Air Quality

Published on August 11th, 2014 | by Michael Barnard


Electric Buses Overall Best For CO2, Health & Price; Hydrogen Worst

August 11th, 2014 by  

Recently on CleanTechnica there have been a couple of excellent pieces on the challenges with hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles in general, but how would they be for urban transit buses specifically? It’s instructive to look at an apples-to-apples comparisons of diesel, electric trolley and hydrogen buses traveling 100 kilometres in the USA.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 9.10.21 AM

Diesel is, on the average grid, the least CO2 emitting choice per this assessment. Its particulate and nitrous oxide emissions in major populated areas still make it questionable as a choice, especially in places with better than average CO2 per KWH on the grid. It’s definitely better in coal-dominant grids than electric trolley buses for CO2 emissions, but hydrogen buses might be appropriate there due to urban air quality and related health concerns.

As the grid decarbonizes, dominantly due to increased renewables, the CO2 balance will change. In eleven states today, electric trolley buses are already equivalent or better than diesel buses in terms of CO2 outputs, and of course emit no particulate or chemical pollutions. These states are California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington. If grids reduced carbon by 20% across the board, 18 states would be better with electric trolley buses.

The price of operation is an important consideration. While electric trolley buses require overhead wire systems, it’s by far the cheapest system to operate, so for dense urban areas it is most likely to be the cheapest overall. The high cost of operating hydrogen buses makes it unlikely that they will become common regardless of other factors.

Electric trolley buses are the lowest CO2 choice where the grid has already substantially decarbonized, are the cheapest to operate and it has no human health effects. And grids are going to decarbonize. For dense urban areas, electrification of bus transit appears to be the obvious choice.

Electric Trolley Buses

Each KWH of electricity from the average grid in the USA produces 543 grams of CO2. Coal generation produces about 1000 grams of CO2 per KWh.

Electric trolley buses running under overhead wires use about 2.73 kWh per kilometre. That means that on the average US grid they will generate about 150 kilograms of CO2 for 100 kilometres.  If the grid is using coal only, electric buses will generate about 276 kg of CO2 over 100 km.

Coal produces significant particulate and chemical emissions, gas produces quite a bit less and nuclear, wind and solar generation produce no emissions during operation. The grid is shifting to lower carbon sources of generation for the most part, so we can expect the CO2 number as well as grid particulate and chemical emissions to reduce substantially over time. Idaho’s 78% generation from renewables leads the way and results in an extremely low 0.055 kg CO2e / KWH, one tenth of the average. This is the future of electricity.

During operation, electric trolley buses emit no particulate or chemical pollution in downtown areas, so have no direct health impacts related to the fuel choice. Indirect health impacts of high coal grids must be considered, but they will typically be much more diffuse and lower per capita than diesel emissions directly in dense urban areas.

Of course, this assumes the sunk cost of the relatively straightforward trolley wiring grid. It’s a rounding error on the energy usage and both diesel and hydrogen require infrastructure as well, so this is an acceptable gloss for dense urban areas.

Electricity price is $0.103 USD per KWh per the average 2013 price to the transportation sector. As 273 KWH are required to travel 100 km, an electric trolley bus would have fuel costs of $28.12 USD for this distance.

Diesel Buses

Diesel buses average about 39 litres per 100 km (6 mpg). Diesel emits about 2.67 kg of CO2 when burned which is the tank-to-wheel output, but that’s 86% of well-to-wheel emissions per this study. As such, it would emit about 121 kg of CO2 over 100 km.

Note: an earlier version of this article used the tank-to-wheel number, not the well-to-wheel number.

Diesel-electric hybrids are only 10% more fuel efficient than diesel according to this source, so they would be only slightly better than direct diesel buses and will not be considered in detail.

Health impacts of diesel buses are important to assess as they run in densely populated areas at the same times as there are a larger percentage of the populace on the street. In the USA, diesel emissions have been dropping substantially due to regulation except for nitrous oxide (NOx), which is key to the formation of ozone and smog in the summertime, according to the EPA’s Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust.


So if a diesel bus drives 100 km, they will emit roughly 60 grams of particulate matter which directly inflames lungs, makes asthma worse and irritates eyes and noses. They will emit about 4,000 grams of NOx, which lingers and combines with volatile organic compounds to create summer smogs which directly impact breathing for children, geriatrics and those with asthma and emphysema. They will emit about 60 grams of effectively unburnt fuel (HC = hydrocarbons) with varying health risks.

By comparison, coal generation has many of these same risks, but coal plants are not idling in city traffic among hundreds of thousands of commuters. In general, their emissions flow downwind of the plants and are more diffuse than those of buses.

As an example, in Chicago buses travel about 300,000 kilometres a day, so if they were all relatively modern diesel buses they would emit about 12,000 kg of smog creating nitrous oxide and a couple of hundred kilograms each of particulate matter and unburnt fuel every day. That would mean in the range of 3.6 million kg of nitrous oxide and 50 thousand kg of particulate matter and unburnt fuel annually. This is a significant amount of health-impacting air pollution.

Recent news out of Britain does not look positive for diesel vehicles in general.

However, diesel vehicles produce high levels of nitrogen dioxide, which can lead to respiratory disease and has been linked to 7,000 deaths a year.

The suggested number of premature deaths must be put in context that this includes passenger cars and cargo trucks, not just buses, but it’s obvious that diesel buses would lead to some increased premature deaths due to emissions, as well as degraded health and quality of life for many more people.

By comparison, electric buses and hydrogen buses add no particulate or chemical pollution to city streets in close proximity to the populace.

Diesel costs $1.03 USD per litre based on the average US retail over the past three years. Traveling 100 kilometres would require 39 litres and cost $40.17 USD.


Hydrogen is more of a storage medium for energy than a source of energy. It must be created from raw inputs such as water or natural gas.

Natural gas

Hydrogen is normally processed from natural gas. The steam reformation process requires significant energy and hydrogen is a notoriously slippery molecule with very low density in gaseous form. According to a 2001 NREL full lifecycle assessment the total CO2 emissions for a kilogram of hydrogen produced from natural gas is 11.9 kg, with 25% of total emissions coming from process, storage and transport. Other sources peg the primary CO2 generation as up to 10.1 kg CO2e / kg H2, so this could vary up to 13.3 kg of CO2e / kg H2 assuming that the ratio holds. The NREL number will be used regardless, but it’s important to note that it could be even worse.

The gasoline gallon equivalent for diesel is 0.88, and one kilogram of hydrogen has the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. As this source points out, hydrogen fuel cell engine efficiencies are roughly the same and in many cases poorer than diesel engine efficiencies, so they will be considered on par.

Starting with the 39 litres of diesel, then, 10.3 kg of hydrogen would be required to travel the 100 km, so this would have a 139 kg of CO2 emissions burden.

The process for producing hydrogen is polluting, but less so than burning coal or diesel regardless.

Can natural gas hydrogen generation scale? Well, the current U.S. refinery hydrogen production capacity is about 7 million kg daily, which is sufficient for roughly 70 million bus miles daily. Buses travel about 9 million miles daily in the USA. Scaling up hydrogen production for bus use appears to be a viable expansion of capacity of 13% or so. It would appear that it is at least feasible to consider the natural gas option for creating hydrogen for bus fleets.


There’s an obvious statement to be made about electrolysis: turning electricity into hydrogen then turning the hydrogen back into electricity is less efficient than using the electricity directly. The following quote is solely based on electrolysis.

In a recent study, fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains that a hydrogen economy is a wasteful economy. The large amount of energy required to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds (water, natural gas, biomass), package the light gas by compression or liquefaction, transfer the energy carrier to the user, plus the energy lost when it is converted to useful electricity with fuel cells, leaves around 25% for practical use — an unacceptable value to run an economy in a sustainable future. Only niche applications like submarines and spacecraft might use hydrogen.

