Are Hydrogen Cars Still Happening?

Potentially coming to a service station near you.

In every comment section, there’s always one. No matter the electric vehicle, no matter how far the technology has come, there’s always one.

“Only 500 miles of range? Electric cars are useless! Me, and everyone I know, drives 502 miles every day at a minimum! Having to spend more than 3 minutes to recharge is completely offensive to my entire way of life. Simply not practical, and never will be.”

Yes, it’s true, electric cars do have limited range and can take a little longer to recharge than a petrol or diesel powered vehicle. Improvements continue at a rapid pace, but it’s not enough for some.

To these diehards, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may have some attractive benefits. By passing hydrogen gas through a proton-exchange membrane, electricity can be generated cleanly with only water as a byproduct. The technology holds a lot of promise for powering vehicles, but thus far hasn’t quite entered our daily lives yet. So what is the deal with hydrogen as a transport fuel, and when can we expect to see them in numbers on the ground?

Finally, A Clean Fuel?

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, as far as we currently understand it, and is present in great quantities in our oceans too. Readily available through the electrolysis of water and other chemical methods, it has yet to be used as a mainstream fuel. Hydrogen has many benefits, but also a few key drawbacks, and these all impact its potential use in vehicles.


Hydrogen can be produced relatively cleanly, if renewable energy is used.

Hydrogen is easy to find – every water molecule has two hydrogen atoms just sitting there, ripe for the taking. The simplest way to obtain it in pure form is through electrolysis, which can be a relatively clean process when powered by renewable sources of electricity. In many processes, it can also be used as a fuel while creating minimal pollution. When used to generate electricity in a fuel cell, the only byproduct is pure water. As the clock ticks down in the race to prevent irreversible climate crisis, these attributes make hydrogen a highly attractive choice for future energy needs.

As far as vehicles are concerned, being a liquid fuel, hydrogen has a big leg up on battery technologies. Refilling a tank can be achieved in a handful of minutes, something not yet possible with even the fastest charging electric vehicles. This promises to ease long trips and remove the spectre of range anxiety.


Storage of hydrogen for transport use requires placing it under immense pressure in specially designed tanks. The official engineering term is that it’s “a bit of a pain”.

Hydrogen is highly flammable, something that humanity usually prizes in its liquid fuels. However, combined with the difficulty of containing the tiny atoms, this flammability is an outsized risk when handling hydrogen. Additionally, to store hydrogen in a compact and practical way for transport and energy use requires placing it under immense pressure, further compounding the problem.

Thus far, hydrogen also faces the classic chicken-and-egg problem of infrastructure. There are few hydrogen vehicles on the road, so there is little incentive to invest in a network of hydrogen refuelling stations. Conversely, as there are few refuelling stations, there is little demand for hydrogen vehicles.

The problems extend to distribution, as well. Unlike electricity, which can be sent down simple wires, hydrogen has to be delivered through tankers or pipelines. For trucks, safe storage is a problem once more, along with the fact that carting hydrogen around necessarily takes energy. Pipelines pose further problems, as hydrogen tends to cause embrittlement in metals and requires special management to deliver safely. We’ve covered the topic before, discussing the potential for domestic use of hydrogen in the UK.

 The Current State of Play

The Toyota Mirai.
The Hyundai Nexo.

There’s a long list of hangups holding hydrogen back from the mainstream. On top of this, the automotive industry has invested heavily in battery electric technologies. As the range of battery electric vehicles increases, and recharge times drop, the main competitive advantage of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is being eroded, all before they hit the marketplace in real numbers.

Despite this, there are hydrogen vehicles on the market today. Hyundai are currently selling their new Nexo fuel cell vehicle in Europe, with limited numbers reaching Australia and California. Toyota have been selling the Mirai in markets with suitable infrastructure since 2014, and Honda’s FCX Clarity has also been available on a series of limited lease programs since 2008. Automakers have thus far kept a tight leash on these vehicles, as it remains impractical to sell them in areas without hydrogen refuelling stations. Unlike electric vehicles, installing a refuelling station at a customer’s home isn’t really an option either, further limiting the rollout.

Prices of fuel cell vehicles are exceptionally high, too – with a Nexo SUV retailing around $60,000 USD. This is largely due to the high cost of the fuel cell technology, which relies heavily on platinum and doesn’t yet enjoy the benefits of economies of scale. While stunts like making a cup of tea with fuel cell exhaust are amusing, it seems that consumer demand remains too low to push wider acceptance.

Potential For The Future

If fuel cells ever become common in off-road vehicles, expect some truly compelling survivalist tales.

With EV recharging stations beginning to spread like wildfire, and ranges increasing with each new model, it may seem that battery EVs have an unassailable lead. With that said, there are still many edge cases where humble hydrogen may yet find its place in the market.

Battery EVs are great for urban commuters who travel only short distances each day. At the same time, for those stuck street parking on a regular basis, accessing charging infrastructure can be incredibly frustrating. Those with parking at their apartments may struggle to lobby for charger installation, too. For these people, the idea of a simple weekly fill up is far more palatable than spending an hour a week sitting at the service station.

Another area which may be well served by hydrogen is in larger vehicles. Buses and trucks often travel long distances in a single day. Drivers and operators don’t always have the time to take a vehicle out of commission to charge for hours, either. In these applications, hydrogen may serve as an easy way to reduce emissions. Additionally, many of these vehicles are operated out of depots serving many vehicles, which are already set up for refuelling. Installing hydrogen infrastructure on site would be relatively simple for a single refuelling point such as this.

There’s also the potential for fuel cells to act as a range-extender for battery electric vehicles. Whether as an add-on module, or an option at order time, it would be simple to integrate fuel cells into an electric vehicle to enable it to undertake longer trips without having to charge for excessively long periods.

While hydrogen doesn’t look like it will knock battery EVs out of the market any time soon, it may yet find its place in the market. Whether in heavy haulage, or as an alternative to batteries, it’s likely to be around for a while yet. Only time will tell!

318 thoughts on “Are Hydrogen Cars Still Happening?

    1. The ability to store large amounts of energy for very long periods of time, and carry it around in (relatively) light containers, is more valuable than the loss in efficiency.

      Hydrogen generation becomes necessary when the grid has enough renewable power to matter, because all the generators have a poor power coefficient. The difference between the peak and average output of technologies such as wind and solar power range in the 4:1 to 10:1 which means there’s a lot of excess peak production happening to meet the average demand – that in turn demands such ridiculous amounts of batteries that the only economically and technically viable way to store that energy for use is via hydrogen.

