TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

What's your strongest point against hydrogen?

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by Brent, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. Brent

    Brent Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2007
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I sometimes find myself trying to summarize and simplify the problems with hydrogen, only to find my listener's patience wear thin with all the technicalities. As such, I'd like to find and focus on one single, nearly insurmountable problem with hydrogen.

    For the moment, I've been using its relative inefficiency; that is, that it takes a lot of energy to create cleanly, that there's just no way around it, and that in a world with limited resources, it's not a sustainable way to power cars. But I don't know if that's the strongest argument, or even if it is strictly true.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    The biggest problem right now is lack of refueling infrastructure.

    With EVs, thankfully we have a grid that basically runs everywhere already.
     
  3. Cobos

    Cobos S60 owner since 2013

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    I know this is not really the answer you want, but my strongest point is that there is so MUCH wrong with it.

    Lacks very expensive infrastructure
    Very hard to store efficiently
    Low power, expensive and unknown reliability on fuel cells
    Bad energy efficiency
    Doesn't actually do anything better than a BEV

    Taken together these problems means you don't just need 1 breakthrough, you need several AND someone willing to risk a lot of money on a very highrisk endeavour. It gets even worse when the Bluestar from Tesla means BEVs and their charging infrastructure will be so widespread they will be the entrenched technology. So Hydrogen NEEDS quite a few major breakthroughs now and commercialization within the next 3-5 years or they've lost. At least for cars.

    I see a possible future in hydrogen based aviation or for stationary load-leveling applications like connected to remote windmills or PV.

    Cobos
     
  4. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    The big list goes on and on. The stuff (as a fuel) isn't easy to keep contained. You have to store it at very high pressure and it tends to leak out, so the following tend to happen:

    #1: Your tank can slowly leak if you leave your car parked for a while.
    #2: It can take a long time to refuel (e.g.: ~30 minutes) if the facility doesn't store at the highest pressure.
    See this:
    Jay Leno on his Fuel Cell Equinox - ApteraForum.com - Aptera Car Forum
     
  5. Brent

    Brent Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2007
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I guess we could separate the problems like this: those solvable through better engineering, those solvable only through scientific breakthroughs, and those that cannot be solved because of some physical or molecular limitation. I realize the categories are highly arguable, but still I might group them like this:

    Cat 1 (engineering): Infrastructure and fuel cell improvements. Expensive, but possible, especially with fuel cells, which have shown great improvements over the past twenty years.

    Cat 2 (scientific): Pipeline, storage, leakage issues. New classes of metals probably need to be invented to help prevent embrittling, along with better containers, etc.

    Cat 3 (physical/molecular): Hydrogen production, inefficiencies. Hydrogen is found on Earth very tightly bound to other elements, and takes a huge amount of energy to release it.

    I'm probably all wet with this stuff, though...
     
  6. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    The movie WKTEC used Joe Romm's five problems with Hydrogen

    WIKI
    Hydrogen fuel cell
    The hydrogen fuel cell was presented by the film as an alternative that distracts attention from the real and immediate potential of electric vehicles to an unlikely future possibility embraced by automakers, oil companies and a pro-business administration in order to buy time and profits for the status quo. The film backs up the claim that hydrogen vehicles are a mere distraction by stating that "A fuel cell car powered by hydrogen made with electricity uses 3 to 4 times more energy than a car powered by batteries" and by interviewing the author of The Hype About Hydrogen, who lists 5 problems he sees with hydrogen vehicles (these are his paraphrased claims, along with exact quotations):

    1. Current fuel cell cars cost an average of $1,000,000. This cost, in his words, "has gotta drop."
    2. Current materials cannot store enough hydrogen in a reasonable space to "give you the range people want."
    3. Hydrogen fuel is "wildly expensive." In his words "even hydrogen from dirty fossil fuels is two or three times more expensive than gasoline."
    4. The need for an entire new fueling infrastructure. He claims "someone's gonna have to build at least ten or twenty thousand hydrogen fueling stations, before anybody is going to be interested."
    5. Competing technologies will improve over time as well. "You have to hope and pray that the competitors in the marketplace don't get any better. Because right now the best car in the marketplace just got a lot better, the hybrid vehicle..."
     
