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Discussion Starter #1
It seems like for most of my life the promise of cheap, clean transport from Hydrogen fuel cells has been just around the corner. About 30 years ago it was about 10 years away. 20 years ago it was about 10 years away. Today, it seems nothing has changed and if you look at the comments from the industry then it seems that it is still, you guessed it... 10 years away.

Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe and even here on earth it is plentiful as one of the two components in water (the other being oxygen). The problem is that getting it from water takes energy to separated it from the oxygen... and that is the rub. Getting hydrogen from water is an expensive and inefficient process. Not only that, to do it on a commercial scale the process requires the use of significant quantities of fossil fuels (mainly methane or natural gas) and the main by-product is CO2. Not exactly a good replacement for fossil fuel cars then!!!

Wikipedia has a good description here.

A great and proper reasoned argument is to be found here.

That in itself is a significant barrier to commercial development of HFC cars but the real technological challenges seem to be some way off being solved. How to safely store and transport it and how to safely deliver it to cars and to do it in a way that is affordable and commercially viable.

To me solving these issues seem unlikely and to be honest, unnecessary. The electric vehicle is here now. It is safe and it uses existing technology and infrastructure. Why so many are convinced that HFC cars is the future of personal transport I cannot work out when it is clear to me that EVs will be the future.

Perhaps they will solve the challenges with hydrogen... let's see what happens in 10 years time!

:)
 

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You've misunderstood the way it is sourced.

- Either you electrolyse water and to do that on a commercial scale requires large amounts of electricity and water.

- Or you crack methane and to do that requires a lot of heat energy and gives off CO2.

Now, both methods are inefficient when compared to just using a Battery Electric Vehicle and despite what some lobbyists claim, can never catch up due to basic physics.


And by the way, I do not agree that HFCVs are EVs - otherwise by the same definition a diesel train is an EV.

At best they can be plug in hybrids, but then why would you go to all the trouble of making a hydrogen infrastructure and on board storage and fuel cell for what we Ampera drivers know is an edge use case?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Nope... I have not misunderstood at all... that is the key point behind my post.... that with either of the two ways we get hydrogen it is way too inefficient.

As for HFCVs being EVs... if you class the Ampera as an EV then HFCVs must also be too. The FC generates electricity and that drives an electric motor. By any definition for me that makes them electric vehicles. However, the type of EV is not so clear to me. I do agree though that they are very much like a serial plug-in hybrid such as the Vauxhall Ampera or Chevrolet Volt. The propulsion is always electric but the source of the electricity can come from multiple sources... in the case of the Ampera is it either from being plugged in or from petrol (via a generator)... with HFCV it is either from being plugged in (if it has a plug in capability) or it is from hydrogen.

I am gobsmacked that there is still so much R&D going on in FC tech given the massive step forward in battery tech over the past few years.
 

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In which case you need to alter the text

Not only that, to do it on a commercial scale the process requires the use of significant quantities of fossil fuels
as you could operate industrial scale electrolysers and use no fossil fuels (but it still wouldn't be an efficient use of electricity). Or you could use waste heat from nuclear reactors, etc.


And I still don't think that using an electric final drive makes it an EV (just as with a diesel train). I don't class the Ampera as an EV - it's a different class of vehicle.

The Honda FCX clarity has no plug on it. It has a small battery for buffering power for acceleration as the fuel cell can't produce enough peak power. In this respect it is more like a regular hybrid like the Prius.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I see what you are getting at David. fair enough. :) Although I am inclined to consider 100% EVs (Leaf, Zoe), PHEVs (Ampera, Volt, Plug-in Prius), and HFCVs (Clarity) all as electric... just different types as you say.

BTW aren't the most common passenger diesel trains diesel-electric? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_locomotive#Diesel-electric
 

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It could be argued that some parts of the world could generate significant "green" electricity that they don't need but can't easily transport -PV solar in Saudi and geo-thermal in Iceland being two examples. These countries could use this electricity to create hydrogen and then transport it. I had heard that this is one option being considered by Saudi for when the oil runs out as they could convert their oil distribution to hydrogen...
 

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They'd be far better off making methanol. The boil off loses for hydrogen are horrendous. You've all seen the vapour coming off of rockets before launch. If you make methanol using atmospheric CO2 then the net effect is zero emissions and you have a hydrocarbon fuel that is a stable liquid at room temperature.

15 years ago many manufacturers were working on methanol cars using on board reformation before the fuel cell. That seemed fairly sensible. Then G W Bush came along with his hydrogen $1bn carrot.

But the round trip loses for hydrogen are a joke. 40% "round trip" efficiency is the best you can do between electricity - hydrogen - electricity and that is before compression and cooling loses are taking into account.
 

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From Wikepedia it seems that Iceland have already done quite a bit of Hydrogen but note last sentence...

..in 1999 Icelandic New Energy was established to govern the project of transitioning Iceland into the first hydrogen society by 2050. This followed a decision in 1998 by the Icelandic Parliament to convert vehicle and fishing fleets to hydrogen produced from renewable energy.

Iceland provides an ideal location to test the viability of hydrogen as a fuel source for the future, since it is a small country of only 320,000 people, with over 60% living in the capital, Reykjavík. The relatively small scale of the infrastructure will make it easier to transition the country from oil to hydrogen. There is also a plentiful supply of natural energy that can be harnessed to produce hydrogen in a renewable way, making it perfect for hydrogen production. Iceland is a participant in international hydrogen fuel research and development programs, and many countries are following the nation's progress with interest. However, these factors also make Iceland an advantageous market for electric vehicles. Because electric vehicles are four times more efficient, and less expensive than hydrogen vehicles, the country may switch to electric vehicles.
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I think we may see large scale renewable energy storage in the form of hydrogen with bulky building sized fuel cells which are much cheaper than portable compact ones, to recover the stored energy as electricity. It may be cheaper than digging a big hole in a mountain for pumped water storage. I don't think it will ever be cost effective in transportation, at least not enough to make the necessary infrastructure of refuelling points viable, and if at all maybe large vehicles like ships but not private cars.
What I like most about the technology is you only have to store half the fuel, as the oxygen is there for free.
 

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dpeilow said:
They'd be far better off making methanol.
Or ammonia which is easy to manufacture, transport, and store, and has no CO2 emissions when used (though current converted vehicles use a mix with some petrol or diesel).
 
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