      And once you have hydrogen, you don’t need to stop there. For an additional cost of about 5% of your fuel energy, you can also extract CO2 out of the atmosphere and produce synthetic methane, which is far more easily and safely stored than hydrogen. It’s also compatible with fuel cells (SOFC), and you can pipe it to homes for cooking and heating. The gas grid in the EU for example already stores more than 200 Terawatt-hours worth of natural gas, making it the world’s biggest “battery”.

      The only reason for the hoopla about hydrogen cars is that governments have effectively outlawed, or are currently outlawing vehicles which produce CO2 at the tailpipe, regardless of the source of carbon. Developing a fuel cell car that runs on methane is a dead end, because it’s limited by how much CO2 per km you’re allowed to emit, which limits the size and power of the car. By 2021 the EU regulations and the CAFE standards already put the limits so low that if the carmakers were honestly producing cars to the standards, they’d literally be mopeds with a fiberglass and tube body built around them.

        1. Never under-estimate the obtuseness of bureaucrats.

          If the vehicle can be fueled by fossil fuels – methane from the gas grid – it is regulated as if it was running on fossil fuels regardless. In fact, one of the points is that you CAN fuel up with fossil fuels, so you don’t have to invent a whole new infrastructure – just replace the old one piece by piece.

          The more fundamental problem is that the regulations are disregarding physics entirely, which comes from the fact that the people who draft these regulations are deliberately running anti-car policies. They WANT to make cars useless, because they have the idea that people should be using public transportation instead.

          The rationale is that private vehicle ownership is going to use more energy and require more roads and parking than a well managed and planned public transit system – so driving should be outlawed one way or the other – but the real point is that by outlawing private vehicles, you get tremendous social control and power over the economy because all the business and transportation of goods and people now depends on the state – so the bureaucrats and administrators will never be out of business and everybody has to crony up to them to get anything done.

          1. “private vehicle ownership is going to use more energy and require more roads and parking than a well managed and planned public transit system ”
            that is not true, both in terms of time required to go from A to B, and in terms of cost.
            public transport is horrendously expensive, only, someone other than the passenger is bearing the real costs.
            moreover, i have never seen anything “public”, which is, run by the state, being well managed and planned.

          2. Despite how old or educated one is, we have a propensity to look at the near-term shiny object. Humans are notoriously immediately gratifying. The point of how expensive public transit really is, would be one example. Vehicles being carbon free is another. While I find governments saying banning ICE vehicles by 2030s, they never follow that with the infrastructure needed such as power lines, power production, local transformers etc. It’s very interesting and condescending to hear politicos/bureaucrats say gas too expensive? buy an EV. Where do people renting charge? Where do people that can’t afford a 55k dollar EV buy one? The level of hubris is often astounding.

      1. @Luke, Excellent point, and something that is often lost in the discussion:
        “The ability to store large amounts of energy for very long periods of time, and carry it around in (relatively) light containers, is more valuable than the loss in efficiency. ”

        And it is true that methane is easier to handle than hydrogen. I am very suspicious of “biogas” solutions that promise to offset the carbon they generate; perhaps they aren’t making things worse, but they are losing the opportunity to make things better. Another commonly used compound is ammonia — NH3 — which has a higher density of hydrogen atoms than does liquid hydrogen itself. And ammonia contains no carbon.

        If we are going to add an extra transformation step to enable a hydrogen economy, ammonia seems like a safer bet than methane.

        Thanks for your well-said points.


        1. Tom thank you for mentioning ammonia. Per storage and transportation of H2, no need to recreate the wheel…ammonia has long history of safeness in these areas and has higher portion of H2 than water. Per the chicken & egg in the article, if the FCEV OEM’s were actually committed to sustainability and CO2 reduction their would be H2 stations all over the place. But they are not, despite the fact that their cars will not operate on dirty/fossil /CO2/H2 they are not committed to Clean H2 and instead provide capital support to Shell and other producers of said dirty/fossil/CO2/H2. This is why in the US only California has FCEV’s and stations.There H2 grant program is corrupt, diverting taxpayer funded grants intended to reduce the states dependence on CO2, directly to Shell to pay 50% of their dirty/H2 station cost…guess who pays the other 50%…the FCEV’s! So instead of reducing the state’s dependence on CO2, they are INCREASING IT, yet nothing is being done about it. This could not happen anywhere else in the US, thus no Clean H2 grant program anywhere else. I personally structured the funding for H2 highways in the US and EU(pre-Brexit), done deal.But the so-called H2 community was trying to use dirty H2 and pay for pipelines to carry said dirty/H2 when there are petrol stations everywhere and all that needed to be done was add H2 dispensers just as their are gasoline and diesel…done. The FCEV industry suffers because the H2 industry is corrupt from within. All H2 is not green/clean and everything labeled a Hydrogen is not focused on sustainability and CO2 reduction…unfortunately for the consumer and world.

          1. Ammonia and methane are pretty much on par in hydrogen density (NH4 vs CH4), except ammonia is more noxious.

            The reason to go for hydroCARBONs instead of ammonia is that you can more easily chain up more CH into the chain and produce methane, butane, propane… or octane if you wish to produce ordinary gasoline. It’s a more useful route of synthesis because ultimately you end up with plastics, or even fatty acids (synthesized food).

            If there’s anywhere you want to put your excess (renewable) power, it’s H2 and carbon capture to produce synthetic chemicals. That means there will be an abundance of stored hydrogen, methane, and the other stuff stockpiled for later use – and this stockpile is actually huge because the energy and chemical feedstocks demand outside of transportation is much greater than the amount of fuel required for cars. It might even be that fuel for FCEVs becomes incredibly cheap because it’s basically a side stream over a surplus.

          2. Then again, ammonia (Haber process) has some things going for it. It’s already well established, pretty good efficiency, and high demand. Most of the hydrogen in the world is made for producing ammonia, to turn of 1% of our global energy demand into nitrogen fertilizers (ammonium nitrate) that feed 80% of humanity.

      2. There are plenty of other (cheap) ways for long term energy storage. Water reservoirs being a very viable one that is fast to implement, much faster than building larger batteries.

