Credit: WBNS 10TV Columbus, Ohio

Behind the Headlines: What Really Happened in the Ohio Hydrogen Trailer Explosion



Robert Wingrove

Principal Consultant / Founder

On February 7th, eyewitnesses reported several explosions and massive fireballs in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident involving a truck carrying hydrogen. What went wrong?

Hydrogen fuel has the potential to revolutionize the way we power our vehicles, but many people are hesitant to embrace this technology due to safety concerns. While it’s true that hydrogen has a reputation for being explosive, it’s important to understand the facts and the safety measures in place to protect against accidents.

In February, a pick-up truck pulling a trailer designed to carry up to 300-kg of gaseous hydrogen was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Ohio. As a result of the incident the hydrogen caught fire resulting the in a total loss of the vehicle and damage to city infrastructure. Thankfully, all three people involved were reported to have only minor injuries.


The Explosive Reputation of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless, and highly flammable gas that has earned a reputation for being explosive. The thought of driving a car powered by such a volatile substance is understandably scary for many people. However, it’s important to understand that hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline or diesel fuel when handled properly.

In fact, hydrogen is actually safer in some ways. For example, hydrogen dissipates quickly in the air, while gasoline and diesel fuel can form dangerous pools that can ignite. Additionally, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have safety systems in place to prevent and mitigate accidents.


Safety Systems on a Hydrogen Vehicle

Here’s a list of safety systems required on hydrogen vehicles and their function:

  1. Pressure Relief Device: Hydrogen tanks operate at high pressure, so pressure relief devices are installed to prevent explosions in the event of a malfunction.
  2. High Temperature Device: a device similar to a fire sprinkler thermal bulb allows hydrogen to flow out of the tank to a safe location when activated. Often the pressure relief device and high temperature device are integrated.
  3. Hydrogen Tanks: Fuel cell vehicles have specially designed hydrogen tanks that are built to withstand high pressure and protect against leaks. These tanks are design to withstand a crash without leaking.


So, what went wrong on Route 23 in Delaware County? Well, nothing. There was an incident where hydrogen started to leak from one or more tanks, but we don’t know what caused it. The leaked hydrogen then caught fire and heated up the tanks, which triggered their safety systems to relieve the pressure and prevent a massive explosion. Since there were multiple tanks with their own safety systems, there were several smaller explosions as the gas was vented and ignited. The gas was safely directed upwards to prevent any harm.

While this incident may have been scary, it’s important to remember that hydrogen vehicles have safety systems in place to prevent and mitigate accidents. It’s time to embrace the potential of hydrogen as a clean and efficient fuel source for transportation. As consumers, we can support this technology by doing our research, educating ourselves on the safety measures, and advocating for the development of more hydrogen vehicles. Let’s work together to create a safer and more sustainable future for our planet.

Take a look at the initial report video from WBNS 10TV (Columbus, OH) – Video Link


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