Cars

Published on June 26th, 2015 | by Nicholas Brown

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Hydrogen Cars Lost Much Of Their Support, But Why?

June 26th, 2015 by  

Originally published on Kompulsa.

Several years ago, hydrogen car technology appeared to be promising, and government funding for hydrogen generation and fuel cell technology was flowing. Hydrogen can be generated using oil and gas, or even better: using wind power, solar power, or any other source of electricity that happens to be available. This provides the ultimate flexibility, and it was a potential window of opportunity for combustion engine fans to reduce their emissions without having to give up that rumble they have come to know and love.

A two-door, black and silver BMW i3 electric car. Side view.

Electric BMW i3.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

In addition to that, hydrogen can be used instead of energy storage to back up wind farms and solar power plants. The surplus electricity generated by these plants (if any) could be used to extract hydrogen from water via efficient electrolyzer technology, and pump it into a hydrogen tank. That hydrogen could then be used to generate electricity at night, augment electricity production capacity during cloudy weather, or back up wind farms during stagnant periods.

(Editor’s Note: Remember, though, creating hydrogen from the use of renewable energy is just an ideal. In practice, it is more economical to take it from natural gas, which makes it quite a dirty option — worse than driving a Prius. As far as storing excess electricity, that can more economically be done with the use of batteries. But anyhow, yes, hydrogen could theoretically come from water split via the use of electricity from renewable resources.)

The main benefit of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles over electric vehicles is their ability to refill quickly (in 10 minutes), while electric cars typically take more than 20 minutes. Several years ago, electric cars took hours (at least) to charge, so this benefit was much more notable then. Using an electric car just means you’ll have to get a sandwich while you’re waiting for it to recharge. It doesn’t take THAT long anymore. Plus, electric vehicles can easily be charged at home overnight.

I won’t unfairly say that hydrogen refuelling stations are uncommon compared to electric car charging stations, as refuelling stations can and probably would be built if hydrogen cars were common. However, hydrogen refuelling stations are much more expensive than charging stations. EV charging stations only cost a few thousand dollars, while hydrogen filling stations require high-pressure storage tanks and pumps which cost many times more. There is also the high cost of hydrogen storage tanks (10,000 psi storage tanks aren’t cheap).

Before I continue, it’s best to clarify the difference between hydrogen-burning cars which rely on combustion engines, and hydrogen fuel cell cars. Hydrogen-burning cars are inefficient (because they rely on combustion engines, which are always inefficient, regardless of fuel), so they would cost a fair bit of money to operate. That would amount to the cost of wind or solar power used to generate the hydrogen. Wind power doesn’t cost much compared to the other energy sources (it has gotten down to 2.5 cents/kWh in the US, and is often the cheapest option for new electricity generation capacity in the US as well as other countries around the world), but the hydrogen would still be expensive due to the massive quantity of it that combustion engines require.

Combustion engines in general are under 38% efficient (often in the 20–30% efficiency range) — this means that they waste well over half their fuel. Electric car motors are usually more than 80% efficient, and some exceed 90%. Electric cars are a more efficient use of wind and solar energy. They can also store it and help back up the electricity grid if the vehicle-to-grid concept makes it into the mainstream.

As for fuel cells, fuel cell cars are electric, but they rely on built-in fuel cell technology as a source of electricity instead of batteries. Fuel cells are currently too cost-prohibitive to be competitive, but they are far more efficient (and hence more promising) than hydrogen combustion engines. Still, coming in several times more expensive (or even 10 times more expensive) than battery-electrics makes them impractical financially.

(Editor’s Note: Also, some have simply learned that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles fundamentally can’t offer the same performance as battery-electric vehicles for the same energy and financial efficiency. As Elon Musk has noted, the theoretical best for hydrogen cars doesn’t match current lithium-ion battery cars.)


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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



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  • spineshank155

    Electric cars are not exactly breathtaking either when you have to wait for them to recharge. Hydrogen cars could work, it’s really just water which right now we are abundant with. Obama doesn’t need to try to force people to go out and buy a new car.. he can just clean out our lakes and oceans. Electric cars are not all that they are cracked up to be and you can use the same combustion cars for hydrogen, in effect you would be saving more money by simply creating the hydrogen on the car itself. Instead of using gasoline, use water to fill up your tank. The obvious problems with hydrogen cars isn’t a huge deal. People do this DIY with their cars.. it’s pretty easy to do and mechanics can do the switch for many car owners. You don’t need an elaborate ‘hydrogen gas station’ either.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s some strange thinking. PBO isn’t forcing anyone to buy a car of any sort. Cleaning our lakes and oceans means not polluting them with oil spills and not cranking up the acidity with CO2 emissions.

      Now, did you really get suckered in with that ‘fill your tank with water and make hydrogen with your alternator’ BS? If so, shame on you. Believing that is at the level of believing some Nigerian prince wants to give you millions of dollars.