  7. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #8 TEG, Apr 6, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2016
     
  8. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    That is basically the way I look at it too.
    Some hydrogen fuel creation, storage, and fuel cell use seems prudent in some cases, but just doesn't seem like the right answer for the standard automotive power source. It makes tons of sense on spacecraft where you are already storing liquid hydrogen, need electricity and clean water as a byproduct is very useful.

    Some hydrogen naysayers bring up the Hindenberg as the reason why hydrogen is too dangerous/flammable to use, but that argument "runs out of gas" rather quickly.
     
  9. Cobos

    Cobos S60 owner since 2013

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    But hydrogen is seriously explosive though. I thought until pretty recently you needed a 2:1 hydrogen oxygen mixture to get an explosion. But you don't need that. I've seen demonstrated a normal balloon with a radius of maybe 5 inches filled with hydrogen ignited. At the back of the auditorium around 30 feet away from the balloon that was uncomfortable bang. Fun of course, but not comfortable :) If that would actually have been O2:H2 mix the power would have been many times stronger.

    So you really want to make sure if you've got an oxygen tank that it doesn't mix with the hydrogen prematurely :)

    Cobos
     
  10. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  11. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2007
    Messages:
    7,037
    #12 stopcrazypp, Apr 6, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2009
    Not sure what I can add, here are the points I have been making.

    1) Expensive: The cars, infrastructure, and fuel are expensive.
    Solutions: continue engineering and bringing the costs down for hydrogen components to bring car prices down. Infrastructure, not much way to fix except to start building and hope costs go down with scale. Should be noted that the infrastructure still costs more than equivalent gasoline infrastructure, while EV fast charging infrastructure costs the same as gasoline infrastructure. Fuel prices are projected to be more expensive than gasoline even in volume, so there will need to be cheaper sources of hydrogen discovered.

    2) Inefficient: An EV can almost always utilize the energy more efficiently.
    Solutions: find sources of energy that EVs can't utilize or utilize as well, esp. renewable sources, examples are algae based hydrogen.

    3) Hard to store/transport: volumetric energy density is low and there are still issues with leaking. But they are making good progress on this and the density still seems higher than EVs so far, though it's still isn't as easy to transport long distances as electricity.
     
  12. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    So how much is hydrogen fuel at a hydrogen station now?

    And how far can you go?
     
  13. Brent

    Brent Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2007
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
  14. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  15. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2007
    Messages:
    7,037
    #16 stopcrazypp, Apr 7, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2009
    Direct from the California fuel cell partnership, so I assume they know what they are talking about:
    Warning pdf link.
    http://www.fuelcellpartnership.org/sites/files/200807VisionDeployment.pdf
    Related article:
    California Fuel Cell Partnership calls for 46 retail hydrogen stations, will cost just $180m

    For comparison, given a 100+kW fast charger costs ~$100k, and 8 charger station would cost $1-2 million, roughly the same as a gas station.
    http://ecolocalizer.com/2008/10/08/rapid-charging-electric-cars-from-oahu-to-you/

    Doing the electricity cost conversion (pretax) you get 33.7kWh/gallon gas * $0.115/kWh US average residential = $3.88/gallon. A EV is 3-4x as efficient as a gas car, plug to wheel wise (Roadster is 132mpge assuming 90% charging efficiency & 244 miles of range, 117mpge assuming 80% charging efficiency & 244 miles of range) so that works out to $1.29-$0.97/gallon on a mileage basis.
     
  16. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    Wow,

    Great info Stop!

    Thank you Stop.

    I feel like I just read a message from Western Union.




    Stop.
     
  17. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2007
    Messages:
    7,037
    Sorry:tongue:, I know I go overboard on the information gathering. It's useful to get it out there for reference later on, rather than looking for the sources again.
     
  18. Kevin Harney

    Kevin Harney Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,052
    Location:
    Herndon, VA
    I think he was referring to the way they used to indicate a period in telegrams. The word STOP was used. And linking it to your name instead....
     
  19. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    :rolleyes::tongue:
     

Share This Page