While the Age of Aquarius may or may not be upon us, the age of hydrogen as a future form of alternative fuel is. Hydrogen powered cars are in development, hydrogen fueling stations for both home and on the road are being considered and hydrogen-powered flight is coming. This particular form of alternative fuel technology is not as wide spread as solar or wind, but a growing number of companies are developing in this market to change that. One of the more highly visible at the moment is Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, which we first spotted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. We caught up with one of the behind the scenes guys, Taras Wankewycz, over email for a lengthy interview on his company, hydrogen technology and what one can expect the future to bring.
EarthTechling: Tell us a little about Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.
Taras Wankewycz: Horizon Fuel Cell is a global fuel cell company whose mission is to bring fuel cell technology out of the labs and into the market as products. Our approach is quite radical as we are enabling and implementing a widespread adoption of the technology for the first time in over 60 countries simultaneously, starting with micro-fuel cell products and moving gradually into larger and larger solutions. We are also focused on eliminating the two main barriers for fuel cell commercialization, which is cost and practical access to fuel. All our products come with a workable fuel solution and we have various technologies involved in making this possible.
We have five main businesses, three of which are active: education-toy-hobby products /portable power/aerospace-defense. The two areas under development for the future are transport and stationary. We currently have many more products available for sale than any other fuel cell company, and also believe we produced and shipped the most fuel cell products worldwide in terms of units in the last two-three years.
ET: Why hydrogen as an alternative energy source? Any benefits over others such as solar?
TW: Hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier. As element 1 on the periodic table, hydrogen is actually the best possible energy carrier as it stores more energy per unit of weight than any other element in the universe. If we look at our energy use in the past 1000 years, humans went from using the most carbon intensive and least hydrogen intensive material which is wood, to coal, to petroleum products and high octane gasoline (gasoline with a higher content of hydrogen). Over time, the proportion of hydrogen over carbon in these solutions has increased – making our energy more efficient, and less carbon intensive. However even so, we are using an increasing amount of these fossilized hydrocarbons creating a problem on the supply side (price) as well as an environmental problem with the CO/CO2 exhausts from combustion of hydrocarbons. As a natural outcome of our energy evolution, the last frontier for our civilization is zero carbon, 100% hydrogen.
There are several challenges in making use of hydrogen in practical and efficient ways – including production of hydrogen, storage of hydrogen, and conversion to usable electricity using fuel cells. There have been many attempts in the past decades to make this a reality – but it’s not easy as it means bringing together many scientific disciplines to solve fundamental cost related issues. This is still an emerging technology and continuous progress is being made on cost, on efficiency, and performance. Horizon works on all fronts, with many innovations taking place across the board.