Science Questions

Will hydrogen powered cars upset the balance of oxygen in the atmosphere?

Sat, 19th Jun 2010

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Question

Alex Mair asked:

Quick question, assume in the future all cars are run on hydrogen. The only biproduct is water. I'm guessing the oxogen from the water comes from the atmosphere. Will this upset the balance?

 

Regards, Alex Mair,

 

Aberdeen, Scotland.

 

:)

Answer

We put this question to Professor Stephen Bennington from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory...

It shouldnít do because itís recycling it.  So I mean you're taking water, you split it up into hydrogen and oxygen, and then you recombine them again in your car.  So, the net effect is zero.  Water vapour is different perhaps because if you're using these things to power jets up in the high atmosphere and then you're depositing water vapour up there, and thatís a greenhouse gas.  So we have to think carefully about those problems.  Itís probably not a problem, but it could be.

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Alex Mair asked the Naked Scientists:

Quick question, assume in the future all cars are run on hydrogen.

The only biproduct is water. I'm guessing the oxygen from the water comes from the atmosphere. So will this upset the balance?

Regards, Alex Mair,

:)

What do you think? Alex Mair, Sat, 24th Apr 2010

Hello Alex,

As long as the hydrogen was produced by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen, there would be no net change in oxygen.

Geezer, Sat, 24th Apr 2010

Geezer - You wrote: "As long as the hydrogen was produced by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen, there would be no net change in oxygen." Wrong.

Each and every source of hydrogen I have ever heard of requires energy in order to collect, produce, package, compres, and distribute the stuff.  After which it is burned into water from ambient oxygen. The entire cycle is powered, in large part, by fossil fuels. litespeed, Wed, 5th May 2010



Litespeed,

It seems you are unaware that water can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis. The energy to drive this process could be provided by any number of nonfossil energy sources.

When the hydrogen is consumed it converts back into water. Where is the net change in oxygen, or didn't you understand the question? Geezer, Wed, 5th May 2010

Geezer - We are just pondering technicalities. The question posed does not stipulate how the electrolysis will be accomplished.  However, ALL currently 'so called' reneuable sources are HEAVILY dependent, and often subsidized with fossil fuels. Nuclear power could not exist without fossil fuels. Wind turbines are MADE out of the stuff.

And it gets worse.  Ethanol production for maize has already been accused of causing food riots in places like Egypt. The entirety of the 21st century will be run almost entirely on fossil fuels. Hell, even using all these fossile fuels we will not get one nuke plant on line till at least 2030.

Till then, China, I believe, is constructing one large coal plant per week. It just a fatct..... litespeed, Wed, 5th May 2010

Litespeed,

The question was very specific, and the answer you gave was incorrect. If you want to start a new topic, feel free but please do not use this topic as your personal soapbox. Geezer, Wed, 5th May 2010

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