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New Tool for Determining Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Hydrogen Infrastructure and Fuel Cell Vehicles

GHG analysis for hydrogen from renewable sources (HR) and fossil sources (HF), compared to advanced gasoline ICE vehicles (Scenario G). The portion of GHG emissions associated with gasoline ICE vehicles is distinguished from those associated with HFCV. Credit: ACS, Stephens-Romero et al. Click to enlarge.

Although studies widely agree that widespread deployment of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the associated infrastructure would reduce air pollutant emissions from the transportation sector, the extent to which air quality in an urban airshed will be affected by these reductions is a more complex matter than simply quantifying emissions.

To address that, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a new tool—spatially and temporally resolved energy and environment tool” (STREET)—to characterize the pollutant and GHG emissions associated with a comprehensive hydrogen supply infrastructure and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a high level of geographic and temporal resolution.

STREET integrates preferred combination assessment (PCA) methodology with spatial and temporal infrastructure design and a robust air quality simulation model to provide a capability to assess quantitatively the impacts (e.g., GHG, criteria pollutants, energy intensity, water resources, costs, urban air quality) for future year scenarios proposed for fuels and power plants associated with both mobile and stationary sources.

STREET, says the researchers, allows for business scenarios for fuels, technologies and power generation to be vetted, modified, and refined a priori relative to meeting goals of lowering carbon, enhancing air quality and protecting water resources.

Applying STREET to the South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB) in California as an example, the researchers found that A significant adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the associated infrastructure by the year 2060 would substantially improve urban air quality. A paper on their study was published online 4 November in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The also determined that a renewable energy emphasis on hydrogen infrastructure deployment produces localized air quality benefits that surpass those of a hydrogen infrastructure scenario with more fossil fuel use. A paper on their work was published online in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Findings suggest that, compared to projections of remarkably improved ICE and hybrid ICE vehicles, hydrogen infrastructure and HFCV deployment will substantially improve air quality in an urban airshed and reduce GHG emissions from passenger vehicles, even when fossil fuels are a significant source of hydrogen. While these results agree with previous hydrogen infrastructure studies in a general sense (e.g., GHG are reduced, air quality is improved), they provide an unprecedented level of detail and insight from a planning perspective.

The coupling of spatially and temporally resolved hydrogen scenarios with the UCI-CIT air quality model provides an understanding of how HFCV can effect localized pollution within an urban air basin as well as how these effects can change depending upon spatial allocation of hydrogen infrastructure and temporal distribution of emissions from the infrastructure. Furthermore, the capability to simulate integrated hydrogen infrastructure scenarios provides insight into the degree to which variations in a diverse hydrogen production and distribution portfolio may affect overall environmental benefits.

—Stephens-Romero et al.


  • Shane Stephens-Romero, Marc Carreras-Sospedra, Jacob Brouwer, Donald Dabdub, Scott Samuelsen (2009) Determining Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Hydrogen Infrastructure and Fuel Cell Vehicles. Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP doi: 10.1021/es901515y



Hydrogen gas can become a neutral, non-polluting, low cost fuel for cars, trucks, ships, electrical generation, agricol machineries, small motors like motorcycles and lawnmowers, even for airplanes. There is numerous methods to make hydrogen gas with water and it's water neutral at the end of the cycle ( water- hydrogen + oxygen- water ) . Solar panels, windmills, power-stations, chemical reactions, algae farming, composts, garbage destruction, waste-water cleaning, can produce cheap hydrogen. Hydrogen can be fitted for 1000$-2000$ approx to any ice car of today or future fuelcell.


By 2060 the manufacture of H2 is likely less problematical and many of the other issues will be solved. If not so? we will have forgotten this conversation.


I think it's odd and telling how the study chose to ignore the 3rd possibility of NGVs. NGVs produce almost no pollutants (other than CO2) and are even cleaner than I.C. engines running on hydrogen, which can emit significant NOx.

Everything a.b. said above is also true for synthetic methane, except that infrastructure and end-use vehicles would be much less expensive. In fact, the infrastructure is already in place in the form of our NG pipelines.

Should H2 from electrolyzed water become economical, you can react it with CO2 to form methane: CO2 + 4H2 -> CH4 + 2H2O.
Note that this operation also uses much less net water at the point of creation, which saves on that vital resource as well.

Barring technical advancements that would border on the miraculous (cheap fuel cells AND cheap on-board storage AND cheap H2 infrastructure) hydrogen as a vehicle fuel makes no sense whatsoever. Unfortunately, it seems to be hard to get funded to do a study about all of THAT.... :)


What a Load of Cr^p.
Hydrogen is only as clean as the energy that's used to manufacture it.
PHEV, BEV can be implemented today at a tenth of the cost of hydrogen vehicles & infrastructure.

Henry Gibson

Even lead acid batteries can be used for the average trip of the average automobile in the US. Lithium Ion and other batteries are very expensive but less so than hydrogen fuel cells. In Norway with nearly 100 percent hydro electricity there is little CO2 from operating an electric car, but TH!NK was caught with no money and a too expensive car. But they also ignored using a range extender just for sales not use purposes. With a tiny range extender, the price of the car battery could be cut by half or more and more people would be willing to buy such a car even if they never use fuel. ..HG..


To Henry gibson,

I say the same thing then you about range-extender. For the price it add to the whole car, a battery only car without a range-extender make no sense. No one will buy a battery only car because it cost a fortune for a medium range battery and it upset the car with cost and weight and it perform bad in cold and can let you down anywhere on the road, especially congested highways, way dangeurous. Many new compact high-efficiency designs can be made in the 10 to 20 h.p zone because it's the average h.p a car need.


Of course if anyone wanted to study the new physics of atomic H at low orbitsphere energy states - this whole energy issue would be moot.

Old school energy companies are planning to reform coal to produce H2. We really don't want new physics at this point do we?

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