Assuming that this ratio is correct, the bus will effectively use four times as much electricity to travel 100 km and as a result produce four times the CO2 from the grid as the direct electric bus. That means that it will produce roughly 600 kg of CO2 for 100 km. And on a coal-only grid, that turns into 1,105 kg of CO2 as well as significantly higher particulate and chemical pollutants.

Would hydrogen from electrolysis make sense in a low-carbon grid? Considering Idaho with its 0.055 kg CO2e / KWH, all of a sudden hydrogen from electrolysis would put a load of only 60 KG of CO2e into the atmosphere due to a bus traveling 100 km making it much better than diesel. However, the same bus running directly off of electricity would only put 15 kg of CO2 into the air. There is an argument for using off-peak inexpensive wind or nuclear energy to generate hydrogen using electrolysis, but it’s an economic one more than a direct environmental argument.

Hydrogen price is estimated to be $7 as the expected future average for steam reformation and a distribution model similar to gasoline, which as has been shown appears to be the most likely and lowest CO2 model. To travel 100 km, 10.3 kg of hydrogen would cost $72.10 USD. Electrolysis is more costly at an estimated average of $9 USD per kg, or $92.70 for 100 km travel, making it both by far the greatest emitter of CO2 and by far the most costly option.


Hydrogen is the most expensive fuel for buses, and it’s not the lowest greenhouse gas choice either. There’s no good argument for hydrogen fuel cell buses except in deeply polluted cities with coal-only grids, and that niche is shrinking not growing.

Diesel buses are the lowest greenhouse gas choice on average today, but the health impacts of diesel emissions in densely populated urban centres makes them a difficult choice, especially when urban areas are attempting to clean up their air.

Electric trolley buses are the cheapest to operate, have much lower health impacts than diesel buses and are already the best choice for greenhouse gas emissions in 20% of the US states. They will only improve as the grid decarbonizes. The smart money is on electrification of urban buses.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

For the past several years Michael has been analyzing and publishing reports and articles on decarbonization technologies, business models and policies. His pieces on electrical generation transformation and electrification of transportation have been published in CleanTechnica, Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, RenewEconomy, RenewablesInternational and Gizmag, as well as included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews with Mike have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He also has published a climate-fiction novel, Guangzhou Future Tense.

  • Renee Cousins

    Diesel busses in the city are closer to 3.1~3.7 mpg (69.1 L/100km) which is the only place where electric busses would work. That just about doubles your CO2 numbers. Only long-range “commuter” busses can approach the figure you gave.

    • I’d be interested in seeing the references for those numbers. Can you provide a citation?

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  • José DeSouza

    I’m not necessarily a fan of fossil fuels, but I don’t know why hydraulic hybrid buses shouldn’t be given some thought here as well: Elsewhere I also shared some of my 10c musings about doing it electrically (quite unorthodoxically, I might say):

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’d guess it’s because Altair hasn’t shown anything yet. There’s not much info on their web site. I don’t know of any buses on the road. I’ve seen no range, cost stuff.

      It feels like a company that thinks it has a good idea but they either haven’t spent the money to get an analysis or they aren’t sharing.

      I would think an engineering firm who does this sort of work could work up a basic analysis in a short time. Bus weights, energy per mile, cost of hydraulic systems – these sorts of things are easily found. From there on it’s just arithmetic.

  • Joshua

    If this is all true than it will also be true with forklifts.
    But for some strange reason, companies with big warehouses are buying fuel cell forklifts over battery forklifts. Maybe this author should enlighten these stupid companies. Wal-Mart for example.

    • Do you really think fixed route urban transit and warehouse shelving and picking are the same and have the same starting conditions? What an odd perspective. Incorrect in almost every regard as well.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “The Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s (AVTA) and BYD operators have put AVTA’s new BYD electric bus through a 24-hour marathon ride that looped from Rosamond to Palmdale (California) a total of 18 times. The BYD bus traveled 746 miles (1,201 km) over the 24-hour period, operating in three shifts. Each shift logged between 240 and 256 miles (386 and 412 km) before recharging the battery.

    AVTA’s electric bus was loaded with 5,250 lbs. (2,381 kg) of sand bags to simulate the weight of 35 passengers. The bus traveled a total of 240 miles before its first battery charge—nearly 100 miles (161 km) more than BYD advertises and 30 miles (48 km) more than is needed to service an average transit route in the Antelope Valley. The air conditioning system ran during most of the test except during the early morning hours when it was cold outside.

    “This is tremendous news and it proves the BYD electric bus can be a transit work horse like its diesel counterpart. We are looking forward to putting our electric buses into service on local transit routes to further evaluate their true performance under all weather and road conditions.”

    —AVTA Board Chair Norm Hickling

    This was the second range test for AVTA’s electric bus. Its first unofficial test was 29 July when it traveled to Los Angeles to pick up the consul general of the Chinese Consulate who was scheduled to tour the BYD manufacturing facility in Lancaster.

    AVTA offered to pick up the Chinese delegation using its new BYD bus in order to test the zero emission vehicle’s performance on the 14 freeway. After circulating downtown, the electric bus easily climbed the 14 Freeway grade which has an elevation change of nearly 4,000 feet. The 92-mile (148-km) trip ended in Lancaster, CA with 64% of the bus’ battery life still remaining.”

    • Vensonata

      That is tremendous. So the buses range is about the same as a tesla models s p85. If I remember correctly Warren Buffet is the man behind BYD. Bright fellow that Warren, bypasses the hydrogen, goes straight for the lithium. I predict that he will one day be a successful businessman!
      But I am curious if the hydrogen cheer leaders will refuse to get on the bus!
      ok…no more jokes.

  • Mopey

    How these articles get published is a mystery to me.

    For an article talking about fuel cell and diesel buses in comparison, there is no mentioning of the (much better) real world analysis of the BC Transit Whistler bus fleet. ( That NREL report shows years of data of the several generations of FCEV buses vs the diesel fleet, and comes to vastly different results than the author.

    Just looking at the article in detail, there are a lot or errors or biased assumptions (some of which have been addressed). Let’s begin:

    Initially, the author states that 9 million miles are traveled by buses every day. Later it is revealed in the comments that he’s actually only looking at urban bus traffic (where trolleys would only work). According to him, that’s a mere 20% of the previous assumption, but not reflected in some of the later discussion points. Sadly, there’s no mentioning of how the energy source for the remaining 80% of buses.

    It is also initally stated that in order to meet the 9 million miles traveled by buses, hydrogen refinery capacity would have to be expanded. Since he’s really just talking about 20% of that number, its actually not needed. Furthermore, the author mistakes hydrogen production capacity with actual hydrogen production. There’s no reason to believe the plants are anywhere near 100% of capacity at the moment.

    To compare trolleys with flexible modes of transportation is a bold move. Trolleys need new infrastructure along the entire route (which must be a fixed route) in order to work.

    “Of course, this assumes the sunk cost of the relatively straightforward
    trolley wiring grid. It’s a rounding error on the energy usage and both
    diesel and hydrogen require infrastructure as well, so this is an
    acceptable gloss for dense urban areas.” – WOW! The author than boldly claims that he can compare the infrastructure need in a trolley electric grid over every bus route in a city with the need for one hydrogen fueling station at the bus depot. Not only does he omit the cost (“acceptable gloss over”!), he also does not anticipate any issues with overhead wiring in the streets, the permitting process and time frame to build such a city wide electric grid, nor the cost to operate, maintain and repair the electric wiring grid for buses, due to storm damage, truck accidents etc. The cost for a fueling station for a 20+ bus fleet would be around $3M – data should be available from AC Transit or BC transit. I would love to see the cost for the infrastructure needed to build a city wide trolley bus cable grid, and the time it takes. One of the reasons why the CA grid is so unstable is a lack of approvals for new transmission lines. Why would you assume NIMBY sentiment would not exist in inner cities?

