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Stylized Text: Hydrogen Basics - Economics.

The hydrogen economy or "hydrogen vision" has been endorsed by many decision makers as the key to a clean energy future. The pivotal element of this vision is the transformation of the world’s transportation system from one based on oil to one based on sustainable hydrogen.

Picture of a 13 kW PEM fuel cell made by Ballard.
13 kW PEM fuel cell
(Photo: Ballard Power
Systems, Inc.)
The rationale for this change is clear: the fossil-fuel era is nearing an end as shown by increasing world oil demand, widening the gap between new oil discoveries and consumption, and approaching of the world's peak oil production among other developments. Also, fossil fuel based automobile engines are a significant source of air pollution.

A new energy economy, with hydrogen produced from renewable resources, promises ultimate relief from increased energy demands, air pollution, and rising energy costs. Hydrogen, one of the most abundant elements in nature, can be produced from many feedstocks anywhere in the world. Our energy needs, from transportation to electric power generation, can be satisfied while being less polluting. Additionally, it is the perfect partner for renewables since it offers renewables a means of storage, and hydrogen can be generated from this clean energy.

To make the hydrogen economy a reality, the U.S. government has launched hydrogen and fuel cell initiatives aimed at developing the technologies needed to make hydrogen and hydrogen-powered fuel cells commercially viable by 2020. These actions are supported by automakers that would like to achieve a vehicular power train that generates no air emissions (i.e., electric power).

However, electric propulsion has eluded automakers due mostly to the difficulties of storing sufficient quantities of onboard electricity. Battery technology is still unable to deliver high enough energy density to meet automotive range and cost goals. However, hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to overcome the limitations of battery power, making their development critical to a hydrogen economy.