        1. Water reseviors aren’t that easy in many places in the world. In the US they are being rapidly decomissioned (, in the UK we are out of space, in China they are very controversial ( I believe Norway still has capacity, but the ecological damage is still serious. Mostly hydro and/or pumped storage is not seen as being scalable enough to help out in long term energy storage.

      1. What, exactly, makes it so efficient?

        I would want to see independent testing by a reputable laboratory. This smells of perpetual motion machine: use engine power to make fuel to make engine power, which would only help mileage if much greater than 100% overall efficiency was achieved.

        And the usual question: if this worked, why would the auto manufacturers pass on the chance to sell cars with 50% to 60% better mileage (or same MPG and 50% more power) than the competition?

        1. They are in bed with the oil companies is why and the oil companies even as the H2 community is bribing them to be the source of dirty H2 and lying to the public that all H2 is green, even though 99.9% of H2 comes from oil production….it doesn’t make the money that gasoline does. So the FCEV OEM’s are giving oil money for dirty H2 that has to be cleansed to 99.9% purity because their cars won’t run on dirty H2.

          1. The unique hydrogen generator developed and manufactured by H2O auto power limited in Cambridge Ontario Canada generates fresh clean hydrogen from water. Try it on your vehicle and then give us your feedback.

    2. Nice to see at least some people realize that even green hydrogen is not optimum. I agree with the assessment that it should only be used as lass resort. Batteries are more efficient.

      Right now, hybrid cars apparently are more carbon neutral that electric as long as fossil fuel power plants need to stay open to recharge cars. Going to hybrids is the best solution right now. What has to be worked hardest is going to no carbon footprint electric power. All these other things do little good until they are being there is a carbon free source of electric power for recharging and generating hydrogen. And that includes CO2 recovery. That takes lots of power and I suspect it always will since perpetual motion machines of impossible and keeping a coal power plant open to produce power adequate power so you can run that CO2 recovery plant is a fools errand.

  1. I’m curious about the total embodied energy of a hydrogen car versus an EV. It’s well documented that creating batteries is a pretty dirty technology, going all the way back to the mining of the raw materials. Do the holding tanks and such end up being as dirty?

    1. Likely not, I mean it depends on what the tanks are made of and whether we’re impregnating exotic metals with hydrogen atoms to make storage safer. Realistically the tanks would have to be pretty awful to be worse than the 8kg of lithium in a 100kWh battery.

      For battery cars it’s the initial production that’s bad for the environment, after that point you can use a green electricity provider and charge at home. For hydrogen cars it’s the opposite since iirc the most cost-effective way to generate hydrogen right now is to burn fossil fuels so the initial production is green-ish but everything after that point is awful and completely out of your hands.

    2. The ESOEI (energy stored per energy invested) of lithium batteries is approximately 10:1 assuming the battery is used to its full storage potential.

      Using it to full potential means exhausting all the recharge cycles before the battery degrades out of old age.

    1. You are 100% correct, water vapor is a greenhouse gas.
      Let’s build hundreds of nuclear power plants to feed the electric cars
      that everyone says are the future.
      We will need them if we get a lot more electric cars….

          1. Lets forget the thousands of nuclear plan that are running perfectly fine around the world to focus on the one constructed in dangerous place …
            Straw man award.

          2. Fukushima was an engineering failure…they built a plant in a tsunami zone, assumed an overly low maximum tsunami height and finished by placing one set of backup generators in the basement.

            The failure was inevitable by design.

            Nuclear power is safe with current technology if good practices are followed. Currently 14% of the world’s power generation is nuclear and 75% of the power in France is nuclear. Failures only make the news because nuclear is scary to the layman and almost all mainstream media is sensationalist garbage now.

            Yes there is waste generated and for the foreseeable future will be. But it can also be relatively easily sequestered for long time storage and safely decay.

        1. more realistically we should send you to one of the many nuclear dump sites that all fuel rods go to after 20 years and that will be toxic for 20,000 years at the very least. the real problem with fission reactors is they long lived waist storage that no one has a clue what to do about and can easy be a larger problem then all Fukushima events.

          1. Just google “reactor burn waste” and you will find lots of information that proves your comment inaccurate. That waste can be used as fuel in new design reactors and the resulting waste from the new reactor will be dangerous for a fraction of the original time.

          2. How long do tbe non-decaying and FAR higher volume poisons from coal remain dangerous?

            What about the people being killed today in coal mining, transport, atmospheric pollution? Are they somehow less dead? How about the mining, processing, transport and installation hazards for hydro, solar and wind power?

            See “The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear”, Dr. Petr Beckman. Compares the fatalities from the various types of power generation. Older title at this point.

            Look at ALL the hazards of ALL the options, not just the ones you dislike. For one thing, this gives moral force to conservation. Not having power has drawbacks too.

            The barriers to storage of glassified waste are political – as in, you are blocking storage, then turning around and saying that there’s no way to store the waste. Because you blocked storage.

            Make this a science-based discussion, not a nukes-bad religious cause. Because people are dying every day from coal and other fossil fuel use, and they matter too!

        2. Summer nuclear power plant: Spent 9 billion and shuttered plant. Vogtle 3 and 4 expansion up to 28 billion. They hope to have it running in two years, but they need their welders to work faster to get it open in two years. Nuclear power plants are the most expensive and difficult way to make electricity we have yet invented. Huge wind and solar farms go up in a year or two at a fraction of the nuclear price. They take less people to work on the power plants and less maintenance cost and no fuel.

        3. “The Easiest and Cleanest”
          Only on paper. As long as minimum wage humans have anything to do with the nukes, it will fail.
          Fukushima, built upside down on a quake fault. Chernobyl, socialism failure.
          San Onofre, purchasing failure. (You will never hear who did it)
          Having spent 20 years in generating electricity, I’ve seen most of the fugups.
          Always lack of oversight, and stupid decisions by someone attempting to curry favor and get a raise/promotion.
          So stick to yore dreams and hope for the best.

    2. Yes water is a greenhouse gaz but when human activity realises water in the air it’s not a greenhouse gaz because it simply don’t stay in the atmosphere contrary to CO2 (stays for centuries), methane (stays for decades) ,…
      Side note however: it seems (no confirmation yet)b that dam has an impact on air water concentration (very very weak but noticable)

      1. Exactly. And – given the large damp patches we call seas and oceans – the only way humans can influence the amount of water vapour is to keep the temperature down where possible.

