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Cars Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL FCEV California

Published on October 28th, 2015 | by Tina Casey


Mercedes-Benz To Fuel Cell EV Doubters: Hahahahahahahaha

October 28th, 2015 by  

Fuel cell electric vehicles have been the topic of several lively discussions over here at CleanTechnica, but while we’ve been busy talking, Mercedes-Benz has been walking the walk, or driving the drive as the case may be. Earlier this week the company pitched its forthcoming 2017 hydrogen fuel cell EVs with a splashy publicity tour in California, involving almost 1,000 miles split among five of the company’s B-Class F-CELL vehicles over a three-day period.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL FCEV California

Alright Already With Hydrogen The Fuel Station Infrastructure

For those of you new to the topic, an FCEV is an all-electric vehicle but instead of getting its juice from electricity stored in a battery, it literally makes its own electricity on the fly, deploying the chemical reaction in a fuel cell.

The fuel of choice is hydrogen, and therein lies the problem. Until FCEV ownership reaches critical mass, there is little incentive to build hydrogen fuel stations, or to make room for them at existing gas stations. So, fuel availability is currently a big obstacle to FCEV ownership.

That’s similar to the dilemma faced by potential battery EV customers up until just a few years ago. However, while battery EV owners at least have the option of plugging in at home, FCEV owners are totally reliant on public fueling infrastructure (at least, for now they are).

That’s where California comes in. California is hot on the trail of any zero-emission vehicle it can lay its hands on, with the goal of reaching 87% saturation by mid-century. So, in addition to building up its battery EV charging network, the state is also building up its hydrogen fuel station infrastructure, partly with the help of auto industry stakeholders (and this one, too).

With that in mind, this week’s Mercedes-Benz publicity tour was just partly designed to leverage the B-Class F-CELL sedan, which readers of our sister site Gas2.org may recall from its introduction to the California zero-emission vehicle market back in 2010 when it was practically the only consumer model FCEV around.

The real point was to highlight the growing hydrogen fuel station infrastructure in California. The five F-CELLs were tasked with refueling only at public stations over the three-day trip between Los Angeles to San Francisco along the state’s “Hydrogen Highway” with stops at Burbank, Coalinga, West Sacramento, and Emeryville.

Though only 10 public fuel stations are currently available in California, the state has plans to co-fund at least 100 in the near future. The most recent hydrogen fuel station analysis (see page 31) indicates that the state is on track to achieve the 100-station mark by 2023, with about 50 expected by the end of 2016.

California hydrogen stations

Keep in mind that goal of 100 only includes public stations funded or co-funded by the state. California’s overall hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure includes nine or so non-public stations, and if you throw those into the mix, you’re looking at almost 60 stations either completed or in the pipeline, mainly distributed around the Bay Area and Los Angeles:

pending hydrogen fuel stations in California


Though that big blank space between Los Angeles and San Francisco may look intimidating, the F-CELL has a nominal range of about 190 miles that blows up to 250 miles with a high-pressure tank system, and the distance between the two cities is a little under 400 miles, so you could make it on one fill-up.

No discussion of FCEVs at CleanTechnica would be complete without our usual caveat — namely, that some industry observers are critical of fuel cell technology applied to personal mobility, and the use of hydrogen as a fuel is not particularly green or clean when that hydrogen is sourced from natural gas. [Editor’s Note: In fact, they are dirtier than a conventional hybrid car, and much more expensive.] On the other hand, the technology is catching up and renewable hydrogen is a thing. California’s hydrogen plan also calls for a measure of renewable hydrogen.

F-CELL Good, FutureVan Better

Visually, the design of the F-CELL is deliberately pedestrian, perhaps because back in 2010 Mercedes-Benz was banking on a higher acceptance rate among early FCEV adopters in the US for a futuristically fueled vehicle that looks like practically any other car on the road.

Well, that was then; this is now, and the company appears to have thrown all caution to the wind. Check out the Mercedes-Benz blog for a sneak peek at the futuristically fueled and styled fuel cell minivan it envisions for the Japanese market:

Vision Tokyo FCEV

That’s just the exterior. Do check out the blog for the crazy interior and some more dish on the concept, which includes autonomous driving as well as fuel cell power. Here’s just a taste:

“In the heart of a hectic city, where traffic congestions last for hours and trains carry millions daily, the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo comes as a chill-out space. The concept car is a tribute paid to the urban Generation Z, the young men of today, born in the era of the internet and new media. The car is converted from a simple way of getting around into a digital companion.”

We ladies can hardly wait for a futuristic FCEV to call our own, amirite?

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Photo Credits: cars via mercedesblog.com and media.daimler.com; chart via arb.ca.gov; map via cafcp.org.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • I used to live near Emeryville hydrogen, it is renewable. That’s important.

  • Bob Fearn

    For years the public has subsidized the production of ethanol. The fuel that requires more energy to produce than the fuel contains. If this sort of foolishness can suck up billions of tax dollars for so long then there is no reason why the hydrogen foolishness can’t do the same thing.
    Rest assured that somebody is making big bucks.

  • Michael G

    “On the horizon” is not here and now. Speculative.

