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Hydrogen Car Fantasy Crumbles

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by tonybelding, Nov 13, 2007.

  1. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    #1 tonybelding, Nov 13, 2007
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2007
    For the last couple of years there's been growing excitement around electric cars and their close cousins PHEVs (including those "100% pure battery-electric cars, definitely not any kind of hybrids, with a flex-fuel range extender" that GM wants to sell us). You've all been following this, I've been following this, ever since the Tesla Roadster was first announced and fired up my imagination

    Among "green car" fans the debate appears to be pretty much over. Just watch what happens whenever an article comes up on AutoblogGreen or Green Car Congress about hydrogen fuel cells -- everybody piles on with comments about how hydrogen will never work, hydrogen is a scam, etc.

    The wider world has been pretty slow to catch on. We're still getting news articles in the general media which blithely speak of hydrogen as the obvious, inevitable future of transportation. Reading these articles, you'd never get any clue that hydrogen had any competition or that there were any dissenting views.

    It's a big disconnect. It's really jarring to see "mainstream" news articles that clash so harshly with the views of the activists. It's a kind of fascinating, yet frustrating, social phenomenon.

    I think we're beginning to see the end of it. The facade of the hydrogen economy is starting to crack, and the mainstream press is finally beginning to wake up and realize the emperor has no clothes.

    Consider the following. . .

    1. GM is still researching hydrogen, but apparently putting more effort -- and a much more aggressive production schedule -- into E-flex.

    2. CARB is planning to change the ZEV credit system from a 10:1 bias in favor of hydrogen cars over electric cars, to a mere 1.33:1 bias.

    3. Ballard are selling their automotive fuel cell division to Ford and Daimler.

    4. Hydrogenics, another fuel-cell manufacturer, announced they are scaling back operations and closing a design and manufacturing center.

    5. Volkswagen's head of research has said publicly that VW's own hydrogen research vehicles are being developed only to meet emissions laws, such as California's. He described hydrogen cars as a "marketing exercise". More info here: http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/Volkswagen-Concepts/229005/

    I look at these events, and I see a chain of events something like dominos falling. It started with the Tesla Roadster's big public splash. That spurred creation of the Chevy Volt concept. That prompted CARB to ease up on their hydrogen agenda. That in turn has led to everything else: Ballard and Hydrogenics and VW hopping off the beleaguered hydrogen-car bandwagon. CARB had become the driving force behind hydrogen, and most car makers were only on board with hydrogen to placate them.
     
  2. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yep, is sure seems like Tesla [with emphasis on Martin] ( and to some degree ACP ) helped put the hydrogen fuel cell juggernaut out of its' misery.

    That credit you are talking about is for vehicles that can recharge in 10 minutes, right? (If so, that isn't just hydrogen, but also includes Altair Nano based BEVs).

    If they change the 10:1 bias for 10-minute recharge vehicles they are probably roasting Phoenix's business plan. As Darryl pointed out, the Phoenix business model is/was questionable.
     
  3. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    Right. When Phoenix showed their BEV could qualify, I'm sure it embarrassed CARB and was seen as a threat to their pro-hydrogen agenda.
     
  4. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    I love your observations and conclusions Tony.

    One disagreement.

    I think the hydrogen agenda has many sides. By "developing" hydrogen all the major auto manufactures get to delay EVs and promise technology to come and thus avoid improving mileage on current cars. They also get research funded by fooling the US (and other) governments to back the sham. Placating CARB was part of that scheme.

    As to the house of cards falling, it's good news. Hopefully that info all comes up when more research cash is asked for.

    As to your comments on the press it's clear that reporters do ZERO fact checking these days especially when the "article" come to them all packed up nicely with a bow on top.
     
  5. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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  7. Michael

    Michael Member

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    I do think that Hydrogen does have a place in our future. I expect that there will be situations where batteries are not good enough or gasoline is too limited/expensive to utilize. One market that comes to mind is the airlines industry. Another might be trucking.
     
  8. Cobos

    Cobos S60 owner since 2013

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    I would say Hydrogen and Fuel Cell might be very useful with other green energy techs like Solar and Wind. They both produce uneven power as they require a strong wind or sunny sky to give full power. A huge electrolyte installation to handle the lost power due to missing demand at that specific time makes sense. Then you burn off that hydrogen in a SOFC Fuel Cell at the time of demand at a price premium. In a closed, big, monitored system it shouldn't be too hard to get decent performance (for a fuel cell). Other stable and slow systems I imagine would be shipping or somesuch.

