You, Me and Hydrogen

Allison Loudermilk

The No. 1 element has been on my mind lately and probably yours, too. With about 60 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. and a chain of stations linking the Eastern seaboard in the works, thanks to SunHydro, you've likely heard the hubbub around hydrogen vehicles. What other roles will hydrogen plays in our lives beyond fuel cell personal vehicles? With that in mind, here a couple of ideas, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program and its fall 2010 report.

Does your job involve driving? Do you motor around in a bus or operate a forklift in an industrial setting, lugging pallets and moving merchandise? You could have already hopped on the hydrogen bandwagon. According to the U.S. DOE report, 206 lift trucks running on fuel cells have been deployed as of July 2010.

Do you have a tangle of personal electronics? Perhaps a cell phone, camera, PDA, MP3 player or laptop? All of the above? You could be running your electronic empire on hydrogen soon, if companies like Horizon Fuel Center Technologies have anything to say about it. Horizon offers an all-in-one type gadget that will juice up any electronic device sucking up 2 watts of power. You can preorder them on the company's Web site, if you're interested.

In the future, hydrogen may be your savior in emergency situations. Hydrogen fuel cells are looking mighty attractive when it comes to providing a backup power source for critical systems and locations such as telecommunication towers, hospitals and data centers, according to the Department of Energy. Longer run-times, better economics and a talent for weathering the weather might make fuel cells more ubiquitous in these important spots.

Eventually hydrogen may cool, heat and power your home, your business or both. Stationary fuel cells get the DOE really excited. And why not? Their widespread use would put less stress on the electrical grid. They're also efficient, quiet and low emitters.

Last but not least, hydrogen could get you a job. There's a growing market for hydrogen and related fuel cell technologies, $498 million in 2009, according to the DOE, and the business of fuel cells could wind up contributing more than 180,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy by 2020, and more than 675,000 jobs by 2035.

That's a lot of praise for hydrogen. What do you guys think about a hydrogen economy? By all means, weigh in below or head over to Facebook and Twitter to continue the discussion.