        1. The trick is that there is enough water vapor in the atmosphere to make it completely opaque to the wavelengths of light that water can absorb. Adding more won’t cause any more absorption because it’s already well saturated.

          In fact, you do want more because of cloud formation, which helps in reflecting the energy back into space and cools the planet. There’s both positive and negative feedbacks in the climate.

  2. Diesel exhaust contains a lot of water vapor.
    During “Iraqi Freedom” the US Army was considering putting water collectors on the exhausts of their diesel vehicles to supply drinking water in the desert.

  3. I think there’s a few other serious disadvantages of hydrogen that you failed to mention:

    – It will always be a less efficient process than charging an electric vehicle. First, you have to make the hydrogen. Then you have to compress it, transport it, then use it to make electricity. Every single one of those steps is not 100% efficient. Compare that with charging an electric vehicle directly. You avoid a lot of the losses when comparing to the hydrogen route.
    – Hydrogen embrittlement. As those little tiny particles of hydrogen try to escape, they often cause steel components to become brittle. This is a bit dangerous when dealing with high pressure systems. There’s also the inspections for high pressure systems (roughly every 10 years, from what I hear). No such inspections are needed for purely battery electric vehicles.
    – Hydrogen powered vehicles will be more expensive to produce. You still need an electric drive train and a (much smaller) battery. But you also need high pressure tanks and a fuel cell stack. Economies of scale are driving down prices of lithium ion batteries to the point where it’s unlikely that a fuel cell stack will ever be cheaper. There’s going to be more parts to a hydrogen fueled vehicle compared to a BEV, which means manufacturing/assembly costs are likely going to be higher as well.
    – Hydrogen filling stations are expensive to build, compared to EV chargers. I’ve heard estimates of low-seven figures for a hydrogen filling station, while a level 3 charging station is a fraction of that price.
    – Working on hydrogen powered vehicles like the Mirai requires a number of steps to vent the hydrogen tanks before they can be worked on. This likely means repairs are going to take longer (and consequently more expensive).
    – Most of the hydrogen being sold now is coming from steam cracking of methane. So from an environmental perspective, it’s still not as clean as using renewable energy to charge a battery electric vehicle. (Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think existing oil and gas companies would be delighted if people bought hydrogen powered vehicles, as it means they can keep selling natural gas to make hydrogen. It doesn’t affect their business model as much as vehicles switching to electricity).

    Don’t get me wrong – hydrogen powered things are cool. But the use cases for passenger vehicles just aren’t strong enough to justify purchasing a hydrogen powered car when a battery electric vehicle costs so much less – regardless of charging time.

      1. So far, for properly thermally managed packs, the life spans are proving to be a lot better than originally thought. There’s some neat data collected that have shown that Model S battery packs are lasting a really long time – like 500,000 km or more. At least the Tesla packs seem to level out around a 90% capacity, then seem to lose capacity much slower after that initial drop. Nissan Leaf packs (air cooled, different chemistry) haven’t held up as well

        Even if a pack does decrease in it’s usable capacity, ones that are failing in that way are being turned into grid storage. And once they are no longer good for that, they can still be shredded and recycled.

        1. “battery packs are lasting a really long time – like 500,000 km or more”

          Kilometers are not time. In reality, if the car consumes around 220 Wh per km, and the battery is 100 kWh, then driving 500,000 km is putting just 110,000 kWh through the battery, which is 1,100 full charge cycles out of a battery type that is generally designed to last around 2,000.

          The shelf-life limit for EV batteries comes well before the cycle life limit. You can drive around as much as you want, but at around year 10 the battery dies anyways. The trick for the Teslas is that almost all of them are 2014 or younger, so all the batteries are still fresh and in good health.

          1. This also explains why the Nissan battery fares worse – it’s a smaller battery – it goes through more cycles per km. It also costs less, and weighs less, but that’s the tradeoff.

            Though they did “forget” to add thermal management, so the batteries are cooking to death especially in California and that’s a major reason why they’re failing.

          2. For what it’s worth, all my lithium cells from 10 years ago are dead. I used to have a simple Nokia phone for the house for just calling, with a battery life of 2-3 weeks – the battery got swollen and died at year 9.

            The information about battery shelf life is a closely guarded industry secret, but there’s some indications. For example, Tesla expects to replace the batteries in their Supercharger stations by year 12. These batteries are used for leveling the load peaks from the grid rather than full charge-discharge cycles, so they don’t see very high duty use – the main stress is because of time.

          3. Though if you want to make your lithium batteries hold out for a long time, you
            a) discharge them close to 0% SOC but not so close that they self-discharge below safe limits while in storage
            b) put them in a fridge

            At barely above 0% SOC and 0 C the batteries should hold out almost indefinitely.

        2. “then seem to lose capacity much slower after that initial drop”

          The cycle-life wear out curve isn’t linear, it’s an S curve. The initial drop is the battery stabilizing, then it runs linearly towards the cycle life limit, then at the end of the cycle life when the electrode pores start to clog up, the capacity plummets to zero within couple hundred cycles.

          But if you drive 30,000 km a year, you’re doing just 66 cycles per year. You’d need to drive for 30 years to exhaust the Model S battery. You can’t drive it to death – the battery will die of old age way sooner – which is why they can optimize the battery for higher energy density and lower price at the expense of ultimate cycle life.

    1. Hydrogen tanks are also not “instant refuel”.

      Reason being that steel is not strong enough to contain the high pressure in a reasonably light tank. Carbon fiber composites are used instead, which introduces a problem where compressing the hydrogen too fast causes the epoxy glue to soften up and the tank ruptures. The refueling speed is limited by the cooling rate of the tank, which is not limitless because the carbon fiber composite isn’t very good at conducting heat.

      So you’ll be sitting at the pump for 15-30 minutes anyways, which is not significantly better. You’ll still have a line of cars all the way around the block to the service station every rush hour when everyone wants to refuel.

      1. And the irony is that if the hydrogen car was designed to use methane instead (SOFC instead of PEM), it could carry 4x the energy in the same volume and pressure, and you wouldn’t have the loss of steam-reforming natural gas into hydrogen.

        And you could refuel at home from the domestic gas line, with your own little gas compressor – just like with the electric car. You could also buy propane canisters, since a SOFC is already able to burn carbon and it doesn’t mind which hydrocarbon gas you use (technically, even diesel if you heat it to a vapor).