  • MichFlaGuy

    The Hydrogen Combustion engine is the “internet” of the 21st century…meaning this: DARPA created what we know at the Internet in the early 70’s, but of course they would not let anyone outside the government (and a few universities conducting government studies) to have access. The only reason the Net was ever made public was by mistake at the governmental level. Now NASA & many other government entities are using hydrogen combustion engines that run basically on just water (with the electrolysis occurring WITHIN the engine by utilizing hydrogen ‘cake’ to accelerate the combustion process – just as in rocket booster technology but on smaller scale). Yes…this technology DOES exist and our government is using it…but in the true spirit of DARPA funded technology, we will not see it for another 25 years. Hydrogen combustion engines are the only real option moving forward, as they have zero emissions and utilize the most abundant & reproductive resource on the planet: water. This is why NASA loves this techmology….but we don’t get it for another generation – or until the Japanese produce it for us in the next 3 years!. (Gee….wonder why the American car companies are all in trouble??!!)

    • Bob_Wallace

      That reminds me. I need to check to see if I’m heavily enough invested in tinfoil manufacturers.

      Consulting portfolio….

  • Doug

    Why don’t we let CA drive EV technology and TX can pursue H2? A little state-vs-state competition would make things interesting!

  • Bob_Wallace

    1. Fracking made NG cheaper therefore (something) will make hydrogen cheaper. That’s arguing based on a wish.

    You compared one fuel with road use tax and other taxes added to a fuel with no tax added. Unless you are arguing that people who might drive H2 FCEVs would never be taxed (how likely is that?) then your comparison has no value.

    You link for H2 assumes low cost off peak electricity at wind farms. That is a very risky assumption. As coal and nuclear plants close the price of off peak electricity will cease dropping as low as it sometimes does. The low price is due, not to wind, but to the reluctance of thermal plants to shut down.

    Additionally as more storage and EVs come on line we will see a flattening of the daily cost curve. Lower price opportunities will be grabbed by those new dispatchable loads.

    2. Here we tend to use EPA ranges to compare car mileage/range. Not manufacturer statements.

    Discharging batteries also give off heat which can be used for cabin heating.

    3. Toyota has stated that they would need to get the production level of their H2 FCEV to 100,000 in order to manufacture a competitively priced car.

    The question for FCEV advocates to chew on is where is the market for a car that costs 2x to 3x the cost of a Toyota Camry, has no performance advantages, and costs 2x as much per mile to drive?

    There are a few very deep pocket people like Jay Leno who might buy one just to own a novelty car. And a few organizations will buy one for evaluation or greenwashing. But 100,000 buyers?

    4. What we are discussing is what the market will choose.

    My guess is that the H2 FCEV’s niche is a corner in a car museum. Without a massive drop in operating cost people simply will find no reason to purchase a FCEV.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I spent some time reading the NREL page and the larger report on which it is based. You shouldn’t get your hopes up based on that study.

      “The renewably-produced hydrogen was generated completely by wind electricity on either a cost or quantity basis. The base hydrogen costs ranged from $3.74kg to $5.86/kg. The base results show no wind sites that meet the centralized or distributed U.S. Department of Energy 2015 targets of $3.10/kg and $3.70/kg, respectively; however, when considering the effects of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credits (ITC) (reduction of $0.02/kWh), almost half the sites analyzed meet the distributed target and a few of the sites can meet the central target,”

      The dream of affordable H2 is predicated on wind continuing to have PTC and ITC subsidies. Two problems here:

      1) Those subsidies are almost certain to disappear long before any significant H2 extraction could begin. The wind farms needed to make massive amounts of subsidized electricity would need to be built this year.

      2) The subsidies would only make H2 cheaper at the pump, not cheaper. Costs of driving a H2 FCEV would be reduced for the FCEV driver and put on taxpayers.

      On the page you linked the NREL is looking at a target price of $3.70/kg. The Toyota Mirai has tankage for 5 kg of H2 and an EPA range of 312 miles. That works out to $0.06/mile if using subsidized H2.

      “The base hydrogen costs ranged from $3.74kg to $5.86/kg.”

      That is the current cost range for H2 “at the plant”. It does not include getting the H2 to your local filling station, the cost of running that filling station, or the required profits for the businesses that distribute and dispense the fuel.

      It’s the cost of fuel, Jonas. Why would someone purchase a FCEV that costs a lot more than a regular gasoline or diesel fueled car and then pay more per mile to operate it?

      You want to let the market decide. There are the market facts.

    • Jonas Blomberg

      Bob,

      After our discussion, I found several articles which supported my range statements.
      One states a range of 254 km during wintertime: http://www.hybridcars.com/tesla-model-s-could-lose-up-to-40-percent-range-in-cold-weather/
      And 210 km, wintertime, in Germany: http://www.bild.de/auto/auto-news/elektroauto/wintertetst-reichweite-34053450.bild.html

      Mirais range in the cold is vindicated here: http://www.hybridcars.com/toyotas-fuel-cell-vehicles-can-handle-the-cold/
      Jonas

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t see anything in those articles about pre-warming the batteries (and cabin) with grid power. No one argues that if you use battery power alone on very cold days you won’t give up range.

        Plugging in while parked is one solution. Volvo introduced another with their ethanoyl heater for extreme cold conditions.

        • Jonas Blomberg

          Bob,
          I just wanted to set the record straight. I am very impressed by Tesla and Musk, they show a viable way to a fossil free future. But also by Toyota. The fuel cell alternative is important. But the future balance between FC and battery is uncertain.