    The author mentions that EV buses cause no emissions in the city, but doesn’t mention that this is the case for FCEV buses, too.

    There’s more, but I am getting tired of this website pitting EVs and FCEVs against each other, especially with faulty articles by pseudo-analysts. Yes, hydrogen still has a major flaw – it’s either made by natural gas (very efficiently) or it’s made with significant losses from grid electricity at the moment. While there are other ways (biogas, organic hydrogen production), this is a draw back at this time. However, efficiency isn’t everything. Hydrogen from otherwise dumped wind energy is one way, the improvements in electrolysis efficiency another. BEVs are far from perfect. Please don’t argue like they’re the one and only solution. You’ll just perpetuate the current fossil age by limiting the options to go all green.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Your Whistler link is broken.

      80% of buses operate out of urban/suburban/school settings?

      Have you any data on how much wind electricity is “dumped”? And why would we expect any dumping to continue as storage and EVs come on the grid?

      No one is arguing that BEVs are the one and only solution. What I’ve seen is people compare BEVs and FCEVs and (generally) come to the conclusion that FCEVs are a long shot.

      • A Real Libertarian

        Your Whistler link is broken.


        • Bob_Wallace


          The Whistler site says – “The average fuel consumption during the entire period is 15.48 kg/100 km.”

          Mike uses a lower number – “10.3 kg of hydrogen would be required to travel the 100 km,”

          If I’m reading that correctly and the Whistler number is the most correct does this not make things worse for the fuel cell buses?

          The Whistler site says – “Based on $10.55 per kg’

          Mike uses a lower number here as well – “Hydrogen price is estimated to be $7 as the expected future average for steam reformation and a distribution model similar to gasoline”

          Or did I read something incorrectly?

          The Whistler site also reports maintenance costs higher for the fuel cell buses – $1.03 vs. $0.65 per km for their diesels.

          And, interestingly, they report that it is necessary to keep a second fuel cell stack on hand so that they can swap out the fuel cells from time to time and ship them back to the manufacturer to be “dried out”.

      • Mopey

        80% number comes from the author, not me. See comment section.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’ve looked through the comment section a couple of times and somehow missed Mike’s 80% number.

          How about copying at least the first sentence or the critical part of the comment to help me out?

      • Mopey

        What do you think storage will be? Battery banks? And as the amount of wind dumping, ask the author. That’s his area expertise, so it is said. The experience in the U.S. is limited I believe, but the issue will become severe with 25%+ of intermittent renewables on the grid. Germany has experienced regular negative pricing for electricity (equivalent to curtailment) in recent years. Germany requires RE to be used before fossil fuels, so they pay customers to take the excess electricity. NREL report on curtailment: – 4% in the U.S. at the moment.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s too early to tell what technology will dominate when it comes to storage.

          The standard against which newer technologies will be measured is pump-up hydro (PuHS). We’ve been using it for 100 years and installed about 20 GW back when we were building nuclear reactors. We’ve also built some PuHS since then so it’s a known and fairly low cost option.

          It looks as if flow batteries will be a serious contender as will zinc-air batteries. Then there are some very interesting, but yet unproven, technologies such as liquid metal (Ambri) and hot gravel (Isotropic).

          25% wind and solar penetration is on the low side. IIRC the NREL calculated up to 30% for the Eastern grid, 35% for the Western grid, and 45% for the Hawaiian grid. That was back in 2008, before we had added a lot of the NG capacity we now have. Between 2008 and 2013 we increased our NG capacity by 26%. That’s got to bump those 30, 40, 45 percent numbers up a long way with all that additional dispatchable generation on line.

          Additionally, EVs with smart chargers will allow for a lot higher penetration before serious storage will be needed. And as well, our closing nuclear and coal plants will free up some of the existing PuHS.

          ERCOT reported that they expected to have no trouble going to 40% in 2011.

          I think you misread the NREL report on curtailment. Let me copy over the critical part for you…

          “In the largest markets for wind power, the amount of curtailment appears to be declining even as the amount of wind power on the system increases.

          Curtailment levels have generally been 4% or less of wind generation in regions where curtailment has occurred. Many utilities in the western states report negligible levels of curtailment.”

          Pay attention to “appears to be declining” and 4% or less … where curtailment has occurred” as well as “negligible levels”. That hardly works out to “4% in the U.S. at the moment”.

          BTW, some of that <4% curtailment isn't easily recoverable. Sometimes transmission lines from wind farms are undersized as it's cheaper to curtail a small percentage of the power than to size the wire to carry 100% of nameplate a few hours a year.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Reading down past the ExecSumm of your NREL link I found this interesting graph.

          Looks like <2% curtailment is what we're dealing with these days.

          Then if you look at Table 1. you'll see that the common reason for curtailment is transmission related. So most of the <2% wouldn't be able to get to a H2 plant.

          "Transmission constraints have been the most common reason for wind curtailments in the United States to date. Most curtailment has occurred when the construction of necessary transmission lags behind the pace of wind farm development, resulting in infrastructure that is insufficient for the amount of wind generation on line."

        • Extremely small amounts of wind energy have been dumped. Some curtailment occurs in Ontario because they can’t turn their nuclear fleet down and they have too much nuclear capacity. That’s why their long-term plan is a 22% reduction of nuclear.

          Some curtailment occurred in Texas, but know that they’ve got the major transmission lines in place, that’s done. More curtailment is occurring in China right now, but that’s a transmission problem as well, and will be resolved sooner rather than later.

          Wind energy doesn’t get dumped. When the wind is blowing, fossil fuels get dumped because operating costs are higher.

          When the grid worldwide were completely decarbonized, storage would represent perhaps 15% to 20% of the total according to the best analyses I’ve seen. There will certainly be overbuild of wind and solar capacity, just as there has been overbuild of every other form of generation to provide for maintenance downtime, peak production etc.

          The vast majority of storage that’s been built in the world to date was built to give nuclear plants something to do at night, which was an economic necessity because they were so expensive that you couldn’t afford to run them at less than maximum capacity. That’s not true for wind energy; it’s just getting cheaper.

          But electricity isn’t going to magically get cheap or free. It will still cost roughly the same amount. So taking it and dividing its energy by four when you don’t have to for a major chunk of transportation makes no sense. It’s an economic non-starter of an argument.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “But electricity isn’t going to magically get cheap or free. It will still cost roughly the same amount.”

            I’m going to take issue with that statement as I think you’re looking only at the price charged by utilities. Where we will save a lot is the reduction in external costs of fossil fuels – costs we pay with tax and health insurance premium dollars..

          • Sure. That’s immaterial to the point I’m making, but I agree completely otherwise. 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            I just like to hammer it home.

            There’s nothing right-wingers hate more than having their tax dollars spent.

    • Regarding cleanliness of hydrogen, two quotes from the article. Not ignored by me at all, but you seem to feel free to ignore what I actually write.
      – “The process for producing hydrogen is polluting, but less so than burning coal or diesel regardless.”
      – “but hydrogen buses might be appropriate there due to urban air quality and related health concerns.”

      Regarding urban transit, I’m clear that’s what I’m talking about from beginning to end of the article. I’m talking about in-city bus use and human health. Since the majority of humans live in cities and this is just increasing, it’s a very reasonable choice. If you don’t like the choice, that’s nice, but irrelevant. If you want to pick on the headline, feel free and I chose it so it’s on me, but that’s about the only grounds you have for real complaint.

      Regarding Whistler, it’s a tiny resort village that sprawls with very low density all over a valley in the Coastal Range. I know, I snowboarded there many times every winter when I lived in BC, as well as zipping up on my motorcycle for lunch during the summer occasionally. Numbers for electric trolley buses come from Vancouver’s electric trolley bus system, which is to say, a dense urban area, the point of the analysis. As Bob points out, my numbers — fully referenced from credible sources — apparently understate the challenges hydrogen fuel cells face. But thanks for sharing the tiny, outlying example.