        1. You can’t use domestic gas through an SOFC as far as I know. The mercaptin that is added for safety that makes the smell clogs the cell. You need to scrub it out first which then makes the fuel odorless, which, like hydrogen, has its own issues regarding leak detection.

          1. Many gas powered larger vehicles use LNG, (No mercaptin) and reduce it to CNG.
            Hydrogen Hydride solves some storage and refuel time issues.
            Most “Gas Tanks” are not metal, but a composite, requiring the inspections referred to above..
            Early composite tanks were scheduled for 5 year inspections, but then the Feds bumped it up to 10 years.
            Additionally if the composite fails inspection, it must not be repaired. (By Law)
            And if in a traffic collision, tank inspections are at that point, mandatory.
            And, like most federal regulations, they change all the time.
            Power production also is an issue. But that’s for another post.

        2. Regullar cooking propane is probably way too dirty to be just straight piped into a fuel cell, I’d be especially worried about all the metal (and their oxides) it picks up from the pipes and tanks…

      2. @Luke, you say “So you’ll be sitting at the pump for 15-30 minutes anyways”. But this is untrue. I actually drive a hydrogen fuel cell car — a Clarity — so I know what I am talking about. I fill it up once or twice per week and am generally in and out of the station in about 10 minutes.

        1. The Clarity has a “low” pressure tank with a relatively short range. 5000psi (344 bar) for 240 miles EPA.

          For a high pressure tank that goes the equivalent of a regular 10 gallon tank of fuel (~400 miles), the refueling time gets progressively worse. The Toyota Mirai for example clocks out at 344 Miles with a 10,000 PSI maximum tank pressure.

          Higher pressures still are desired to make the fuel tank physically smaller, so it doesn’t take up so much space inside the car, and would fit a smaller vehicle as well.

          1. Actually, @Luke, the Clarity has a 10,000 psi 700 bar tank, too. And it has a larger tank than the Mirai and a longer range. AND it fills in just a few minutes – I have waited between 3 and 10 minutes depending on whether I was topping off (1 kg) or filling an almost empty tank (4.5 kg).

          2. Thanks Tom Allen, Luke you’re just wrong about that. All the FCEV passenger vehicles fuel at 700 bar. They replicate the gasoline experience, i.e. refuel in a few minutes, drive the same distance.

          3. Question: is there a difference between pumps that operate from a high pressure tank, and those that operate from a low pressure tank?

            If the station tank itself is at higher pressure, then there’s no change or a drop in pressure and no increase in temperature. If the station has a low pressure tank, then a compressor is needed, and there’s a rise in temperature.

          4. @LUke, when I fill the Clarity the nozzle gets very frosty and on humid days may even freeze onto the car, though the newer nozzle designs work better in this regard.

            Some stations maintain a gaseous H2 supply and some maintain a liquid H2 supply. In both cases there is a series of containers and compressors and chillers that result in 700 bar H2, which expands as it fills the tank and cools the nozzle. The liquid H2 stations also need to vaporize the H2 before compressing it. A series of communications between the car and the pump ensure the car is not over-filled. This communication is via in infrared transmitter-receiver in the nozzle.

            There is an energy cost to all this additional handling of course. I am optimistic about research into alternatives such as MOF – metallic organic frameworks – a solid that act like a sponge to hold a lot of hydrogen on its interior surfaces at ambient air pressure. (The sponge is an analogy, not what actually happens. The MOF is heated to release the H2). And there are several alternative liquid forms like ammonia (NH3) and methane for transferring the hydrogen. Each has plusses and minuses, and the research continues.

            I think it will be 10 to 15 years before hydrogen is a routine part of the transportation system. We are where battery cars were 20 or 30 years ago.

            Along the way I expect to see hydrogen used in the electrical grid to store renewable energy. This use might dramatically reduce the cost of hydrogen. About 25% of renewable energy potential today is lost because the grid does not need it at the moment and there is no storage mechanism. The cost of this unused capacity is essentially zero and can be captured as electrolyzed hydrogen.

          5. ” The cost of this unused capacity is essentially zero and can be captured as electrolyzed hydrogen.”

            Not so fast. The price of said unused capacity is zero (or negative) because nobody wants it and the turbine owners are pushing it to the grid anyways to collect the subsidies- but the cost is not zero – the cost is the cost of building and maintaining the generator, divided by the lifetime net energy production.

            E.g. 3 MW wind generator operating for 12 years (end of subsidy; the turbines often get torn down and replaced to re-claim subsidy) at 28% Cp produces 88300 MWh and at a cost of around $1 million per MW plus 3% maintenance for 12 years you get electricity that costs $46/MWh which is reasonably cheap, but not free. When you run that power through a process that loses half the energy, the resulting price is $92/MWh (9 cents a kWh) and you haven’t even converted it back to electricity yet.

            Add the cost of the storage system itself, and your power becomes very much not free. It’s too expensive for the grid, but not for transportation where the cost of gasoline/diesel is already many times higher.

          6. Though of course you could argue that the power is zero cost because it goes unused/wasted and we pay the full price anyhow.

            But that’s not a proper argument: it’s begging the question that the turbines exist either way. The real alternative is not having the turbine that produces power which cannot be used. Build something else like nuclear power instead.

          7. Replying to luke’s comment:
            “Not so fast. The price of said unused capacity is zero (or negative) because nobody wants it and the turbine owners are pushing it to the grid anyways to collect the subsidies- but the cost is not zero – the cost is the cost of building and maintaining the generator, divided by the lifetime net energy production”

            Actually the generator price is a sunk cost, it should be ignored.

    2. Thanks Joel. When I saw the “cons” section of the article and how many were missing, I was dreading having to write up the needed response listing all of them. You just saved me half an hour.

      Note to article author – please do your homework next time.

    3. One of the other things I mentioned is perhaps a small one, but still an issue nonetheless. Up here in Canada, things tend to be frozen for at least a few months of the year. Any water being produced by a hydrogen powered car is basically dumped on the road. If there were enough hydrogen cars driving around, it’d make for some icy roads in winter. Also, that water has to be purged from the fuel cell before it is turned off, otherwise you end up with ice buildup in the system.

      1. @Joel B. Interesting point about the ice. I hear that on occasion water actually falls out of the sky and on to road. ;)

        For what it’s worth, each kg of hydrogen releases 9 kg of water vapor. (My Clarity has a 5.4 kg tank for an EPA rated range of 360 miles — I get closer to 280 mile range because I drive fast, and on hilly roads that reduce the range.) So in my daily commute I release 5-10 kg of water vapor.