  • Kieron McKindle

    I used to be a huge fan of this technology, until I discovered that water vapor is a main Green House Gas. Having millions of these pumping water vapor into the atmosphere will ultimately be realized as a bad idea. Especially, when we realize that the water vapor can and must be reclaimed for reuse in static FC sites. Ultimately, batteries will be replaced with ultra-capacitors (power-walls on steroids), and at this point the concept of mobile FC will end. Add to this the concept of H2 from water via renewables and the reclamation cycle becomes even more of a mandate. Cracking H20 into H2 and 0; then recombining them in a FC costs a loss of 17% of the H20 mass into energy. Reclaiming the water vapor post FC and recycling it in closed H2 systems will be the most cost-effective and efficient system. After 15 years of research, I now know that this cost-effective and most efficient stationary system is the only way into our future. Mobile FC is not.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Ultimately, batteries will be replaced with ultra-capacitors ”

      Where does one read about ultra-caps that will hold enough energy per kg to compete with batteries?

      “Cracking H20 into H2 and 0; then recombining them in a FC costs a loss of 17% of the H20 mass into energy. Reclaiming the water vapor post FC and recycling it in closed H2 systems will be the most cost-effective and efficient system”

      You’re ignoring the low efficiency of hydrogen as a storage medium. (It kinda sucks.)

      • AltairIV

        Indeed, ultra-caps are not replacements for batteries. Although there is some overlap, they have different strengths and weaknesses, and therefore different uses.

        Batteries are high energy, low power storage devices, and usually have relatively slow rates of charge and discharge and slow natural discharge rates. They’re for use when you need to store large amounts of electricity for relatively long periods of time, with whatever is feeding from them sipping rather than gulping.

        Ultra capacitors are the opposite; they are low energy, high power, storage devices. They can charge and discharge quickly, but generally can’t hold onto their charge for very long. They’re used in situations where the device needs to gulp down a lot of power quickly, but then can sit idle while the ultra-cap recharges for the next use.

        It is true that as ultracaps improve on their storage levels and discharge rates they will be able to take over more and more jobs now being handled by batteries, but they will almost certainly never replace them completely.

      • Wayne Williamson

        Bob, you should have headed off the water vapor to green house gas statement…..just say’n…..

    • AltairIV

      Water vapor is certainly a problem, but AIUI, it is not really of central concern in regards to global warming because it’s not a “forcing” gas.

      Forcing gases like CO2 and methane are the main drivers of warming because there are virtually no natural limits on how and how much they can accumulate. The more of them that we pump into the atmosphere the more they make the temperature rise, and there’s nothing much to stop them other than the decisions we make.

      Water vapor, OTOH, has limits. The level of WV the atmosphere can hold is dependent on temperature, with higher temperatures allowing higher levels to accumulate. What this means in effect is that WV acts as a reactive element in global warming, not a cause. A forcing effect is first needed to increase the base temperature, after which the WV level can go up in response and make the temperature rise even more. After a bit of a back and forth a new equilibrium is eventually reached, and another dose from a forcing element is needed to raise the base temperature, and the WV ceiling, again. Otherwise any excess WV will just precipitate out.

      In other words, just pumping more WV into the air isn’t likely to make things that much worse on its own, at least not on a global level. It’s the hydrocarbon-based emissions that are the real worry.

    • Wayne Williamson

      water vapor is not and yeah I mean NOT a green house gas…..

  • Doug

    Similar to the failed Shell oil exploration in Alaska, Mercedes appears to be deploying fuel cells as a last ditch, final hurrah, to justify the wasted billions of research and development on dead end technology. They will fail and investors will also fail to punish them for their stupidity. 95% of people that read this post see this coming.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Michael does not accept ” solid evidence is on the horizon” when it comes to EVs. He reserves that option along with the right to use “might be able to someday” as assurance that H2 FCEVs will rule the day.

    • Michael G

      I have no idea why you keep writing that I favor FCVs or dislike BEVs. I never said anything of the sort. I said a gazillion times (at least!) that I am agnostic, and willing to let it all play out. I do not take seriously press releases for unreleased products which seems to be the point of difference and contention.

      When BEVs replace ANY vehicle on the top 10 selling list in the US, I will happily agree that BEVs have proven themselves as viable in the market place. I think I will have time to finally read all of Proust by then.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’ve read your comments over time.

  • Stu Heli

    When electric vehicles charge as they go down the road, that will knock almost everything else off the road, except for off-road needs. Laser photoelectric charging of electric planes? Do not fly through that beam!

  • Joseph Dubeau

    “We ladies can hardly wait for a futuristic FCEV to call our own, amirite?”
    Sure, I believe you when buy one.

  • Joe Viocoe

    Once again… I guessed this was written by Tina Casey from the start of reading.

    Mercedes isn’t “walking” any walk, and certainly not driving the drive.

    You start off saying that Mercedes is actually doing things… But then switch to only talking about a publicity tour and projections of the future.

    ..Which, by the way, they have been pushing back for years.
    2015 used to be the date all this would happen… Then 2020… Now they’re taking about 2023.

  • nakedChimp

    1) that design study won’t see the road
    2) I did read the other day they got some cobalt infused graphene/nickel sheets that work nearly as good as platinum and cost is very low.. can you please check on that Tina (was on SciTech Daily)
    3) at the end of the day FCEVs are still only BEVs with a FC range extender strapped on
    4) Japan has got a top-notch long range public transport system, that rivals anything else on this planet for safety and speed.. don’t think they will have much use for FCEVs

    • Jim Young

      then why is Toyota building them?

