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  • For over 40 years, industry has used hydrogen in vast quantities as an industrial chemical and fuel for space exploration. During that time, industry has developed an infrastructure to produce, store, transport and utilize hydrogen safely.
  • In many cases, hydrogen is safer than the fuel we currently use to power our cars. Carbon-based fuels tend to spread as liquids. When it burns, conventional fuel produces hot ash, creating radiant heat. This isn't the case with hydrogen. In its pure form, hydrogen burns no carbon and produces no hot ash and very little radiant heat.
  • Hydrogen is highly flammable but when hydrogen leaks and being the lightest element in the world, it ascends rapidly into the atmosphere, so it has less time to burn.  As a highly compressed gas, hydrogen requires clear rules of usage, exactly like as any other fuel.
  • Hydrogen is being used for a long time already and has been produced, stored and transported all across Europe for decades. Unfortunately, there are still misperceptions that spring from the absence of knowledge that hydrogen is already on the market and a promising energy carrier that could help decarbonize industry and transport.  

The Hindenburg: a wrong perception

History has shown that the public perception can be long-term negatively influenced by hydrogen related incidents. A clear example is the Hindenburg disaster, a fatality occurred in 1937 wrongly attributed to hydrogen, that is still in the mind of the society.

What happened was that an electrical discharge from the clouds while docking during an electrical storm ignited the skin of the airship. Then, the hydrogen burned quickly, safely, above the occupants, but the diesel fuel burned for up to ten hours after the ignition.

The Hindenburg would have burned the same if it had been filled with inert helium gas, because the main cause of the Hindenburg accident were not the bags of hydrogen that provided the lifting force for the zeppelin, but a combination of dark iron oxide and reflective aluminum paint that were coating the surface of the ship. These components are extremely flammable and burn at a very high energetic rate once ignited.

Hydrogen and the Bomb H: nothing in common

Hydrogen has been and continues being confused with the “hydrogen bomb”. This leads to the misperception that hydrogen as a fuel would transform a vehicle into a bomb on four wheels. However, the hydrogen economy uses the most common type of hydrogen: the isotope, Protium. Hydrogen bomb technology uses a rare hydrogen isotope called Tritium. Both Tritium plus the super-intense heat from the detonation of a nuclear fission bomb are needed to induce the nuclear fusion reaction that makes a hydrogen bomb. Tritium is radioactive and does not occur naturally, but can be made with lithium or a conventional nuclear reactor. This technology bears no resemblance to the simple chemical reactions associated with the Protium hydrogen isotope in hydrogen production, storage, distribution and use in the hydrogen economy.

h2 bomb

Endurance test of hydrogen tanks in vehicles

When it come to the usage of hydrogen as a fuel in the transport sector (mobility), Toyota has performed a series of very demanding safety test of the tank used in their fuel cell vehicle “Mirai”.
The tank passed all tests, including a crush test with a force of 150 tons and even survived a gunshot from point blanc.
Hydrogen is no more or less dangerous than other flammable fuels, including gasoline and natural gas. In fact, some of hydrogen’s differences actually provide safety benefits compared to gasoline or other fuels. However, all flammable fuels must be handled responsibly. Like gasoline and natural gas, hydrogen is flammable and can behave dangerously under specific conditions. Hydrogen can be handled safely when simple guidelines are observed and the user has an understanding of its behavior.

The International Association of Hydrogen Safety, Hysafe, is the focal point for all safety related issues of hydrogen.