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Clean Transport toyota-fcv-detroit

Published on August 20th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Toyota: Hydrogen Fuel Will Be Costly

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August 20th, 2014 by  

DSC_0093

Originally posted on GAS2

Toyota is one of the most outspoken proponents of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, even ditching its partnership with Tesla Motors to focus on the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. But even with generous incentives, fueling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t be cheap, with a full tank of the clean-burning fuel costing around $50, reports Ecomento.

That’s what Toyota’s Senior VP of North America Bob Carter said at the recent JP Morgan Auto Conference, claiming that cost estimate comes directly from the Department of Energy. He says the cost will eventually fall to about $30, which is about on par with the cost to fuel many high-mileage compact cars. For example, my 2012 Chevy Sonic 1.4T costs on average about $35 to fill, and gives me 300 miles of driving range, which is what the Toyota Mirai is claiming.

From the onset though, hydrogen fuel will remain nearly twice as expensive as gasoline it seems, though the Department of Energy is funding research to accelerate price parity with gasoline. But from the onset, filling up a hydrogen fuel cell car is going to be costly, moreso than even gasoline.

Then again, you could just buy a car like the Tesla Model S, which can go 265 miles on a full charge which will cost you (depending on where you live) less than $10 to fully charge. If you hook up to a Tesla Supercharger though, that fuel is free. The initial batch of Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell buyers will also get free fuel, though from a limited (though growing) number of hydrogen fueling stations across SoCal.

Toyota’s admission though makes it clear that even if you do buy a hydrogen car, it won’t save you a dime on fuel costs. Meanwhile, electric vehicles continue to increase in range and decrease in cost, and by 2017 the Tesla Model III aims to offer a 200-mile driving range per charge in a $35,000 sedan, half the price of the $70,000 Toyota Mirai, which begins production at the end of this year.

Sounds like yet another advantage goes to EVs, but Toyota doesn’t want to hear it.

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Rachel McNeer

    I love the idea of HFVs! I remember we never thought electric vehicles would happen and now look at the tesla and bmwi8! All expensive but with more demand will come lower costs. I for one would love to see toyota dealers California carry these cars.

  • JamesWimberley

    Toyota are making an extraordinary strategic mistake. You can understand Fiat/Chrysler and Peugeot-Citroën rubbishing evs, as they are out of the club. But Toyota pioneered them with the hybrid Prius. They have the technology, the manufacturing capacity, the dealer network, the brand. But no pure ev on the market.

  • Roger Pham

    In Japan, (and Europe) a kWh of electricity costs 30 cents and a gallon of gasoline costs $6 USD. A kg of H2 even at $10 USD is still a great bargain because a car can travel 65 miles with, or even higher, using Japanese or European test cycle. Japanese tend to be very patriotic and would support a vehicle that can or will be able to be filled with domestic renewable energy.

    With enough volume of sales in Japan and Europe, the price of FCEV and of H2 will eventually be competitive with gasoline and ICEV elsewhere in the world.

    • jeffhre

      Is it possible to make a kg of compressed H2, stored in liquid form at -250 D F, at 800 bar pressure, using electricity that costs $.30 a kWh…for $10?

      Oh, and if made using renawable energy instead of NG, the cost is about 30% higher.

      • Roger Pham

        Wholesale electricity costs a lot less than $0.30/ kWh.

        With the price of solar PV and wind turbine today, H2 from RE will cost less than H2 from NG.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The problem you are going to keep having, no matter how you pitch your sell, it that it’s going to take more than twice as much electricity per mile than driving an EV. And you’re going to have to pay for the infrastructure to crack water and compress the hydrogen.

          You’ve got an energy loss and an increased infrastructure problem.

          If you ran only when electricity was the cheapest you’d still pay more per kWh for electricity because you’d have to purchase more of the bottom of the curve.

          • jeffhre

            According to Ulf Bossel writing in “Hydrogen Economy”, nearly three times as much electricity. Or nearly three times as many solar panels or wind turbines.

        • jeffhre

          Would you rather pay for 1kWh of electricity, already in your car when you wake up each morning, to complete a commute.

          Or for 3 kWh of electricity and NG reformed hydrogen (and add 30% more USD per kg for renewably sourced H2) at 800 bar compression, stored below -250 D F, when you have to drive to a remote facility to fill up. Better wear gloves for that on cool mornings, I understand that the hose and handle get very cold from the hydrogen. And bundle up since it will happen outdoors, per building code, unlike an EV.