      It’s unclear why fuel cell advocates are pissed off at me saying that it’s feasible to produce enough hydrogen to run urban buses. The point is in favour of fuel cells, not against. Bizarre behaviour. I can change exactly one word out of the 2000 in the article without changing the fundamental point that it’s completely feasible to produce enough hydrogen and your point is shown to be nitpicking. What is it with people who can’t see the forest for the rivulets on the bark of an oak tree?

      Net new infrastructure that lasts for decades with virtually zero operating cost: wires. Net new infrastructure with a complete logistics supply chain that must be fulfilled daily for decades: hydrogen. It’s a wash. If I actually bothered to do the math, it would probably turn out in favour of trolley buses for the scenario I’m actually analyzing. This is a non-argument.

      I’m getting tired of fuel cell advocates showing poor reading comprehension and a lack of systems thinking capability.

      • vensonata

        Some thoughts on urban bus/trolley use (20% was the figure thrown about) vs “other” meaning school buses and greyhound etc: First I have trouble believing the numbers, I would have guessed the opposite, but I have not contemplated this before. However I am thinking we should consider passenger miles as a fair way to look at it. Urban buses travel short distances packed to the gills. Others transport a lower number of people. When we include Subways (electric of course) are we not talking the vast majority of public transit passenger miles are and should be electric, not diesel and certainly not hydrogen. By the way, that hydrogen bus to Whistler was a scheme from the 1986 worlds fair in Vancouver. There was supposed to be a “hydrogen highway” from California to B.C. Well, where is it?

        To our enthusiastic but rude hydrogen cheer leaders; none of us who think Batteries are Better, were born with a battery in our crib. Probably most of us were advocates for the “hydrogen economy” of Jeremy Rifkin and others. The scales fell from our eyes over time…decades… “hydrogen is the fuel of the future…and always will be”, who said that? Give that man a cigar.

        • The miles are passenger miles. See this comment.

          And I was pretty sure hydrogen was a big part of the future 20 years ago. Even ten years ago. But when you start looking at the numbers it falls apart.

          • Bob_Wallace

            One could have been looking at the numbers every day and still find their opinion shift.

            20 years ago EVs didn’t look very promising. Battery technology wasn’t moving very fast. 1995. Fuel cells seemed to be where things would go.

            Then we moved into the age of laptops and cell phones. Battery research took off, brought down costs and increased performance. EVs started looking very promising.

            Looking back I can see points at which I thought the future was fuel cell vehicles and nuclear energy. FCEVs have been replaced with EVs, nuclear with wind and solar. IMO.

          • What?! You change your opinion just because new evidence comes to light!

            What kind of scientist socialist are you! 😉

  • The source I cite in the analysis is a hydrogen transportation advocacy site. They did the work to determine what hydrogen would actually cost from different approaches.

    Please feel free to provide an alternative source other than one devoted to proving that hydrogen is the right answer to transportation.

  • Ben Helton

    “Can natural gas hydrogen generation scale? Well, the current U.S. refinery hydrogen production capacity is about 7 million kg daily, which is sufficient for roughly 70 million bus miles daily. Buses travel about 9 million miles daily in the USA. Scaling up hydrogen production for bus use appears to be a viable expansion of capacity of 30% or so. It would appear that it is at least feasible to consider the natural gas option for creating hydrogen for bus fleets.”

    A viable expansion of capacity of 30% or so?

    How did you come to this calculation without the help of a 5 year old?

    The expansion rate needed, based on the numbers you immediately presented (whether true or false) would be 12.85% to power all of the buses you talk about. But what about all of the hydrogen that would be saved, that is no longer getting hydrogenated into fuel? That would cut that 12.85% number down even more….

    • vensonata

      What’s all this about 5 year olds?

    • Thanks for pointing out the error in the calculation Ben. I did use the 7 million KG instead of the 70 million miles as the denominator. It doesn’t change the point that its feasible to expand production of hydrogen though, so it’s unclear why you think this is a significant issue. I’ll fix that.

      Please note that ad hominems, like conspiracy ideation, do not help you communicate effectively.

  • Ben Helton


    Wow, how did we come to such blatantly biased figures? Are we quoting figures that were put together by somebody who owns a battery company? (hint; Flight Power) I’m sure he also has zero interest with Elon Musk and the ‘BEV-Lution’ (being sarcastic if you can’t tell)

    If we can look past the blatantly wrong statistics, this article failed to calculate one, big, fat, ugly fact.

    How much CO2 is generated to create a battery large enough to power this bus all day? I don’t think they are just ‘found’ and I doubt a stork just brings them to your door….
    What kind of fuel you think they burn when they have to spend rediculous amounts of money to mine for these resources? What about smelting down the metals? What about shipping these several thousand pounds of whatever across the world? I guess this is all done with fairy farts, and we don’t have to worry about any CO2 during this excruciating energy intensive process.

    Once that is figured, we need an analysis done on how much CO2 / mile that adds at 50,000 miles, 100,000 miles, 200,000 miles.

    Then, let’s get some accurate statistics here.

    Until then, this author is nothing more than a Fox News anchor, spinning it how the big bucks want it.

    • Vensonata

      Actually all your questions have been answered by people who make batteries for a living. There is a whole industry of deception around the energy required to make lithium batteries, it is called “the oil companies”. Do you really think no one has realized that there is embodied energy in lithium batteries? It is like the nonsense about photovoltaics taking more energy to produce than they generate in their lifespan…a 10 year old can do the math to see how ridiculous the claim is… I am sure you will soon get a few figures about embodied battery energy on this site.

      • Ben Helton

        You didn’t answer the question, other than saying its been answered. And whatever that answer is, it hasn’t been figured in these calculations.

        And I said nothing about the energy needed to create solar panels vs. the energy produced. (and then to reference 10 year old math). You’ve taken my comment off topic, and then tried to insult? What’s next, a Your-Momma joke?

        • vensonata

          “It is like” the Pv case. That is not off topic, it is a Simile. And yes it has been answered, just like I said…but not by me, by people who have expertise in the area. You need to find out what they said…I don’t do your homework for you.

    • Electric trolley bus. That means overhead wires not batteries. Reading comprehension 101, not fairy farts.

      I don’t even have stock in Tesla, never mind work for them. Please understand that conspiracy ideation like this just makes your arguments weaker.

      • Ben Helton

        My mistake Mike,

        Why would you even compare a ‘wired transit system’ to independently operated busses? And then you leave out the obvious comparison (BEVs). Why? Do you even understand the reason for having fuel storage on a vehicle vs not having it?

        You’re comparing something that takes fuel vs; something that has zero on board energy storage. That’s not an apples to apples comparison, at all. More like an apples to berries comparison.

        • No, those are real world transit decisions.

          Electricified transport with overhead wires for streetcars or buses, or light-rail with in-rail electrification systems are a dominant paradigm for moving people around efficiently and cleanly in cities. There are about 300 currently operating trolley bus systems in 43 countries around the world today. Streetcars, right-of-way streetcars and other tram systems run by electricity exist around the world too. This analysis is pointing out that these are very good choices from a cost, health and greenhouse gas emissions perspective, better than the alternatives.

          • Ben Helton


            You do know, most ‘buses’ don’t have fixed routes.

            If you wanted to be correct in your evaluation, you wouldn’t even call them buses. Your article is referencing to electric ‘trolleys’ as if they could pick up and drop off your kids from school. It implies we should ditch the diesel greyhound for an ‘electric’ one, without any consideration of how it could actually travel across the country.

            You get where I’m going with this?

            This is a square and rectangle argument. While a trolley is technically a ‘bus’, a regular bus is in no way a trolley. There is a reason there is only 300 trolleys in the world, yet millions of fuel based buses.

            Your article is comparing two completely different peices of machinery, which have a huge variance in capabilities.

