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Exciting times – Hydrogen and Fuel Cell History

Thursday, November 17, 2016 10:45
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Hydrogen and Fuel Cell History

Having just passed the second National Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Day, we will probe the history and heritage of both in a series of articles.

Exciting times.

People around the world read all the newest information on Kevin Kantola’s extraordinary website. The second, electrifying transportation rEVolution since the Model T started only a few short years ago.

The Hydrogen Age has begun and is now officially recognized with October 8 as the National Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Day.

  • RESOLUTION 217 declares: “Whereas hydrogen, which has an atomic mass of 1.008, is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe;” Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate [of the United States of America] designates October 8, 2015, as “National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day”.            [and every 10 08 hereafter]

An interesting insight into the intricacies of ‘law-making’, all the other ‘Whereas’ of this declaration can be seen at the above link. Fuel cell vehicles are no longer ‘pie in the sky’ as depicted at that interactive European H2 website.

Lucky motorists, mainly in California, can choose between three different makes of FCVs. But not only passenger cars, also planes, trains and automobiles –buses–, and ships, rockets, large and small generating stations are powered by Hydrogen now; And forklift trucks, airport tugs, and all sorts of imaginable things with one or more wheels – scooters and motorcycles of well-known makes included.

The future looks promising for hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, but what about the past?

The italicized ‘motorists’ above is a word held over from a century ago, when one-third of MOTOR-vehicles were powered by an electric motor, losing ground, but not hope, to the internal combustion engine (ICE). Its rise to predominance was made possible only by the quick “recharging” time of the fuel tank from the petroleum industry.

How wrong we have been!

A fuel cell is the electric range extender, which will replace the IC engine of the Chevrolet Volt-type vehicles and other hybrid-electric vehicles which still depended on an engine for lack of a battery with sufficient range. Fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles.


This retired auto industry insider came across ‘hydrogencarsnow’ during research for my weekly newspaper columns ‘Fuel for Thought’. For more than a decade, I informed Canadian readers in the Great Lakes area about what was coming down the road, in several papers of a Media Group. After reading one of these articles, a now defunct website commissioned yours truly to write a “Hydrogen & Fuel Cell History”. However, before all of that had been published, the site was ‘switched off ’ — keeping with electrical terms.

After assembling many of these articles into a series of eBooks on Amazon-Kindle, this writer looked for new horizons to share his passion and experience with all types of vehicles with more readers. Corresponding with HydroKevin in early 2016, I agreed to revise the extensive essay on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell History and let his readers – YOU – find out how all the recent and new issues and products he writes about, came to be. — What about yester-year’s information? When, where and why did it all start? Who was involved? What happened along the way?

So here goes:

New and regular visitors to this site, [the extinct one and now] as well as those deeply involved in this new industry, may discover historic facts or retrace the chain of events that paved the way to the present state of the art (and science & technology) in this industry. Apropos paved, the omnipresent automobile is the most likely vehicle to drive fuel cell development forward.  But fuel cells can do so much more than power a vehicle, as we’ll discover.

No need to know chemistry or engineering; you will gain clear insight into this fascinating new era of abundant, green energy with the potential of a future without air pollution.  We often hear the term Sustainable Mobility. In the future, hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to depose the horse and oxen of the past and the internal combustion engine of the present for motive power. In one of my articles, the ICE became the “Infernal Consumption Engine”. [Even the frugal, promising Diesel engine suffered a serious setback in 2015.]

In contrast, hydrogen fuel cells have the ability to supply electricity to power a wristwatch or a large city, replacing a tiny battery or a power generating station – and do so with zero pollution.

In easy to understand language, this series of articles will inform and entertain one and all –infotainment is the new buzzword – about the surprisingly long history of fuel cells and hydrogen as a fuel.  Enjoy!

Next: Turbulent Times


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