Breakthrough in the hydrogen car? Germans reach milestone

A hydrogen car chassis.

A hydrogen car chassis.

Zhou Dongchao / VCG via Getty Images

While Tesla, VW, BYD and Co. are competing for the electromobility market and the federal government wants to encourage sales of the electric vehicles with bonuses and tax benefits, other companies are relying on hydrogen as a form of drive.

One problem: Hydrogen is very volatile and cannot be transported easily, which is why it has to be converted into methanol. In order to be able to use the corresponding vehicles as hydrogen fuel again, the methanol has to be converted back into hydrogen. The common practice of this reverse conversion is, however, quite complex, requires high pressure and high temperatures – that costs energy.

The cascade process enables the hydrogen to be converted back quickly

Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (Likat) have now achieved a breakthrough in precisely this reverse conversion, which could make hydrogen significantly more efficient as an energy source. The scientists have developed and tested a method in which methanol can be converted into hydrogen at temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius.

A so-called cascade process makes all of this possible and was already researched in 2013 as a possibility for efficient reverse conversion – also by Likat scientists, as the International Economic Forum for Renewable Energies (IWR) writes. It is still unclear when the process will leave the laboratory. However, the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) is optimistic and has so far invested around 1.8 million euros in research.



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