          • Not sure what kind of buses you are referring to Ben, but I’m talking about transit buses in cities. They do have fixed routes. They have schedules. They go along those fixed routes thousands of times annually.

            I’m not talking about school buses, and no where do I mention school buses.

            And the references I provided clearly call them buses.

            That you refuse to accept standard language and transit choices doesn’t mean that you are right, it means you are trying to argue about something else.

            Once again, Reading comprehension 101. Here’s an extraction from the second sentence of the article: “electric trolley”

            I’ll quote from the first part of the article:

            “While electric trolley buses require overhead wire systems, it’s by far the cheapest system to operate, so for dense urban areas it is most likely to be the cheapest overall.”

            My apologies that you don’t understand how transit works, but please understand that I’m uninterested in responding to someone who keeps proving that they haven’t even read the article and understood it, but keeps coming up with reasons why it’s wrong based on their biases.

            Please feel free to educate yourself on urban transit, then we can try to talk again.

          • Ben Helton


            How on earth could we replace a diesel school bus with an ‘electric trolley’? (a fuel cell bus will be replacing the old diesels) But instead, you suggest we abandon the fuel cell movement, and go to electrified transit

            How could we convert greyhounds over? What about party buses? Prison Buses? Shuttle buses? Cross country Charters?

            I’ve been on a lot of buses in my life, I can honestly say maybe only 20% have been ‘public transit’ of any kind.

            Buses have a much wider portfolio of uses than just public transportation. This article categorizes (and compares) all buses together, and completely fails to recognize why most buses run on some kind of fuel in the first place.

          • Let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

            Per the US DOT, in 2008, all buses in the USA covered about 150 billion passenger miles.

            Per the American Public Transportation Association fact book of 2011, urban transit buses in just the top 50 cities in the USA covered just under 16 billion passenger miles in 2009. That’s over 10% of the total under specific stop start conditions. With all urban areas buses included, it’s likely in the 15% to 20% range.

            My apologies that you are uninterested in such a large segment of buses, or that you dislike the data and conclusions. But given that I’m explicitly talking about urban transit buses and dense urban areas from the beginning of the analysis to the end, it’s unlikely that your opinion is relevant.

            Once again, you seem to be wanting to have an argument about something I’m not talking about. However, if you look at fuel cell buses vs diesel buses for non urban transit uses, then diesel wins hands down. The health impacts are much more diffuse, the CO2 emissions are lower and the price is much lower. That’s easy to extrapolate from my urban transit analysis.

            Fuel cell technology for buses doesn’t make sense.

          • Ben Helton

            Mike Barnard ,

            “However, if you look at fuel cell buses vs diesel buses for non urban transit uses, then diesel wins hands down”

            Your frustrations with me have really caused you to go over the edge a little bit on this one, don’t you think?

            Or, am I missing the secret, invisible elephant?

            Is there some magical way to create zero tailpipe emission diesel from wind and water that has close to zero CO2 footprint?

            Think about it Mike,

            -1974- it was practically impossible with the current technology to even run a bus (let alone a small van, with nothing in it)
            -1994- The worlds first hydrogen vehicles (ICE form) begin coming out, a few fueling stations are being built in prototype form. As the economics are worked out for fuel cell vehicles, they aren’t working out. Fuel cells are still way too expensive (coining the phrase the million dollar vehicle)
            -2014- There are hydrogen buses running all over the world. (Even in Texas, where I’m at)
            Fuel cell vehicles are now being leased to the public, although in limited numbers, more vehicles are coming out, which will widen this trend even more. Toyota brought the cost of theirs down 95% within 20 years. Manufacturers that are late in the game are putting together joint venture deals.
            There are now established safety and fire codes, as well as nozzle attachment standards that are universal worldwide, and just recently, there are effective weights and measurement devices being standardized.
            Fueling stations are popping up everywhere.
            The DOE has put together a public-private coop (h2usa) to help with the industry sharing safety technologies as well as helping to standardize service across all manufacturers to help the after market repair market in switching over as well.
            Japan is going all in on fuel cells. They have committed for all government ministries to have fuel cell fleets, as well as enormous incentives for first time purchasers to help diffuse the initial fear of change. The entire country will be adequately covered in stations by the end of 2016 (although limited capacity) – but as demand goes up, the economics are in its favor to expand the amount of stations you have.
            Germany is now using what was once dumped wind energy, and now creating hydrogen with it. It is suddenly economical again for them to expand their wind energy. (notice it has come to a near screeching halt in the US)

          • Ben Helton

            @mike_barnard:disqus why would you EVER favor a diesel bus “hands down” over a fuel cell bus?

            Imagine what 1 wind generator could do….
            (being conservative, I know there are wind generators bigger than 3MW)
            But with that conservative notion, let’s take a 3 MW generator
            @ 26.9% capacity
            @ 1 week
            = 135,576 KWhs (without any grid loss)
            dumped straight into DC electrolyzers
            @ ~58KWh / kg of H2 produced and compressed @10,000 PSI
            our 1 wind generator scored us around 2337 KGs of H2 for the week.

            The electric buses you talk about are running about 4.37 KWh / mile.
            With the fuel cell running at 70% efficiency, it will get about 23KWh’s / kg of H2 (or 5.3 miles / kg)

            That one windmill could knock out around 644,000 miles / year (in bus miles)

            That’s over 100,000 gallons of diesel saved (about 15-20 fuel trucks worth) from a wind mill….. seriously… aren’t you a wind fanatic? This is gold man. Back yard oil wealth ain’t got shit on this!

          • My apologies Ben, but you continue to prove you haven’t read what I wrote in the original article. Perhaps it is impossible for you.

            You’ll understand if I don’t bother to respond further to you.

  • Vensonata

    Quite a discussion. Amateurs need not apply! However here is my amateur view. Hydrogen was only under serious consideration when lead acid batteries were the only other transport option. Hydrogen had range,batteries did not… Of course the source of the hydrogen is the question. If it loses 50% in conversion unless, unless, unless, it is from unusable waste electricity(!)then hydrogen is a write off. But consider a few special cases, such as off grid solar pv overproduction in summer. Hydrogen can be stored seasonally for winter, batteries cannot do that. That is the only viable case, where even if the conversion factor is 80% loss it is still 20% free electricity when you need it most. Not too many other applications now that lithium batteries are here at price. By the way even some engineers are behind the times on this recent occurrence. But as Elon Musk says “hydrogen is a joke”.

  • shusa2013

    I question the findings in this article based on several reports.
    First, I recommend the author read the stories in the NY
    Times (“Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for
    Vehicles” 2/13/14) and USA Today (“Natural gas vehicles worse for climate than
    diesel ones?” 2/14/14) to see how natural gas is a very questionable
    replacement for diesel.
    Second, I suggest the author read the recent story from the Houston
    Chronicle (“Economics of natural gas don’t always add up for fleets” 6/12/14).
    As one fleet manager stated about their experience with natural gas: “We’re not
    saving any money. I’m glad to hear we’re not the only one struggling with fuel
    Third, I recommend
    the author read the analysis from the Clean Air Task that compared new CNG buses with
    new clean diesel buses. The analysis, entitled “Clean Diesel versus CNG Buses:
    Cost, Air Quality, & Climate Impacts” (2012) found:
    “Both new diesel and
    new CNG buses have significantly lower emissions of NOx, PM, and HC than the
    older diesel buses that they replace. According to EPA’s MOVES emissions model
    a 2012 model year diesel bus emits 94% less NOx per mile, 98% less PM, and 89%
    less HC than a model year 2000 (12-year old) diesel bus. A model year 2012 CNG
    bus emits 80% less NOx, 99% less PM, and 100% less HC than a model year 2000
    diesel bus.”

    • If I were recommending natural gas buses you might have a point, but I don’t even include them. The only valid criticism related to natural gas buses is my exclusion of them from the analysis.

      Thanks for reference to the diesel information. Please provide a link.

