Giving Up on Hydrogen?

For decades, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been trumpeted as the best strategy for reducing—if not entirely eliminating—emissions from our cars and trucks. Billions of dollars later, top executives from General Motors and Toyota appear ready to give up on the viability of hydrogen-powered cars—and shift their future plans to hybrid and electric cars running on lithium ion batteries.

Bob Lutz, GM’s product guru, told reporters at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, “If we get lithium ion to 300 miles [in range], then you need to ask yourself, Why do you need fuel cells?” Lutz expressed concerns that fuel cell vehicles are still far too expensive to be considered for the mass market. “We are nowhere [near] where we need to be on the costs curve,” he said.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe, also speaking to the press in Geneva, said, “It will be difficult to see the spread of fuel cells in 10 years’ time.” Watanabe also cited the high cost of fuel cells and the lack of a hydrogen-fueling infrastructure.

Is Hydrogen an Either-Or Debate?

Is this shift a clear-headed assessment of hydrogen technology and its economics? Or merely corporate maneuvering? Both GM and Toyota are taking lead roles in producing hybrids and other vehicles with significant energy storage in batteries. Toyota’s position has produced sales of more than one million hybrids, while GM’s stance on hybrids and plug-in hybrids remains theoretical so far.

Notwithstanding comments from Lutz and Watanabe, GM and Toyota continue to pursue hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, to varying degrees.

Meanwhile, other auto companies less invested in gas-electric hybrids continue to push hydrogen. Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told reporters in Geneva that he is convinced that his company can produce competitive fuel cell vehicles by 2014-15, with production levels quickly rising to 100,000 units per year. Honda recently became the first car company to bring a production fuel cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity, to market—leasing the hydrogen-hybrid to approximately 100 customers in Southern California.

In an article about the shifting fortunes of hydrogen, the Times (UK) said, “Fuel cell cars…have shifted from fiction to eagerly expected fact—and apparently back to fiction again as we have waited for science and engineering to deliver.”

With billions of dollars of hydrogen R&D money left on the table—and lithium battery-powered hybrid and electric-drive vehicles not yet established as a mainstay—it’s unlikely that the vision of hydrogen fuel vehicles will be put to rest. The pendulum could swing once more back in hydrogen’s favor. Or the auto industry may yet break from its past in which a single drivetrain technology reigns supreme, to an era in which multiple and diverse technologies mutually co-exist—some ready for the road and others remaining in research labs for decades.

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  • Gerald Shields

    It’s not that they are giving up on the technology, it’s that they now realize that the “hydrogen economy” is going to take longer than they thought it would take. They need an alternative to the ICE now, not later. So electric car, hybrid and clean diesel technologies get a new look (Hopefully).

  • Will Gayther

    I have to agree with what the guy said about how a 300 mile range (and, I might add, a 5 minute recharge time) seems to leave no reason to develop hydrogen vehicles. Batteries just have so many advantages:

    1. Absolutely no emissions from your vehicle. (Power plants are another issue, but creating hydrogen in the first place isn’t clean either.)
    2. More efficient – at this time, it seems to take much less energy to create electricity directly than it does to create hydrogen.
    3. We already have an electrical infrastructure. It goes to everyones home and every gas station already. There’s no “rebuilding gas stations for hydrogen at all.

    So the question is – what advantage would hydrogen have at all?

  • Riktok

    They should have figured this out before. They spent so much money into making hydrogen cars but never asked themselves maybe these cars will cost to much and no one will buy them.
    I would not buy one if it was too much money

  • David

    Hahaha… Theoretical approach. GM doesn’t want to change, and never will willingly. But, to publish an article on the possibility of hydrogen going out the door is not that helpful. Because now hydrogen has a bad rap in terms of gossip. I feel like they should still continue in all directions, We can only benefit from the continuous research.

    Even if the results don’t lead up to what we were looking for. We have a strong possibility of stumbling across other things along the way. It’s like taking a child away from their easy-bake oven because it will never work.. Even though that little light bulb DID work in making a little fully cooked snack. The testing and discoveries are all very much worth the money in the eyes of this engineer.

  • Jeff

    Distribution is what will ultimately kill Hydrogen. If we have to transport, store and sell liquid or pressurized Hydrogen to cars it will never work out. As Will Gayther says everyone has an outlet in their home and can afford an extension cord. Now the electric companies are the largest network of automotive energy distributors in the world. All available right now with no significant infrastructure changes required. And since people will plug in at night it will help balance the electrical load.

    Now Bush needs to pull his head out of his #$$% and pledge funding to improve power generation not hydrogen or ethanol production.