        Nearly all of this water exits the car as steam and does not fall onto the road. You can hold your hand at the exhaust and you feel a very strong, humid breeze. The car sucks in *a lot* of air to feed oxygen to the fuel cell. When you turn off the Clarity and the fuel cell shuts down it will sometimes spit out a small puddle of water — perhaps 10 cc. It doesn’t seem like a big deal.


        1. Thanks again Tom for your clarifications in this discussion….water is what is released, sometimes once shut off…air is sucked in to feed the FC.

    4. Have there been any studies into the impact of a hydrogen fuelled economy on the ozone-layer?
      My understanding is that it’s very hard to stop hydrogen escaping from the joints in any hydrogen storage system. Does escaped hydrogen, as it floats off into space, strongly interact with the highly reactive ozone in the upper atmosphere?
      It seams that at the moment, the quantity of hydrogen leaking is small, but if hydrogen as a transport fuel became prevalent this could be a big problem and we’d need that sunblock from RoboCop.

    5. “using renewable energy to charge a battery electric vehicle.”

      Ok now come on, that’s funny. I agree that hydrogen fuel is not the future it was once sold as. The primary reason I see is that we use electricity to get pure hydrogen to put in the fuel cells at which point you ask yourself why the hell not just use electric as everyone here has pointed out.

      However, assuming we are not using nuclear as the renewable energy source but instead wind and solar. Well let’s do some math. A good panel now days gets you 320Watts, let’s be generous and give 6 hours of power and round to 2KW.

      Looking at some tesla forums we get generously 250Watts/mile (this is very good driving from what I see).

      The average US commute is 26 miles or 52 both ways. Meaning that we need to produce 250*52Watts = 13KW. So now all we need to do is get ourselves 7 solar panels for every car in the home let’s average that to 2. So hey if every house in America just slaps 14 solar panels on their roof we can charge electric cars with renewable energy. Never mind apartments or people who live in rural areas. Never mind people with 100 mile commutes that would need 50 solar panels individually. We can totally expect a future where we power all US vehicles with renewable energy. Unless you include nuclear in this equation the math makes it nothing more then a joke.

      God this doesn’t even consider the environmental impact of mining all that ore to turn into batteries, all that sand to turn into glass. You are correct that water vapor from nuclear reactors is not great but you want to pretend that making millions of Lithium batteries by mining lithium has 0 impact, that all the energy to manufacture glass has 0 impact? Soooo let’s stick with nuclear.

      1. Depending on your assumptions and ignoring delivery, the entire US electric grid could be supplied by a square solar grid array 20 miles on a side (=400 square miles of solar installation with access roads).

        There are a lot of highways in the US with barrier-protected medians and side areas that could be filled with solar panels. The US already owns the land and has right-of-way to make changes, and the highways generally lead to cities where energy is consumed.

        There is additionally a huge area of undeveloped land in the US in the area of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Areas such as the “Great Basin” section of Nevada, where valleys are 20 miles wide and a couple of hundred miles long, and where the ecology is already damaged.

        There is also a large swath of area underneath high tension lines in the US that could be filled with solar panels. The power companies already have right-of-way to that land, and the land generally leads to transformer installations which could incorporate the extra power.

        While rooftop solar won’t meet all of our electricity grid needs, there is a *lot* of underutilized area in the US that could be used to make up the difference.

        Also, there’s lots of Lithium in the ocean, the metal only needs to become scarce enough for us to begin mining that resource. The pollution concerns of doing that should be considered.

        1. “While rooftop solar won’t meet all of our electricity grid needs, there is a *lot* of underutilized area in the US that could be used to make up the difference.”

          So, why are many acres of good Minnesota farmland being converted to solar “farms”?
          Wouldn’t they better located in deserts of the Southwest?

          1. Corn into ethanol and now land into solar. Seems we just can’t ever seem to use it for it’s intended purpose. Maybe letting it revert back to it’s natural form would be the best.

          1. 250W panels are about $50 delivered today from ebay, so you’re worrying about a $1500 investment to support a $20k car? The bigger issue is the lack of roof space to be honest, but this is easily solved with solar (and combination) farms.

        1. 1) the house panels produce nowhere near enough power to supply a car and the house, you still need the grid
          2) beause of the retarded laws, if the panels are hooked up to the grid, they are contributing to the “duck curve” problem
          3) in a typical scenario, the car will NOT be at home when the power production is high, making 2) even worse
          4) the only thing powerful enough and yet capable of reacting fast enough are gas fired plants. There goes the CO2 argument + in the US, new gas wells heavily use fracking, which will probably come back to bite you big time some decades later
          5) solar panels have rather poor service life expetancy. Dealing with old ones and making new ones leaves a fairly big dent in the environment.

          TL:DR – runnig only from “renewable” is a utopia and going over 30% total energy production is shooting yourself in both feet and one arm. Want clean power? Demand new, better nuke plants.

          1. Fair being fair, nuclear powerplants aren’t a 100% solution because they’re most economical when they run at full output all the time. They sell power regardless of the demand or price, hoping that the average is going to be more than the operating costs.

            That’s because 90% of the cost of nuclear power is in the finacing, licensing, investments and building. The fuel costs are almost negligible. It’s kinda like wind power: they have to sell everything they can make in order to make ends meet – if you throttle it down, it doesn’t make sense anymore.

            That means nuclear power can ONLY supply baseload power (plus exports) cheaply. It is technically able to throttle down by about 50% at a short notice, but this causes the power price to double – which would coincide with a fall in demand which is already putting the prices down, so…

    6. Passing thought: are there situations where it would make sense to store hydrogen and convert it to electric power at EV charging stations (or nearby power plants)? Call it a power transport option, to be used when it’s the best design for the specific situation.

    7. THANK YOU! This comment is what I’ve been looking for: “– Most of the hydrogen being sold now is coming from steam cracking of methane.” Everyone discusses how inefficient the electrolysis is, but the process steam cracking is so much more exergetically inefficient and produces so much CO2 that you might as well drive your regular car!

      As far as production of hydrogen from water there are institutions investigating very specific enzimes and copper compounds for generating hydrogen from the waste heat of nuclear power plants and other heat sources (latent heat energy from solar cells etc.)