      • Bob_Wallace

        That is a question often asked and yet to be adequately answered.

        My guess is that it comes from a combination of factors.

        1) A desire on the part of the Japanese government to be energy independent. Japan has large methane hydrate deposits off their cost which could be extracted for fuel. If one didn’t care about making climate change worse.

        2) Institutional momentum at Toyota. Several years back batteries were too expensive to make EVs a likely ICEV replacement. FCEVs looked more likely. Several companies started developing FCEVs, most seem to have pulled back and are only showing concepts. Toyota’s fuel cell division might have the political strength within the company to allow it to push on to actually marketing a FCEVs. And within the FCEV division may exist the sort of resistance to outside facts one finds in closed organizations.

        I’ll give you a possible #3. Toyota might have some incredible breakthrough behind the curtain that will permit cheap, clean hydrogen production.

        The probability of #3 being the reason? Lower than the bottom of slug slime.

      • nakedChimp

        Why did Sony build the memory stick?
        Why did Microsoft push OpenXML?
        Why did Sony push for Blu Ray instead of HD DVD?

        simple.. market domination, influence, power.

        The ideal product for a company and it’s shareholders is what?
        One that brings repeated business and earns the highest profit possible, while keeping out competition as technical & legal hurdles are high.

        BEV don’t promise repeated business as they will last longer, need less maintenance and have way less parts.
        Infrastructure needs and energy supply chain needs are more competitive, simpler and easier as well – most people who need a car have access to the power grid or can even produce it on their own roof already.
        Entry cost for competition is pretty low as it’s just batteries and an electric motor, no H2 tanks, no complicated FCEV tech on top of the EV drive train.
        It’s funny enough to watch the charger plug war in the BEV space.

        The BEV is for the car&oil business what the digital camera was for the film&photo business.

        • Jim Young

          True enough. Kodak did a lot of research and built some of the best early digital camera chips for the military but were reluctant to sacrifice film. They also did early research in Laser disks but seemed to be hesitant to try to do the extreme step in manufacturing and quality control for the retail market.

          One of their companies I worked for depended on center cuts from massive rolls of magnetic tape, as much as two inches wide and 10,200′ long (out of 4 foot wide stock if I recall correctly). The cost for tape of that quality and size skyrocketed when all the lessor cuts for lower requirements dried up.

          Sony sold the substandard performance VHS, and went with BetaMax technology we and broadcasters found so useful in such uses as being able to scan video at multiples of the normal speed (useful for news organizations, surveillance, intelligence, and test flight operations with long periods of little activity and short bursts of important data. Sony found out the hard way that the market was happy enough with VHS to make the more profitable bulk market.

          Perhaps the FCEV market is more like the BetaMax, better at some things fewer people are willing to pay the price to develop a market for. I’d still like to see where it can become more cost effective, even if not as dramatically as solar PV, or computer hard drives.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Jim, the problem that FCEVs have is that they do only one thing better than EVs at this point in time. If you drive to the end of their fuel range it they are faster to refill. That is an advantage that most people would encounter very few times a year.

            EVs have multiple ways in which they excel. They can be charged while parked, no need to go to a filling station every few days. They are much cheaper to operate per mile and they have better acceleration.

  • Man, this alternative mode of transportation argument is like crabs in a barrel fighting each other to get out. Or sports enthusiast arguing their favorite team. Tech enthusiasts are fighting amongst themselves. Something will prove to be preferable for the mass consumer market going forward. If it’s high efficiency ICE for awhile so be it. We’re still talking a boutique market for at least five years. Even the $30,000 to $50,000 range is still boutique as far as cars and trucks go. Just a bigger boutique than the $100,000 +/- $25,000 market. Assume the barrel is big, well funded and the sides are easily sloped. One of the gas and diesel less cars will get out first.

    • Marion Meads

      Problem with hydrogen from fossil fuels is that it creates more emissions than just using a Prius.

      • Who cares. That has to be the least insightful comment ever made on any blog focussed on technology. At this point, hydrogen is a pilot study. Period. It’s been a pilot test for about 20 years. It may or may not go full scale. However, the lessons learned on energy supply, energy fuel transformation, energy fuel distribution, chemical energy to electric energy transformation, vehicle efficiency, etc will benefit all modes of transportation. Read the damn comment before replying incipiently next time.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          This article is on FCV and anytime there is one here,
          it turns into mud slinging contest.
          It also get a lot a web hits which sell ads.

          • I apologize to Marion and to everyone. Too little coffee in a.m. means me grumpy.

            Alt transportation will require a lot of cross pollination between energy disciplines from chemical to electrical to mechanical to biological and on and on. I have little interest in a specific technology as much as a big interest in less CO2 and other GHGs going up into the air. Since hydrogen has been at a really small scale since at least the mid 1990s, I’m not going to bet it will be taking the 1 billion + ICE and diesel off the road anytime soon. EVs seem ready to go nuts soon. Manufacturers should learn a lot between the alt tech: battery chemistry folks can learn a lot from fuel cell folks and visa versa.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Is there any well to wheel analysis report?
        Not blog article, but an actually study done by scientists.
        What does the EPA say?

