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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

bottgersbottgers Member Posts: 2,030
edited October 2014 in General
I think we all know the cons (I can't think of any pros) of gasoline; it's filthy dirty in terms of emissions, it's getting very expensive (especially here lately), and some day what we need to make it will all be gone. But what about alternative power? I think of hybrids as a step in the right direction, but not a large enough step.

First off, I think development of hybrid vehicles is moving along way too slowly. By now, just about every vehicle that's currently available powered solely by an internal combustion engine should also be available as a hybrid. No doubt I'd have a hybrid now (because I hate spending money on gas) if a model that suits my needs were available. Secondly, although hybrids use much less gas than ordinary vehicles, they still use it.

CNG powered vehicles would be a step further than hybrids because their emissions are almost zilch. CNG is very clean burning, but the problem I see this creating would be with the supply of natural gas. There have already been times when the industry has blamed low supplies for price spikes. Sound familiar? Now that most people heat their homes with natural gas, if everyone started powering their vehicles with CNG, the energy burning consumer would once again be at the mercy of the greedy energy providers.

It seems to me hydrogen power would be the best of all for the obvious reasons, although if they became the norm, I'm sure consumers would charged for water accordingly. The one thing that puzzles me the most is why it's taking the auto makers so long to develop alternative powered vehicles. I've heard a couple different theories on this. One centers around the idea that big oil companies are doing everything they can to slow down development of APV's because they realize if these vehicles are produced and sold in large numbers, this would end their strong hold on the world market. This is similar to the theory that cancer researchers don't want to find a cure for cancer because the massive amounts of money now flowing their way would stop. Another theory is that auto makers just aren't devoting enough R&D into APV's because of the expense. I haven't been able to varify any of these claims, so as far as I know, they're just theories. Whatever the reason, something or someone needs to light a fire under the butts of the auto makers to get them to expedite development before these never ending increases in gas prices completely destroy the world's economy.


  • bottgersbottgers Member Posts: 2,030
    Don't you just love it when you post a topic and everybody ignores it?
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H EdmundsAdministrator Posts: 11,114
    bottgers, a lot of the members who enjoy discussing the technical aspects of these new vehicles hang out in some of the other hybrid discussions. They may not have noticed this discussion, so you may have to mention it to them. I know we have some really knowledgeable members discussing the operation of these systems in the Accord vs Camry hybrid discussion on this board.

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  • midnightcowboymidnightcowboy Member Posts: 1,978
    1. Whatdoes gas has? It already has in palce a masive distribution system from refineries down to individual gas stations. There are some CNG stations , but they are not umbiqutious like gas stations. Hydrogen will be another issue altogether becuase of safety precautions during consumner fill-up, transport and transferrence.

    2. Hydrogen is good an clean but currently it is very expensive to produce. Maybe there could be mega-size nuclear refineries to produce hydrogen.

    Current focus of Hybrid was on economy only, Newer generations are becoming performance aware.

    CNG has always been equivalent performance but the $2,000 conversion cost put most people off, especially individuals. The government never embraced or pushed CNG.

    Hydrogen is a possibility and if it targets economy vehicles first it will fail. However safety and production cost issues need to be be resolved up front.


  • bottgersbottgers Member Posts: 2,030
    Hydrogen is very expensive to produce? Isn't hydrogen just water? What's the expense?

    I wouldn't mind paying the $2K for a CNG conversion as its benefits over gasoline are almost endless......except for, of course, its availability for automotive use.
  • daysailerdaysailer Member Posts: 720
    It has a strong afinity for water's other element, oxygen, and requires the expenditure of more energy to separate than it will supply as a fuel. Consequently, hydrogen is an energy transport mechanism rather than a source of energy. Although the same can be said of fossil fuels as a means to store and transport solar energy, the times frames to be considered are obviously very different.

    The "hydrogen economy" would only provide a different way to consume fossil fuel, not replace it.
  • midnightcowboymidnightcowboy Member Posts: 1,978
    The expense is separating it from the oxygen H2O. The reason water washs clothes and is a solvent is because the bond s between the oxygen and hydrogen modules are so strong. Then once hydrogen is produced the cost is how you contain it. Hydrogon modules are so small that containing the gas is somewhat dififcult due to minute leaks . It can be cooled in to liquified hydrogen , but then there is the cooling cost.

