Hydrogen/Methanol Vehicles and the Environment



Fueling with methanol
Fuel cell vehicles reforming hydrogen carrier fuels (such as methanol) on board emit just miniscule amounts of the principal pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds) regulated by the Clean Air Act. FCV also have the potential to greatly reduce green house gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane. Assuming a global fleet of 40 million methanol FCVs by 2020, and average annual mileage of 12,000 miles per vehicle, the annual carbon dioxide emissions reduction would reach 104 million metric tons.

Unlike oil which must delivered with tankers that can be (and have in fact been) targets for terrorism, leak and kill a lot of marine life, methanol can be produced in sufficient amounts in the U.S., reducing the need for ocean transport of toxic chemicals. Beyond that, methanol is an easily biodegradable substance. In the event of a spill in the ocean, it is much less toxic to marine life than crude oil or gasoline (the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics concluded methanol is essentially non-toxic to the four fish species it tested.) In the event of a leak from an underground storage tank, methanol is expected to swiftly biodegrade. Gasoline and many of its toxic components and additives, such as benzene and MTBE, biodegrade more slowly and remain in the environment longer. In any case, the risk of a methanol spill is greatly reduced by the use of double walled containment tanks and leak detection monitors.

Information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
Clean Alternative Fuels - Methanol Factsheet
Chemicals in the Environment: Methanol

Further Reading
Evaluation of the Fate and Transport of Methanol in the Environment
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