Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hydrogen highway inches closer

A few days before B.C. Transit unveiled 20 gleaming new hydrogen-powered buses in Whistler, the fleet got its first fuel-up at a North Vancouver company called Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation, or HTEC.

But the three-year-old company doesn't yet have the plant equipment to ship hydrogen over long distances, so when the Whistler buses went back to the pump in the resort town, they refuelled with hydrogen brought in by tanker truck from Quebec.
Critics of hydrogen technology were quick to point out the contradiction of zero-emission vehicles that are reliant on transcontinental trucking. The question of how green this fleet really is nicely encapsulates the debate over how worthwhile hydrogen energy really is -- a debate HTEC thinks it will win.
By the time it gets used, hydrogen is a miracle fuel. It's odourless, non-toxic and burns with almost no emissions. Feed it into a fuel cell, and you can pry loose even more energy and get no emissions at all, save for some heat and clean water.

Since the phrase was raised in the 1970s, a "hydrogen economy" seemed to offer a productive industrial society without any of the hazards of smog, climate change and foreign interventions connected with oil production. It has always been attractive to politicians, as the cabinet minister-studded unveiling in Whistler demonstrates, as a super-clean, ultra hi-tech solution to a very tough problem. In the effort against climate change, it is certainly easier to announce funding for local research than it is to effect more systemic societal changes. Read more.

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