      • Guest

        I think he was referring to the NG to create the electricity. After all, it is enclosing in on coal as the number one source of electricity.

      • shusa2013

        My questions about your summary of the research primarily deals with our assessment of diesel exhaust and its health effects.

        Here are the links you request along with two others – one to the American Lung Associations 2014 “State of the Air” report and another to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s paper entitled “Diesel Engine Exhaust: Myth and Realities” (2014):

        “Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles” (NY Times)

        “Natural gas vehicles worse for climate than diesel ones?” (USA Today)

        “Economics of natural gas don’t always add up for fleets” (Houston Chronicle)

        “Clean Diesel versus CNG Buses: Cost, Air Quality, & Climate Impacts” (Clean Air Task Force)

        American Lung Association “2014 State of the Air” Report

        “We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that
        warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”

        “Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities” (UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE)
        119) “From the data and facts mentioned above, we conclude with a high degree of reliability that it is misleading to claim that people’s exposure to diesel engines of road motor vehicles is the cause of increased risk of lung cancer. 83 per cent of particulate matters emissions in European Union countries (EEA, 2012a) and 97 per cent in the United States of America (EPA 2013) and Canada, is generated by other economic sectors, mainly the commercial, institutional and household sector. Therefore, the claim that emissions from diesel engine exhausts from road transport are the main cause of lung cancer in humans needs to be seriously challenged. It does not mean however, that measures to improve the environmental performance of the transport sector can stop. On the contrary, they must continue and in an aggressively well targeted way.”

  • Matt

    Are you missing impact of NG leaking from well to conversion to H2? Electric bus on fully renewable grid, is 0?

  • Bob_Wallace

    On page 25 of your link it shows fuel cell buses more efficient at 7.33 miles per gallon (diesel equivalent) and diesel buses at 4.20. So, yes, close to twice as efficient.

    But then when you read down a bit further –

    “The operating cost for hydrogen production and dispensing for AC Transit is currently estimated at between $6 and $8 per kg. This amount, which excludes capital expenses, was generated using early data (not optimized operation) and conservative maintenance and operating estimates.

    Using the $8 per kg cost estimate for hydrogen fuel indicates a cost per mile for the fuel cell buses of $1.23.

    The average diesel fuel cost per gallon during the evaluation period is $2.29 per gallon. This average indicates a $0.55-per-mile cost. The diesel cost per mile is about 45% of the fuel cell bus fuel cost per mile.”

    And that’s in-bus efficiency only. One would need to look at the well to fuel efficiency as well.

    • mamills2

      Could not agree more. Point is that old, wrong data was used in this piece and many more issues should be considered when analyzing this type of comparison. I had others issues with it but just focused on one major flaw (imo). But to your point, FC buses are in demo mode (essentially one-off production) and not nearly as “cheap” compared to EV systems that while also new are benefitting from mass production cost efficiencies (at least with the battery portion of the systems). Costs of FCs definitely have to come down (as do other EVs) and many people are working on this issue.

      I could go on and on but dont have the time. Point is this article needs to be taken for what it is – a shallow and narrow look at bus options using questionable data/sources.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’m pretty familiar with Mike. State what you feel is wrong and he’ll likely address it. If he’s wrong he’s a big enough guy to admit it.

        Throwing out unspecified charges and running away carries no value.

        • mamills2

          Not running away and “unspecified charges”? Please re-read my first post. You may notice two specific charges backed up with specific support: 1) possible bias demonstrated by using an EV promotion website article for data and 2) offering wrong data to define an extremely important data point (even the report I reference is old. There is probably better info now that many more bus demos have been completed)

          • eveee

            mammals – your citation is 2007. Zebra batteries are pretty much out of date. Thing is, what difference does any of that make? What was used to create the hydrogen? In any future case, it will be NG, because it is cheaper. That means it will not be low carbon. And it will be inefficient. No way around that one. Its just too wasteful to make hydrogen from electricity and then send it through several lossy processes.

  • Bob_Wallace

    How about documenting your claim, John?

  • mamills2

    So sad that Mike aparently became a blogger to debunk Wind myths and now publishes pieces like this that perpetuate hydrogen myths and narrow or incorrect positions from its competition. Thie piece is far from balanced and makes me think he was funded by the EV industry. Its that why a critical piece of data used in this “analysis” (the efficeincy of FC systems is the same as diesel (are you kinding me??)) comes from an EV website? Perhaps real world data from demonstration activities is a better data point? For example, the Contra Costa Transit District’s Demo in CA reported that their hydrogen-powered buses were up to twice as efficient as those powered by diesel, despite being roughly 3,000 lbs heavier.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Link to the Contra Costa data?

    • Many of my references are to hydrogen advocacy organizations. I looked for the best available data that was rigorous, and where I couldn’t find solid independent data I opted for fuel cell advocacy data.

      My apologies that you don’t like the results.

  • Don Ross

    Back to the future…….when most cities in the early 20th century were operating electric trolley systems and even railways were electric……then along cam GM, Standard Oil, and the Tire industries to buy them all up, shut them down and convert everything over to diesel, where the profits were for them. Read the book ” Internal Combustion ” to learn more about this sorry tale. A century later we may make it back again to the right way…..I hope.

    • Absolutely. The move away from electrified urban transit systems wasn’t the right one in retrospect. But they are coming back.

      • jeffhre

        LOL, gee you mean those smooth riding vehicles of the future GM, Firestone and Chevron promoted weren’t the best choice after all?

  • Roger Pham

    Of course, BEV Bus beats FCEV Bus in term of efficiency, that is well known. However, the ratio of WTW is 1.8:1, not 4:1, when H2 is made in-situ right at the station from dedicated wind or solar farms nearby. If you are interested, I will show you the calculation. In cold winter, the efficiencies of BEV and FCEV may be much closer with waste heat from FC for cabin heating, while battery may lose efficiency in frigid temps.

    PPA cost of wind and solar farms dedicated to the H2 station can be at or under 4 cents/kWh, which is .4 or less, than the 10 cents/kWh grid electricity. Even adding profits and amortization cost of the H2 stations, the per-mile energy cost of BEV bus and FCEV bus may be comparable eventually.

    The high costs of H2 at the moment is due the low retail volume, which will go way low in due time, while the cost of grid power is stable.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” right at the station from dedicated wind or solar farms nearby.”

      Just stick that electricity into batteries and you’ll need to install less than half as much. You’ve set up a faulty situation in which H2 gets cheaper power from dedicated wind/solar while battery charging is done with retail grid electricity.

      Try to avoid putting your thumb on the scale. A dishonest argument will not make the market swing to FCEVs.

      • Roger Pham

        BEV Buses run during the day and is charged at night. That’s why charging from the grid is convenient.
        To bypass the grid and charge buses from DC power from solar and wind farms, battery storage is required. 4 cents/kWh is the lowest cost of battery storage. If 3/4 of charging current will come from storage on average, then additional cost is 3 cents/ kWh on top of the 4 cents/kWh PPA price, or 7 cents/ kWh. This, vs FCEV bus at 4 c x1.8 = 7.2 cents.

        Then, one must also add the amortization cost of the battery on the bus that will wear out with daily charging of 4 cents/kWh more, then energy cost of the BEV bus is now 11 cents/kWh vs the raw electricity cost of FCEV bus at 4 cents/kWh x 1.8 = 7.2 c/kWh + amortization cost for the H2 station and profit…
        And the cost per mile for BEV and FCEV buses may be comparable once again.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, buses can charge off nighttime wind. And the grid contract for nighttime wind is likely to be very low.

          Try to be even in your evaluations. I suspect you’re misleading yourself by taking a position and then trying to make the facts fit your position. Let the facts drive your position rather than the other way around.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, and don’t forget that it takes more that twice as much electricity to extract and compress H2 than to run off batteries.

            So even using your questionable numbers the EV bus would be 11 cents and the H2 bus > 14 cents.