          If that sounds acceptable go for it, you are a true early adopter.

          • Roger Pham

            Good point. FCEV will not replace BEV, since BEV’s are more efficient and will have good range at reasonable cost. However, for those without garage at home or do not want to plug in daily, FCEV is an efficient alternative.

            In perspective, let us consider the solar efficiency of an ICEV on gasoline, which is made from buried biomass from the past. Photosynthesis is under 1% solar efficiency to biomass! then pyrolysis make crude oil at 80% efficiency! then to transport the crude oil for thousands mile to refinery, then refining the oil at 80% efficiency, then transport the gasoline to the gas station….solar efficiency at under 0.5% efficiency…to use in engine at 20% efficiency…solar to wheel at under 0.1% efficiency.

            H2 made from solar PV at 20% eff and electrolysis + compression at 60% eff = 12% then FCEV at 55% eff tank to wheel = over 6% solar to wheel. Thus a FCEV has 60 x the efficiency of an ICEV!!! That’s why FCEV will replace ICEV but not BEV.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “those without garage at home or do not want to plug in daily”

            It will be cheaper to add outlets than to pay the extra for H2 year after year. And cheaper to install wireless chargers.

          • Roger Pham

            Agree. That is why FCEV cannot and will not compete with BEV on efficiency. However, the good news is that we now have enough Green Car options to phase out ICEV completely. Those Green Car shoppers wanting low cost energy and convenience of home charging will buy BEV, while those who do not want to plug in will choose FCEV. Enough to make every one happy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not sure there will be a choice.

            It’s going to take large scale manufacturing to bring down the cost of batteries and fuel cells. Batteries are likely to get there first and kill the volume needed by FCEVs.

            (Tesla’s giga plant gives us a hint.)

            Additionally it would take large penetration of FCEVs to create the needed H2 infrastructure. If a lot of FCEVs don’t get to the roads very quickly the investment not be available to build out the infrastructure.

            At one level, it’s a race. Whichever gets to “popular acceptance” first will squeeze out the other. And EVs have a very significant head start.

            There might be number of people who might be willing to pay more for a FCEV but not likely in the hundreds of thousands/millions numbers needed to keep FCEVs afloat.

            Had FCEVs been produced ten years ago and now built their infrastructure then they might have stalled out EV battery development. But FCEVs are late to the game. Perhaps too late.

          • Roger Pham

            Very good point, Bob. That’s why the gov. of Japan is giving heavy subsidies for FCEV and building H2 infrastructure, as we’ll as giving subsidies for BEV and fast charge infrastructure (ChaDeMo). They know that BEV and FCEV are complementary to each other and it will take both to get people off ICEV.
            In the USA, adoption of FCEV will take longer…depending on the gov’s commitment toward energy and economic security.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’re going to have to create a World’s Greatest True Believer in Fuel Cell Vehicles award for you Roger.

            Every fact stacks up against your preference but you ignore them and soldier on….

            ;o)

  • jeffhre

    That is terrific, another 12,000 of these and the energy required for waste treatment operations and maintenance will be completely covered. What will we do about the rest of the nations cars and trucks though?

  • Ronald Brakels

    This is just back of the envelop stuff, but making hydrogen from water can be about 50% efficient, but only under the right conditions and this will involve a high capital facility to do on any large scale. And the thing with high capital facilities is people who own them like to run them 24/7 if possible to get the best return on their capital. But this does not mesh well with using cheap electricity when there is surplus generation. In addition there are energy costs involves with compression and transportation of a medium that is very light, but extremely bulky. So a high capital system might have an energy in to energy out ratio of 3:1. Fortunately high capital isn’t required to make hydrogen. Buckets and wires and a certain amount of nihilism will do. But this is less efficient. So using low capital equipment to produce hydrogen when electricity is cheap might end up 6:1 energy in to energy out after compression and transport. (If you want liquid hydrogen the ratio will be much worse.) Then we have the efficiency of the fuel cell. If that’s 50% then high capital hydrogen will have an energy in to energy out ratio of about 6:1 and low capital hydrogen about 12:1. And then there’s leakage which is unavoidable with hydrogen. The only thing that can be done is minimize it. I don’t know how much would be lost but if it is 10% then high capital hydrogen drops close to 7 to 1 and low capital hydrogen becomes around 13 to 1. So we may be very roughly looking at needing about 6 to 12 times as much electricity to power a car motor with hydrogen than with a battery pack. That ain’t good.