        I found website in the UK that promotes distributed grid over the national grid. Good idea, they promote solar and wind, but there is just one thing that is a bit funny.
        They claim the grid loose 51% of the electricity.
        If we give that number to Roger to plug into his calculations,
        you can see were this is going.

        • Rich

          This isn’t specific to a distributed grid. The grid electric dumping is a little lower in the US. I believe the “loses” arise from handling of peak load. Once battery storage goes in at the grid level, this number will drop dramatically as they will be able to operate at base load 24/7. Grid level battery storage was called the “holy grail” by the CEO of Con-Edison in an interview with Elon Musk.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            There is no need to over exaggerate numbers.
            It makes us look desperate. 51% is high.

            Storage can be use to manage the voltage load during normal operation.
            You could shut down a generator permanently.
            Zach has a video showing where company replace a generator with a flow cell battery.

      • Jim Young

        That applies to the cheapest present ways to separate Hydrogen, not the best.

    • Steve Grinwis

      The average new car in the US sells for 30k. A long range electric for that price is no longer boutique.

      • EVs count for about 0.5% of the US and world market. Most of the EVs sold are expensive or highly subsidized. That’s a boutique market now and will be for awhile going forward. When car salesmen move as many EVs as say pickups, the EV market won’t be boutique. The $30,000 average is heavily weighed by pickup trucks and SUVs, which are generally expensive. EVs need to get down to $20,000 to compete with Civics and used cars – the buyer most likely to purchase. Or focus electrification and energy storage in Ford 150s. Which the industry should have done. Here’s the details on car sales:


  • Marion Meads

    So what’s the warranty on those storage tanks? Hydrogen makes everything brittle. After 5 years of use, storage tanks are deemed unsafe.

    • Michael G

      What is your source for that 5 year life span? I tried looking up longevity of hydrogen storage tanks. I could not find any sources.

      “The base case designs assume carbon fiber-resin (CF) composite-wrapped single tank systems, with a high density polyethylene (HDPE) liner (i.e., Type IV tanks) capable of storing 5.6 kg usable hydrogen.” from page 8 of https://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/compressedtank_storage.pdf

      which also gives 5500 cycles for the life of the liner. At once a week fill-up that is over 100 years.

  • Jason hm

    Hydrogen still has both storage and economical fuel cell material problems to work out. There is some interesting prospects for both but I don’t see the tech that exists today as being mass market ready.

    Some russians worked on glass capillary structure tech to store very high pressure H2 that has promise for safer practical storage but it was research and not in development. Extreme pressure tanks just have to much liability. Look at the expense from safe handling requirements of pressurized or flammable gases adds to the final cost in the welding and medical gas markets. Those raw gases are cheap yet by the time they get to the customer there not. Why?because the reality of handling and inherent liabilities add to the cost significantly.

    Then you got the whole platinum as the primary catalyst material problem to work out. Some interesting prospect with Graphene and other Nano structured materials but it’s all still in the lab and will take many years and billions of R&D dollars tell it becomes a practical real world solution. Untell then the cost of platinum with make High power high performance fuel cell’s prohibitively expensive.

    • Sol Sullivan

      Average platinum content in a Toyota Mirai- ~30 grams (one ounce) down from 90 grams in the last incarnation.

      Average platinum content in a regular ICE car today- 4-7 grams.

      Not that much different. And the R&D has just begun. Fuel Cells will beat Lithium Batteries- they actually already have, but people just don’t get it yet.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Cost per mile to drive. Find out what it is before you declare a winner.

  • Mike333

    Let’s find the stupidest solution on the planet, and by the way, ignore global warming super stores, glacier melt and global drought.

    Hydrogen Summary of Failure

    Hydrogen stations make excellent explosive terrorist targets.

    Hydrogen stations are very expensive, cost per station: $1.5 Million, who is going to be forced to pay for this?

    Hydrogen stations not pumping at the 10,000 psi required, you’re only getting Half Charges!

    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 10,000 psi 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 tanks only certified for 15 years???

    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.

    Chevy Volt gets better MPG, at a Lower Price, and allows you to use cheap solar energy for your fuel, and hydrogen does not. We will not run out of gas during the EV conversion process.

    Platinum in the fuel cell = expensive.

    Hydrogen time 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.

    Hydrogen Cars were built on the premise that we’d need a “Bridge Fuel” to EV’s, however battery tech has advanced so rapidly that there is no need for a bridge, especially one as wasteful and expensive as this.


    EV’s running on Solar helps pay off your Solar investment 20%-40% faster = More PROFITS to YOU.

    • Roger Lambert

      You sound like an anti-environmentalist dissing EV’s. Why the hate?

      Hydrogen is not the antichrist. It is a tech with both advantages and disadvantages. It is a nascent tech, which may well enjoy substantial progress.

      And it might be a very useful universal green fuel if accepted and standardized – it can run your car, your stove, your furnace, your fuel cell, your industrial processes. It might become an important storage strategy.

      • Larmion

        “your car, your stove, your furnace, your fuel cell, your industrial processes”

        So can electricity or any number of biobased compounds like ethanol or butanol. And unlike hydrogen, these can be produced affordably and efficiently.

