Hydrogen Future? – From Jack Nicholson’s 1978 Hydrogen Car to Lidl’s 2022 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Fleet – UPDATE: New Technology to Make Hydrogen from Air

In 1978 Jack Nicholson was showing his hydrogen car on prime time television. That was 44 years ago.

For people who are new on this time line: Jack Nicholson is a famous movie star from the 1960's, 70's and 80's. And 44 years ago he was driving a hydrogen vehicle.

Scroll down for the update ⇓

A hydrogen vehicle is a type of alternative fuel vehicle that uses hydrogen fuel for motive power. Hydrogen vehicles include hydrogen-fueled space rockets, as well as automobiles and other transportation vehicles. Power is generated by converting the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy, either by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to power electric motors or, less commonly, by burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine.

Source: wikipedia.org

How Do Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Work Using Hydrogen?
Like all-electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) use electricity to power an electric motor. In contrast to other electric vehicles, FCEVs produce electricity using a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, rather than drawing electricity from only a battery. During the vehicle design process, the vehicle manufacturer defines the power of the vehicle by the size of the electric motor(s) that receives electric power from the appropriately sized fuel cell and battery combination.

Source: afdc.energy.gov

There are a few car brands that sell hydrogen cars. According to Toyota, hydrogen is a "Clean, Safe Energy".

Clean, Safe Energy
Hydrogen is clean, safe and all around us. It’s so common it makes up 70% of matter in the universe. This allows hydrogen to be locally sourced and, if made with renewable energy, it can be completely carbon free.

Source: toyota.co.uk/hydrogen

Is hydrogen really a solution for a better world, when it comes to fuel and powering (electric) vehicles?

Hydrogen’s efficiency problem
The reason why hydrogen is inefficient is because the energy must move from wire to gas to wire in order to power a car. This is sometimes called the energy vector transition.
Let’s take 100 watts of electricity produced by a renewable source such as a wind turbine. To power an FCEV, that energy has to be converted into hydrogen, possibly by passing it through water (the electrolysis process). This is around 75% energy-efficient, so around one-quarter of the electricity is automatically lost.
The hydrogen produced has to be compressed, chilled and transported to the hydrogen station, a process that is around 90% efficient. Once inside the vehicle, the hydrogen needs converted into electricity, which is 60% efficient. Finally the electricity used in the motor to move the vehicle is is around 95% efficient. Put together, only 38% of the original electricity – 38 watts out of 100 – are used.

Source: theconversation.com

UPDATE 1.13.2023

Swiss researchers develop technology to make hydrogen from air
When exposed to sunlight, the device absorbs water from the air and produces hydrogen. The hydrogen produced in this way could be used as fuel or for the long-term storage of solar energy, the authors wrote in the scientific journal “Advanced Materials” on Wednesday.

Source: swissinfo.ch 1.4.2023

Engineers use sound waves to boost green hydrogen production by 14 times
Researchers at the RMIT University in Australia have figured out an innovative, promising way to increase the production of green hydrogen by 14 times - by employing sound waves through electrolysis to split water.

Source: interestingengineering.com 12.14.2022

Electric cars are being pushed by governments and media. To fight the so called: climate change. But we all have read and heard about stories of electric vehicle batteries catching fire, while standing still. Or batteries of electric bicycles suddenly exploding.

An electric vehicle that is stranded at the side of the road with an empty battery needs to be charged by a maintenance vehicle, with a electric charger running on diesel or gas.

The big question is: what is the real solution for fuel and energy for vehicles? And in the meantime, recently a member of parliament in India made the headlines by driving in his hydrogen vehicle.

As Fuel Prices Soar, Nitin Gadkari Rolls Into Parliament In Hydrogen Car
New Delhi: Even as fuel prices keep soaring causing widespread public dissatisfaction, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari today rolled into the Parliament in a green hydrogen-powered car - the first of its kind in India. The Minister travelled from his residence to the Parliament in the car this morning as part of a pilot project. Mr Gadkari has often spoken about a transition to renewables and green energy.

Source: ndtv.com - 3.30.2022

While writing this article, we noticed a news article regarding Lidl, a large discount supermarket chain from Germany. They're going to replace all their electric vehicles with a hydrogen fuel fleet.

It's all about timing. And refuelling a lead-acid battery can take sometimes up to several hours. Compare this with a refuelling time of 2 or 3 minutes for a hydrogen vehicle and we can conclude that it's not strange for a large company such as Lidl to start using hydrogen vehicles.

Lidl supermarket chain dumps battery electrics for hydrogen fuel cell fleet
The German discount retailer is switching its entire electric vehicle fleet in favor of H2 power.
Lidl, a discount supermarket chain from Germany, has announced that it is switching out its entire fleet of electric vehicles in favor of a hydrogen fuel cell fleet and logistics hub.
This will make the retailer the first company to make this type of a move in Europe.
Lidl has already been using green hydrogen fuel cell forklifts, of which it has about 100 in its Carquefou, Western France logistics center. Those forklifts represent about 80 percent of its total fleet. The remainder are expected to transition to H2 before the close of 2021. The center will be supplied with a daily 75 kilograms of renewable H2.

Source: hydrogenfuelnews.com - 4.6.2022

Jack Nicholson's Hydrogen Car, 1978: CBC Archives | CBC
Check out this clip from 1978 of Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson, driving a car that runs on hydrogen instead of gas. He talks about reducing pollution, and shifting away from the oil economy. It's from the long running, award-winning CBC program Marketplace.

Source: CBC - youtube.com

See also: Jack Nicholson, actor - imdb.com

It took a long way on this time line from 1978 Jack Nicholson's car to Lid's fleet, but we will get there.

The future is fluid.