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Why Your Hydrogen Car Needs Better Fuel: A Look at Purification

Hydrogen-fueled cars are emerging as a viable alternative to traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles, offering a tantalizing glimpse of a more sustainable future. As we grapple with the pressing issues of climate change and dwindling natural resources, the automotive industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Hydrogen cars stand at the forefront of this change, promising zero-emission driving with water vapor as the only byproduct.

With companies like Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai leading the charge, hydrogen vehicles are becoming more accessible to the average consumer. Countries around the world are investing heavily in hydrogen infrastructure, including an expanding network of fueling stations that make long-range travel increasingly feasible. Moreover, the rapid advances in fuel cell technology are enhancing vehicle performance, reducing costs, and improving the overall driving experience.

However, the clean and green potential of hydrogen cars is directly influenced by the quality of the hydrogen fuel they use. This is where hydrogen purification technologies, such as Honeywell’s Polybed™ Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA), come into play, ensuring that hydrogen is not only abundant but also pure and efficient. As we’ll discover later in this video, the purification process is essential for unlocking the full potential of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.

Stay tuned as we delve into the technicalities of hydrogen purification, its impact on fuel cell vehicles, and the innovations that are making it all possible.

The Hydrogen Supply Chain

The hydrogen supply chain is a multi-step process that takes hydrogen from its production source all the way to the fueling stations where it’s dispensed into vehicles. Each phase in this chain is critical, and today we’re highlighting one of the most essential yet often overlooked steps: purification.

Here’s how the supply chain generally works:

  1. Production: Hydrogen is primarily produced through either steam methane reforming (SMR) of natural gas or via electrolysis of water. The latter is considered greener, especially if powered by renewable energy sources like solar or wind.

  2. Transportation: Once produced, the hydrogen is transported to distribution centers, typically either by pipeline or in high-pressure tanks.

  3. Storage: At these centers, hydrogen is stored in large quantities under specific conditions to maintain its purity and stability.

  4. Purification: Before or after storage, purification technologies like Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA come into play. They remove impurities like moisture, oxygen, and trace hydrocarbons to ensure the hydrogen meets the strict purity standards required for fuel cells.

  5. Dispensing: Finally, the purified hydrogen is transported to fueling stations, where it’s dispensed into vehicles.

Purification is crucial for several reasons. Impurities can seriously degrade the performance of fuel cells, reducing their efficiency and lifespan. Contaminants can also pose safety risks, making purification not just a quality issue but also a safety imperative.

As hydrogen cars become more mainstream, the demand for highly purified hydrogen will grow exponentially. Technologies like Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA are geared to meet this demand, ensuring that the hydrogen fueling our cars is as clean and efficient as possible.

Common Impurities in Hydrogen

Hydrogen may seem like a simple element, but when it comes to its use as a fuel, purity is paramount. Even small concentrations of impurities can significantly impact the performance and longevity of fuel cells. So, what are these common contaminants that sneak into hydrogen fuel?

  1. Moisture (H2O): Even trace amounts of moisture can corrode the internal components of a fuel cell, reducing its operational life.

  2. Oxygen (O2): While oxygen is essential for the functioning of a fuel cell, an excess of it in the hydrogen supply can lead to the formation of oxides, which can impede performance.

  3. Carbon Dioxide (CO2): Particularly when hydrogen is produced through steam methane reforming, carbon dioxide can be a common impurity. CO2 can cause “carbon coking,” leading to fuel cell damage.

  4. Nitrogen (N2): Typically not harmful in small quantities, but an excess can dilute the hydrogen and decrease the fuel cell’s performance.

  5. Hydrocarbons: Various forms of hydrocarbons like methane (CH4) can be present, especially if the hydrogen is derived from natural gas. These can lead to the formation of solid carbon within the fuel cell, affecting its efficiency.

  6. Sulfur Compounds: These can poison the catalysts within the fuel cell, leading to a dramatic drop in performance and potentially permanent damage.

  7. Metallic Particles: These can originate from the pipes and tanks used in hydrogen production and transportation. They can accumulate in the fuel cell and cause electrical short circuits.

  8. Organic Compounds: Traces of organic compounds can sometimes be found, which may not always be effectively removed through standard purification processes.

Because of these potential contaminants, high-quality purification technologies like Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA are not a luxury but a necessity. These systems are designed to remove the aforementioned impurities, ensuring that the hydrogen used in fuel cells is as pure as possible for optimal performance.

Why Purification Matters?

When it comes to hydrogen-fueled vehicles, purity isn’t just about achieving optimal performance; it’s also about ensuring safety and long-term reliability. Here’s why the purity of hydrogen matters so much in automotive applications:


Fuel cells are precision-engineered to operate at maximum efficiency when the hydrogen fed into them meets certain purity standards. Even small amounts of contaminants can lead to a drop in performance, causing the vehicle to run less efficiently and ultimately costing the owner more in terms of both fuel and maintenance.


The lifespan of a fuel cell is directly impacted by the quality of hydrogen it consumes. Impurities can lead to corrosion, accumulation of unwanted materials, or even poisoning of the catalysts that facilitate the energy conversion process. Consequently, using impure hydrogen can significantly shorten the life of the fuel cell, making regular replacements necessary—each of which can be quite costly.


Certain impurities pose safety risks. For example, metallic particles can cause electrical short-circuits, while excess oxygen can increase the risk of oxidation reactions that could be hazardous. High-quality purification processes are critical in minimizing these safety risks.

