Hydrogen is handled and used daily in countless parts of our society. It is actually the most common industrial gas we have today. And for more than a hundred years, the industry has handled enormous amounts of hydrogen and developed working methods to produce, store, transport and use hydrogen in a safe manner.
Hydrogen is flammable, but since hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe, the gas quickly disappears into the atmosphere. The time during which hydrogen could ignite is therefore very short.
As a pressurized gas, the handling of hydrogen needs to follow clear guidelines, just as all other fuels. In many ways, hydrogen is even a safer fuel than the fuels used in conventional vehicles. Fossil-based fuels tend to disperse in liquid form, when they burn they create hot ash and radiant heat. With hydrogen it is the opposite. Should hydrogen ignite, no hot ash is created and very little radiant heat. Thanks to the high energy density of hydrogen and the high efficiency of the fuel cell, a fuel cell car only needs a third of the amount of energy that a traditional vehicle with an internal combustion engine requires, which means that the heat generation in a fire will also only be about a third if all the fuel were to burn up.
Secure vehicles with hydrogen
All fuel cell cars go through extensive crash tests and have a safety system that makes them at least as safe as regular gasoline cars. Fuel cell cars are tested to the same crash test standards (NCAP) as conventional cars and assessed according to the same strict requirements. There are several ways that prevents a tank from exploding:
- Since there is no oxygen in the tanks, an explosion cannot occur inside them.
- In the event of a fire, there are valves that first shut off the hydrogen flow completely. If the temperature continues to rise, the pressure in the tank increases. To prevent the pressure in the tank from causing it to burst, there are additional valves that release the hydrogen in a controlled manner, away from those sitting in the car.
- Sensors that detect leaks of hydrogen are located in several places in the car, which sound the alarm and turn off the hydrogen if a leak occurs.
- Hydrogen rises very quickly in the event of a leak, which means that the hydrogen quickly leaves the car in a harmless direction in the event of a release, unlike liquid fuels such as diesel and gasoline.