      Kudos to you Joel B!

  4. Researchers at the University of Calgary have recently discovered a method to produce pure hydrogen from oil wells. By injecting O2 downhole they are able to crack larger hydrocarbons and liberate hydrogen atoms from the oil. Filters on the well bore allow only this hydrogen to surface leaving the heavier molecules in the ground and producing pure hydrogen at the wellhead without any further refinement needed. This tech has potential to swing things in favour of fuel cell vehicles, and clean power generation via hydrogen.

      1. In Mulberry FL the coal power station was injecting their co2 under the aquifer. It combined with the limestone and turned to stone basically. It’s really the only way to grab co2, at the source. I was looking forward to sparkling water out of our taps but it didn’t happen!

  5. Just imagine that every family in the street has one car and it’s electric… and every evening they all will be drawing large amounts of current to charge their car. This additional power consumption comes on top of the normal power consumption. Now HOW well does the electrical grid handle that extra huge peak load?
    This is not to be neglected and is a problem that does need to be solved, in the mean time electrical cars are too expensive for most so this isn’t an issue…yet.

    1. And as “buying power” for the middle class consumers continues to deteriorate, even ICE powered cars will be too expensive for daily use, so the point will be moot. The wealthy and bureaucrats will have their personal vehicles (petrol, hydrogen, and/or electric) while the rest of humanity gets shoved into overcrowded mass transit for their daily commute.

      1. Ahoy there matey, excuse me while I overtake ye in my Diesel beast, running on deep fat fryer oil, blended with all sorts of other waste products. Dirty as could be, strong as an ox, probably very illegal at that stage, but far superior to waiting for a bus or train.

    2. That’s already solved. People in warmer climates run air conditioners all day long. Humans also tend to be very active during daytime hours doing things like warming coffee, lighting rooms, and playing music. This activity dramatically reduces when they are in an energy conserving state known as sleep. During periods of the day when a lot of humans are sleeping, known as night, the electric generation infrastructure is operating at 20% of peak-day power demand. Connect the car to a smart grid that provides bi-directional feedback on ideal real-time power-draw to both make the grid operate efficiently during the night with it’s abundant spare capacity and to save the home/car owner money.

      Seriously though. I know several people that have home battery banks and a smart meter from the power company. Energy is cheap during the night. They charge the bank at low cost overnight and run off batteries during the day. Saves a lot of money even with the capitol expense. Even Tesla considers this a core market.

      1. Tesla wants you to use the powerwall as a solar storage system, but I see a huge market for them in ToU arbitrage. I suspect with sufficient rate deltas you could pay off a powerwall in less than ten years by just charging it at night and dumping the power back into the grid during the daytime (never mind your own consumption).

        Which, by the way, is exactly what the power companies would like you to do.

        That said, wholesale energy storage is really the next evolutionary step in the power grid. We’re slowly getting to the point where local solar production is no longer out of the ordinary. See also “Duck Curve.”

        1. Wholesale energy storage isn’t going to happen with batteries though, because the size/demand of those batteries outstrips the industry ability to scale up lithium, cobalt, etc. production. When you’re building batteries in the terawatt-hour scale to deal with things like seasonal variability of solar/wind power, plus fitting all the cars with batteries, you’re talking about 10,000+ times the present WORLD output of these materials.

          You could potentially dig up as much, but scaling the industry up while expecting the prices to go down simultaneously just doesn’t work. Price goes up when demand goes up and vice versa – the industry has to recoup the investments for expansion, and that can only work if they can charge you more for the product – but that then prevents anyone from building the batteries because they’re too expensive for the users.

          Instead, large scale energy storage – if you want it faster than the next century – has to happen by synthetic hydrocarbons. People are going to synthesize methane, and other chemicals from it, and that’s already happening – power-to-gas pilot plants are operational around the world.

          1. Pumped hydro is limited. For example, all the fjords in Norway would store 85 TWh of energy if you built them full of hydroelectric dams, while the European gas grid already holds 200+ TWh of energy in the form of natural gas.

            Flow batteries are still expensive and very low energy density – i.e. they require a lot of materials and space to build, and the energy cannot be moved around without incurring significant losses. Inorganic flow batteries such as vanadium flow batteries have worse supply problems than lithium batteries, and organic flow batteries such as the quinone based batteries have extremely poor energy densities (< 4 Wh/L system total). All in all, flow batteries are still totally immature and the "breakthroughs" are well over hyped.

            Elon's big battery in Australia is just about 1,500 Model S batteries that he couldn't sell when the sales slumped and he wanted to get rid of them quickly. It's actually quite small for a grid battery.

          2. To put things into perspective, the energy “density” of a 150 m tall hydroelectric dam is about 0.4 Wh/l so the quinone type flow batteries are only a factor of 10 better.

            You’d still need cubic kilometers of the active liquids to store the kind of energies we’re talking about.

          3. “Price goes up when demand goes up and vice versa”

            That’s nowhere near a hard and fast rule. Otherwise Miller Lite would be real expensive and you’d have to pay for porn. Economies of scale allow prices to be reduced to grow market share, resulting in increased profits, not in percentage terms but absolute numbers of dollars, yen, yuan, rupees, ngultrum, dinar, shekelim, whatever.

          4. “Otherwise Miller Lite would be real expensive and you’d have to pay for porn.”

            It works with a scarce resource like cobalt and lithium, which are limited by the marginal cost of production. In order to get more of those, you have to tap into deposits which are less economical to mine etc. whereas with Miller Lite you’re really not limited in the amount of cheap surplus corn you can buy to brew it.

            “Economies of scale”

            …is one of the most misunderstood concepts. There’s an optimum production volume that depends on the market demand. Simply making more of something doesn’t make it cheaper.

          5. “Elon’s big battery in Australia is just about 1,500 Model S batteries that he couldn’t sell when the sales slumped and he wanted to get rid of them quickly. ”

            I’d like to see a citation on that. Especially since the Tesla installation in Australia was using cells from Samsung…

          6. Samsung makes the batteries for Tesla – they’re in a partnership.

            The Australian megabattery as I recall is 129 MWh, which is about 1,500 x 85 kWh (which is the older battery size for the model S)

            Tesla had a big slump in the basic Model S sales when they announced the Model 3, which put the 85 kWh model sales down a lot. They ended up with a stockpile of batteries that nobody wanted, so Musk came up with a “challenge” for himself, which conveniently got rid of the batteries.