  • Armand

    We would have already had a Hydrogen economy if we hadn’t pissed away a TRILLION dollars on a farce war.

    Don’t you think that money would have been able to revamp the entire energy system of the US? At least if would have put a massive dent in it. Instead, we can all sleep comfortably at night knowing that people like Cheney are laughing all the way to the bank while we’re still breathing hydrocarbons.

  • ddk

    Willm you mention that hydrogen production isn’t clean.
    Can anyone explain how the hydrogen used for cars would actually be produced/manufactured?
    To me, that’s a key issue. We know that electricity production emits greenhouse gases, so electric cars will indirectly still be contributing to this problem.
    If the production of hydrogen emits fewer greenhouse gases, then to me it would be the best alternative for the environment. Please reply. I look forward to learning more about this issue.

  • ddk

    There’s also the issue of garbage. Right now, the disposal of Ni-MH and Li-Ion batteries can lead to toxic landfills. Will disposal of fuel cells lead to similar issues?

  • vinayababu

    Agree with shields, I believe Hydrogen in the next form of transportable energy when oil fields dry up.Here the comparison should be between storage batteries Vs liquefied Hydrogen for +15 kw energy requirements. We will not and should not abandon it just because technology for a Hydrogen system now has not reached a stage one should like to have. Li battery if proved to be viable will serve as the intermediary solution , just to escape the immediate gas/diesel solution for Automobiles , not to mention the possible ecological problems that may come up. China’s recent troubles facing the enormous storage battery recycling/ disposal problems with the lead related batteries used in their electric two wheelers now engulfing their streets is a pointer to the future likely headaches environmentalist may face with Lithium batteries.
    There are a number of possible green ways for generation of Hydrogen under study, a combination of solar power being the most attractive. When it will be practical is not a question that cannot be answered easily.

  • Jim W

    I read few, less than 5, years ago that it’d cost around 2 Billion Dollars to change US’s gas stations to hydrogen. This was too costly to do the article read.

    We are burning $2 Billion a week in Iraq.

    I’m sick of my Government’s support of big oil companies.

    We the people need to stand up and change how we conduct business by putting our money where mouths are.

    I’m doing my part on cutting back on trips to the malls, going without making trips to the video rental store unless it is on my ways from and to work.

    I used to replace my car every 3 years, I’ve had my car for 6 and planning to hold for another 3 to 5 years more until car companies can come up with something better than what they are paddling now.

  • wagsbags

    In response to ddk:

    It’s important to realize that hydrogen is an energy CARRIER not an energy SOURCE. A hydrogen fuel cell is basically a battery utilizing different chemistry. Currently, hydrogen is usually produced using methane, not a sustainable situation. Electrolysis (separating water using electricity) is another option but takes so much electricity it is generally considered too expensive (although it may be a first step). Another option may be using high process heat from advanced nuclear power plants or other sources to drive a thermochemical process, like the sulfur-iodine process. These methods are considerably more efficient than electrolysis but rely on very high temperature steam not currently available.

    As far as greenhouse gas emissions it is very dependent on the production technique. Nuclear and renewables could provide the electricity or heat carbon free. The efficiencies of fuel cells are comparable to that of batteries available today so hydrogen is unlikely to make a significant difference in this area.

  • wagsbags

    A few words about hydrogen:

    The advantage is the increased energy density available from fuel cells allowing for longer ranges in vehicles. The energy density of batteries is about 40 times less than gasoline meaning the technology would have to advance DRASTICALLY to make electric only cars that are comparable in range and size. Notice I said 40 times less energy dense so no, slightly smaller cars won’t cut it. This is why PHEV and better yet, the Chevy Volt concept hold such promise. Side note: even if the electricity comes from our grid (largely powered by fossil fuels) electric cars can save energy since they are ~3 times more efficient than ICEs.

    I’ve been to quite a few energy seminars and symposiums dealing with hydrogen and the general feel is that generating, storing, transporting and using hydrogen is still in the basic research phase. Being in the research phase, it is NOWHERE NEAR ECONOMICAL and will not be for at least 15 years, more like 20. I’m convinced that the reason car companies trumpet the technology is that it gives them “green cred” while knowing they won’t actually have to spend real money on PHEVs making a change. Oil companies are supportive because while they fear biofuels and hybrids can actually lower their sales in the next decade, they know hydrogen cars will not.

  • Hal Howell

    What good is a car if your dead because of terrorists? Bush or any President couldn’t take the chance of another 9/11. Where have you been the last 8 years??? Wake up! Certainly even Bush would have preferred things as they were BEFORE 9/11. However, we live in a different world than 9/10! The terrorists haven’t gone away and all they want to do is to kill all of us, so wake up and smell the coffee!