    • Roger Pham

      Ronald, where did you get the number of 6: 1 from? It is a general concensus in this forum that efficiency ratio of BEV and FCEV is around 2 : 1 from source to wheel.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Roger, ignoring everything else, combine the efficiency of electrolysis with the efficiency of a fuel cell at produing electricty and tell me what you get.

        • Roger Pham

          Commercial Electrolyzer takes about 50 kWh to make a kg of H2 having LHV of 33 kWh/kg for 66% efficiency and HHV of 40 kWh/ kg for 80% eff. The reciprocal of .66 is 1.5, not 3. Going thru a FC, take .66 x .60 eff of FC = .4, or 40% efficiency round trip, or ratio of in / out = 2.5. I still do not see where the 6 : 1 comes from.

          The amortization cost of commercial-grade Electrolyzer is only 5% the final cost of electrolytic H2, even at 50% capacity factor, so no one would use crappy Electrolyzer having only half the efficiency and lose 10x more on electricity cost!

          • Ronald Brakels

            Okay, so your efficiencies are electrolysis and the fuel cell are better than mine, but you can see the efficiency ratio is definitely not 2 to 1 from source to wheel. I don’t know what the next biggest step is but I’m guessing it’s compression. If you have a figure for compression energy I’d be interested in seeing it. I tried to look it up but it was in imperial units and I started crying.

            But as for using low efficiency electrolysis, that’s exactly what some people have suggested. On the bright side, if it’s done in people’s homes, no transportation costs.

  • dominik

    I am surprised how small minded people can be. I agree, i do not see Hydrogen Technology as a economical choice at the moment. And not even very green as it is handled today.
    But to claim that it will stay like this for ever is just ignorant. How many people had and still have the same arguments for PV of electric cars.
    I think there are some intelligent people at work who see some possibilities and a future in this technology. And if you do not try you will never succeed. Or who of you would have invested money in 2003 in Tesla?

    • jeffhre

      It’s just premature to have this discussion. Toyota and Hyundai are only planning to sell FCEV’s because CAARB is rewarding them at a rate nine times richer than EV’s. If they were on an equal footing wrt CAARB incentives we would have this discussion when FCEV’s were viable, with renewable energy, and subsidies that resemble parity.

      If the comparison is between what is marketed today, people have no clue into the future of potential, and now entirely opaque, technological advancements required to make FCEV’s viable. Leading to the conclusion that if today’s results are extrapolated forward, FCEV’s will always be lacking financial viability. This is a distortion solely created by CAARBs incentive system.

      • Dominik

        Hi Jeffhre. Pls do not take my “small minded” comment personal. I apologize for that.

        What is CAARB? I found CARB which is a california organisation. Do u refer to that?

        Anyway i still think it is not premature to have this discussion and i really think inovation comes by trying new things. How many people thought in the early 1900 DC grids are not needed. Today we have HVDC and datacenters which run totally on DC. Same with PV, same with EV. New and great things are developed by people how believe in what they do, even if the obvious facts show the opposit.

        • jeffhre

          Yes, correct. CA Air Resources Board, a bad habit of mine.

          I do not advocate that research stops on HFCEV’s. I do not advocate spending $100 to 200 million on filing stations for Toyota and Hyundai to get more clean vehicle credits than other OEMs either. When HFCEVs have clean sources of fuel that can be marketed to drivers, then I believe we can have a rational discussion of whether the technology can survive economically.

          That is not possible when it is not yet clear what technologies will be required to even market a HFCEV that, 1)OEM’s want to sell and 2) drivers want to buy.

          If we are discussing a few leased cars by two manufacturers backed by unique and massive subsidies from the governments of three countries, why are we talking about market economics yet?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, here’s the problem. None of us can see how to violate the laws of physics tocrack apart the water molecule and then compress the hydrogen with less energy.

      Now if someone figures that out I suspect we’d all take a fresh look.

      (It’s not like most of us came to the discussion with a preference for one approach over the other. We came, looked at the facts, and did a summary.)

  • Bob_Wallace

    Let’s think this through.

    The sewage plant runs on the stuff you put in the sewer. The food you put in your garbage disposal plus the amount you poop.