            Using likely nighttime charging rates the cost is likely be well under 8 cents to charge batteries. A large bus charging yard would be a valuable dispatchable load for utilities.

          • Ben Helton

            You’re wrong Bob. The author claims it is FOUR TIMES more energy to propel a fuel cell vehicle than a battery vehicle. (obviously i’m citing a credible source)

            I like how you accuse everybody of putting their thumb on the scale, but not the author! (i guess he’s a good friend of yours, wouldn’t want to embarrass him, eh?) That’s very generous; He’d practically have to re-write the entire thing / and / or just scrap it entirely. Why waste his effort? Let’s go ahead and smear it all over though, so we can perpetuate more false reasons why BEVs should be the way of CARB, not FCEVs

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ben, do you understand the difference between “energy needed for electrolysis/compression” and “energy required to propel a fuel cell vehicle”?

          • philip d

            It IS FOUR TIMES according to you. I had this discussion with you on another site. I used YOUR numbers and showed that a Tesla with the same range as a Tucson FCV (which weighs less than the Tesla) needs 1/4 the energy to travel the same distance.

            Your quote: “To fill Toyota’s 5.5kg capacity, @ 58KWh / kg we’re needing about 319KWh to produce the hydrogen needed for this 300+ mile range.”

            My quote: “Let’s follow the Tucson FCV as an example because it exists. As per their website they claim the Tucson has a range of 265 miles and a 5.64 kg tank. Using your numbers the Tucson needs 327kwh to travel 265 miles.”

            “Why not just put 1/4 or 85 kwh of that wind energy into a Tesla Model S85 and get the same range? You could power 4 Teslas the same distance as one Tucson FCV.”

          • Roger Pham

            Ok, I will leave room here for someone else to chime in. Tried my best to be objective.
            One last note, wind may be steady for several nights, then may slow down or calm for several nights…then there is a lot of daytime wind that will need storage…a lot of storage may be needed for long bouts of calm days.
            Solar combined with wind is best to reduce storage capacity required, but then solar needs 100% storage, while wind needs 50% storage, so 1/2 solar + 1/2 wind = 3/4 storage.

          • eveee

            Roger – These numbers, solar needs 100%, wind needs 50%? Look something up and make more sense. You are just pulling numbers out of the air. The cost of night electricity is lower based on TOU rates. That is all that is necessary. Then there is the amount of nighttime generation from wind, coal, nuclear, etc.

          • Roger Pham

            In this context, using low-cost 4 cents/kWh solar and wind electricity from energy farms directly to charge buses and bypassing the grid, storage is needed. Solar PV during the day must be 100% stored in order to charge buses at night. Daytime wind must also be stored for night time charging, also, some nights are calm, so wind is stored at 50%. These numbers are hypothetical because in the real world, night grid electricity is used to charge BEV’s.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re really creating a bizzaro world in your attempt to push hydrogen.

            Bus companies are not going to set up wind and solar farms. They are going to use grid power. Bus companies are in the bus business, not the electricity business.

            Like other vehicles that are parked at night they will avail themselves of the less expensive off-peak electricity.

            If hydrogen could be shown to be a cheaper way to store energy for buses then bus companies would likely run their hydrogen generation/compression systems on grid power.

          • Ben Helton

            It’s pretty clear, CleanTechnica is not welcome to objective thinking. Under a website that supposedly covers ‘green’ tech, they have an entire category for Tesla cars (as it is i guess somehow a league of its own) but they won’t even acknowledge fuel cells AT ALL. (bloom box, anybody?)

            It’s like going to Info Wars when you visit this site. They are in their own little world here…..

          • Roger Pham

            I’m a fan of Tesla and Solar City and would like to see American companies leading the world in Green Technology. It takes a true genius to make a best-selling luxury car that beats out all the world’s established MFG’s, using an energy storage medium 1/20th the energy density of gasoline, yet resulting in a car with far more internal space than all the competition and higher acceleration and better handling.

            Just imagine what Mr. Musk can do when his Renewable Energy storage medium can be up graded 10 folds, from 150 Wh/kg to 1500 Wh/kg?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Roger, Roger, Roger….

            You just can’t help yourself, can you?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re welcome to go away Ben.

            I’ve yet to see any objective thinking coming from you. You’re just trolling.

          • Mopey

            He’s been one of the few people poking holes in the articles posted on this site. So far, Ben’s comments have been quite valuable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ben hasn’t poked any holes in the articles on this site.

            He’s poked holes in things that weren’t in the articles but only in his mind. Have you not paid attention to his faulty reading?

          • Mopey

            The first response, the very first response I see from Ben points out calculation errors by the author. I have paid attention.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, even a blind pig sometimes finds an acorn.

          • Mopey

            Thanks for acknowledging that Ben has poked holes in the article, by pointing out glaring errors. That means he’s read the article, reviewed the assumptions, “objectively thought” and submitted valuable comments.

            Now I am looking forward to the time when the FCEV guys don’t have to correct articles by EV supporters to limit the misinformation campaign from this and other EV sites.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ben pointed out one error. Had you read his other posts you would see that he also went off on what he thought were errors when they were only his misreading of what was written.

            BTW, Ben has a long history of not being objective and rather offensive on this site.

          • Bob_Wallace

            BTW, Mopey, did this post not get through to you?

            “Mopey, what the facts about FCEVs that you think we’re missing here on CT?

            And what do you think Julian got wrong in his analysis of FCEVs run on natural gas produced hydrogen?

            Please put up the facts you think we’ve missed and stow the personal attacks.

            BTW, I hope you realize that there is no shortage of acceptable sites for PuHS. And I hope you realize that H2 is a very inefficient way to store energy.”

          • Mopey

            Julian’s tirade needs an actual analyst to redo, since he’s so off with all other lab findings, and unlike Julian I don’t have the time. I’ll stick to NREL and Sandia data – the people already doing the work. Or the Europeans, who are pushing green transportation much more: or NREL’s GHG emission report.

            Just because you love the findings of EVangelists doesn’t mean they’re right.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s hardly a responsive reply. If you have specific problems with Julian’s article then it should be easy for you to list them.

          • Acknowledged and corrected.

            Your point is?

          • Mopey

            I’ve noticed that. Notice also that the top commenter is also a moderator on the site and calling people who disagree trolls…

            This is a fringy website by die-hard EV apologists. Don’t look for real data here.Too bad it pops up in my newsfeed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you have data that proves H2 FCEVs are a better solution for getting off petroleum (and not onto natural gas) then present it.

            This site is very data-driven. It just happens that the publicly known data puts EVs ahead of H2 FCEVs. It has to do with physics and sciency stuff….

          • Mopey

            Condescending much? Are you a moderator or commenter?

            Sorry, but scientific studies (you know, the sciency and physicsy stuff you mention) do not “put EVs ahead of H2 FCEVs”. Not in range, not in fueling time. If EVs would be so overwhelmingly better, they’d be built by every OEM. FCEVs may not be as efficient as BEVs, but they have many other advantages that the customer seeks. And those are the people buying the product.

            There’s science, and there’s science fiction. This site has way too much of the latter.

          • Dr. Dean Dauger

            On a daily basis it takes a couple seconds of my time to plug in my Model S, which automatically charges after midnight when rates are low. It’s full well before I wake up. That’s a welcome convenience of BEVs. Anyone who has a smartphone already has the same habit: plug it in before bedtime.

            That easily beats the 20-30 minutes it takes to drive to a station (gas or Hydrogen) and fill up and pay.

            On a road trip the Tesla Superchargers are the way to go. 265 miles is plenty of range to get between them, and my kids took up far more time at each stop than my S needed to charge, so the little humans were the bottleneck, not Tesla’s tech. I logged the journey from Orange County to SF and back here:


            The Tesla solution really works. Meanwhile no FCV today can make the trip I did over a year ago because the BEV stations are way ahead:


            FCVs are very late to market. Who’s going to pay to build their infrastructure fast enough to catch up? With each Hydrogen station 4 times the cost of a Tesla Supercharger:


            the FCV route gets very expensive very fast.