  • steved28

    Hal – What did Iraq have to do with 9/11? Wait. I’ll answer that, nothing. Enjoy your recession.
    You are the type of person that the Bush Administration loves. They play on your fears, and
    you swallow it, hook, line, and sinker.

  • Hal Howell

    Hydrogen is a great example of using a 100 penny nail when a 10 penny nail will do. The money needs to be put into electric and hybrid cars. My Prius works great and is affordable. Who in their right mind is going to spend $40,000-$60,000 to drive to the grocery store or to work in a hydrogen fuel cell car when they can get an affordable hybrid or electric car? Some do anyway but they are wealthy and can afford it. Most can’t. Put the effort where it will do the most good in getting affordable vehicles to the most people, so we can get rid of foreign oil. We need to start drilling for more oil of our own. The Chinese are planning on drilling in our own Gulf so why aren’t we. We can solve this problem if only our politicians would get out of bed with the environmental wackos!

  • Hal Howell

    No, Iraq didn’t have anything to do with 9/11. The idea was to prevent a known enemy from REPEATING 9/11. You are the sort of head in the sand person the terrorists love. Of course, you don’t have to worry about your head because they would love to cut it off and al us as well Were you around on 9/11 or do you just pretend it didn’t happen?? Thanks to Bush, whom you hate, we haven’t had another 9/11. I guess we’ll have to wait for Hillary or Obama for that. Just for your illumination, the terrorists haven’t given up on the idea of their war on America. However, you can sleep tonight safely because Bush is in office.

  • GuitarGuy305

    Hydrogen is a waste of time and money. Extended range gas/electric hybrids or plug-in hybrids and eventually electric only cars are the way to go. Investing in plug-in hybrids now would lessen our dependence on oil and eventually eliminate it if we could go to all electric.

  • Anonymous

    How do electric cars produce less pollution when you have to plug them into your house power which is mostly produced from pollution energy sources?

    The price of home electricity is also shooting through the roof.
    Read the book “The Solar Hydrogen Civilization” by Roy McAlister
    246 pages addressing every issue people think is the reason why hydrogen isn’t the answer, and he doesn’t discount solar, wind, water and the rest but explains why it’s best to use those methods to produce hydrogen. Seriously it trumps anything I’ve every read.

  • steved28

    No Hal, the idea behind invading Iraq was never to stop a repeat of 9/11. Didn’t you see the UN hearings? It was to go after WMD. Read the 9/11 report, there were NO ties to Iraq. Iraq was never a threat to us. The terrorists responsible for 9/11 were (and still are) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But we don’t have enough troops any longer to go after them, because we are in Iraq, playing hopscotch the IUD between the Suni’s and the Shiites civil war. At least if your going to spew your nonsense, get educated on the subject. Last I looked Bin Laden was not apprehended.

  • Stormin47

    Two things, firstly using power station generated energy is better for the environment because the economy of scale allows for higher efficiency. Even your typical coal fired plant will outdo a Prius ICE in terms of thermal efficiency.

    Secondly, I do subscribe to those who want to own and charge their high capacity Lithium Ion batteries at home. But I see a problem. If a small to medium size car runs for 300 miles on a charge and we assume it takes 10hp on average over about 6 hours to do those 300 miles than we’re going to need 10hp x 6 hp of energy. Converting this to electric power speak we have 7.46kW x 6 = 45.6kWh of energy to put back into our cars. To charge that in 6-8 hours is going to require a feed of at least 5kW. Doable.

    But my example is of a very timid vehicle. If you double the power requirement and then demand a full charge in an hour you are going to need nearly 100kW from your power outlet. Play with the figures. Battery power works for small cars of limited range but forget a 400hp truck.

    Back to hydrogen?

  • omegaman66

    We would have already had a Hydrogen economy if we hadn’t pissed away a TRILLION dollars on a farce war.

    Or might I add a trillion in less time on illegal aliens.

    Fuel cells have made some pretty good strides in recent years. The time line for them has been steadily shortened… not lengthened. But anyone with half a brain should have known that battery powered cars are much more feasible much sooner than fuel cells.

  • Docvb

    Great, so it all comes back to Electric power generation sources.

    Based on the current sources of electricity in Wisconsin, I’ll be driving a Coal powered car.

    At least the gasoline operated auto does not release Mercury or radioactive elements like uranium and thorium into the environment. Heck, nuclear power doesn’t either–not as much as coal does.

