduction of the Honda FCX Concept Fuel Cell 4 door sedan into the Japanese and West Coast, U.S.A. (California) markets some time in the spring of 2008. Fuel Cell vehicles run on compressed hydrogen gas stored in onboard tanks, that when mixed with oxygen produces electricity for the vehicle's electric motor with a zero emissions exhaust of just water.

Fuel Cell and Electric/Solar zero emissions vehicles are coming fast to California and Japan, because of the speed of development of both fuel cell and battery technology and the huge awareness that society is building towards the protection of Earth's ecology. Honda's engineering efforts at fuel cell commercialisation have been remarkable. They have broken technical barriers that just two years ago people would never have imagined. The key barriers broken were fuel cell stack cold weather starting ability (now possible at -30C) and a driving range of 570 km (close to 400 miles) on 171 litres of compressed hydrogen gas.

California has a Hydrogen Highway initiative that it launched through Executive Order S-7-04 signed on April 20, 2004 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under this plan in the Blueprint document, released May 2005, the entire State of California will develop a hydrogen infrastructure for fuelling fuel cell, combustion hydrogen, and fuel cell-electric-solar hybrid vehicles. California's efforts will probably promote the development of a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure in the entire West Coast of North America by 2012. The first areas targeted for stations are the Los Angeles and Northern Califonia Bay Area regions and these will start appearing in 2008 in sufficient numbers to support the installed hydrogen cars.

From an investors perspective. The increase in hydrogen production from the global development of fuel cell vehicles will be good news for the major hydrogen producers which are Air Products APD:NYSE (U.S.A.), Praxair PX:NYSE (U.S.A.), Linde LIN.DE:XETRA (Germany), and Air Liquide AI:PARIS(France). Both Air Products and Linde seem to be the most active in the development of automotive applications of hydrogen based upon news releases and industry trade shows. Air Liquide is building a 100% owned venture called AXANE which could prove to be a more significant entry into the fuel cell marketplace as it includes the fuel cells themselves and a hydrogen fuelling network throughout France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Hydrogen is the cleanest form of bulk portable energy and will find its equilibrium in the energy markets based upon cost and environmental regulation. Current ongoing research and development to produce hydrogen from solar and wind power will make it the cleanest zero emissions technology from a sustainability perspective, because the fuel cell stack can be designed to be recycled for future re-use of the precious metals contained within it, as can the rest of the car (if labelled correctly).

 

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