NEWS | Nov. 1, 2003

Hydrogen as a Fuel for DOD

By Timothy Coffey, Dennis R. Hardy, Gottfried E. Besenbruch, Kenneth R. Schultz, Lloyd C. Brown, and Jill P. Dahlburg Defense Horizons 36


Hydrogen as a Fuel for DODOverview

Energy issues have been at the center of the national security debate for some time, and the current situation in the Persian Gulf underscores the strategic importance of sound energy policy. Activities or developments—geopolitical, environmental, technological, or regulatory—that materially change the energy security equation are, naturally, of great interest to the Department of Defense (DOD). The announcement by President George Bush in his State of the Union address that he intends to accelerate research and development (R&D) for hydrogen-powered vehicles toward the objective of total U.S. energy independence has great potential impact on DOD. This paper examines a number of technical issues connected with energy independence through hydrogen and how they might affect DOD. We conclude that the move to a hydrogen economy will be a massive undertaking, requiring large investments and decades to accomplish. We will show that, with few exceptions, pure hydrogen is not a viable fuel for DOD missions, primarily because of the DOD requirement for compact, high-volumetric energy density power sources. As a result, to meet its unique needs, DOD likely will have to increase its dependence on nuclear power and support R&D that investigates ways to use hydrogen to synthesize hydrocarbon fuels in an environmentally compliant fashion. Several suggestions and recommendations will be made in this regard.