Hydrogen Cars Just Got A Lot More Feasible, Despite Obama’s Best Efforts

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Swedish scientists announced a major breakthrough Tuesday that could make producing hydrogen from water much cheaper.

The Swedish study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, developed a new monolayered, vanadium based material that can convert water into hydrogen much more cheaply than traditional methods. The breakthrough could lower the cost of producing hydrogen, which would make hydrogen-powered cars much more viable. Scientists conducted the research at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm

President George W. Bush poured $1.2 billion into hydrogen-powered car research in 2003, and he even said such vehicles were the automotive technology of the future. President Barack Obama, however, axed the program in 2009 in an effort to save taxpayers $100 million a year. Hydrogen car research has continued in other countries.

Hydrogen cars wouldn’t require any gasoline and would only emit water vapor as exhaust pipes. Major car companies like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have already embraced the technology, but it has always been relatively limited due to the high costs of producing hydrogen.

“This monolayer feature not only increases the active surface area, but also enhances the electron transfer within the material,” Hong Chen, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a press statement. The research will”open a new area of low-cost water oxidation catalysts, featuring stability and efficiencies that equal or even surpass some of today’s best catalysts including [iridium oxide].”

The high costs of hydrogen production largely come from the fact that traditional methods of making it require extremely expensive precious metals like iridium, which currently costs $8,480 per pound. In comparison, the vanadium used in the study costs about $42.53 per pound.

The use of precious metals required to make large amounts of hydrogen was a huge major barrier to hydrogen vehicles and is one of the justifications for green groups opposition to them. Japan plans to spend $385 million to build hydrogen infrastructure to put 6,000 hydrogen cars on the road before 2020.

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