Every second, 600 million tonnes of hydrogen are melted in the center of the sun to become pure energy. Hydrogen makes up around three-quarters of every star. But hydrogen is not only prevalent in the Milky Way; it is also available on the road, namely now at the OMV filling station near Linz in Austria.
Hydrogen. A colorless, odorless element, invisible and yet almost everywhere. In the air and also inside us. Every adult contains around seven to ten kilograms of hydrogen. Hydrogen is pure energy. The best example of this is the sun, more than 90% of which is hydrogen. A kilo of hydrogen has the same amount of energy as 2.8 kilos of petrol. You can fill up a car in just four minutes – making it the perfect fuel. But where does it come from?
Hydrogen doesn’t like to be alone; it is only found in compounds from which it must first be separated. Today the element is almost exclusively produced from fossil fuels such as crude oil, natural gas, coal or biomass – using the steam reforming method. For example, around 50,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year can be produced at the Schwechat Refinery. Here steam is introduced to a fossil fuel such as natural gas and heated to 830 degrees Celsius – an extremely energy-intensive process. This is why people are also researching alternatives: “For several years we have been supporting research projects dedicated to production methods from renewable energy such as the sun or the wind. We want to bring the results of the research onto the road and to promote emission-free transport”, says Otmar Schneider, who deals with the issue of hydrogen at OMV.
Hydrogen can be made in practically unlimited quantities and is suitable as an efficient, environmentally sound fuel. When used in a fuel cell, the efficiency is twice as high as in a combustion engine – and the only emission produced is water.
Hydrogen on the road
It looks like any other car, but there’s something special: The only thing emerging from the exhaust is water vapor. Namely, the engine is powered by energy from pure hydrogen. “Depending on the size of the fuel tank, even today the vehicles can manage between 300 and 700km on a single tank. This means that the technology is also suitable for longer distances – and that with short stops to fill up”, says Otmar Schneider. In order to promote an ecological generation of vehicles, hydrogen is used in fuel cell technology that has already been tried and tested.
You can see close-up how a fuel cell works in this video:
Establishing hydrogen infrastructure
Ever since summer 2016 you can now also fill up a hydrogen car in Linz-Asten (Upper Austria). “Together with partners, OMV is expanding the network of hydrogen filling stations in Austria and Germany. We want to meet the demand in major cities and support hydrogen mobility across the key European traffic routes”, said Otmar Schneider at the opening of the third public filling station in Austria, alongside those in Vienna and Innsbruck. In Germany OMV is a member of the H2 MOBILITY consortium, which plans to build around 400 public filling stations by 2023. This hydrogen filling station network is being established in close cooperation between the automotive and energy industries. This will offer drivers extensive coverage and further impetus for switching over to hydrogen on the road.