  • Jonas Blomberg

    Bob,

    1. Energy content of 1 kg of diesel or gasoline is 48 MJ. Energy content of 1 kg H2 is 142 MJ. 142/48=2.96. 1 gallon of gasoline is 3.4 kg. Thus, my statement was approximately true.
    1 kg H2 can take me 100 km.
    1 gallon of diesel can take me 74 km.
    1 kg H2 costs 9€ (no tax), giving a cost/km of 0.09€.
    1 gallon of diesel costs 6€ (w tax), giving a cost/km of 0.08€.
    If tax accounts for 50% of the diesel price, the untaxed cost of gasoline becomes 0.04€/km.
    As you may know, the price of hydrogen is estimated to drop to 2-4 $/kg (NREL) when market mechanisms come in.
    Diesel/gasoline will not become cheaper. In a not distant future, it is expected that (electrolytically produced) driving hydrogen will cost approximately the same as for diesel/gasoline. Or less. So you cannot play the price card.
    2. Range. Tesla with AC has a range of 200 km. Mirai with AC has a range of 450 km. Your appetite for hamburgers will gradually diminish during a long Tesla drive. Hydrogen stations are indeed scarce, but if negative thinking does not prevail they will soon be easy to reach.
    For myself, range is a central issue. My main use of the car is for travelling to our summer house, a distance of 500 km. The hydrogen Honda, with 700 km range, would suit me fine. (But a putative 850 km range Tesla would do also). For shorter distances I commute by bicycle or train.

    3. Battery capacity improvement and cost reduction is impressive. Thanks for the update. It was said that Moores law does not apply to batteries, but we seem to get something similar for them. I applaud, but think that we should welcome biogas, biodiesel, hydrogen and better batteries. All alternatives have their advantages.
    Nice discussion!
    Jonas

    • Bob_Wallace

      Please quit starting new comment threads. It becomes harder to go back and find your previous claims.

      You continue to compare untaxed H2 with taxed petroleum based fuel. Do you not understand that is a bogus comparison? It’s putting a very heavy thumb on the scale.

      Please give me a link to the NREL prediction of dropping H2 prices.

      “Tesla with AC has a range of 200 km. Mirai with AC has a range of 450 km”

      Bull. And bull. I gave you the EPA mileage for each 265 vs. 312. AC should have the same effect on both EVs and FCEVs. They are all run on electricity, it’s only how the energy is stored.

      500 km is about 300 miles. As long as you’re not driving over 80 MPH you should be able to drive 200 miles before you stop for a half hour charge. Go a little easier and you can drive another 30+ miles before stopping.

      300 miles at 3 cents will cost you $9.

      300 miles at 17 cents will cost you $51.

      And that’s how the rest of your year will look. Bleeding money for hydrogen.

      Perhaps you have nothing but hamburger joints along your highways in Sweden. We’ve got a winder range of options here. Sometimes some of us even pack our lunches when we travel.

      ” think that we should welcome biogas, biodiesel, hydrogen and better batteries”

      It’s not what we might welcome. All of those options are getting a chance to prove themselves, but the market is not going to pick the most expensive unless it can furnish a very significant advantage of the other options. And FCEVs simply have no significant advantage, only a slight one on rare occasions.

    • Ken

      You don’t have any facts about your H2 price claims which are completely false.

      You are also writing false claims about Tesla. The Tesla forums prove that they get well over 220 miles with the air conditioning on.

      In the US, fracked fossil fuel is the only way to get economically feasible H2 and you have completely failed to show any facts that indicate differently.

      Even Toyota admits their own fuel cell car cannot be cost competitive.

      From Inside EVs: “Recently, Soichiro Okudaira, chief officer of Toyota’s research and development group, told Automotive News Europe that fuel cell vehicles will be priced to compete with battery electrics before 2030.”

      You should stop making claims with no facts.

  • Jonas Blomberg

    Bob_Wallace,
    1. Taxes. We do not know if there will be a hydrogen tax or not. I guess around half of the gasoline/diesel cost is tax in Sweden (probably like in the rest of Europe). So, detailed comparisons of cost are difficult.
    2. Infrastructure. A hydrogen station is more universal than a battery swapping station. The latter must be standardized to fit a certain battery or a certain truck. How easy would it be to create a swapping station serving Leaf, Tesla and Volt? Transportation of H2 is unneccessary if your station produces H2 electrolytically on site, like the Norwegian/Danish H2Logic stations. The H2 can be produced when the electricity price is at its lowest.
    3. Battery prices seem hard to nail. I saw that Tesla paid Panasonic 180$/kWh in October 2014, probably a rock bottom price then. Official prices to an ordinary customer today are higher, maybe 300-500$/kWh. For a while EV batteries will remain clumsy and costly.
    Enjoy your coffee,
    Jonas

    • Bob_Wallace

      1. I believe you made a cost comparison between H2 and gasoline/diesel without taking the fuel tax into consideration. Take away the fuel tax and H2 is less competitive. That is not to say that H2 would not be taxed later, but one has to do an apples:apples comparison.

      2. Very unlikely we will see battery swapping for EVs. There are no signs that the industry is heading that direction. Tesla has the ability to battery swap but reports that there is almost no demand for swapping.

      By doing the electrolysis/compressing storage at the filling station the cost of distribution could be avoided. But distribution is not the large cost driver. The problem for H2 is physics. It takes a lot of energy to split water. It takes a lot of energy to compress H2.