    Hoewever, there may be hope. Existing chemical plants that produce Chlorine also produce Hydrogen as a byproduct. However, today is is usually just burned off. However, in the future it might be a fule celle Hydrogen source :)
  • taylor47taylor47 Member Posts: 23
    After a couple of years of listening to people praise the hydrogen fuel cell as the saviour of the planet, I would like someone to answer these questions.
    If only pure water is the discharge from the tail pipes of fuel cell vehicles, what does one do in the winter? Do we park these vehicles or do we keep them in heated garages. Will the water turn the roads into skating rinks in Minnesota and here in Canada? Will the major cities that now have smog problems have ice fog problems from all the vapour coming out of thousands of fuel cells?
    Someone explain this side of the equation.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Until recently, nobody had demonstrated how fuel cell technology is affected by cold weather (sub-freezing). Honda recently demonstrated that with its FCX (links to articles below). It doesn't cover anything about the state of water vapor out of the exhaust, but it makes for a good study.

    Article from Canadian Driver
    News Item from Honda World News
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    You are being heard. Most people don't have a lot to say about fuel cells and don't want to make up stuff. Here is some interesting information on fuel cell developement. I think the $160k for a fuel cell vehicle would dissuade even the most ardent environmenalist.

    The current cost of fuel cells used in the automotive industry is quite comparable to that of fuel cells used in stationary applications. The present cost of an 80 kilowatt fuel cell, which is the size necessary to compete with a standard gasoline engine, is about $160,000. [40] With the cost of the average 80 kW gasoline engine at $3,500, this $2,000 per kW price tag of an automotive fuel cell is quite high. [41]
  • taylor47taylor47 Member Posts: 23
    I'm glad to read your contribution to this topic and must admit that I had no idea that the costs were so high.
    With the technical problems yet to be sorted out, no infrastructure in the works, and the exorbitant additional cost to buy a hydrogen vehicle, I can't see it ever coming to pass.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAMember Posts: 4,098
    "With the technical problems yet to be sorted out, no infrastructure in the works, and the exorbitant additional cost to buy a hydrogen vehicle, I can't see it ever coming to pass."

    I think they will eventually get it sorted out. Production costs will go down once the technology is stable and production lots can increase. It will be a while before it hits "critical mass", but it will come.

    Unless, of course, some other technology appears that is better and easier...
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "real alternative to oil power is brought to production - most likely a hydrogen fuel cell car."

    Hydrogen is not an energy source. It's an energy carrier (like a battery). You still need another energy source like solar or nuclear to make the H2.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    “Source of Energy” is a misnomer since energy isn’t created but transformed. Even with gasoline and diesel, you have to extract the oil through the various phases. Hydrogen is, in fact, similar to gasoline or diesel and combined with fuel cells helps generate electricity. This electricity can be stored in batteries/ultracapacitors or used to drive the vehicle directly.

    In case of Honda FCX, the electrical energy is used to drive the 80 HP electric motor. In addition, FCX also uses ultra capacitor pack (recharged using regenerative braking) to provide assist charge to propel the vehicle.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    I think you misunderstood (or I didn't explain adequately):
    OIL = exists naturally
    COAL = exists naturally
    WOOD = exists naturally
    HYDROGEN = does NOT exist naturally

    The oil/coal/wood is easy to obtain (dig it out of the ground & burn it), but the hydrogen is not easy to get, because you have to MAKE it.


    Prediction: Now you'll tell me I'm wrong. Okay fair enough. :-) Answer this question: "Hydrogen doesn't grow on trees. Where do we get the hydrogen from?"

    The answer is:
    "Use other energy forms like oil/coal/solar/nuclear to make it." Making hydrogen is equivalent to charging a battery. It acts as an energy carrier, not a source.

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Hydrogen isn't being created, it is being extracted. Gasoline and diesel don't exist as you pump them in your vehicle either, crude oil needs to be processed!
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "Hydrogen isn't being created, it is being extracted."

    Extracted from what? Using what energy source?


    NOTE TO MODS: Hydrogen fuel cells are hybrids.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Perhaps coal, or hydro or nuclear or wind. I don't know, but my original point was that hydrogen is no different from gasoline or diesel or CNG as a source of energy to drive vehicles.

    Remember again, energy is transformed, not created. This is true, regardless of the kind of fuel we're using.
  • railroadjamesrailroadjames Member Posts: 560
    As we progress in the development of the hybrid can we all agree that we're in the infant stage of the various hybrids? Aside from that, what about solar panels mounted on the roof of the hybrid? Could solar panels increase battery power enough to make an adequate & significant addition of power by tapping the SUN or would the weight be a deterant? One other thought. What about special lubricants or sythetics? Is there room for advancement there? I tend to have nothing but praise for my PRIUS. I do see a big range of MPG's (38-48) for no apparent reason other than tempertures.
    Culliganman (back to our future)
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "Perhaps coal, or hydro or nuclear or wind. I don't know, but my original point was that hydrogen is no different from gasoline or diesel - ROBERTMSX"


    Which is what I originally said: "Hydrogen is not an energy source. It's an energy carrier (like a battery). You still need another energy source like solar or nuclear to make the H2."

