While the hydrogen fuel cell might not be viable for commercial vehicles for years, here’s some hope for the promising element. A group of Philadelphia-based creatives known as the 20/2 Collaborative have designed a unique concept that enables on-site production and distribution of biologically produced hydrogen fuel for vehicles. This plan mixes algae ponds with floating balloons to integrate fuel production and distribution into the local landscape and allows the renewable fuel to be created and distributed from the same place. This may sound a little complicated, but the renderings sure look amazing. Who knew that fuel production could look like so much fun?

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

The idea builds off the work of several research groups, including scientists at UC Berkeley, who are currently focused on the production of hydrogen from algae. It also recognizes the promise of fuel-efficient, non-polluting transportation in the telling crop of hydrogen concepts rolling out from automakers like GM, Honda, VW, Mercedes, and Ford.

While hydrogen is fast becoming the fuel of the future, storage and distribution have been a challenge. Hydrogen has large containment requirements and, in the US, refilling stations exist only in LA, New York, and DC. The 20/2 Collaborative concept embraces the storage requirements of hydrogen and integrates the fuel supply into the visible built environment. The result is a clean, human-scale infrastructure that connects user to source in an environmentally sound encounter.

The concept was originally designed for application in Reykjavik, Iceland, as part of the Vatnsmýri Urban Planning Competition to further the country’s commitment to renewable energy and position as an environmental leader. The 20/2 Collaborative developed a prototype algae pond and balloon that could produce and store hydrogen for use by up to 12 vehicles. Specifically, researchers estimate that a pond with a 10-meter diameter will provide enough hydrogen weekly for 12 cars.

The idea is clean, renewable hydrogen fuel from algae locally grown and part of the urban planning process. The 20/2 Collaborative concept is a new kind of “fenceline” community – one where proximity to fuel production, storage, and distribution becomes a natural experience in sync with biological processes and free from environmental degradation.