    This doesn’t sound like a giant step forward, does it?

  • babu flubber

    One thing I can take away from this rigorous and healthy debate over hydrogen-based power: BIG OIL can’t profit from it, so they’re suppressing and suffocating it, smearing it from all angles.

    We should keep pushing to have the best available hybrid technology in every driveway, every fleet vehicle, every limo, bus and cab. We’ve got to immediately reduce our oil consumption (addiction) and our pathetic dependence on the OPEC vampires (drug dealers).

    Fuel cell research should never stop, and has to remain the focus of our long term solution, but let’s go with plug-in hybrids until the better choices are a viable.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Come on folks. Get your facts straight here! While I love the passion about hydrogen, the war, electricity generation, etc, I see a huge need for some hydrogen education. This is going to take a lot of patience and maybe I’ll have to work with Brad Berman to actually get a hydrogen FAQ in place since I can’t address all the mis-information here.
    Now, for starters, let me establish a couple of baselines so you’ll know my potential biases:
    1. I have worked on hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzers and I have worked a small amount with studies surrounding hydrogen ICE (Internal Combustion Engines).
    2. I don’t see hydrogen has having any utility with any technology that is currently known. I’ll describe the problems later.
    3. I hate the way the hydrogen lobby (I’ll avoid the word conspiracy here) used hydrogen as the excuse to kill my EV1 pure Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). More details to follow.

    The auto manufacturers never cared about making hydrogen cars. They simply wanted a smoke screen to allow them to stall the process of having to retool their ICE factories another decade or so. I guess they failed in this mission since their smoke screen was so thin that they had to admit it wouldn’t work after about 7 years, not the 10 to 20 they had hoped for. We can thank Toyota’s Prius, Tesla Motors, “Who Killed the Electric Car”, Plug-in Partners, Plug-In America, Austin Energy, as well as many other organizations that have never let up in exposing the farce of hydrogen.
    While I, too encourage continued support for all energy sources and carriers, the $1.5 Billion that the federal government put into hydrogen research early this decade was way more than one can justify for an approach that offers such minimal hope in the foreseeable future. The lies given to our ignorant politicians by the auto manufacturers and a few greedy electrochemists was definitely unethical and possibly illegal although probably hard to really nail down. Among the lies: “Hydrogen comes from water”, “Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe”, “one must be able to go 300 miles on a 10 minute fill-up and hydrogen can be transferred in 10 minutes”, “clean energy is used to produce hydrogen” (if they even acknowledged that energy is needed to produce hydrogen), etc.
    Distribution is about the only feasible thing about hydrogen. It can be transported in pipelines about as easily as natural gas can, in fact, it can theoretically be transported in the same pipelines as natural gas in the event that we run out of or quit using natural gas.
    Wags did a pretty good job describing today’s means of producing hydrogen. He did fail to mention how much electricity is lost in order to produce and use hydrogen.
    For electrolysis, the most efficient methods waste as much energy in producing hydrogen from water as the hydrogen actually gets. Hydrogen usage methods generally waste more than half of their energy just converting the hydrogen into electricity again. This means that we lose 3/4 of the energy from an electrical source just in the hydrogen process – and that is under very tightly controlled, laboratory conditions. By the time one has to compress, transport, and store the hydrogen, a whole lot more energy is wasted.
    Stripping hydrogen from methane (natural gas) isn’t much more wasteful than refining oil into gasoline but I have to ask: Why not just burn the natural gas directly in an efficient natural gas hybrid vehicle and skip the hydrogen step. Of course, this method is only viable if we have a lot of cheap natural gas available. It isn’t sustainable.
    I haven’t seen much information on the thermal chemical methods Wags mentions but I can’t see them being very sustainable unless one assumes that there is a lot of waste heat being lost somewhere anyway.
    I don’t worry too much about the waste. Today, we recycle well over 95% of our lead-acid automobile batteries which are much more toxic than NiMH or Li-ion batteries and only last about 50,000 miles. It is probably safe to assume that after 100,000 or more miles, most NiMH or Li-ion batteries will be recycled. By recycling, we don’t fill up landfills and we recover the Nickle, Lithium, and other raw materials so as to preclude the need for too much additional mining.