      The idea that H2 can be made when electricity prices is shortsighted. There aren’t that many hours in the day when electricity is cheap and if we started making the very large amounts of H2 we would need to fuel cars and light trucks that would create a new market and raise prices.

      3. $180/kWh is down from $1,000/kWh a very few years back. Tesla’s costs are expected to drop under $130/kWh when the Gigafactory is running. The rock bottom is being rapidly lowered.

      If by “ordinary customers” you mean other car manufacturers then, yes, they may be looking at higher prices for a couple of years while they wait for other major battery manufacturers to catch up with Panasonic. “For a while” is likely less than three years.

      Time to make the next day’s coffee….

      • Jonas Blomberg

        1. Taxes. Costs are ephemeral. It is futile to decide fossil-free alternatives based only on them. Fracking created a new economic situation.

        2. Battery cost predictions. Batteries are cheaper than expected. It seems that even experts came out wrong.
        But also fuel cells are becoming cheaper than expected.
        3. Electrolysis is a viable source of H2. It has 30% energy losses (NEL, in production). Stanford just came out with an electrolytic process which has 18% losses (research). Compression adds around 8% to the losses, although there are self-compressing electrolyzers. I believe Hydrogenics can produce H2 at 30 bar in this way. Thus you cannot claim that H2 production is too costly. Energy prices vary a lot (at least in Sweden). It is reasonable to skim at minima.
        4. Future is more uncertain than it used to be. I see definite advantages for long range FCEVs.
        Next years Honda will have a range of 700 km, including AC. Tesla cannot beat that.
        Audi HTron is the FCBEV hybrid I talked about. It exists already. It will come down in price.
        5. Let us promote competition between fossil free alternatives. The consumer will decide.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Here is your statement:

          “: Energy content of 1 gallon of gasoline is similar to 1 kg H2. I am a Swede. In Sweden and in Italy (which are the places I know about) the (current, initial, used for ) cost is 9 €/kg H2. Compare to gasoline (used for 100 years) which is about 1.5 €/L.”

          3.78 liters in a US gallon. At 1.5 €/L that is $5.67/gallon.

          9 €/kg H2 is $10/kg.

          Hydrogen costs 76% more than gasoline. But that’s the price of gasoline including significant taxes.

          Just picking a US state so I can tease out the state tax, in Arkansas gas is selling for $2.94/gallon. There’s a 18.4 cent federal fuel tax and a 21.5 state tax. The non-taxed price of gasoline is $2.54.

          Hydrogen is 3.9x more expensive than untaxed gasoline.

          The problem for FCEVs is not the cost of fuel cells, but fuel cost.

          And I assume you understand that you are talking about fueling FCEVs with reformed methane when you state that ” Fracking created a new economic situation”. Reformed methane is considerably cheaper than hydrogen obtained via electrolysis. Plus it does not get us away from the CO2 problem.

          FVECs do have a small range advantage. The Mirai tests out at 312 miles and the Tesla S at 265 miles.

          That difference would show only on the very few days most drivers go further than 400 miles. The Tesla S would be able to drive about 235 miles (leaving a 30 mile buffer) and refill 170 miles in 30 minutes (lunch break). The Mirai would be able to refuel in 5? minutes and then the driver would likely take a meal break. The Mirai would only arrive at destination sooner on drives that required the S to stop twice to recharge. Drives of over 400 miles in one day.

          Of course that’s a small and insignificant victory. The rest of the year the ModS driver will simply plug in when they park. The Mirai driver will spend 10 to 12 hours a year going to filling stations.

          Don’t overlook the growing capacity of batteries. A doubling would take the ModS from 265 to 530 miles. Close to 850 km. Battery capacity has been increasing at 5% to 8% a year. If improvements continue at that rate is would take 9 to 14 years to double. But we’re throwing huge amounts of money and effort into better batteries. It wouldn’t be wise to anticipate increases as slow as what we’ve seen in the past.

          (Samsung just announced they’ve doubled lithium-ion battery capacity in the lab. There’s no guarantee that will make it to cars, but it is an example of the sort work that is happening.)

        • Ken

          One of the things you may be confused about is the countries in question.

          Fuel cell cars are extremely dirty in the US and that will not be changing.

          The US does not have the same commitment to clean energy as other countries and is very susceptible to lobbying by the big fossil fuel companies to keep their energy dirty.

          From Clean Technica: “Hydrogen is a fossil fuel. 95% of US production is from natural gas, most of the remainder from the gasification of coal and it will not change for the better.

          Hydrogen is locked by the force of economics to natural gas and natural gas is increasingly locked by the same force to the practice of (environmentally devastating) fracking.

          For the same energy (1 gal gas : 1 Kg H2) Total Hydrogen CO2e emissions are 28.8% more polluting than gasoline fuel.”

          In the US, the $60,000 Toyota fuel cell car performs and pollutes like a $20,000 Corolla. That is a total fail.

          EVs in the US are already clean. On the US grid, the Tesla puts out 4 times less CO2 than a gas car. And as the grid gets cleaner, the BEVs get even cleaner.

          Meanwhile the dirty fracked fuel cell car starts dirty and stays dirty.
          It is a useless and redundant tech in the US – which is the 2nd largest car market in the world.