    I just don't see the FC personal car as an option for the foreseeable future unless we get "free" electric power trough a break-trough in fusion f. inst.

    Cobos
     
  9. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Since solar only runs when the sun is shining, and batteries tend to wear out, off-grid solutions need something long-term-reliable to provide power during the night. Making hydrogen then running it through a fuel cell seems like a complex, expensive solution. (How long do fuel cells last anyways?) Some more simple approaches would be:

    #1: A system that heats/melts something (like salt crystals) and then generates power from the heat all night long.

    #2: A system that uses some of the solar power to pump water uphill (into a storage tank or reservoir) then uses a micro-hydro-electric-turbine to generate power by letting the water flow back down during the night.
     
  10. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    "Honda continues to put out commercials...

    Yeah, and I keep seeing that BMW "liquid car" one running.

    A lot on Comedy Central.
     
  11. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    The BMW car is a joke.

    Honda, on the other hand, seem to actually take hydrogen cars seriously. (I think GM does somewhat too, but mostly in the context of China.) The Honda FCX is the most attractive hydrogen car that I've seen yet, and now they are showing a production version of it.

    They call it a production version, but I think it's going to be something semi-experimental like the EV1, where it's made in very limited numbers as required by CARB and nobody can actually buy them.

    However. . . Unlike most other car companies, I think Honda's executives honestly see the hydrogen fuel-cell car as being the future replacement for gasoline cars. Recently they had some good things to say about BEVs, but when I read between the lines I believe they were referring tiny, slow, short-ranged "city cars". Toy cars. Punishment cars. Green penalty boxes. The "real cars" will be hydrogen powered, in their vision.

    I admire a lot of things about Honda. If you look at all the great things people say about Toyota (reliability, efficiency, etc.), you'll find in most cases Honda deserves that reputation more than Toyota does. I just think Honda have charted the wrong course into the future.
     
  12. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    FYI, in case you missed it, GM has been doing a pilot program to let some real customers (in selected area with hydrogen refueling depos) try out a fuel celled Equinox for a while.

    I recall seeing articles suggesting that the Prius was a response to a perceived 'threat' that US auto companies were going to go forward with aggressive hybrid programs. Then the US companies shelved their hybrids and Toyota had the last laugh as the Prius was so successful. Toyota should have also dominated BEVs with the Rav4-EV (perhaps the best of the late 90s EVs), yet battery litigation made it impossible.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if the US auto companies bailed on the fuel cell vehicles, then Japan showed up (with something like the FCX) and actually took over the market.

    In some ways all of these 'alternative' vehicles are just 'hedge bets' or even flexing R&D muscle for PR and research purposes with no real intent to go into mass production. The way I heard it presented was US companies 'tricked' the Japanese companies into 'wasting' time on hybrid R&D when it wasn't considered a viable market. In the end it was a mistake because now the US companies are playing catch-up to get back into the Hybrid game since it does seem like a very viable segment after all.

    I could believe that some day hydrogen fuel celled vehicles could be viable but I keep hearing daunting problems that seem to need a lot more engineering breakthroughs before they will make them practical.
     
  13. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    It's depressing that such tricks and gamesmanship seem to take Big Auto's eyes off the ball:-

    http://www.forbes.com/home/vehicles/2007/11/15/cars-worst-year-forbeslife-cx_bh_1115cars.html
     
  14. Tesla2Go

    Tesla2Go Member

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    Ulf Bossel, the founder of the European Fuel Cell forum seems to agree as well:

    http://www.efcf.com/reports/E11.pdf
     
  15. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #16 TEG, Nov 22, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2016
     
  16. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    I love the 5 miracles! My favorite part of the WKTEC movie!

    I used to belive the Hydrogen Hype and nothing has ever put the pointlessness of it in perspective better.

    The 5 Miracles should be posted in/on every EV website.
     
  17. BlackbirdHighway

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    Regarding that first miracle, the high cost of the car, there was one interesting insight recently. In an interview on AutoBlogGreen, an executive from Honda said that he expected that by 2018, they will get the price down to the cost of a high end sports car. So, that puts them, in ten years, about where Tesla is now. As battery technology continues to improve over the next ten years, the need for hydrogen will probably dissipate just like the liquid hydrogen stored in the BMW cars.

    I think another miracle, the high cost of the hydrogen fuel relative to the cost of gasoline, will be solved by the price of oil going much higher. I still don't think that make hydrogen viable for cars, but maybe for airplanes it's a good solution.
     
  18. Takumi

    Takumi Member

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    Is that why Honda is making planes?
     
  19. BlackbirdHighway

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