        • Roger Lambert

          Yes – I should have said that excess electricity could be stored as hydrogen, which could then be used….

          • Bob_Wallace

            Better to store is a water pumped up high or as charge in a battery. Lot, lot less energy lost that way.

          • Roger Lambert

            Yes. But many sites can not do uphill water. And batteries vs hydrogen – who knows what the costs will be eventually?

            Plus, it seems to me that in the future, when renewables make most of our energy, the problem will be that there is so much excess energy that efficiency won’t be an issue. (We will have to overbuild solar, wind, etc so it works fairly well even on bad days). Batteries have only so much capacity. Hydrogen could be much more valuable because it is so universally usable, and we would never be able to “overflow” the hydrogen tank.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are few places which can’t do uphill water. It would be difficult in Holland. But there are sites not far from Holland. Even flat states like Ohio will have rock quarries.

            Do you know the cost of a hydrogen plant including long term storage? Unless you have the number then you can’t compare the cost of storing electricity as hydrogen with PuHS and battery storage. Your cost comparisons are just hand waving.

            And don’t forget that for every kWh we get out of a hydrogen storage system we have to put about 2.5 kWh in. with batteries and PuHS we have to put 1.1 to 1.2 kWh in in order to get 1 kWh out. Electricity might be cheap at times, but it will not be free.

            ” we would never be able to “overflow” the hydrogen tank”

            Just a bit of thinking would leave you realizing that the hydrogen tank will have a cost.

          • Roger Lambert

            I’m not sure I follow re uphill storage is available almost anywhere. Could you describe how a flat area is able to use it?

            And again – this storage is excess storage, ie – it only comes at a time when the grid cannot accept the juice – therefore, it doesn’t matter if the hydrogen process is inefficient compared to batteries. What matters is that it offers an outlet for the excess which is bottomless, because the hydrogen can be moved.

            Imagine a situation where a community wind or solar farm uses the hydrogen to heat water or homes, or provide cooking flame. Its a cogeneration idea.

            And yes – the hydrogen tank will have a cost – but so does a huge battery installation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Can you tell me what flat area you have in mind? Most countries have ample sites for PuHS.

            ” it doesn’t matter if the hydrogen process is inefficient compared to batteries”

            Of course it does. With an inefficient storage system you can lose too much of the input. With H2 you might put 3 MWh in and get 1 GWh out. With batteries you might put 3 MWh in and get 2.7 GWh out.

            Hydrogen is hard to contain. It’s leaky. It reacts with steel, making it brittle.

            I’ll post this again for you, Roger –

            “Do you know the cost of a hydrogen plant including long term storage? Unless you have the number then you can’t compare the cost of storing electricity as hydrogen with PuHS and battery storage. Your cost comparisons are just hand waving.”

          • Wayne Williamson

            yeah, Florida is one of those places where you can’t do uphill water….I think the max from sea level to the top of “hills” is probably 50 or so feet…ok, maybe 100 feet over 50 miles….Oh yeah completely agree with the hydrogen thing….expensive to make, expensive to store….

          • Roger Lambert

            Excess electricity is already free.

            Texas is giving it away for free right now – and that is with tiny market penetration

            . When we have almost all power coming from renewables, there will be huge amounts of excess juice. That won’t be the problem, (because the vast majority of days will produce juice – only a few days produce nothing) but storing it will be – batteries can only store a certain amount.

          • eveee

            We do know for sure that hydrogen storage efficiency will never be as good as batteries. The losses are inherent in the process. Not all of the energy can be converted to electricity. Some of it becomes heat or mechanical energy and is lost because the chemical processes of hydrolysis and the reverse involve heat.
            Hydrogen is a solution looking for a problem. It needs a niche and will probably find one. But its not private land transport.

          • Roger Lambert

            As I said already – I don’t think efficiency is a problem, once we have large market penetrations of solar and wind. We will have huge surpluses of energy on many days and very few days in a row of zero production.

            With batteries, only a portion can be saved – then what? With hydrogen, you can ship it off to provide free heating or cooking or transport.

          • eveee

            It may have some niches for heating or liquid fuels for aircraft. For land transport it has little future.
            On an annual average, the surplus energy will be small. How much? 5 %? So hydrogen will not figure prominently used as surplus. It will have to compete with batteries, flow, and puHS. All that “free” energy will go to the most efficient storage first.
            Hydrogen cannot win on cost. If it is converted to liquids, it might be able to leverage its density for aircraft use.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Roger, you don’t have any clue as to what it will cost to use that “free” electricity to produce hydrogen and to store it. You’re just shooting off your mouth once again.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t have FCEV hate. What I’ve got is a seemingly unsurmountable problem.

        It takes so much energy to separate hydrogen from oxygen during electrolysis and then to compress the H2 so that it is useful that I can’t see a route for FCEVs to every become economically competitive.

        Then there’s the H2 infrastructure which would add significant cost to the fuel for FCEVs.

        Where’ the market for a technology which offer no net advantages while costing significantly more to use?

        Don’t show me FCEV concept cars or shiny H2 stations. Show me how H2 FCEVs get around the laws of physics.

