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Hydrogen or H2 gas is highly flammable and will burn at concentrations as low as 4% H2 in air. For automotive applications, hydrogen is generally used in two forms: internal combustion or fuel cell conversion. In combustion, it is essentially burned as conventional gaseous fuels are, whereas a fuel cell uses the hydrogen to generate electricity that in turn is used to power electric motors on the vehicle. Hydrogen gas must be produced and is therefore is an energy storage medium, not an energy source. The energy used to produce it usually comes from a more conventional source. Hydrogen holds the promise of very low vehicle emissions and flexible energy storage; however, many believe the technical challenges required to realize these benefits may delay hydrogen’s widespread implementation for several decades.
Hydrogen can be obtained through various thermochemical methods utilizing methane (natural gas), coal, liquefied petroleum gas, or biomass (biomass gasification), from electrolysis of water, or by a process called thermolysis.*