    Put your daily “contributions” in a bucket. Take a good long look and try to estimate how much H2 you could generate from that and how far you might be able to get your FCEV down your driveway each day.

    (You really should be composting….)

    • jeffhre

      Ewww, LOL

      Ya know, I have been seriously considering one of those no flush urinals that you see on college campuses now. Would be great to remodel the bathroom and include one. Just have to figure out how to keep the girls from complaining, “what about mine?”

      • Bob_Wallace

        Urinals are multi-sex. Women simply need to approach them differently.

        • jeffhre

          I’m going to print your reply out, just in case the discussion goes badly!

  • Jouni Valkonen

    It is not Tesla Model III but Tesla Model 三. Three horizontal bars, not vertical bars. Or Tesla 3, if it is difficult to type non-standard letters.

    It is also good to remember that even though Tesla 三 costs only half of Mirai, it has more than twice the car. Tesla 三 will be better car than the best Audi A4 Quattro! This is Tesla’s target.

    This also underlines the fact that even if fuel cells were free they are still worse than today’s state of art battery electric car. And this does not assume any relevant advances in battery technology that are more than probable!

    • Offgridman

      I don’t think that people are intentionally getting the name wrong, but just a follow through on previous cars. There has been the Model S, and the upcoming Model X, so with the hassles with Ford over the moniker they assume Model E (but with the vertical line removed). Which with this coming from my phone, no I can’t do the three horizontal lines either.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      The Tesla Motors Forum has it has the Model III, as does the Auto Express story that broke the news. Waiting for Tesla to write something to see if they are going with the Chinese 三 or just write it as others have been doing.

      http://www.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/tesla-model-iii

      http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/tesla/87867/tesla-model-3-to-challenge-bmw-3-series-world-exclusive

      • Jouni Valkonen

        Do not follow outdated sources. The technical model name will be Model 3 and it is probably stylized with three horizontal bars to make the E more explicit. But it will not be three vertical bars.

        Here is Elon’s tweet from few days before:

        Elon Musk (@elonmusk) tweeted at 11:26pm – 15 Aug 14:
        @awadsayeed Yes. Technically Model 3 or maybe three horizontal bars. Won’t be three vertical bars. https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/500378028141076483

        I admit that Tesla is very difficult company to understand because it pushes technology forward even in semantics! It is already created new grammatic rules (“are belong”) and now this headache with non standard letters. But Model 3 is probably good enough.

  • eveee

    Other than having higher fuel costs, expensive, slow, and noncompetitive cars, and no place to fill them, fuel cell vehicles are just peachy. :) Now if they just keep giving them away for free and keep making hydrogen filling stations for free, until we reach a million of them…… just kidding…. we would go broke.

    • Jim Seko

      I have a hunch this house of cards will collapse within two years.

      • jeffhre

        The cool thing is with gubment money, you can keep doing this forever. You have the monopoly that regulates the monopolies! If anyone dares to say your accounting is bad, and you are bankrupt, you just ask congress, hey can you legally change the definition of bankrupt for this program? If enough folks support your good works, congress replies, sure thing, it’s just politics.

  • Jim Seko

    It’s difficult to know the exact market value of a ZEV credit but I searched and found a ballpark number. That number is $4000. Knowing that FCVs receive 26 ZEV credits that comes to $104,000 per vehicle. I’m now speechless. Someone please comment on this before my head explodes!

    • eveee

      Take deep breaths. Om mani padre om. Repeat after me. Fuel cell vehicles are hype. They cannot harm you. …… :)

  • EL

    This article makes me laugh. A gas-battery or pure battery car cost so “so” much more than a normal gas compact or mid-size car, it takes 10 or more years to save enough gas to compensate for it. People buying hybrid or electrical car knew that and most of them want to save the environment instead of saving money. If you can sell a FC car with about the cost of a normal compact or mid-size car, I don’t mind to get one. I am used to paying $50 per tank of gas for my Altima.

    • CsabaU

      Today a car running directly on natural gas makes more sense in every way compared with FC.

      • Matt

        NG doesn’t have zero emission at the tail pipe. So FC makes a better compliance car then NG.

      • Kyle Field

        Meh. I see what you’re saying…if we’re going to produce hydro from natural gas, we might as well cut out the inefficiency of having to convert to Hydro, then back to Electricity…but I dont like the idea of a nat gas car. EVs are still better options.

