How do you respond to this question about fuel cell safety

The question I get asked the most is how does it feel to be driving a bomb or a comparison to driving the modern version of the Hindenburg. Is there a really simple not so technical answer to these types of questions?  I posted this question on LinkedIn and the responses have been amazing. Some of the answers have been really thoughtful others just ridiculous.  Below for your education and enjoyment are some of the responses I received.

NASA scientists believe that the Hindenburg tragedy was caused by the highly flammable materials used to waterproof the skin. Hydrogen was not the cause of the fire.

Dirk Kok Researcher / Electronics Engineer in Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicles.: I often reply with the following:  Do you think health and safety would approve the following: I am going to take a little petrol and light it. I then do this in a small enclosed chamber resulting in turning a piston. So effectively I will be sitting on a bomb going off various times a second.

Gerben Wulff Consultant at WBSO Portaal : You cannot convince people that it’s safe because there are always some risks. The problem is that people are unaware of the risks they take when driving around with a tank full of gasoline. You need to make them aware of those risks before you can convince them that this is not riskier.

Dr. R K Malhotra Former Chairman and Director R&D at Indian Oil Corporation Limited: If at all hydrogen leaks, it being lighter will go up. Gasoline vapours stay near ground and are more risky. In any case precautions have to be taken with all fuels.

Jaco Reijerkerk Head of Business Development & Clean Energy, Linde Gas Benelux:  Any fuel storage system is designed to reach an acceptable safety level. The latter is defined in codes and standards. If a certain fuel poses specific risks, mitigation measures are taken in the design. Hydrogen storage is therefore as safe or safer as any state of the art storage system for conventional fuels. In general storage tanks for hydrogen or CNG are much more rugged than tanks for gasoline or diesel, because they are pressure vessels.

Gareth Thomas Doctoral Researcher at University of Birmingham: There’s some interesting focus group work from the Netherlands that suggests once people start to talk through their concerns they quickly come to the conclusion the technology will be relatively safe (fire brigades trained, safety features fitted to consumer products etc). On the other hand I’ve generally found the reminder that the hindenburg was painted with rocket fuel, and that internal combustion engines are controlled explosion machines works reasonably well these sorts of questions.

Martin W. Mizera MD at Unicorn Power Ltd. (UK) / Bioleux Polska: What makes the flame or explosion “interesting” are all the hydrocarbons and impurities. Hydrogen flame is boring, indeed. What made the Hindenburg fire so spectacular was NOT hydrogen but the burning diesel fuel for the propeller engines.

Yangwei Liu Ph.D Candidate in Chemistry at Georgetown University: People get freaked out because they don’t understand it well. Gasoline is generally considered safer than hydrogen simply because people think they know it, but actually not. We tend to trust things that we familiar with, and are afraid of those that we are not familiar with. This kind of debate always happen when a new thing is invented. However, there are always fore-goers who take the first step and share their experience with the rest of the world. Time will prove.

Benjamin Helton Operations Officer / Lead Technician at Austin Auto Medic:  you tell them this; there are millions of CNG vehicles around the world, including huge fleets of them in the US. these vehicles hold the equivalent amount of explosive potential, but with a low lying gas. hydrogen dissipates up quickly, while carbon based gases linger at ground level (mixing with oxygen and accumulating into large explosive potential). so while CNG vehicles are proven to be safer than gasoline vehicles, hydrogen vehicles are safer than CNG vehicles. technologies always improve, Moore’s law should be good evidence of that.

Rumor: BMW planning i3 fuel cell

John W Nelson Co-Founder / Manager – Haveblue LLC shared this article with me and I find it very interesting.

Latest rumor is that by 2016 BMW will launch a hydrogen-fueled version of its i3 with help from Toyota’s fuel cell technology.

A source speaking to during a recent visit to the US, the Torrance California (USA) based National Manager Advanced Technology Vehicles intimated strongly that BMW would leverage Toyota technology in a fuel cell version of the new-generation i car.

Answering questions regarding the rollout of fuel cell vehicles into the Californian and US markets, Scott stated: “We have a joint partnership with BMW, so we know… where they’re headed.

 “It’s a technology development program where we are supposed to be jointly developing a fuel cell powertrain,” Scott explained.

“I’ll just say that BMW had a lot of choices – there are a lot of people who make fuel cells – and we’re very happy they chose us. [But] They’ve never made a fuel cell before, so this is going to be a good experience, I think, for them and probably for us.

“How much joint is involved I’m not sure. But, you know, I think bothcompanies have a lot to learn from each other.”

When asked whether BMW will use Toyota’s series-production fuel cell technology in a fuel cell version of the i3, Scott suggested crash test regulations would play the biggest part of the integration program.

“It’s just going to come down to meeting crash [testing requirements]… So they’re going to have to find a way to package it [Toyota’s fuel cell stack in the i3] such that they can meet [safety regulations].

“If there were no regulations, per se, then you would put it anywhere you like. But… there would probably be some reinforcement of the chassis, for some parts, to make sure that there’s no infringement during a high-speed accident. The same thing for the [hydrogen] tanks,” he stated.

BMW is no stranger of hydrogen-fueled cars. The company has previously shown a 7 Series Hydrogen and a 1 Series Hydrogen-powered.


Ruben S. Gonzalez

Dot Fulfillment Services 

Here’s an interesting angle….

This is copied from a discussion that started on LinkedIn 

Kevin McNichol

Expert Consultant at ICF International

Here’s an interesting angle….
Say your commute is about 30 miles. In that 30 miles, I think the FCV generates about 1 gallon of water. Let’s suppose that same commute is used by 10,000 other FCVs. Where does all that water go? 😉 (now think about those in the northern climates in the winter!)

You might be saving gas and solving the SE water problem at the same time!