    A couple of other comments:
    Granted nuclear and renewables (note that today’s nuclear fusion is NOT RENEWABLE) use to generate electricity to create hydrogen may not contribute to greenhouse gas generation. However, the inefficiency of the hydrogen generation and usage processes mean that we’ll need a whole lot more nuclear power plants or acreage devoted to renewables to get our energy through hydrogen vehicle than we would through BEV’s. This is because the round trip energy for Battery charging only loses about 10%. This should be compared with the 75% loss for hydrogen production and subsequent electricity production. Between you, me, and, I’ll take 10% losses over 75% losses any day (I’m actually being quite generous with the hydrogen’s 75% and pessimistic with batteries’ 10%).
    I’m not going to touch the war issue although I probably side more with you than those who only want to relive their drugged out days of the 60’s.
    Don’t worry, you’ll never see a fuel cell car for under $100,000 using any technologies that we know of today, not even with mass production. The only feasible catalysts for fuel cells is platinum – not exactly a bargain material. The pressure and temperature control sensitivity of fuel cells mean that no average grease monkey will stand a chance of fixing them and the impurities (anything besides Oxygen and Nitrogen) in our air will cause the fuel cells to require complete overhaul fairly regularly.
    Now come on please: Drilling for more oil will only delay the inevitable a little bit longer. The largest reserves of oil are tapped and running low. The odds of finding more LARGE reserves is pretty slim. The best you’re going to accomplish by drilling more is to forestall the problem until after you’re dead. This might make your golden years golden but it isn’t being very nice to your kids. Let’s just get over oil altogether and start looking at something sustainable. At least the hydrogen folks were thinking of something that might be sustainable, even if it is in no way economical or feasible in the foreseeable future.
    Mr. Anonymous who’s concerned about electricity costs:
    First of all, don’t worry too much about the cost of electricity. I live in CA, where our electric costs are some of the highest in the US. When I had my EV1, I commuted 30 miles each way to work and never noticed the impact on my electric bill. I live in an old house with an old pool circulator and air conditioner and the $10 per month that I fed into my EV1 was never noticed. Had I cared, I could have gotten even cheaper electricity by going with a time-of-use charger and used night-time electricity which is much cheaper than day-time.
    Regarding the use of solar, wind, etc: While these can be used to produce hydrogen, you can go about 4 times as far in BEV’s than you can in FCEV’s using the same solar or wind farm because the Battery Electric doesn’t waste as much energy as hydrogen production does.
    I think you’ve done some pretty good math but you’re forgetting the important 2nd order issues;
    1. Few, if any, people drive 300 miles in a normal day. Therefore, you’ll seldom have to put 45.6 kWh (using your numbers) into your car overnight.
    2. You’re right that 10 kW is about the average needed for a car. Whether that car is a Ferrari or a Fit, 10 kW is about the average to go 75 mph. More than 10 kW is only needed for surging for short times, either to get up to speed or to climb hills. One does not have to double the 10 kW average for a BEV in order to still have room for a few surges. Unlike an ICE, an electric motor that can surge to provide large power doesn’t use any more power when it is not in the surge, ie, the Tesla Roadster’s 185 kW electric motor can provide 185 kW to provide exciting acceleration, however, it is just as efficient at providing 10 kW as any golf cart or Prius motor so as long as you can refrain from those 4 second 0-60 starts, you won’t consume any more energy from the Roadster than you would from a timid golf cart (actually the Roadster’s modern electric motor is a lot more efficient than any timid golf cart that has ever been produced).
    3. Overnight charging is fine for 95% of your driving use. That is easy at home. If you need full charges in 1 hour or less, you’ll likely be on the road where industrial grade power would be available to electric fueling stations.
    4. Big trucks still don’t average much more than 30 or 40 kW but one would probably want to use industrial facilities with more kW than average residences. There are 250 kW industrial battery chargers available today.
    5. It is actually pretty tough to do a fast refill of any gas because there are limits to how fast one can push a gas through a connector into an empty tank. Liquid hydrogen can be filled pretty fast but the energy efficiency of cooling, transporting, and storing liquid hydrogen just makes the efficiency of the hydrogen economy that much worse.
    Congrats! You’ve read the propaganda and drank the cool aid! Maybe Wisconsin should get with the program and start cleaning up it’s grid. Even with its terrible solar flux position way up north, they could buy solar energy from AZ or NV or anything other than coal. Anyway, running a good plug-in, even from the oldest coal plant only is about comparable to a Prius for ghg emissions. Other particulant emissions can and should be easily cleaned up with smokestack filters to where they are still about comparable to the Prius. The use of any cleaner forms of electricity generation will only make the plug-in ecologically BETTER than a Prius and ALL other forms are cleaner than Wisconsin’s coal (as a former Badger, I hate to badmouth WI but facts are facts).
    It’s only going to get better with plug-in (battery) vehicles.
    I apologize for the long rant.