    • We can electrolyze water once the grid is overloaded with renewable electricity – Denmark is already making plans to do that. And heavy industry is the #1 application. You’re never going to solve refueling issues for batteries for ships; for trucks, the battery pack weight causes diminishing returns, and if you do come up with insta-recharge supercapacitors that don’t leak very much, they’ll go off like bombs at the slightest fault – and Li-ion batteries are pretty damned explosive even now compared to hydrogen tanks. Friends of mine had part of their lab burn down accidentally showing exactly that!

      • Bob_Wallace

        The myth of almost free/surplus electricity. That one sure is taking a long time to die.

        Why would there be enough unwanted electricity on the grid to make more than a tiny amount of hydrogen or synfuel?

        EVs will probably become dispatchable loads. They’ll suck up the cheapest stuff available. As will other dispatchable loads such as storing cold or heat for space cooling/heating. Storage will fill with the least expensive available in order to make money selling at a higher price during peak demand times.

        It costs wind turbines something to run. Once subsidies are finished they won’t turn on and give their power away for free. You’ll pay their cost plus some profit or they’ll stay offline.

        The rest of your post, the fire stuff? Silly.

        • Roger Lambert

          “The myth of almost free/surplus electricity. That one sure is taking a long time to die.”

          It won’t die because people like me see it as inevitable.Sun and wind are variable, so they must be overbuilt for poor days. Which means they will be making a hell of a lot of extra energy on great days.QED.

          We already see negative pricing on renewables on great days, and renewables have tiny market penetration. Why in the world would you think excess energy is a myth?

          • Bob_Wallace

            How much surplus do we see, Roger? A lot or a very small amount from time to time?

            Texas is now at 10% electricity from wind. Texas curtails 0.5% of its wind potential production. That’s ’44 hours a year’. The myth is built on top of a tiny, tiny bit of unneeded capacity.

            Even when we get to ~80% wind and solar much of the over production is going to be very seasonal. Running synfuel plants only a few weeks out of each year and storing that fuel for months would be a very expensive undertaking.

          • Roger Lambert

            I would think that if we only have enough wind and solar to generate minuscule amounts of excess, then we have by definition severely under-built those renewable resources.

            As I said – renewables must be overbuilt so they meet our needs on even poor production days. Everything I have read on the topic reinforces this concept, but I would be very interested to hear your opinion on why that may be in error. 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            Roger, all those things you read about overbuilding solar and wind for the grid, Did they factor in EVs? EVs as dispatchable loads? Most don’t.

            Now. Let’s say that the grid needs 100 units of electricity more in the summer than in the spring. Two options.

            1) Build another 50 units, store 50 in the spring and use it in the summer – or –

            2) Build another 100 units, use it in the summer and just leave it turned off in the spring.

            Which makes more sense? Depends on –

            1) Cost of generation – and –

            2) Cost of storage.

            Let’s say we’re talking 3 cents per kWh for generation and 5 cents per kWh to store.

            If we store a 3c/kWh in the spring at 5c/kWh and use it in the summer that’s a 8 cent kWh.

            If we build a 3c/kWh source and use only half the output the power we do use costs us 6 cents per kWh.

            Want to use hydrogen to store? Right off we’re only going to get a third to a half of our energy back in the summer. We’ll have put 7.5c worth of electricity and then pay 5 cents to store it. Now we’re paying 12.5 cents per kWh in the summer.

            BTW, we (AFAIK) have no cost estimate for storing energy in the form of hydrogen for extended periods of time.

          • Roger Lambert

            There is no cost for electricity a utility makes but does not sell. Wind and sun are free.

            There is only a price if someone buys it. We already occasionally see negative pricing for excess renewable juice – they are paying customers to take it off their hands(!), and there is essentially no market penetration yet.

            This is why I believe very strongly that renewable utilities should all be public, and we should ditch the business model where we pay for use. We pay off capital expenses with taxes, and then allocate maintenance costs for taxes. Just like a homeowner enjoys ‘free’ electricity after paying off his capital costs, so should a nation.

            You local electric utility should run like your fire station – no charges for service. And with such low cost energy – there is no need to regulate fossil fuels – they will become irrelevant and die. Let the climate deniers choke on that – no regulation needed. No drop in quality of life. No more $3200/person/year coming out of our pockets for fossil fuels.

  • Mike333

    hahaha. They’ll be crying when ISIS puts an ignitor circuit on one of these, either the car or the station.

    • Larmion

      You mean like they already do with equally explosive natural gas or with even more explosive LPG? Please. Enough with the overblown terrorism nonsense already.

      There are plenty of good arguments against hydrogen. Terrorism is not one of them.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    The fuel of choice is hydrogen, and therein lies the problem. Until FCEV ownership reaches critical mass, there is little incentive to build hydrogen fuel stations, or to make room for them at existing gas stations. So, fuel availability is currently a big obstacle to FCEV ownership.

    Nope. Not the issue. The issue is 90% of the hydrogen comes from the fossil fuel industry. And because powering FCEVs takes more fossil fuel than does a corresponding ICE vehicle this whole topic is insulting. I suppose big money from the Koch brothers and their ilk will keep FCEVs in our face for a few years. And keep writers talking about how if we only had more hydrogen fuel stations the world would be wonderful.

