First of all, regardless of hydrogen energy or lithium energy, they are all energy storage solutions. They all just store green energy (solar energy, wind energy, etc.) or fossil energy. They are not “new energy sources”.

Why Hydrogen and Lithium

According to the periodic table of elements, hydrogen helium lithium beryllium boron or hydrogen lithium sodium potassium rubidium cesium francium are suitable for batteries. Why are lithium batteries or hydrogen fuel cells relatively famous so far?
Helium, beryllium, boron, sodium, potassium, rubidium, cesium, and francium are not suitable for batteries because they lack the chemical properties necessary for the creation of an electrical charge through a reaction with an electrolyte. These elements are not electrically conductive, not reactive enough, and in some cases highly reactive and prone to combustion, making them unsuitable for use in batteries. On the other hand, hydrogen and lithium have the properties that make them suitable for use in batteries. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to produce electricity through a chemical reaction, while lithium is highly reactive and can easily transfer electrons, making it ideal for use in lithium-ion batteries.

periodic table
periodic table(From https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/)

What are the benefits and drawbacks of using hydrogen vs. lithium for energy storage?

Hydrogen

Advantages

  • Hydrogen has a higher energy density compared to batteries, meaning it can store more energy per unit of weight.
  • Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of sources, including renewable energy sources, making it a potentially more sustainable option for energy storage.
  • Hydrogen can be used in fuel cell vehicles, allowing for a clean form of transportation.
  • In terms of large-scale energy storage, hydrogen energy storage has obvious cost advantages over lithium battery energy storage.

Disadvantages

  • Hydrogen is currently more expensive to produce and store compared to lithium-ion batteries.
  • Hydrogen storage requires high-pressure tanks or cryogenic storage, which can be challenging and expensive.
  • Hydrogen production and transportation also require a significant infrastructure investment.
  • Hydrogen gas is prone to hydrogen embrittlement, so containers for storing hydrogen gas require high safety standards.

Lithium

Advantages

  • Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more compact compared to hydrogen storage systems.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are well-established technology with a well-developed supply chain and production infrastructure.
  • Lithium-ion batteries have a higher round-trip efficiency compared to hydrogen storage systems, meaning more energy can be stored and used compared to the energy used to produce and store it.

Disadvantages

  • Lithium-ion batteries have a limited lifespan and can degrade over time.
  • Lithium-ion batteries can be subject to thermal runaway and can pose a fire risk if damaged or not properly maintained.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are primarily manufactured with materials that have limited resources and may not be as environmentally friendly as hydrogen.
  • The viscosity of the electrolyte in lithium batteries will increase at low temperatures, and the ion conduction speed will slow down. As a result, the electron migration speed of the external circuit does not match, the battery is severely polarized, and the charge and discharge capacity is sharply reduced.

Calorific value

Calorific value
Calorific value

The calorific value of hydrogen is the highest among common fuels, up to 142KJ/g, which is about 3 times that of petroleum and 4.5 times that of coal. If it is made into a battery, the energy density of hydrogen batteries will also be greater, about 40kWh/kg , much higher than the energy density of ordinary lithium-ion batteries of about 0.25kWh/kg and fuel oil of about 12kWh/kg.

How does the production of hydrogen and lithium impact the environment?

Lithium production:

  • Lithium extraction and processing can strain water resources in arid regions, where most lithium deposits are found.
  • The processing of lithium ore can release toxic chemicals into the environment.
  • The development of lithium mines can lead to land degradation and the destruction of wildlife habitats.
  • The source of electrical energy for lithium energy depends on the current energy source.
Shares of primary energy in Rapid
Shares of primary energy in Rapid

Hydrogen production:

  • The majority of hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, leading to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
  • The production of hydrogen using electrolysis can be energy-intensive, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions if the electricity used is generated from non-renewable sources.
  • Clean and renewable energy such as wind power and photovoltaics, combined with water electrolysis hydrogen production technology, produces green hydrogen. It can realize clean and low-carbon throughout the life cycle.

What are the potential applications for hydrogen and lithium in the transportation industry?

Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for fuel cell vehicles, where it reacts with oxygen to produce electricity, which powers an electric motor. Hydrogen is seen as a potential alternative to conventional gasoline and diesel because it produces only water when burned and can be produced from renewable energy sources.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are more suitable as commercial vehicles (trucks and buses, etc.).

  1. Because the number of hydrogen refueling stations in various countries is not enough, it is not convenient to refuel ordinary passenger cars (family cars).
  2. The routes of commercial vehicles are relatively fixed.
  3. The speed of hydrogenation can be completed in only 3-5 minutes, and the cruising range can reach 850km.
  4. Forklifts: The forklifts in Amazon’s warehouses use hydrogen fuel cell forklifts, which reduce exhaust emissions. It also reduces noise impact. Replacing the energy replenishment method of the hydrogen cylinder also greatly reduces the charging time.

Lithium is a key component in the batteries used to power electric vehicles (EVs). Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in EVs due to their high energy density and long cycle life, making them well suited for use in vehicles. Lithium is also used in the batteries of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
Why are lithium batteries not suitable for use in commercial vehicles? To give a practical example, the model 3 battery weighs about 800 kilograms, and the battery life of the low-end version is ~450 kilometers, which should actually be about 400 kilometers. For commercial vehicles, take a certain electric commercial vehicle recently pushed by an OEM as an example. The battery life of 2.5t is 190km. Taking 9.6m as an example, the total weight of 19t is deducted by 7t of its own weight, and there is still a cargo weight of 12t, but the battery life is only 190km. , if you want to achieve 500km (the basic threshold), at least 3t of batteries are needed, which also means that 3t of goods will be less loaded, and the cost will not be calculated at all. Now everyone has proposed a solution to build a power station along the way. We think that the infrastructure of the power station is very similar to that of a gas station. It is still difficult to have a giant enterprise to do it. Therefore, battery commercial vehicles are basically not practical.
Lithium batteries have an energy density of about 220wh/kg. Only semi-solid batteries and solid-state batteries can achieve 500wh/kg. After the energy density is doubled, pure electric heavy-duty trucks will be useful, and they will not be seen within 5 years possibility.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the very interesting overview. I would add on a practical suggestion of a modular truck concept, therfore belt and road development for example would not depend on still developing fuel cell installations into vehicles, sufficient green hydrogen etc. It can deal with the reality of already mature electrical drive train technology and evolving electric power generation, battery and energy storage systems. Energy storage component development is volatile and will remain fluid for decades to come. Whereas a comprehensive modular electric truck concept will remain valid through these perspectives. Only the characteristic of range extender units would change and needs to change. Range extender units incorporated into the driver cabin, as indicated in my short demonstration, will be swapped affordably from multi fuel or diesel combustion to fuel cells or lithium batteries etc. https://youtu.be/yFSg2Ql_XJ8?si=5bBi_CeIDCy7lgRs .
    Massive capacites can be quickly brought on the road without missing the target of future adaptations …..