  • Mr. Practical


    I just read this article after watching the news mentioning more icy weather in the North East part of the country. While I applaud the effort to find a new renewable source of energy, has anyone thought about the winter time issues of driving a car that emits water onto the roadway as its exhaust. If the weather is really cold, that might cause a very dangerous situation beyond what nature is already providing to drivers behind you (probably not the very next car, but perhaps vehicles several minutes behind you). This make sense or too far out in left field (insurance rates, claims, lawsuits, who knows what else)?

  • AlexK

    gm’s taking a leading position in the hybid market? and then they say that it’s position on hybrids is theoretical. crappy article

  • jack r

    Finally, they should have known fuel cells were going nowhere 15 years ago.

  • Shines

    Hydrogen was dead from the start. Most people who understand physics know that the amount of energy needed to change H2O (water the most plentiful source of hydrogen on the planet) into hydrogen is the same as the amount of energy in the hydrogen. Even if you made a reasonable fuel cell vehicle, the cost of the hydrogen to run it would be completely offset by the energy cost of making the hydrogen in the first place. If you could find a cheap enough fuel to use to convert the water to hydrogen, you might as well use that fuel directly in the vehicle and skip the hydrogen. The closest to that would be electricity. So no wonder Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Honda, GMC, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda etc are incorporating electric motors in their (currently hybrid) vehicles. Plug in electric… we’ll get there.

  • shotgun

    What I would like to see is a PHEV that uses a fuel flexible ICE (either gas or ethanol). Since the plug-in’s battery can cover the daily commute for most people (say 30 to 40 miles), then fuel consumption will be rather infrequent – making ethanol a viable home grown choice – and greatly reducing the carbon footprint for the consumer.
    The reason I think the PHEV is so important – is that it makes electricity generation by renewable resources more economical. Once plug-ins arrive, there will be significant nighttime demand for electricity. This means renewables can get a good price for their juice day or night, increasing ROI. See currently a lot of renewables (excluding solar) may not be able to sell their nighttime electricity, or else do so at a reduced cost – because the power plants can easily cover it, and they don’t want to have to turn down the plants. The game changes when people start bringing big battery banks to the grid.

  • qtalk

    With all the rhetoric and posturing, I would have thought this group could come up with a better way to beat a dead horse. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one last time. To claim that automobiles are the largest source of
    -air pollution
    -greenhouse gases
    -transportation issues
    -ground water contamination
    is not only uninformed, but just plain fictional.
    Let’s start with the obvious….in the first place, a “hydrogen” vehicle (a newer and more feasible one) is really just an electric car with a different energy storage method, so the “Electric vs Hydrogen” debate is moronic. Regardless of what seems to be the general consensus, the two vehicles are NOT mutually exclusive.
    Next let’s address the larger issues…transportation and pollution. First, I haven’t done the research to back it up, but I suspect more jet fuel (private and commercial) is used than all the automobiles on the planet can use.
    How do you plan to fly in “Electric” planes with batteries? Or I guess we should all plan to drive everywhere we want to go. Guess Europe and Hawaii are out of luck from the US. And I guess space exploration is out, too. Hopefully, the more “physics-wise” members will help me with the math regarding the increase of energy needed for an increase in weight. (i.e. cargo trucks and 18-wheelers.) On which the country currently depends for everything from UPS and FedEx to groceries.
    In conclusion, since most current gasoline vehicles could run on hydrogen or Compressed Natural Gas with only minimal conversion, why can’t we concentrate on making the existing cars cleaner rather than making 10 times as many new cars, regardless of how clean they might be. The old cars are the ones that have as many as 30 different kinds of plastic (that will be around for a VERY long time anyway) and multiple kinds of metals and alloys. Not to mention that I would rather convert an old 40’s or 50’s style Chevy.
    I’m sincerely waiting for a drop in AC electric motor (and battery managment system) prices to convert my own vehicle since I only live 6 miles from where I work. Unfortunately, I can’t afford the 10,000-15,000 dollars it would cost me to convert without stretching it out over several years. Granted, I want a ride that has comparable power to what it has now.
    My rant is officially over. Thanks for dealing with it.

  • Shines

    First, I haven’t done the research to back it up, but I suspect more jet fuel (private and commercial) is used than all the automobiles on the planet can use.

    Clearly you haven’t done the research. I don’t know where you live but considering that for every airplane taking off for somewhere with 50 to 300 people on board there are thousands of commuters traveling to or from work. I did a quick check and the ratio is about 5 to 1. For every gallon of jet fuel (mostly kerosene) used about 5 gallons of gasoline or diesel is used to move people in their cars. This ratio does not include trucks and trains hauling all our other stuff about the planet. I agree with you that fuel cell vehicles are mostly just another form of hybrid/electric vehicle and hydrogen is too expensive to be viable. But face it, we Americans use too much fuel for our own good driving around in gas guzzling cars and suvs. Our wastefull ways are also bad for the environment period. If you want to deny the obvious I can’t stop you, but it is blatantly and undeniabley obvious to me.