          • Mopey

            You know why FCEVs are late?

            Chu believed in batteries over fuel cells until 2012, and that sent uncertainty across the U.S.

            If the government doesn’t support your nacsent technology, you have a problem, and that set FCEVs back at least 4 years.

            One hydrogen dispenser can fuel as many cars as 6 superchargers in the same time (5 mins vs 30 mins), but from empty to full. So the supercharger is actually more expensive per refueled vehicle.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hold up there Lone Ranger!

            Toyota and Honda are Japanese companies, Hyundai is a South Korean company and Daimler a German company.

            You’re claiming that because the United States Secretary of Energy though EVs were a more likely solution that Japan, South Korea and Germany slowed their development of their fuel cell technology?

          • Dr. Dean Dauger

            With FCVs at least 4 years behind and unable to pick up the pace, then FCVs are already done, in the US anyway.

            And, nope, Mopey, a Hydrogen station can’t fuel cars that fast back-to-back. They fuel one car at 20 minute intervals at best:


            “It might take five minutes to fill a car, but in a ten-hour day the station can only produce enough hydrogen to fill 30 cars or six buses. That’s how long the reformation, compression and cryogenics processes take.”

            Meanwhile each Tesla Supercharger station has at least 8 stalls, so the throughput is over twice as fast at 1/4 the cost of the Hydrogen station. So by the metric you suggest the Supercharger is even better than I claimed. Thanks. Both technologies will improve of course.

            But for the 98% of the year I’m not on a road trip, it takes me a couple seconds per day to plug in to a NEMA 14-50 outlet that cost $150 to install.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Building hydrogen stations remains an expensive proposition: we were told they were trying to get to a unit cost of 200 million yen ($2.03M US) for a single station, but it costs about twice that amount right now, or something like four million dollars.”

            That’s some serious change for the ability to refuel 30 cars per day. And that’s just infrastructure costs, it doesn’t cover the NG and electricity inputs.

          • Ben Helton

            Fringy to say the least. Do a little legwork on Julian Cox (of Flight Power). Here, they call him an author. In the real world, we call him a crook.

            Need to petition Google and other news aggregates to bucket this. I don’t see the website Above Top Secret coming in any news feeds, and for good reason.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ben, apparently this site is causing your hemorrhoids to flare up on you.

            Out of concern for your well being I think it best you leave this den of iniquity.

            Don’t be concerned about it being our loss. You weren’t contributing anything of value….

          • Mopey

            I know. It would be great to see the CV of people who write these articles, or a link to their LinkedIn profile. Only once I’d like to see an author posting here on fuel cells having any analytical background, not this whole “lifelong career of writing articles” BS.

            Mike Barnard has a great background on wind, so my question would be for him to write about how to store excess amounts of wind? Hydrogen is a perfect solution for that if there’s no pumped hydro available, even NREL says so: But Mike writes about buses!

            Why don’t we get some Navigant or NREL or Sandia or another respectable organization post their articles on this site? Instead we get the typical (Julian) Cox News – “Fair and Balanced” – as much fair and balanced as the original.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mopey, what the facts about FCEVs that you think we’re missing here on CT?

            And what do you think Julian got wrong in his analysis of FCEVs run on natural gas produced hydrogen?

            Please put up the facts you think we’ve missed and stow the personal attacks.

            BTW, I hope you realize that there is no shortage of acceptable sites for PuHS. And I hope you realize that H2 is a very inefficient way to store energy.

          • Ben Helton

            I hear it’s only $400 to have an article put together through this site. That’s pretty bottom of the bucket..

          • A Real Libertarian

            but they won’t even acknowledge fuel cells AT ALL.

            What is the article you are posting on about?

            Acknowledgement =/= Promotion.

    • jeffhre

      “The high costs of H2 at the moment is due the low retail volume, which will go way low in due time, while the cost of grid power is stable.”

      Perhaps the high cost is a necessity from using nearly three times as much energy per mile traveled. After all, battery powered vehicles are certainly not manufactured in high volumes.

  • Vensonata

    Battery buses are here and will surely sweep the nations now that lithium batteries are approaching maturity and price point. The alternatives are laughable.

    • Ben Helton

      What kind of price point are the approaching? I feel pessimistic, maybe you can enlighten me (with references) what the current price / KWH is for lithium batteries.

      • vensonata

        commercial scale $250 kwh and sinking. Can buy from Balqon in California retail at 300-350. probably do you a deal for big purchases.

  • JamesWimberley

    Is the CO2 intensity for the grid calulated as a mean or for night-time? The former is appropriate for trolleybuses, the lower night-time figure (with wind and nuclear top of the merit order) for electric battery buses.

    I don’t myself see new trolleybuses beating battery ones. Operators have to make a quite large and completely inflexible investment in overhead wires, These are ugly and will arouse opposition before work can start. A battery bus can be used on any route, and blended seamlessly with the existing fleet. Trolley wires are more vulnerable to extreme weather.

  • Torbjørn Johnsen

    I will definitely not use these numbers in a long-term plan.

    With new techniques for hydrogen production from water, will cost 238 kwh remain below USD 2 per hour. 100% clean energy / Torbjorn

    • jeffhre

      With new undefined procedures for any process, wonderful results will occur.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What does “238 kwh remain below USD 2 per hour” mean? I assume you’re attempting to communicate some low price. Could you perhaps give us a cost in $ per kg?

      Where is hydrogen being produced from water for the (apparent) low price you claim?

    • Kyle Field

      Clearly the combustion of the hydrogen is 100% clean…it’s the production of the actual hydro that you seem to overlook. This is typically produced using natural gas…though moving to an electrolysis system based on solar power would “fix” that. Assuming that, the other obvious point to address is the efficiency loss in converting electricity to hydrogen…back to electricity. So 100% clean? Possible. Is it there yet? Nope.

      With an EV, I can directly control my own electricity production and consumption…win win win.

  • Defendor

    Could this analysis be missing the Well component of WTW for Diesel?

    Because Argonne Labs Greet results show Diesel cars emit much more WTW C02 than EV cars on the Average US grid.

    Why would buses reverse that?

    • jeffhre

      Defendor, good point. My first thought was, these numbers couldn’t possibly take into account extraction refining and delivery of diesel.

      • Ben Helton

        What about mining, extraction, smelting, manufacturing, and delivery of the batteries?

        • jeffhre

          It replaces mining, extraction, smelting, manufacturing and delivery of the engine and transmission. The embedded energy of production is a fraction of that of propulsion, according to MIT Sloan research.

    • Thanks for pointing this out, but I don’t think, based on a bit of digging, it’s as significant as you might think.

      I did use Tank-to-Wheel vs Well-to-Wheel numbers. It’s very useful to differentiate and ensure that apples-to-apples comparisons are made. For hydrogen, it is Well-to-Wheel, so that’s an important distinction.

      However, according to this LCA study, tank-to-wheel for diesel averages 86% of well-to-wheel, which makes sense when you think of where the majority of CO2 will be emitted, i.e. the burning of the diesel.

      That means my diesel numbers go from 104 kg per 100 km to 121 kg per 100 km and the overall analysis stands. Diesel is better than electric for CO2 emissions on the average US grid, and better than hydrogen in all cases.

      Electric gets a bit better by comparison, and as my point in the article is that electric is the best overall, I’m comfortable that this point stands.

      Thanks for keeping me honest. I’ll consider redoing the numbers in the article itself.

      • rogerbedell

        Odd that you only show 50% carbon free grids, there are now several that are close to 100%, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

        • Yes, this is a US centric post despite the use of metric. I agree that other countries are doing much better. The EU is averaging under 70% of the CO2/kWh.

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