      • CsabaU

        I mean in a holistic Point of view, not in order to fulfill California regulations.

    • GCO

      Not sure where you get your impression that plug-ins take time to pay for themselves. It really depends where you live, and what vehicles you compare.

      In the US, a Leaf can be leased for ~200$/month, which is what I was paying for gas before getting one.

      Edmunds estimates that a Leaf quickly turns out cheaper overall than even cars half its price. E.g:
      http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/leaf/2014/tco.html
      http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/versa/2014/tco.html

      FCVs face an uphill battle, squeezed between cheap-to-buy gassers, and cheap-to-own EVs.

    • Kyle Field

      Battery cars do cost more than gasmobiles…just like FCEVs cost loads more ($70k in Japan IIRC). The early adopters always have to cover the up front R&D…that’s just part of the game. I’m glad you’re used to paying $50…that doesnt mean that you have to keep on paying that much. EVs are much more efficient in terms of cost / mile for fuel…not even taking into consideration the expected reduction in maintenance costs for EVs due to their lower complexity vs ICE cars.

    • eveee

      A Nissan Leaf costs thousands less to own over a five year period. Maintenance and fuel costs make an effect.
      http://www.plugincars.com/2013-leaf-price-cut-make-it-one-cheapest-cars-own-126549.html
      Cost to own an FCEV? Fuggedaboudit. Or perhaps get a free one and pay twice as much for fuel? If you can find a place. So 40 minutes or days? To drive to a hydrogen filling station and 3 minutes to fill. And the range? Is it long enough to get to another station? Good luck with that.

    • Mint

      If you can sell a FC car with about the cost of a normal compact or mid-size car

      That’s one pipedream of an “if” that you’re considering there.

      An FCV is a hybrid. Imagine a Prius, except changing out the engine and gas tank for a fuel cell and high pressure H2 cylinders, but keeping the battery and upgrading the motor. That means it’ll take a technological miracle for an FCV to even match the price of hybrids. It’ll never, EVER match the price of a normal compact.

      • jeffhre

        Toyota and Hyundai are not even bothering to make them plug-in hybrids. With Fusion energi sized batteries many drivers would rarely have to worry about hydrogen. That would make then even more expensive though.

        • Mint

          LOL that’s the last thing Toyota wants. Plugin FCEVs would just convince most buyers they spent all that money on a H2 system for <20% of their driving, and have to suffer with limited H2 infrastructure, unlike a gas PHEV.

          • Roger Pham

            Ahh…the beauty of a plug-in FCEV is that up-start EV companies with no experience in engine technology can make a PHEV with only a simple, compact and light weight electric drive train instead of a complicated engine-electric motor integration that is heavy and bulky that are not selling well.
            Thus, a FC-PHEV has long range with quick fillup capability, low cost and light weight H2 tank and only 50 kW of FC, and only needs a small 15-kWh battery pack capable of 75 kW for a total of 125kW of power, with 40-60 mile of commute range on efficient electricity. A great energy saver.

            A joint venture with a FC manufacturer can be formed with a BEV upstart company and an H2 tank company like Quantum system and Ballard for FC. Or, the FC and the H2 tank can just be purchased, just like Tesla buying batteries from Panasonic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Falling battery prices push both PHEVs and hybrids out of the market. PHEVs and hybrids probably exit the market sooner than do ICEVs.

          • Mint

            Yeah, I’ve seen that chart before and I’m not convinced at all, unless range extended electric (EREV) is being put under the BEV umbrella.

            I’m very sure that a range extender can be made for under $2000 today (BMW is gonna BMW with options, including the REx, and they’re still selling more of that version). So an 80-mile battery (~22kWh) + REx will be cheaper than a 200-mile battery (~55kWh) even at $100/kWh, let far alone $300/kWh.

            I think when Tesla releases the Model 3, we’ll see how wrong these sorts of analyses are in predicting the competitiveness of short range EVs.

          • Dr. Dean Dauger

            I wonder where FCVs fit on that chart? You’d probably need another axis for fuel cell price in $/kW or the like.

          • Mint

            Thus, a FC-PHEV has long range with quick fillup capability, low cost and light weight H2 tank and only 50 kW of FC

            Cheap 50kW FC?!? Not for a loooong time. Ballard was selling a 2kW FC backup system for $20,000 just a couple years ago. Long range? Not without a nationwide H2 network that nobody wants to build without the gov’t paying for it.