  • Willey Coyote

    Hydrogen is a no player because at room temperature it is a very low density gas. Fortunately, carbon atoms are sticky to hydrogen, as well as to other carbon atoms. This allows the formations of long chains that store hydrogen in a liquid form at room temperature. For example, when you use 8 carbon atoms to bind up 14 hydrogen atoms you get iso octane: also known as 100 octane gasoline.

    The real solution is to make our own hydrocarbons from waste water (H2O) (hydrogen source) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) (carbon source) from the air. Energy wise, we have to push these atoms “uphill” by adding energy to make the compounds. that energy can come from nuclear, solar, wind, or any other source.

    By using water and air borne raw materials, the cost of making this fuel is not in digging the raw materials out of the ground, but in the technology used to produce it. We would also then have become a part of the natural carbon and water cycles of the planet. We wouldn’t be adding any new CO2 to the atmosphere, and we could also begin to sequester and store CO2 for future use.

    I am not making this stuff up. The Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed the technology to do this it is called Green Freedom. Google Green Freedom and learn about this your self. You might also find where MIT has developed a type of solar panel that turns CO2 and Hydrogen into ethanol than can then be used as a feed stock to make other hydrocarbons.

  • rupert rankin

    Hal, do you ever wonder if all that coffee is good for you?

  • Shines

    The terrorists who attacked on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. They used our oil money to train in the United States how to fly the planes that crashed into the towers and the Pentagon. Supposedly our governments are friends yet it was Saudi Arabians funded by our oil money and Al Qaeda that attacked. So damn Insain had no plans to attack or terrorize the US. But now that Bush invaded Iraq and made new enemies we are at greater risk. The reason we haven’t been attacked again is because US citizens have gotten more cautious. That would have happened regardless who was president. I am sorry, but I sure as heck don’t sleep better at night knowing George Bush thinks he’s running this country. I suspect more oil would be flowing from Iraq and gas would be much much cheaper if we had not invaded. Oh yes, and what did our brilliant president say about $4.00 Gasoline? – “Oh I hadn’t heard about it…” I won’t say what I really think of W in this public forum.

  • Miguel

    The Hydrogen Education Foundation is surprised by the inaccurate elements in the article published in the Wall Street Journal about General Motors and Toyota abandoning their support to develop hydrogen cars on March 5, 2008. At about the same time the Wall Street Journal published their story about General Motors and Toyota, CNN published a story how BP and General Motors believe hydrogen is part of the future: Plus, GM and Shell recently released a white paper which says “We have thought through many complex issues around sustainable transportation and our confidence in the future of hydrogen remains high.” The fact remains that Toyota and General Motors, plus other major autos like Honda and BMW, are continuing with their endeavors to develop hydrogen cars. All are sponsors of the Hydrogen Education Foundation’s new education initiative: H2 and You. The hub of the program is

    Separate from the frequent emphasis on hydrogen cars, the reality is hydrogen can be used to power many applications. The next cell phone call you make could be powered by hydrogen since fuel cell power supplies support cell phone towers. In addition, the next time you shop at Wal-Mart the box of Oreo cookies and the new Blue Ray movie you purchase could be transported with a fuel cell forklift.

    While the transition to hydrogen may appear to be complicated and far into the future, organizations such as Shell, Chevron, and BP are working with the Department of Energy now to establish a hydrogen fueling infrastructure. An initial $10 to $15 billion investment, equivalent to about one month of military spending in Iraq, would establish an initial refueling infrastructure within 2 miles anywhere within the top 100 metro areas and along all US highways. Furthermore, more than 40 billion kg of hydrogen are produced globally each year with production plants located near or within every major metropolitan city in the US – enough to fuel 130 million fuel cell-electric vehicles annually. Since hydrogen is also used to produce gasoline, switching from gas to hydrogen is simpler than it appears.

    The Hydrogen Education Foundation appreciates the complexity of transitioning to using new fuels. We invite everyone to learn about what is fact and fiction about hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

  • LW

    Hydrogen to use in a fuel cell can be made from electricity and water in fairly large quantities, 3000 liters per hour, using a machine costing $55,000. The electricity needed comes from new technology solar panels that will run the refueling station and allow the hydrogen to be stored in tanks. The storage tanks are being developed as they require high pressure, upwards of 10,000 lbs, in order to store hydrogen. The water is distilled rainwater with a backup city utility water supply connection. It takes approximately 2 1/2 gallons of water to produce an equivalent 1 gallon of hydrogen. There are no transportation costs, utility costs, other than the water, or other hidden costs to produce the hydrogen.