    • Passer-by

      ~97-99% of elecricity comes from fossil fuel industry, so at the moment actually there is no difference at all whether you drive ice, ev, or hydrogen. Hydrogen is more attractive because you can store it in a great quantity which you can not do for electricity. I think hydrogen will win in Japan.

      • Marion Meads

        Troll, where’d you get your data, under your butt?

        • Joseph Dubeau

          nice language potty mouth.

        • Michael G

          I don’t see any sources for your claims, Marion.

      • Joe Viocoe

        Hydrogen forces you to use whatever source they want… i.e. fossil fuels.

        Electricity can be made directly from the end user’s chosen source… Which is why EVs owners are already getting well better than average sourced electricity.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        How many FCV did you see on the roads in Japan?
        I see EV driving around in my neighborhood every day.

        “~97-99% of elecricity comes from fossil fuel industry,”
        Do you think anybody actually believe that?

      • djr417

        that is one of the most ill informed posts Ive seen on cleantechnica in a long time.

      • Bob Fearn

        Not true, Try google.

    • Jason hm

      Actual new H2 production tech is now the best sell point for Hydrogen fuel.
      All you need to make H2 cheaply now is cheap energy which is what renewables are rapidly make happen. Hydrogen production is now longer stuck to the Petroleum industry.


      • Passer-by

        If they find a way to use sun energy to produce hydrogen without explicitly converting it into electricity at first and this process has 20% efficiency this would be no difference to PV. These cult members oppose another technology that even does not get in their way. Why not let it be? Let every body get it their own way. What is the problem?

  • kvleeuwen

    Of course, when you throw enough (public?) money at it, you can build an infrastructure that makes these cars work.
    But I just can’t fathom WHY.
    Especially when the infra for BEVs is orders of magnitude cheaper, is more efficient and the cars perform better.
    The only ones who want a hydrogen future are the people who want to sell it (the same people that will be obsolete with BEVs) and some delusional people that can’t imagine a future without gas stations and the need to ‘fill up’. We don’t need to support them.

    • Mike333

      Exactly. Electric: you plug in at home when ever you need.
      Hydrogen, you have to drive to your “special” hydrogen station.

    • Michael G

      No BEV other than a Tesla will make it from SF to LA. A Leaf cannot make it from San Jose to the next charging station down the road. Limited range and limited charging stations. And if you got it to the next station, it would take hours to recharge (no level 3). Fixable – but it isn’t there yet. Until it is FCs are as futuristic as BEVs.

      Batteries have inherent weight-density limitations. At the small car level they don’t show up, but at higher loads for longer range, they become a significant barrier – a much bigger barrier than refueling infrastructure. Ultimately, we will have FC-B-EV hybrids for the avg. car, and trucks, and BEVs for commuter cars and “performance” vehicles.

      When auto execs talk about the “driving experience” the average consumer expects, they aren’t talking about acceleration – none of the top 20 vehicles in the US are bought for that. They are talking about being able to refuel in 5 minutes instead of 6 hours or over-night.

      Hydrogen is transported and stored all over the place all the time and can easily be made on-site or at home. The “brittle metal” issue was solved many years ago.

      If algae or surplus wind energy are making the H2 overnight, who cares how many Joules of energy they use?

      • beernotwar

        It’s far cheaper to solve the battery range and charger problem than to solve the problems facing FCEVs and their infrastructure. We already have a nationwide distribution network for electricity. We should use it.

        Once economy-priced BEVs get to ~200 mile range and there are level 3 chargers up and down every highway, there will be no need for FCEVs and their infrastructure. I’m wagering on BEVs to get there first, because I don’t see a huge desire to dump public money into hydrogen infrastructure which is far costlier. (A hydrogen station is $500k for the smallest installation where a level 3 charger is about $60k.) With that kind of range, people wouldn’t need to charge up when commuting and driving around town…just charge at home. On trips, plan to stop every 2-3 hours at a fast charger for fifteen minutes.

        Combined with the fact that EVs are more efficient, the grid is becoming greener every year, and EVs have a five year head-start on FCEVs I only see FCEVs filling niche roles and only if hydrogen supplies are green. Why switch from diesel or gasoline if the hydrogen isn’t any greener?

        • Michael G

          When the BEV problems are solved you will have a point. Until then, it is speculation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What BEV problem, Michael?

          • Michael G

            Range and cost

          • Joe Viocoe

            Reminds me of early computers, Slow and Cost

          • djr417

            If these hydrogen powered cars were greener or cheaper than Tesla- you might have a point. They are neither- not by a longshot.

          • Michael G

            Until EVs replace the top 10 selling vehicles sold in the US they are niche vehicles for “enthusiasts” – eco-hipsters.

            Everyone talks about a Tesla-killer. I want a “Camry killer”, a “Civic killer”, a “CR-V killer” and a “Ford F-105 killer”. No car company is remotely close to that. Until the top 10 sellers are BEVs, we need to keep all options open.

            Progress happens at different rates and at different times for each technology. The better tech will win regardless of what you or I write here.

          • jeffhre

            There are 270 vehicles sold in the US. Your slicing off the top ten is completely arbitrary. So, how are the top ten sellers for FCEVs doing vs the top ten plug-ins?