Regulatory Compliance

Various international and local standards dictate the minimum purity levels that hydrogen fuel must meet. Non-compliance can result in fines and legal action, making it critical for hydrogen producers and distributors to invest in reliable purification technologies.

Consumer Confidence

As hydrogen vehicles compete with electric and internal combustion engine vehicles, consumer confidence in the technology is vital. Knowing that the hydrogen fuel they are using is of the highest purity can give consumers the assurance they need to choose hydrogen vehicles over alternatives.

For all these reasons, state-of-the-art purification technologies like Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA are not just important but indispensable in the hydrogen supply chain for automotive applications. By delivering hydrogen that meets or exceeds purity standards, these technologies help make hydrogen a viable and sustainable fuel option for the future.

Traditional Purification Methods

Traditional methods of hydrogen purification have served as the bedrock for refining hydrogen for various applications, but they come with their own set of limitations. Let’s take a moment to explore some of these conventional techniques and the challenges associated with them.

Membrane Separation

In this method, a semi-permeable membrane allows only hydrogen to pass through, leaving impurities behind.

  1. Limitations: Membranes can degrade over time and are sensitive to contaminants like sulfur compounds. They also may not achieve the high purity levels required for fuel cells.

Cryogenic Separation

This involves cooling the gas mixture to extremely low temperatures to separate hydrogen based on the different boiling points of the components.

  1. Limitations: Energy-intensive and not always practical for large-scale operations. Achieving extremely low temperatures is costly and complicated.

Chemical Absorption

Various chemical solvents can be used to absorb impurities from hydrogen gas.

  1. Limitations: Involves the use of potentially hazardous chemicals, and the absorption materials may need frequent replacement. It may also not remove all types of impurities effectively.

Pressure- and Temperature-Swing Adsorption

Earlier versions of adsorption-based techniques involved varying pressure or temperature to adsorb and desorb impurities.

  1. Limitations: These methods often require a complex series of valves and controls, making them less efficient and harder to scale up for large operations.

Given these limitations, the demand for more efficient and reliable methods has grown. This is where advanced technologies like Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA come into play. Unlike traditional methods, Polybed™ PSA is engineered to overcome many of these challenges, offering a more robust, scalable, and efficient solution for hydrogen purification.

Innovative Solutions: Honeywell’s PSA Technology

Honeywell’s Polybed™ Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) technology is a game-changer in the realm of hydrogen purification, addressing many of the limitations inherent in traditional methods. Let’s dive into what makes this technology so transformative.

How Polybed™ PSA Works

At its core, Polybed™ PSA uses a bed of specialized adsorbent material that selectively captures impurities when hydrogen gas flows through it. By applying cycles of pressure changes, the system can not only adsorb impurities at high pressure but also regenerate itself at lower pressure, making the system highly efficient and sustainable.

Purity Levels

One of the standout features of Polybed™ PSA is its ability to achieve exceptionally high purity levels—up to 99.999%. This far exceeds the capabilities of many traditional methods, meeting and often surpassing international standards for hydrogen purity.

Operational Efficiency

Polybed™ PSA systems can operate at efficiencies exceeding 90% under optimal conditions. This translates to less waste, lower operational costs, and a more eco-friendly process overall.


Whether you need a small modular unit capable of processing several hundred cubic meters of hydrogen per hour or a large-scale installation for industrial needs, Polybed™ PSA systems can be tailored to meet varying demands.

Longevity and Maintenance

The durability of the adsorbent materials and the system’s self-regenerating capability make Polybed™ PSA a long-lasting solution. This minimizes the need for frequent maintenance checks and material replacements, reducing the total cost of ownership.


The technology is designed to handle a wide array of impurities, making it a versatile choice for diverse industrial applications beyond just automotive fuel cells.

Regulatory Compliance

Honeywell’s PSA technology not only meets but often exceeds international standards for safety, purity, and environmental impact, making it a highly reliable choice for hydrogen purification.

In conclusion, Honeywell’s Polybed™ PSA technology offers a robust and versatile solution to the challenges of hydrogen purification. Its capabilities make it a linchpin in the development and widespread adoption of hydrogen as a clean fuel source.

Real-world Impacts

Let’s hear directly from users and industry experts about how advanced hydrogen purification technologies, like Honeywell’s PSA, are making a tangible difference. From extending vehicle range to improving fuel cell lifespan, real-world case studies offer compelling evidence of the technology’s benefits.

Challenges and Criticisms

While hydrogen purification has come a long way, it is crucial to recognize its limitations and criticisms. We’ll take an objective look at current challenges, such as sensitivity to feedstock quality and the need for periodic adsorbent replacement, to offer a balanced perspective.

Regulatory Overview

Purity isn’t just a quality metric—it’s a legal requirement. In this section, we’ll break down the regulations and standards that govern hydrogen fuel’s purity. Learn how technologies like Polybed™ PSA meet and often exceed these criteria, making them not just effective but also compliant solutions.

Future Outlook

As the hydrogen economy continues to evolve, what’s next on the horizon? From breakthroughs in adsorbent materials to AI-powered system controls, we’ll explore emerging technologies and trends that promise to further revolutionize hydrogen purification.


In summary, hydrogen purification technology stands as a critical factor in the widespread adoption and success of hydrogen-fueled cars. With its ability to remove impurities efficiently and its alignment with international standards, this technology promises to be a cornerstone in our journey toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient world.

Thank you for joining us in this deep dive. If you found this exploration valuable and want to stay updated with the latest insights into the world of renewable energy, please like, subscribe, and share this video.

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