            You’ll be lucky to see your proposed FC system cost less than $20k in 50 years.

          • jeffhre

            I don’t fell sorry for those buyers. We all learned to ride using training wheels didn’t we?

            And I’m saving a ton of money on gas with the Volt. They would save twice as much on H2 – if it reaches a scale that HFCEVs are sold without fuel costs bundled into leases.

            Say, you wouldn’t happen to be in the market for a 1.4 liter ATPZEV engine would you?

          • Mint

            I won’t feel sorry for them either.

            But neither Toyota nor Hyundai will offer this product. FCVs have a future if and only if people resist plugging in.

    • jeffhre

      I am used to paying $69 a fiscal quarter for electricity to power my Volt. That is ideal for my current (no pun intended) driving pattern.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      I’ve run the numbers for a lot of different scenarios, and I’m sure many EV owners could get their money back in 2-3 years. Always depends on the individual.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    HFVs have been a mirage for decades. Now, however, there’s genuine competition. How long will these companies get away with taxpayer supported programs that are going nowhere and aren’t even green?

    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/06/04/hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicles-about-not-clean/

    • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

      I believe HFVs are being sold mainly for compliance with California’s air regs. This would be volatile organic compounds (VOC), oxides of nitrogen and sulfur (NOx and SOx) and particulates. California’s air quality is enforced per area or basin. LA as we all know has smog/pollution issues. HFV would probably get hydrogen produced elsewhere or outside a critical basins like Los Angeles and Bay Area. Or produced under existing refinery emissions permits within those basins. Unless, of course, sea water electrolysis comes around, soon. There’s also all that shale gas being over produced looking for a market to jack up natural gas rates.

    • Jim Seko

      I have a hunch it will not be long, at all. Thanks to people like you who have educated environmentally-minded early adopters about hydrogen hype, demand for FCVs will be anemic, at best.

    • Kyle Field

      To be fair, hydrogen can be generated cleanly, with solar…though that’s not the case with most hydro. Strictly from a financial standpoint, I dont understand why someone would want a FCEV knowing that it’s not going to save you any money vs petrol.

      Let’s say that $50 is for 300 miles of range. Using back of the napkin estimates for EV cost (in cali @ $.14/kwh) with the Leaf battery size (24kwh) X3 (300mi range) = 72kwh…that’s $10.08 worth of electricity to go the same $300 miles. Not to mention, you can put solar panels on your roof that pay off in 5-15 years…then produce free power from there on out…

      My goal is to “drive on sunshine”…

      • Jim Seko

        Yes, we should be fair and say hydrogen can be generated cleanly with solar. There is one solar sourced hydrogen filling station in California but it costs $12 per kilogram. That translates to $0.25 per mile. For the average driver, fuel cost would be roughly $280 per month. Yikes!

        • jeffhre

          And I can roll up $1 dollar bills and call it renewable biomass – when I toss them in the fireplace!

          In the mean time, while I am waiting for the clean breakthroughs that will make HFEV’s viable on renewably produced hydrogen. I have simply skipped the wasteful process of stripping, aggregating, compressing, storing, pumping and converting hydrogen back to the electricity I am using. And I have driven 18,000 of my 19,000 PHEV miles on sunshine, and wind power.

        • Mint

          I imagine a combined grid-storage and H2 station. If fuel cells get down to $0.3/W (which is still way too expensive for competitively priced cars), you can make a very cheap peaker, and it can handle situations that 4-6 hour grid batteries can’t. It could be fed with on- or off-site renewables.

          Some quick calculations suggests to me that solar based hydrogen could probably get down to $5/kg if there was enough demand, and at 60 miles/kg for FCEVs, that’s comparable running cost to 40MPG+ gasoline cars.

          But being comparable with gasoline isn’t good enough when you have to charge thousands (even a mere $10k premium is a far off dream right now) more for the fuel cell system, and especially when EVs are so much cheaper per mile.

          I don’t see H2 getting any meaningful traction in the transportation market aside from meeting quotas (e.g. CARB).

          • Bob_Wallace

            “I imagine a combined grid-storage and H2 station.”

            I can do that. One unit of electricity goes in the front and less than one half of a unit of usable electricity comes out the back.

            Now imagine a PuHS or battery storage station.