          In countries that already have clean infrastructure and don’t allow dirty fossil fuel, it is possible that fuel cell cars are cleaner but they are still ridiculously expensive and extremely inefficient compared to BEVs.

  • Jonas Blomberg

    Hello Bob,
    I am about to go out for a jog. Lets see how I can respond Quickly:
    1. H2 price: Energy content of 1 gallon of gasoline is similar to 1 kg H2. I am a Swede. In Sweden and in Italy (which are the places I know about) the (current, initial, used for ) cost is 9 €/kg H2. Compare to gasoline (used for 100 years) which is about 15 €/L. With a diesel like my Volvo 1 L takes me 20 Km. 1 kg H2 would take me 100 Km. H2 is much cheaper/mile than gasoline/diesel, even at this initial stage. It is likely to be even cheaper (NREL projections), it depends on the electricity price. This H2 is all made from electrolysis (60% efficiency including compression). Swedish electricity is 98% fossil free.
    2. Battery swapping and rapid charging of buses and trucks are possible, but not a universal solution. A lot of infastructure will be needed. Simpler then to have H2 stations I think. Energy per volume is not a serious problem.
    3. Battery prices are on their way down, true. But the figures you cite are overoptimistic.
    Now I will go for that jog!

    • Bob_Wallace

      1. Taxes. Compare the untaxed cost of gasoline and hydrogen.

      2. A lot of infrastructure would be needed to run trucks on hydrogen. It’s unlikely the infrastructure for battery swapping would be more expensive than the infrastructure for extracting, compressing, storing and distributing H2. The cost per mile would be much cheaper with electricity.

      3. The battery prices are from Navigant Research.

      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/battery-storage-costs-plunge-below100kwh-19365

      Now I will go and make the morning coffee….

  • green.future

    Just to clarify, FCEVs refuel in 3-5 minutes, not 10 minutes. The 3-5 minutes is at 700 bar fill, the 10 minute refueling was under the last generation 350 bar fill.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s just the time that the nozzle is attached. Add in the rest of the time from leaving one’s route to getting back on route. Multiply that by about 45 times a year.

  • Jonas Blomberg

    My reasoning is:

    1. Energy consumption per distance for an FCEV is about half of that of an ICEV and twice of that of a BEV. Yes, a BEV is more energy efficient than an FCEV. I expect hydrogen to cost about as much as gasoline per mile.

    2. Batteries are impractical for large energy hungry vehicles like trucks and Hydrail. Fuel cells have a cost and weight advantage there.

    3. Although prediction is difficult, FCEVs seem to develop quicker than BEVs. If the trend holds up, fuel cells will soon be on par with diesel engines, costwise. Even after a huge investment the Gigafactory batteries are estimated to be only 30% cheaper than now.

    4. H2 from reformation of natural gas is dirty, yes. In Scandinavia all H2 used for FCEVs is fossil free. Not difficult to achieve. It is not a good argument.

    5. The optimum seems to be an FCBEV hybrid. You can have the best of two worlds: economical, long range, quick fill, good AC, home overnight charging, low energy consumption, etc. I bet Toyota has it in their sleeves.

    • Bob_Wallace

      1. But the fuel is expensive. You need to show us a route to making H2 as inexpensive as gasoline per mile.

      Here’s what Toyota (maker of the H2 FCEV Mirai) says. EV about 4 cents per mile. ICEV about 10 cents per mile. Their FCEV about 17 cents per mile.

      2. Long distance trucks could use battery swapping. Electrified rail probably makes the most sense. Much of the rest of the world thinks so. You seem to be overlooking the energy per volume problem for H2. (Graph below.)

      3. Lots of bogosity in that claim. EVs are on the fast track. A 30% reduction in battery costs (to below $130/kWh from last October’s $180/kWh) puts the cost of a same-model EV below hybrids, PHEVs and ICE burning anything more than very cheap gas. (Second graph.)

      4. Obtaining enough H2 from clean sources to run an appreciable number of FCEVs would be much more expensive than reforming methane. The market will not pay for clean H2.

      5. If fuel cells and hydrogen storage tanks get appreciably cheaper than ICEs and gas tanks. And if there were places to refill H2 tanks. Fact is, EV range/battery cost and rapid chargers are likely to make PHEVs obsolete soon. (Second graph.)

  • patb2009

    electrics got too good too fast.

  • Ken

    Fuel cell cars are not green in any way.

    They get most of their energy from dirty, fracked fossil fuel.

    The Toyota fuel cell car performs and pollutes like a $20,000 Corolla.

    It is a useless, redundant tech.

    • Bob_Wallace

      They could run on clean H2 if we made it from renewable electricity.

      The problem is that it would cost even more to create our H2 that way and most people would purchase much cheaper reformed methane.

      • Ken

        Exactly.

        From a little site called Clean Technica: “Hydrogen is locked by the force of economics to natural gas and natural gas is increasingly locked by the same force to the practice of (environmentally devastating) fracking.”

  • Jonas Blomberg

    This article is full of errors. Fuel cell cars are serious contenders to both battery electric and combustion engine cars.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Explain your thinking to us. Be sure to use the operating cost per mile when comparing FCEVs, ICEVs and EVs. And specify the fuel you see being used for FCEVs, the current assumption is hydrogen.