    The powers to be want to de-centralize the hydrogen economy and redo the entire infrastructure of the U.S. instead of making each refueling station a stand alone entity. They are feeding you mis-information.

    If anyone doubts this can be done e-mail and I will send documentation and e-mail links for systems that are currently being used. One country in Particular uses this system to refuel three hydrogen powered buses for public transportation.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Hi Miguel,
    Clearly, you’re a shill from the hydrogen industry but that’s ok with me although it would be nice if you introduced yourself as such. Your writeup is standard PR fluff with nothing to really address any of the issues surrounding hydrogen or fuel cells.
    I’m glad to hear that your sponsors have “thought through many complex issues …”. Now, have they solved any of them?
    WHY do they think that hydrogen is worthy of their confidence? Does it guarantee a longer ride for them on their current solution to our transportation needs?
    Sure, cellphone towers COULD be powered by fuel cells but they AREN’T! Why would a cellphone company use a million dollar fuel cell to replace a few thousand dollars worth of lead acid batteries? The weight doesn’t matter to the cellphone company but the leakage of hydrogen from the tank does. Can you actually point to more than maybe one experimental cellphone tower that has a fuel cell? Or have you actually duped some sucker from a cellphone company into actually buying a few (it wouldn’t be the first time cellphone companies have blown big bucks on crazy ideas)?
    How much does your “40 billion kg of hydrogen” cost? How does that compare with the cost of gasoline, natural gas, electricity, diesel, bio-diesel, ethanol, etc to fuel 130 million vehicles. Actually, I doubt your numbers but don’t have time to debunk them.
    Why would Walmart want to replace their $5,000 natural gas or electric forklifts that can be recharged in 20 minutes with a million dollar fuel cell one? Would this have anything to do with $1.5 billion in federal fuel cell research money going out and doing a lot of silly experiments? How many unsubsidized fuel cell powered forklifts has Walmart bought?
    What does the fact that hydrogen is one of the industrial gases wasted in the production of gasoline have to do with switching from gas to hydrogen? Please give me useful information such as: How much hydrogen is used to produce a gallon of gasoline?
    If you had an acre of land covered with solar collectors would you prefer to run 100 Battery Electric vehicles or 25 Fuel Cell vehicles?
    Please, Hydrogen Education Foundation, EDUCATE me, don’t just propagandize me.
    Welcome to this forum. I eagerly await my chance to be educated on the wonders of hydrogen.

  • hopster

    Ultracapacitors could show promise in the near future for electrical storage units. Zenn motor cars is planning on selling a highway speed version of thier vehicles using EEstor’s ultracap starting in the fall of 09.
    See related article Lockheed Martin has their hand in the pie as well which gives it muscle if not credibility. I’ll believe it when I see it. If they come out with a true fast charging electric vehicle with a 300 mile range for around $20k I’ll buy one.

  • Anonymous

    I was thinking again about electrolysis of water to get hydrogen because I REALLY believe in clean hyrogen. Plus slow electric cars don’t do it for me. But then I thought when we can drive an electric car with the electricity it produces and stores, why not use THAT same electricity for the electrolysis of water and drive it on hydrogen…?
    And sure enough, I wasn’t the first one to think of a Hydrogen-Electric Hybrid car:

  • Douglas Atkins

    I’ve been in the alternative energy business for more than 20 years. I’m hoping this eestor technology will stay in the race, but I’m not optomistic. Especially now that a part of the military industrial complex has their hand in it.

  • James Peterson

    Its funny to me how people don’t see the advantage of hydrogen fuel cells. It amazes me how well the auto industry is at keep this technology hush hush. When i think of hybrid i think of “wow great on gas millage” I also think “Wow only nerds drive those cars” They look so ugly. The auto industry and the government want the public to get a negative feeling towards anything other then gas or some type of fuel that they can control. The technology is already here and i have it sitting in my living room. Anyone can buy a hho cell on ebay for 200 bucks. and if you want to get for your car its just 400 dollars. Please people do your research. Alot of people are selling these things. Just keep in mind all the people that invented or persue this technology are either dead or have been locked up. So what does everyone think of that? They want this extremely cool technolgy to be hidden. This way they can get your Money. And thats a fact. Jack

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