    And you say there's no difference, but there is. It's the math:
    oil 100watt - 1000 watt
    H2 100watt - 10 watt

    The hydrogen fuel cell hybrid is a lossy system. You spend 100 watts to make it, and only get 10 watts back. The hydrogen Hybrid makes no sense.

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    I've thought about it, as well as using a small turbine to generate small amounts of electricity.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    If you go by the rules, there is no source of energy! If you say hydrogen is only a carrier of energy, you shouldn't disagree that gasoline or diesel are too! That's my point of contention to yours.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    You missed my point. Let me repeat it:

    H2 Production Cost = 100 watt
    H2 Yield-In-Car = 10 watt

    The hydrogen fuel cell hybrid is a lossy system. You spend 100 watts to make it, and only get 10 watts back. The hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid makes no sense.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    extracting hydrogen from water is extremely expensive. This is why it's not done, commercially. Hydrogen is made from natural gas. It's a fossil fuel, with all that that entails. If hydrogen were to be electrolyzed from water, let's look at how it would compare to gasoline:

    Gasoline - $2.09 / Gallon
    Diesel - $1.49 / GGE (Gasoline Gallon Equivalent)
    Biodiesel - $ 2.50 / GGE
    Ethanol - $3.00 / GGE
    Hydrogen (nuclear) $4.00 / GGE
    Hydrogen (wind) $6.00 / GGE
    Hydrogen (pv) $10 / GGE
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    Interesting. Somebody's pretending to be me (message#26). Wonder how that was done?


    Thanks for the details on cost, but my main concern is energy. To me it makes no sense to spend 100 watts to make H2, when you only get 10 watts back in the car.

    And for changing natural gas--->hydrogen, that makes no sense either. If you're going to use natural gas, just buy a natural-gas car, and burn it directly! (Like the Civic GX.)

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    No doubt that there needs to be a lot accomplished before (and if) hydrogen can become a viable alternative to conventional fuel. It is a work in progress, and although Honda has had FCX CARB/EPA certified for commercial use and has leased a few of those to several agencies, the technology is not ready for general population, yet. Here is a news item that relates to the same:


    HES II is the further evolution of a joint development effort by Honda and Plug Power to produce a home refueling unit that provides hydrogen from natural gas for vehicle refueling, heat for domestic hot water use and electricity for the home.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    Someone sent this email to me. He describes the "flaw" with hydrogen perfectly:

    "If you go by the rules, there is no source of energy! If you say hydrogen is only a carrier of energy, you shouldn't disagree that gasoline or diesel are too! That's my point of contention to yours." -robertsmx

    The above statement is true. Oil/gasoline/cng are all nothing but storage vessels, batteries if you will, for energy. The only source of energy currently known and available to this planet is the sun, and the fuels we use most today - oil/coal/etc are simply leftover solar energy. These solar reserves have been unused and accumulating for millions of years. Because we have this 'savings account' of energy stored underground, we have been able to spend more energy per day than is being provided to us by the sun.

    The problem with Hydrogen is that Water is not a source of hydrogen. Water is the result of spent hydrogen and to "recharge" that hydrogen means we need to pull energy from somewhere else (coal/oil/nuclear).

    So you see, hydrogen doesn't "fix" anything. We still need the fossil fuels to produce it.


    The answer to our eventual energy problems is two-fold, one we must eventually use no more energy in day than the sun can provide us, and two, we must utilize that energy as close to the source as possible. The fewer changes we put it through the more efficient it will be. This means wind and hydro for electricity and vegetable oils for high mobility energy needs.

    Robert Harder
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Good point about limiting transformation of energy. However, I'm not too sure about vegetable oils... they too must use another source that carries energy. Again, they are simply a carrier. And you've got to grow and harvest the plants too! In the process, we may start to think about more fertilizer et al, and it again becomes a cyclic process.

    Hydrogen may not be the ultimate solution, but in the foreseeable future, it has a potential to be a fuel. How we get it is another issue being researched at this time.

    What do you think about the HESII?
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "I'm not too sure about vegetable oils... they too must use another source that carries energy."

    Vegetables are bio-solar cells. They absorb solar energy, we mash them into oil, and then we burn it.


    Also... no offense intended, but I don't think you understood the last message's main points:

    - We've been burning a "savings account" of several million years of stored solar (coal, oil, cng).