      • Sheldon A Harrison

        Bob, we have had this discussion before. It is not all about operating cost. If the vehicle is more capable, people will pay more for the capability. A vehicle where you go 200 miles at modest speeds (< 70mph) and then requires 30 minutes of charging to go another 200 is NOT as capable a vehicle as one that can go 300 – 400 miles and be going again in 5 minutes. That half hour to an hour makes a big difference for the casual road trip and in fact could be the difference between making the trip or not. For example, I have made 250 mile each way SAME DAY trips with a meeting or other visit in between. Doing that even in a Model S becomes very difficult because the 75+ mph speeds required to make such trips feasible eat the range and you WILL have to stop for at least 10 minutes to complete the journey. It is even worse if you have to use hotel loads like AC or heat (For an EV, heat is a hotel load whereas it is not for a fuel cell or ICEV) while making the trip.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “more capable”

          First, consider how infrequently most people drive more than 200 miles in a single day. I’ll give you a graph below so you can get a feel for how seldom.

          Now, what is more “capable”, i.e., convenient – stopping for a half hour a couple times a year or stopping every week to ten days for 15 minutes to fill up your tank. (Takes time to leave your route and stop at the filling station as well as time to fill. 40 x 15 minutes is 10 hours.)

          While you consider, remember that most people eat at least one meal during an all day drive and they can eat that meal while recharging.

          I don’t fully understand what you’re trying to convey with the “heat is a hotel load” stuff, but try doing the math and compare paying a bit extra to heat up your EV at a hotel vs. the extra cost of running an FVEC over an EV for a year..

        • Ken

          The Tesla’s range covers more than 99% of all driving needs.

          99% of the time the Tesla charges at home while you sleep in zero effective time saving over 10 hours a year driving to and waiting in ancient fueling stations.

          The vast majority of people who have experienced this say they will never go back to ancient fuel stations.

          But the main problem with fuel cell cars is that they are not green in any way.

          They get the vast majority of their energy from dirty, fracked fossil fuel.

          From Clean Technica: “Hydrogen is a fossil fuel. 95% of US production is from natural gas, most of the remainder from the gasification of coal and it will not change for the better.

          For the same energy (1 gal gas : 1 Kg H2) Total Hydrogen CO2e emissions are 28.8% more polluting than gasoline fuel.”

          The $60,000 Toyota fuel cell car performs and pollutes liike a $20,000 Corolla.

          Fuel cell cars are a dirty, useless, redundant tech.

  • Mike333

    Hydrogen
    Hydrogen stations make excellent terrorist targets.

    Difficult to make hydrogen and store it. Hydrogen isn’t a source of energy, you can’t mine it, you can convert something else to hydrogen, like methane, but then you lose energy in the process. Hydrogen from water( in a global drought? ), is extremely inefficient. Hydrogen from methane gives you No Help with global warming, it actually makes things worse. As methane wells typically leak like sieves.
    Hydrogen must be supercooled and compressed to store sufficient energy, which requires lots of energy.
    Burning it as a fuel is less than 50% efficient.
    The energy to do all this could be used to directly run an EV from a battery, and get you Twice as far.
    Hydrogen likes to leak.
    Hydrogen has a general problem of metal embrittlement, so you need special tanks.
    Hydrogen leaks as an invisible gas.
    Hydrogen is extremely flammable with an invisible flame.
    Right now hydrogen is a loser vs. current batteries, not to speak of the battery chemistry in the coming solid state batteries.

    Hydrogen refueling vs. solar.
    Solar: You plug in at your home, Time 60 seconds.
    Hydrogen: You drive 20 minutes, or to California, to the station 10 minute refuel, 20 minutes back home: 50 minutes lost.

    • Sheldon A Harrison

      Why do we keep using 10 minutes as the refueling times for H2? 5 minute refueling HAS been demonstrated and I would be surprised if newly built stations do not allow that speed of refueling. In any case, who leaves their home solely to refuel? That is in fact inefficient use of time. You refuel when you are already making a trip of some kind.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Don’t forget. You have to slow down, pull in, stop, get out, slide your card, hook up the nozzle, unhook and replace the nozzle, get back in, and get back on route.

        Do that 40+ times a year and you’ll have spent far, far more time than recharging for 30 minutes a few times a year.

        • Ken

          Right. Gas car drivers spend an average of 10 hours a year filling their cars.

          99% of the time, Teslas fill up in zero effective time while they sleep.

          (It takes me 3 seconds to plug or unplug)

    • spineshank155

      Forget it, they can’t even get a good starter battery lasting longer than 5 years. The cost of an electric car battery, while cheaper than a regular engine.. regular engines last a long time if you take care of them. They don’t care about hot or cold climates.. but batteries in hot and cold climates wear out quicker. Hydrogen may not be a good thing but neither is an electric car. Plus those suck in winter driving. People have done DIY hydrogen cars where you can literally fill it up with water. But until then i’ll just keep my gasoline engine.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Interesting. My starter battery is now 13 years old. Cranks just fine.
        Tesla has stated that their Model S batteries should last 200,000 miles.

      • Mike333

        You’re extrapolating from your experience with lead acid.
        These new batteries are cold-insensitive. They lose charge in the cold but not age.
        Secondly, about 1-2 years ago, a Tesla presentation showed that they have stopped Dendrite formation in lithium batteries. All the battery manufacturer’s have the five-chemical solution, which is only 2% of the electrolyte, that solved that problem.

