Hydrogen fuel cell

San Diego to Seattle on a Single Tank


San Diego to Seattle on a Single Tank

Volkswagen recently applied for a patent on a new hydrogen fuel cell that would allow cars to travel up to 1,200 miles per tank.

By Bill Hensley

Party in the Kitchen

It’s the evening of the second Tuesday in November and here in the hotel room I don’t want to watch the election news. The narrow type leading in my copy of Moby Dick has made it a tiring read. Call me Eye Fatigue. My news feed is serving up a large helping of Twitter news and probably because the feed feeds on itself I get a fair amount of Tesla news as well. It’s disheartening to read that vandalism of electric vehicle charging stations is starting to seem common. And it’s not surprising to see an “intelligent visual monitoring” company — Osperity — is claiming it can help mitigate many of these problems, including detecting and sending alerts on vehicles blocking access to charging stations without charging. Apparently, that is a thing, a parked row of V8s blocking the charging station spots.

The power grid has enough challenges; vandalism and misuse of some easy-target edge devices is certainly not helping.

Looking for something lighter in the news feed, and … found it! Hydrogen. That’s about as light as it gets. And abundant. In fact, hydrogen is the most abundant known element in the universe. But you knew that, right? Helium is second, then there’s that dark matter we can’t see but that might account for approximately 85 percent of the matter in the universe. Sorry, hydrogen. Tonight’s bird-walk suggests drawing a parallel between dark matter and that dark something else related to the election news tonight. But back to that something lighter.


Volkswagen, in coordination with German company Kraftwerk Tubes, recently applied for the registration of a patent for a new hydrogen fuel cell. It claims it will be lower cost than the current fuel cells and will enable cars with up to 2,000 kilometers on a single tank. That’s about 1,200 miles, or roughly four to five charges for a Tesla Model 3 making the trip. How does a fuel cell work? Check this 2020 article in Technology Designer for an overview. Per Kraftwerk CEO Sascha Kühn, the main advantage in the Kraftwerk version is in the fuel cell materials, specifically the ceramic membrane used instead of the more common plastic membranes, such as those used by Hyundai and Toyota.

Sounds promising. However, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy website states that “Today, about 95 percent of all hydrogen is produced from steam reforming of natural gas.” That’s right, from burning hydrocarbons.


“Green hydrogen” is still expensive. Using wind or solar power, the cost per kilogram of hydrogen is $4 to $5, so the Department of Energy has launched the “1:1:1” initiative in an attempt to get costs down to $1 per kilogram within a decade. The hydrogen fuel cell is proving its potential as an electricity source for homes. South Korea opened the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell plant in 2021 to supply power to 250,000 households annually. And Japan has 400,000 residential fuel cell units helping to power individual homes; about half of them installed by Panasonic.

So yes, we’ll end this on a light note: Hydrogen light to be precise. Stay tuned.

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