    - But if we convert water-to-hydrogen, we still need to tap into another source of energy to make that conversion.

    - So the question remains, "What energy do we use to convert water-to-hydrogen?"

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    You would need to grow the vegetables too! And to do so would require some form of energy, wouldn’t it? And as demand increases, land availability reduces (or not) the fertile soil that we acquired from nature would need help too! Already does. Nothing is free!

    We have not discussed the HESII yet. Apparently, it takes in CNG, and utilizes the “energy” carried within to deliver electricity (a generator for home), provide hot water for the home and with it supposedly is an integrated process that extracts hydrogen as well! If technology can lead us into this direction, don’t you think some of the issue is already being looked into?
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "You would need to grow the vegetables too! And to do so would require some form of energy, wouldn’t it? "

    Errr... no? You just dump seeds on the ground, and plants sprout. I suppose you need to burn some of the veggie oil to run your tractor, but since the sun shines on your plants all summer, you're absorbing LOTS more energy than you use.

    Net result = You have excess energy.

    And you're right. Land would become scarce. That's why we'll need to learn to conserve & drive >100 mpg cars for sustainability.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "We have not discussed the HESII yet. Apparently, it takes in CNG, and utilizes the “energy” carried within to deliver electricity"


    Why waste time converting the CNG to H2, and then dumping it into a fuel cell? Why not just use the CNG directly for electricity creation/heating?
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    With HESII, the concept seems to be designing a system that serves not one purpose, but three… hot water and electricity for home, as well as hydrogen for your fuel cell vehicle. Not a bad idea, or is it?

    And we have been dumping seeds into fertile land (or have created our own) for eons. That’s nothing new. If we were to depend on vegetation for energy supply as well, we will need a lot more of it, and take a guess about everything that will need to be involved with it, in addition to fertilizers (and those chemical industries will also need some energy source).

    I'm not against conservation. Besides, that would make for a separate thread.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "Not a bad idea, or is it?"

    Yes I think so. I'm perfectly satisfied to keep my house running on electricity & my car on liquid fuel.


    Besides I've pointed out before... converting Water to H2, and then back to Water, is NOT an efficient process. You spend 100 watts and get back 10 watts. I refuse to endorse it.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    It isn't about endorsing anything. For that matter, you would have to know what we're talking about! HESII or any development in that direction looks promising to me. If it happens, I don't see why not!

    My home uses CNG to go with electricity after all! And if there comes a system that can deliver energy in its various forms at the same time (gas for heating needs as well as electricity for its intended purpose and delivering liquid fuel aka hydrogen as a bye-product) I don't see why I would have issues with it. Not there yet, but looks promising if it does.
  • SylviaSylvia Member Posts: 1,636
    Road to hydrogen cars may not be so clean, Environmental peril in making, containing fuel


    "Auto-industry ads depict hydrogen cars as the vehicular route to clean, blue skies.


    President Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are among their biggest champions.


    The politicians' enthusiasm for the technology -- a leading proposal to solve global warming -- is shared by many scientists. "...More>>
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    Bad idea.


    (1) Instead of relying on oil, we'll be relying on CNG. That means... we're still dependent on foreign nations... and still have to fear running out.


    (2) Or if you extract Hydrogen straight from water, then you waste 10 kilowatts for every 1 kilowatt of H2 produced. It's a horribly inefficient idea.


  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Ideas should never be considered bad. They lead to inventions and discoveries.
  • daysailerdaysailer Member Posts: 720
    Lacking promise of real energy savings or economic viability with any technology currently envisaged.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Thats where R&D comes in. Think inventions and discoveries, not "knowledge". I love this quote by Einstein:


    "Imagination is more important than knowledge"


    Without imagination, we would be...?
  • daysailerdaysailer Member Posts: 720
    and may spur invention. But it is not a basis for plans.


    I am reminded of the old project management joke where the last activity in a schedule is "A miracle occurs".
  • SylviaSylvia Member Posts: 1,636
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    Planning requires knowledge. But knowledge must not be limited to what you know now. There comes the effort to learn and invent, or discover. You cannot plan inventions. The future of automobiles when it comes to hydrogen power sits in the realm of uncertainties. But, can scientists and engineers overcome those obstacles with new technologies? We shall see. Too early to draw conclusions based on what we know now.
  • refieldsrefields Member Posts: 18
    >So you see, hydrogen doesn't "fix" anything. We still need the fossil fuels to produce it.


    Not exactly. And hydrogen does fix a lot of things.