            One unit of electricity goes in the front and about 90% of a unit of usable electricity comes out the back.

            That lost energy? It costs money.

          • Mint

            Yeah, but capacity costs money too.

            Don’t you and most people use a diesel or gasoline generator for off-grid systems? The fuel costs a lot more per kWh than a natural gas generator or larger battery bank, but you chose it because the capital cost is cheap, and the fuel is rarely used.

            Some peakers are used only 100 hundred hours a year. Sub-$300/kW can’t be matched by natural gas for that. Remember that fuel cells aren’t taking off in cars until they reach $100/kW (still pricier than most ICE).

            Batteries give you cheaper-than-NG capacity handling if they’re needed <4 hours a day. Fuel cells would give you cheaper-than-NG capacity handling for 50+ consecutive hours, a few times a year.

            If you look at that Budischak paper, you can clearly see the role for rarely used storage during prolonged lulls in renewable output.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It feels like we aren’t on the same page.

            I was talking about how hydrogen is a very inefficient storage medium.

            You are now talking about how much fossil fuel backup might be used in a renewable system in order to minimize overall cost.

            Using a very small amount of FF as very deep backup makes sense financially.

            Personally I’m starting to feel like it makes sense for me to increase the size of my solar array because some increase will get paid for with fuel savings. That wasn’t the math 10 years ago because panels were 4+x as expensive back then.

            A few years from now battery prices might decrease (or panel prices fall further) and I’ll upsize my system and cut back further on FF backup.

            The same will happen on the grid. Coal’s out. Nuclear’s out. Natural gas is left. As renewable generation and storage drop in price the people making decisions solely on price will use less and less NG.

            Now, none of the above makes H2 an efficient way to store energy.

          • Mint

            You and Offgridman are not getting it.

            H2 fuel cells, assuming they get within a few multiples of the auto companies price target of <$100/kW, will be much cheaper to build than natural gas capacity.

            Will fuel prices be high? Sure, but while some NG plants will be used 5000 hours a year, others will be used 1000 hours a year, others still down to 100 hours per year or less. The grid needs some of each, and for those plants on the latter end of the spectrum, construction cost matters a lot in LCOE. There is a CF crossover point below which a $300/kW system using expensive H2 will be cheaper than $700/kW turbines using cheap NG.

            As for batteries and going off grid, same thing. For storage that you cycle daily, round trip efficiency is very important and batteries win. For storage that cycles less than 20 times a year, construction cost is much more important, and even future $100/kWh batteries can't get close to H2 tanks ($700/kgH2 – i.e. $35/kWh – with pressure tanks, much less for cryogenic storage). Remember, excess energy once your batteries are full has 0% round trip efficiency. H2 storage is much better than that.

            A household using 20kWh a day could have a 15kWh battery system and 100kWh H2 storage for up to a week of cloudy weather. An all-battery system for the same price would have far less capacity, and result in much higher gasoline use.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “H2 fuel cells, assuming they get within a few multiples of the auto companies price target of <$100/kW, will be much cheaper to build than natural gas capacity."

            Fuel cells are just one component of using H2 for deep storage. The H2 has to be generated, compressed and stored.

            NG plants are going to be in place because we've already built them.

            "There is a CF crossover point below which a $300/kW system using expensive H2 will be cheaper than $700/kW turbines using cheap NG."

            Yes, and if H2 FCEV backup can be made cheaper than NG peakers then we'll move to H2. No one is arguing that the most expensive will dominate.

            We're speculating about things that are a few decades out.

          • Mint

            The fuel cell is the part that gives you power capacity, and by far the biggest cost, especially for the market I’m talking about (low CF peakers).

            Yes, there’s a lot of NG capacity in the US, but it may not be enough backup if the dream of coal retirement comes true, and isn’t already built in much of the rest of the world. Existing NG capacity is also a roadblock for battery storage and PuHS, but you have no problem predicting big things for them, too.

            I don’t know how long it’ll take fuel cells to reach those price levels, but I guarantee you that it’ll happen years before they are competitive with ICE.

          • Offgridman

            And I am going to have to agree with Bob from a few minutes ago you are comparing the apples and oranges. But even with being totally offgrid without a increase in panels, but by increasing my battery storage by about ten times got the generator run time down to three times last winter just to take care of max charging of the batteries. Total cost five gallons of gas and the 2 1/2 quart oil change on the generator to be safe.
            But back to the original subject it is been shown that renewables with their predictable variations help to cut down on the need of peakers and base load. The high cost of H2 production and storage isn’t going to make any sense for grid supply. Or at least not get cheap enough that PUHydro or battery storage won’t be less expensive.