        True. Your first battery usually goes bad in your new car. Because they save money by not giving you a high quality battery. That doesn’t mean that batteries are bad, it means your manufacturer was cheap.

  • It’s always either about sex, money or Oil and Gas:

    On the vehicle side of the equation, from Automotive News:

    “Are fuel cell cars worth 40%-plus subsidies?”

    Fuel cells – internal combustion – it’s about hydrogen.

    Copy/pasted from the article:

    “Here, citizens are being asked to subsidize incentives up to about $30,000 per hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The immediate beneficiary will be Toyota Motor Corp. The Japan Inc. flag bearer unveiled its $69,000 fuel cell vehicle in June, after dangling hints that the vehicle would need incentives of about $20,000 to make it a realistic option for individual buyers.
    In a matter of weeks, Japan’s national government answered the call with — you guessed it — plans for consumer rebates of about $20,000 for the futuristic zero-emission cars.
    Meanwhile, Aichi prefecture — home to Toyota City and its namesake employer, the world’s biggest automaker — plans to chip in about $10,000 more for local buyers.

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20140804/OEM05/308049949/are-fuel-cell-cars-worth-40-plus-subsidies

    And on the fuel supply side of the equation, from Institute for Energy Research:

    “Yet, U.S. oil and gas industry investments go beyond frontier hydrocarbons. In addition, the industry invested $11 billion (or 11% of the $98 billion total) for advanced end-use technologies, mostly for efficiency improvements through combined heat and power (cogeneration) and for advanced-technology vehicles using fuel-cell technology. Significantly, this $11 billion investment in end-use technologies represents 35% of the estimated total amount ($31 billion) spent by U.S. companies and the Federal government in this area.”

    http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/studies/oil-and-gas-industry-investments/

    Japan needs US natural gas, by the way. Japan also doesn’t want to be subjected to the whims of China and Russia. Car companies and Oil and Gas are like two peas in a pod.

    • Mike333

      Japan is now fracking.

      • You got me thinking. Here’s EIA’s production data on natural gas (annual for 2012):

        Japan: 169 bcf
        China: 3,811
        Russia: 23,053
        US: 29542

        Russia has by far the most reserves of natural gas. About 5 times what we have. EIA reserves data from 2012. Reserves data increases and decrease with exploration and production data. Japan has offshore potential towards China, but would probably have to spend all the money made from its natural gas on military.

        Japan: 0.7 trillion cubic feet
        China: 155
        Russia: 1688
        US: 338

        The interesting thing is that US doesn’t have all that much gas, with respect to the amount we’re producing. So maybe in the long run Japan will supply itself with gas. Or come up with a full scale and competitive hydrogen electrolysis technology real soon.

  • Dag Johansen

    Hydrogen never had much support outside of the vested interests (oil & gas companies, fuel cell makers, etc.)

  • Kiwiiano

    Hydrogen is a bitch of a fuel. It has a very low octane rating so has huge pre-ignition problems in an ICE, the gas leaks through solid metal or has to be chilled to very low temperatures. If you can make the stuff cheaply & easily without starting from natural gas you would be better converting it to a liquid fuel like alcohol.

  • I’m a big fan of KISS engineering or Keep it simple, stupid. Hydrogen production is not easy. It’s presently mostly done by steam methane reforming. Electrolysis is down the road. That’s hydrogen. Batteries storage for EVs are on the road.

    Here’s a nice cartoon by DoE on where we’re at with hydrogen production. DoE has done a wonderful job explaining everything about hydrogen from production through delivery at the pump here:

    http://energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-production-pathways

    So regardless of how a hydrogen car is powered (fuel cell or expansion via combustion) there’s an entire infrastructure presently not there and would have to be deployed.

    EIA tabulates 186 billion cubic feet of natural gas are dedicated to making hydrogen as of 2014. Most of this is for refineries. We’re making about 3 to 5 trillion cubic feet of hydrogen. This is at standard P and T and assuming natural gas (methane) to hydrogen conversion via SMR on a mass basis is 1 kg CH4 to 1.8 kg H2. Then of course you need one mole of water for every one mole of natural gas feed. And then of course you’ll produce a lot of carbon dioxide. And on and on. We haven’t even talked about pipelines, trucks and hydrogen stations.

    Stick with batteries please.

    • Mike333

      And there’s the reason hydrogen is dead, it’s really a “Ford” Solution to climate change, an Eco Name, with No Eco Effectiveness.

  • Dan Hue

    The ability to refuel at home is a godsend. A regular 110V/12amp plug can provide 40 miles of range overnight, and doubling that capacity is also very easy and cheap. Facts is that is all most of us need 90%+ of the time. Long range driving is more of a challenge, but if there is a need to compromise, I would think we would try to preserve what benefits us almost every day of the year, at the expense of what’s occasional (provided that the occasional need can acceptably be met, and DC fast charging does that, IMO). That’s the POV of a typical suburban American. City folks may have a different opinion, as well as people who drive a lot more for a living.

  • Defendor

    Depends on what you mean by support.

    I don’t remember enthusiasts ever getting behind hydrogen. So the didn’t lose support there. They never had it.

    I do remember a time when it made a splash with Governor Schwarzenegger and President Bush, but that was more hype than substance.