    The points about chemical fuels being energy carriers are exactly correct. That's all they are. The question is how do you get them.


    You can make hydrogen from all sorts of sources - wind, solar, hydro, even nuclear. The common point is that you have to put energy into the system to liberate elemental hydrogen - generally from water.


    You can also "reform" hydrogen from fossil fuels directly. There are chemical processes that remove hydrogen from natural gas, oil, coal, etc and liberate the CO2 in the process. This is a lot more efficient than burning the fuels to make electricity to then make hydrogen by electrolysis. But you can make hydrogen by all sorts of methods.


    As to what you do with whatever energy carrier (fuel) to then make a car go, burning is about the least efficient. Only about 15% of the energy in gasoline makes it to the wheels to make a car move. The rest is thrown away as heat. However, depending on a number of factors, you can put almost 50% of the energy in hydrogen to the wheels in a fuel cell vehicle with an electric motor.


    So the question about bypassing hydrogen and sticking with fossil fuels or burning things like vegetable oils is a very complex one. There are efficiencies everywhere that must be considered before you can make blanket statements on which is the more efficient use of energy.


    And the fact of the matter is that hydrogen fuel cells are very efficient compared to the internal combustion engine. There are problems, however, with hydrogen storage, fuel cell durability, and fuel cell cost.


    So anyone who wants to try to discount a technology with a paragraph or two is oversimplifying the problem.
  • electrictroyelectrictroy Member Posts: 564
    "Ideas should never be considered bad. They lead to inventions and discoveries."




    Really? How about this idea? "Evolution proves that Aryans are superior to Jews (circa 1930 Germany)" or "Examination of facial features proves slaves are inferior (circa 1800s America)." THOSE ARE BAD IDEAS.


    So too is hydrogen.


    You say H2 is not an energy source, but still serves as energy storage (like a liquid battery or oil). Fine. I agree with that 100%. BUT we shouldn't just stop there. We should also examine the *energy efficiency* and compare it to other storage methods:




    Collecting billions of gallons of water, breaking the water apart, compressing the hydrogen into tanks, transporting it around the country, and then reconstituting the water inside your car..... you have multiple conversions & multiple energy losses.


    There are far simpler ways (and therefore fewer conversion losses) to store energy - for example solar roof--->car battery. Or nuclear--->car battery.




    solar->car battery -or- nuclear->car battery are both FAR simpler/energy efficient methods than the complicated solar-->water-->H2-->transport-->car. Those extra three steps are un-necessary and energy inefficient.


  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    I don’t think it would be good idea to debate on the subject you mention in this thread (or Edmunds’ in general unless I missed it), but who is to say that ideas are always good? Synonymous to not having any idea is to be clueless. And that’s not good (and I would like to keep this discussion going in a constructive direction).


    Any form of fuel is energy storage medium. That is a fact. There is no creation involved with energy, only transformation. Going to the topic of energy efficiency, we need to have an IDEA of everything that surrounds trapping, storing and transforming the energy for the intended purpose. Do we? I don’t think so.


    But, nobody here is saying technology to harness hydrogen as an energy source has matured and we’re simply waiting for the day to arrive. It is a work in progress, and will continue to be, potentially until some discovery is made, or somehow tied to an overlooked way of processing it. This won’t happen without effort. There is no free lunch to be served.


    Hydro, solar and wind power are something that interest me a lot, but don’t limit my expectation to see development of technology around hydrogen power.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    Buy your Fuel Cell Nissan Frontier in 2005:

  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H EdmundsAdministrator Posts: 11,114
    Let's DO keep this discussion constructive. Stay focused on automotive technology and not veer off into off-topic debate.



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  • yerth10yerth10 Member Posts: 431
    Lets compare the Hydrogen vehicle with a Hybrid vehicle at the moment.


    Hybrid Vehicle

    A hybrid vehicle costs between US$ 20,000 - 25,000, travels nearly 500 miles on a tank of fuel and the fuel which costs $ 1.8 / gallon is available all over the World.


    It took nearly 7 years to reach sales volume of 350,000 units in the World.


    Hydrogen Vehicle

    It costs more than US $ 250,000, travels 200 miles on a tank and the fuel which costs $ 5 + / gallon equivalent is available only in very few places.


    So how many years will it take for this vehicle to reach sales volume of 350,000.


    For the time being, a hydrogen powered vehicle is only for research and not for commercial use. No one can afford such an expensive vehicle.


    As for cheaper production of Hydrogen, nuclear power is a better candidate as the High Temperature Reactor under research can generate hydrogen at 60 % efficiency by combining

    heat & electricity.
This discussion has been closed.