          • HFC guy

            > Now imagine a PuHS or battery storage station.

            Pumped hydro has much larger initial costs, and is limited in siting. Batteries give you cheap capacity, but cost a lot for storage. Hydrogen capacity is expensive, but storage costs little.

            There’s a niche for each, depending on how much capacity you need vs. storage. If you need to store several days or even weeks of production for e.g. a wind turbine, the inefficiencies of hydrogen are offset by the cheaper cost compared to batteries.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We have no shortage of sites for PuHS.

            Hydrogen capacity is expensive, is very lossy, but storage costs little. That makes H2 a possible deep storage technology.

            Comparing H2 to batteries for long term storage is a distorted argument. Unless you want to compare H2 with flow batteries which are much less lossy and the chemicals easier to store.

        • jeffhre

          That is not really comparable to the $24 a month I was paying pre-solar panels! Of course I only drive about 11,000 miles a year – but nearly all on sunshine and wind. If I remember correctly, I was paying about $108 a month to drive the Civic SI before the Volt. Funny they each use premium gas. Say…how much does gas cost now?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Takes more than 2x as much solar or wind to make H2 and drive a FCEV than to drive an EV.

        If you want to drive with solar then drive an EV and you’ll have to buy less than half as many solar panels.

        • Mint

          Meh. H2 needs 2x the solar, but the battery cost for an EV is much more than that, but H2′s fuel cell system costs more still even in future projections.

          The latter is by far the biggest hurdle for FCEV, and one that it won’t be able to reduce enough.

          (An EV may need 2.5kW of solar plus grid/home storage to go 13k miles/yr, while an FCEV would need 5kW+electrolyzer and H2 storage. Maybe $3-4k in the long term to install 2.5kW extra? A 200-mile EV battery pack will probably cost $8k after the gigafactory brings down its price. Toyota’s fuel cell system is currently $50k, I think.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s not what the panels cost up front. Most people would not be making their own H2. It’s the cost of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicle and FCEVs running on renewable H2 are going to cost 2x or 3x or more as much per mile.

            Check out this article about a H2 fueling station that can fill 30 FCEVs in a ten hour day using reformulated NG. It currently costs $4 million and they hope to get it down to $2 million.

            http://green.autoblog.com/2013/10/14/a-visit-to-a-hydrogen-refueling-station-at-ecoful-town-in-toyota/

            I think we can make some rough projections of the cost of turning electricity and water into H2. The fact that currently we aren’t doing that (to any real extent) but using NG is a big clue.

          • Mint

            I was talking from a system-wide perspective, not isolated homes.

            Yup, I know about H2 stations costing a lot. Compare that to Tesla’s superchargers at $150k, privately financed. If California wasn’t spending $200M of public money to get 100 H2 stations built, H2 FCEVs would be stillborn.

            I still think that in the long term, solar H2 can be cheap. There’s 33kWh of energy in 1kg of H2, so let’s assume it’ll need 50kWh to produce. Direct solar DC would maybe get down to 3-4c/kWh. So that’s $2/kg in energy costs or less. NG is cheap right now, and there was little impetus for electrolyzer development until recently (and it’s still a tiny market), so that’s why it’s almost all done with SMR today.

          • Bob_Wallace

            IIRC that’s $35k for a supercharger bay. 20 EVs charged in a ten hour day.

            The H2 station I linked is $4,000k for a H2 stations that can generate H2 and fuel 30 FCEVs a day.

            California is spending $200 million to install 100 fueling stations. Fueling stations. The H2 generation will be done somewhere else at additional cost.

            “I still think that in the long term, solar H2 can be cheap.”

            Still going to take more than 2x as much solar to drive a mile with a FCEV than with an EV. Unless you can find a way to skirt the laws of physics.

          • jeffhre

            So I will be driving in my PHEV at $.03 kWh some day! Wow, the car will be paid off and $.03 per kWh, amazing thanks that’s good news. Hey wait, with solar panels, I’m not even going to pay that much already…I don’t understand the perception of a financial advantage in being tied to a fuel company, at more than I am paying now?

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