    As far as substantial government support. Japan seems all in, more than ever before.

    So on balance. I don’t see support overall eroding, there wasn’t much before, and there isn’t much today.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Hydrogen never had the support of consumers… Just industry. THAT should tell you something about the long term feasibility.

      Electric cars, in contrast, have had grassroots for decades, and industry is only just now listening.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Clearly there are some very strong supporters of H2 FCEV. Consumers have yet to weigh in. Over the next five years consumers will speak up.

        • Joe Viocoe

          There are some, but it pales when compared to battery electric cars.

          FCV drivers had over a decade too… Not ONE of the carefully selected California lessees wrote personal blogs going in to detail about the ownership experience.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m trying to give H2 FCEV advocates a fair chance. Toyota has yet to start selling their Mirai, which some assume to be the beginning of the golden age of H2 FCEVs.

            (The real test doesn’t come until Toyota starts selling their FCEVs at a profit rather than an ~50% loss. And giving away free hydrogen.)

          • Joe Viocoe

            The EV1 had a huge fan base, even the folks who didn’t get to drive it.

            The FCV lease programs have had similar numbers.
            Where was the fan base for the Clarity FCX? Or the others?

          • Bob_Wallace

            (I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m trying to keep the H2 fanbois from weeping. For the moment. ;o)

          • Joe Viocoe

            I try not to protect people from the cold reality.
            When all is said and done… Hydrogen will be relegated to limited niche fleets (much like CNG), and so much money will be wasted.

          • Jacob

            Can I use hydrogen to roast corn on my stove as I currently do using CNG.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Do you want to use automotive fuel to roast corn?
            Or should we be using “the right tool for the right job” ?

          • Jacob

            Hydrogen can be used for various things. Including as a fuel to propel spacecraft.

            What is the right tool? Imported LNG?

            (I do not live in USA)

          • Joe Viocoe

            Elon Musk also understands the value of hydrogen for his space ventures.

          • Jacob

            Thanks for not answering my initial question.

          • CU

            Since you can use hydrogen for welding it is no problem to use hydrogen to rost corn to pure carbon in inert atmosphere, if you would like to,

          • Joe Viocoe

            Looked rhetorical.
            What country do you live in?

          • Jacob

            I live in AUS.

            AUS exports LNG.

            LNG contributes to global warming and pollution.

            The stove in my kitchen uses piped natural gas and oxygen in the air.

            I was wondering if I could use locally generated hydrogen (from electrolysis) and oxygen in the air to roast capsicum.

            http://www.wikihow.com/Roast-Peppers-on-a-Gas-Stove

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          • Kristian Kiuru

            Toyota has actually already started selling the Mirai in Japan and it’s coming to the U.S. later in 2015. Honda also recently announced their FCEV with a ~450 km range to be released in the next couple of years. Several of the major auto OEMs have announced their support of FCEV technology.

            Niche markets for fuel cell technology are growing (i.e., forklifts, backup power for cell towers, power for data centers, etc.) – let’s see what the future holds for FCEVs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Is it OK with you if we review the facts and make a guess at how the future will unfold?

          • Joe Viocoe

            Fuel cells for cellular towers and data centers use natural gas.
            We’re talking about automotive applications anyway.
            And automakers have been shrinking back from their hydrogen promises.

          • Ben Helton

            What are you talking about? BMW Just committed to producing a mass market FCV in 2020, they are simply just waiting for the ‘second generation’ of fuel cell vehicles. Certainly, there are some kinks to iron out, and it will take a few thousand every day drivers to help get those in order, before it really is ready for the masses.

            VW just partnered with Ballard for fuel cell deal, and recently said they are ready. The technology is already planned in house as far as vehicle applications.

            Honda (slightly) delayed their next coming FCV that will compete with the Mirai, but not by much. They are still coming to market with it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ben keeps the dream alive….

          • Ben Helton

            Don’t forget Toyota; who’s yearly revenue is more than the entire GDP of Ireland

          • Bob_Wallace

            Toyota can lose a lot of money on a bad idea and still stay afloat. They can sell a few FCEVs, losing $50k on each, and give away a couple of years of free hydrogen to the people who buy them and it won’t show up large on their bottom line.

          • Joe Viocoe

            All the same non committed inaction as the last decade… Just talk.

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  • Marion Meads

    a few articles ago, Cleantechnica posted an article that Fuel Cell’s aren’t dead and have fresh shot in the arm… and are giving away $1M as a prize money for the production and use of hydrogen.

    http://cleantechnica.com/2015/06/25/us-energy-dept-shakes-off-fuel-cell-doubters-funds-two-new-projects-1-mil-prize/

    • Kyle Field

      This article is about hydrogen combustion engines (not hydro fuel cells). I was a bit confused at first but it cleared up in the details of the article.

      • Marion Meads

        yes, but the other article talks about producing hydrogen for various uses as well. hydrogen for example, can be used directly for cooking or heating aside from ICE.

    • Joe Viocoe

      You’ll find that most articles are based and biased in the opinion of the author… Notably Tina Casey, is really the biggest advocate for hydrogen. Even though she does well to remain objective, her enthusiasm shows her preferences.

    • Dag Johansen

      $1M as a prize is pretty small potatoes.

    • Michael B

      A “fresh shot in the arm”? Yikes!

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