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.
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.