Hydrogen Pump @ Home?

by Irma Arkus

On the heels of announcement by Mercedes to cease manufacturing petroleum-powered cars by 2010, ITM Power, a small UK-based outfit released its first household hydrogen fueling station.

Unusual, fridge-size gadget, meant to be stored in periphery of an average domicile, is to contain an electrolyser producing hydrogen directly on the premise. The fuel can then be transferred into your vehicle at home, as well as used for alternate applications, including cooking.

Some taut the benfits of a household hydrogen-producing appliance as a solution to an existing problem with hydrogen fuel – namely, that traditional large-scale manufacturing and mass distribution processes are complex, expensive and even dangerous. Appliance such as this would introduce hydrogen-powered cars to greater number of individuals, and create accessible fueling stations.

Of course, having a fridge-size hydrogen generator is not necessarily all that great. For one, traditional pumps eliminate the need for everyone to invest in a personal appliance, instead spreading the cost across an entire region. Costs of developing fueling station technology would be directly transferred onto each and every household, and yes, it would be very expensive.

Also to consider is that such fueling stations would be great for home owners far removed from urban centres. Condo owners in high density areas do not have the resources or the space for individual ownership of such an appliance, quickly having to deal with a communal fueling station or a “mini-pumping station” for their hydrogen needs. If communal fueling stations would function well, then why have individual ones at all?

The questions of safety and handling procedures are aplenty. Hydrogen is considered highly flammable, and unstable. To be manufacturing hydrogen on the spot is a valid solution for a next generation of hydrogen-fueled cars. As for the individual ownership of such appliances, the costs seem high, unreasonable, and less than suitable for populations in urban areas.