1766 Hydrogen was first identified as a distinct element by British scientist Henry Cavendish after he separated hydrogen gas by reacting zinc metal with hydrochloric acid. In a demonstration to the Royal Society of London, Cavendish applied a spark to hydrogen gas yielding water.
This discovery led to his later finding that water (H2O) is made of hydrogen and oxygen.
1783 Jacques Alexander Cesar Charles, “I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable.
1788 Building on the discoveries of Cavendish, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier gave hydrogen its name, which was derived from the Greek words - “hydro” and “genes,” meaning “water” and “born of.”
1800 English scientists William Nicholson and Sir Anthony Carlisle discovered that applying electric current to water produced hydrogen and oxygen gases. This process was later termed “electrolysis.”
1839 The fuel cell effect, combining hydrogen and oxygen gases to produce water and an electric current, was discovered by Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schoenbein
1845 English scientist and Judge Sir William Grove demonstrated Schoenbein’s discovery on a practical scale by creating a “gas battery.” For his achievement he earned the title “Father of the Fuel Cell.”
1920 German engineer Rudolf Erren converted the internal combustion engines of trucks, buses and submarines to use hydrogen or hydrogen mixtures. British scientist and Marxist writer J.B.S. Haldane introduced the concept of renewable hydrogen in his paper. Science and the Futuree, by proposing that there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen."
1937 After ten successful tarns-Atlantic flights from Germany to the United States, the Hindenburg, a dirigible inflated with hydrogen gas, erupted into flames while landing in Lakewood, New Jersey. See 1997. “I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitutes it, used singly or together, will furnish an exhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island (1874)
1958 The United States formed the National Aeronautics and Space (NASA). NASA’s space program currently uses the most liquid hydrogen worldwide, primarily for rocket propulsion and as a fuel for fuel cells.
1959 Francis T. Bacon of Cambridge University in England built the first practical hydrogen-air fuel cell. The 5-kilowatt (kW) system powered a welding machine. He named his fuel cell design the “Bacon Cell.” Later that year, Harry Karl Ihrig, an engineer for the Allis - Chalmers Manufacturing Company demonstrated the first fuel cell vehicle: a 20 horsepower tractor. Hydrogen fuel cells, based upon Bacons design, have been used to generate on-board electricity, heat and water for astronauts aboard the famous Apollo spacecraft and all subsequent space shuttle missions.
1970 Electro chemist John O’M. Bockris coined the term “hydrogen economy.” He later published Energy: the Solar-Hydrogen Alternative, describing his envisioned hydrogen economy where cities in the United States could be supplied with solar energy
1972 In 1972 a Gremlin, modified by The University of California at Los Angeles, entered the 1972 Urban Vehicle Design Competition and won first prize for the lowest tailpipe emissions. Students converted the Gremlins internal combustion engine to run on hydrogen supplied from an onboard tank.
1973 The OPEC oil embargo and the resulting supply shock suggested that the era of cheap petroleum had ended and that the world needed alternative fuels. The development of hydrogen fuel cells for conventional commercial applications began.
Following the conference, the scientists and engineers who attended the THEME conference formed the International Association for Hydrogen Energy (IAHE). Hydrogen balloon
1974 Professor T. Nejat Veziroglu of the Universit
first international conference held to discuss hydrogen energy.
1977 International Energy Agency (IEA) was established in response to global oil market disruptions. IEA activities included the research and development of hydrogen energy technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was also created
1978 National Science Foundation transferred the Federal Hydrogen R&D Program to the U.S. DOE
1988 The Soviet Union Tupolev Design Bureau successfully converted a 164-passenger TU-154 commercial jet to operate one of the jets three engines on liquid hydrogen. The maiden flight lasted 21 minutes.
1989 The National Hydrogen Association (NHA) formed in the United States with ten members. Today, the NHA has nearly 100 members, including representatives from the automobile and aerospace industries, federal, state and local governments, universities, researchers, utilities and energy providers. The International Organization for Standardizations Technical Committee for Hydrogen Technologies was also created.
1990 The world s first solar powered hydrogen production plant at Solar-Wasserstoff-Bayern, a research and testing facility in southern Germany, became operational. The U.S. Congress passed the Spark Matsunaga Hydrogen, Research, Development and Demonstration Act (PL 101-566), which prescribed the formulation of a 5-year management and implementation plan for hydrogen research and development in the United States. The Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel (HTAP) was mandated by the Matsunaga Act to ensure consultation on and coordination of hydrogen research.
1991 Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. begins development of three 30-foot Fuel Cell Test Bed Buses (TBB) as part of their Generation I Bus Program. In 2001, Georgetown finished their second Generation II bus, which uses hydrogen from ethanol to power a 100kW fuel cell “engine.” development of new vehicles technologies and alternative fuels, including hydrogen.
1994 Daimler Benz demonstrated the NECAR I (New Electric CAR), its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, at a press conference in Ulm, Germany.
1995 The Chicago Transit Authority unveiled the first of their three hydrogen fuel cell buses. The small pilot fleet began operation the following year
1997 Retired NASA engineer Addison Bain challenged the belief that hydrogen caused the Hindenburg accident. The hydrogen, Bain demonstrated, did not cause the catastrophic fire but rather it was the combination of static electricity and highly flammable material on the skin of the airship. For more information, view the Hydrogen Safety fact sheet.
1998 Iceland unveiled a plan to create the first hydrogen economy by 2030.
1999 Europe first hydrogen fueling stations were opened in the German cities of Hamburg and Munich. The Royal Dutch/Shell Company committed to a hydrogen future by forming a hydrogen division. Also, a consortium of Icelandic institutions, headed by the financial group New Business Venture Fund, partnered with Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Daimler Chrysler (a merger of Daimler Benz and Chrysler) Norsk Hydro to form the Icelandic Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Company Ltd to further the Hydrogen economy in Iceland