          • Doug

            I’ve been driving EVs for several years. Not seeing any problems over here.

          • Michael G

            I looked into a purchasing a Leaf. I could not use it to go round trip to any of the places that I go for one or two day trips from where I live.

            According to the US Govt. list of charging stations, there are no level 3 charging stations any place near where I go about 50 miles away in San Francisco. I could get there but not make it back without a long divergence just to recharge.

            I could not make it to San Luis Obispo where my kids go to college since there is only one level 2 charging station about half way – beyond the range of the current Leaf. Even if I could get to that station, I would have to wait hours to fully charge the Leaf to get to San Luis Obispo. Even if I could get to SLO, I saw no place to charge at any hotel or near campus.

            There are apparently none in the nearby State or Regional Parks I like to go to.

            So all I could do with a Leaf is pick up groceries and go to work. I can do that on a bike.

          • Plugshare app is better to find stations.

          • jeffhre

            When the FCEV problems are solved you will have a point. Until then, it is muiti-stage conversion loss, non-funded no infrastructure, nonsense.

      • kvleeuwen

        Your first sentence says it all. A fully loaded Tesla is cheaper than any FCEV and does today what will take years to match with H2 infra. The theoretical limits for Li-Air batteries (just as pie-in-the-sky as cheap H2 catalysts) match gasoline in density.
        So why truck H2 around and convert it in expensive high-density mobile fuel cells when stationary fuel cells can do it better?

        • Michael G

          When I see BEVs replacing Ford F150s and Toyota Corollas on the top 10 vehicles sales in the US, I will concede your point. Until that happy day, we need to keep all options open.

          • kvleeuwen

            Fair enough. I’ll wait for a worldwide energy surplus before calling the low efficiency of the H2 economy sustainable.

      • krona2k

        “Batteries have inherent weight-density limitations” those limitations aren’t inherent otherwise where would the the increases in energy density be coming from? Batteries are now close to hydrogen for weight energy density and as good as or better with volume energy density. I think it’s really too late for FCEV when you see what’s happening with batteries. They certainly do NOT take 6 hours to charge up on road trips as i’m sure you are aware!

        • Michael G

          Inherent in the current Li-ion technology. There are limits to how much you can improve this tech and even Musk concedes you need further breakthroughs to get to the next level. Maybe solid-state batteries.

          Breakthroughs don’t always come when you want them, so keeping alternatives viable is a safer course.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Are you aware of the theoretical limits of lithium-ion batteries and where things stand today?

            “even Musk concedes you need further breakthroughs to get to the next level”
            It depends on how one define “the next level”. Elon has stated that he sees a clear route to 400 mile ranges for the ModS by 2020. How much more range does a person really need? Who needs more than a “before lunch” range?

            We have, right now, adequate batteries. We could all drive EVs with the batteries we now have. Cost is now the issue. More range is icing on the cake.

          • Michael G

            Cost is also an issue with FCEVS. Whichever solves the cost problem first may win the day.

          • Doug

            The Telsa already has the technology. Incremental improvements to improve cost, mass, power are all that is necessary.

          • Michael G

            The average Tesla sold costs more than I and my wife have spent on every car we have ever bought – total – since we started driving.

            I am happy for you that you have the money to indulge your wants. Not everyone is so fortunate.

          • Joe Viocoe

            It is pretty clear that Tesla currently sells to the higher income folks… who have disposable income.

            But you cannot take Tesla as if they are stopping now. The revenue received for such expensive toys… doesn’t go to produce profit (if it did, the company would be profitable)… instead, the money spent by the folks you are talking about, is reinvested in driving down the cost.

            We will not have the Model 3, unless tens of thousands of people buy the Model S,X.

            Even with other automakers. The competition and innovation that Tesla brings… drives the other automaker’s strategy too.

        • Michael G

          If the Leaf got to the first charging station south of San Jose on the road to LA, (it is too far, but let’s assume a range increase so it does) it would only find one level 2 charger. That takes hours to recharge a Leaf fully, assuming it is functional and not in use.

          • beernotwar

            Level 3 Charging will charge the battery to around 80% in thirty minutes. That would be 170 miles of range for a 200 mile range battery. A half hour is a longer break than most people want to take for every three hours of driving, but it can create a business model for roadside shops, restaurants and attractions. And most people don’t routinely take long road trips so it would be a rare inconvenience, unlike filling up your gasmobile or FCEV which would be a routine hassle. If you aren’t running from the cops, it’s not that big an inconvenience to extend a pit stop from fifteen to thirty minutes.

            This isn’t speculation — it’s today’s capabilities. Charging is only going to get faster and by 2025 I expect it will be comparable to filling a gas tank. But that’s speculation.

            We can easily afford to place level 3 chargers every fifty miles or so along all major highways. The tech is there, it’s only a matter of time and committment. That’s why I oppose FCEVs right now — they are taking focus away from the effort we ought to be making to convert every passenger vehicle in the country to BEV by 2025.

          • Michael G

            Did you not read the first sentence I wrote which is that there are no level 3 charging stations between me and San Luis Obispo? If so, why are you telling me about level 3?

            I also noted the level 2 station is beyond the range of the current Leaf. So what is your point? I’ll guess your point is that “real soon now” it will all be just great. Which is speculation.

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