      2. >” During periods of the day when a lot of humans are sleeping, known as night, the electric generation infrastructure is operating at 20% of peak-day power demand.”

        What power would you dispatch to the grid in order to charge the electric cars?

        The irony is that when everyone charges in the wee hours, there’s no solar power and wind power is available only randomly, so you have to kick up huge diesel generators and gas turbines to charge the cars.

        1. The idea is dispatch EV charging *demand* when there is excess renewables, and stop charging when there isn’t. It’s a “just” a matter of a smart EV charger and dynamic per-hour electricity pricing. Most cars drive < 50km per day, and sit most time parked, so the car doesn't need to be charged all the time it's plugged.

          In solar-intense countries, EVs should be charged daytime. Trouble is during day cars are parked at work. And most companies are looking at howto screw their workers more, so convincing them to do something nice to their workers and environment by building chargers at worker parking lots is a challenge…

          There is huge potential in EVs to provide demand response. The problems are not technical, but rather socio-economical.

    3. This is the elephant in the room that no one wishes to talk about.
      The maths just doesnt add up.
      Then add in all the turcks and buses and trains and planes where everone is fiddling with electric power.

      Suddenly we need to build around 100 more nuclear power stations, or shall we say around 8000 globally to deal with emerging markets too?
      Or fill millions of sq miles with solar panels and battery storage which doesn’t have a long life.

    4. Oddly enough we can calculate this pretty easily, certainly for the UK.

      In 2017, UK vehicles travelled 254.4 billion vehicle miles. On my Renault Zoe I get 4.2 miles per KWh, so that’s 254.4e9/4.2 = 60.6e9 KWh or 60.6 TWh. Let’s assume all charging takes place overnight, that’s: 165GWh every night or a sustained 20.7GW over an 8 hour night-time period.

      Since the National Grid in the UK can supply up to 63GW, this means charging every vehicle by electricity is easily within its capabilities: the grid can cope now.

      In addition, because it takes roughly the same amount of electricity to refine a litre of petrol (gasoline) as it does to drive an EV for the kind of distance we can get from a litre of petrol in an ICE car, we already have the generational capability too.

      However, that’s not acceptable in the long term, because we can’t use fossil fuels to provide electricity in the future (the UK grid is already >30% clean). If we assume that it’ll take about 30 years to full transfer to EVs, i.e by 2050, then that means we need to generate an extra 2.02TWh of electricity per year, which amounts to a sustained 700MW of more renewable electricity per year (63GW/3 / 30).

      All of this is perfectly feasible.

      1. That’s nice, but the UK is roughly the population of California and Texas in an area roughly the size of Idaho. The math for the USA is entirely different, and, frankly, matters a lot more.

          1. The UK grid is highly interlinked over a small area, so it has no trouble routing power around different corridors. It’s more like a spider’s web.

            In the US the grid structure is quite different, and it works more like a bucket chain or a row of dominoes, where transmitting power from one area to the next happens by a chain of power stations pushing power to the next area. There are long distance links as well, but these suffer from relatively high transmission losses due to the vast geographical distances.

            If one area gets overloaded, it’s not easy to route more power through because the capacity is limited by the intermediate power stations. At the same time, you have long distance power flows going east-west across state lines, which is already tying up your capacity anyways. then there’s private utilities who might be deliberately keeping their capacity down or routing power in and out of state to pretend they’re at full transmission capacity to jack the prices up. (see California energy crisis)

            That’s why you can’t look at it like “Oh, we have so and so much generator capacity overall, so we’re okay”. It’s complicated, whereas in the UK you have OFGEM controlling the whole system.

      2. You made the assumption that the cars would charge according to the energy used over the day, rather than the maximum power of the charger.

        In the UK there are 12 653 400 passenger vehicles. Assume that each of them is sitting home tethered to an L2 charger (240 V x 32 Amps = 7.68 kW) – if they’re all switched on at the same time, that’s 97 Gigawatts.

        Of course, this doesn’t happen – in reality there’s a normal distribution of people plugging in and turning off as their batteries becomes full, but since these charging times will overlap, the distribution of charging power isn’t an evenly distributed flat line over the night – it’s going to be a bell curve with a peak that is significantly higher than what you calculated, and that may bring the grid down when there’s other demand such as heating in the middle of the winter that is already stressing the grid.

        1. Oh, sorry, I accidentally copied the data for vehicles 10 years or older. In reality there’s 38.2 million cars in the UK, which means the possible peak power if all of them were to charge up at the same time would be 292 GW

          If they all used just the regular L1 charger (just plug in any 10 Amp socket), that’d be 95 GW again.

          1. I love in Norway, and our government electric regulator officially estimates that replacing all cars with pure EV’s will use approximately 4% of our total energy production. This is about 60% of the output of the wind power currently under construction here. As we have a relatively high number of cars per capita, it would be unlikely that many countries would face any problems from the net energy draw. The clear difference is that approx. 70% of our energy generation can be regulated near instantly, which differs from most other countries. Although I do not think this would make full EV adoption some impossible dream in other countries, I do think a multitude of mechanisms is required to smooth the transition, such as more distributed production reducing grid transmission (rooftop solar, distributed wind), smarter grid management and possibly more aggressive price controls for some markets.

            That being said, there is already charging infrastructure here smart enough to manage its power draw according to both grid conditions, price and local generation, so effective mitigation of the peak power draw problems is already available, therefore I think the scenario of EV’s blacking out the countryside in a few years is really only likely if EV charging tech suddenly starts going backwards.

          2. ” The clear difference is that approx. 70% of our energy generation can be regulated near instantly”

            Yes, but that won’t necessarily be the case, since you’re acting as Denmark’s (and Germany’s, and UK’s) wind power battery. You can’t just shut them out whenever you feel like it.

            It would be a different case if you weren’t using the majority of your power capacity to trade with the other Nordics, because then you probably wouldn’t have a reason to have so much of it that your EVs become just a drop in a bucket.

            And, regarding hydropower, there’s an interesting issue in the fact that traditional hydroelectric turbines really don’t like being turned on and off rapidly. It breaks the turbines out of stress and fatigue caused by cavitation. There’s a great deal of research going on around the point to increase the rate capacity of turbines to sell more load following capacity on the nordic grid.

          3. “effective mitigation of the peak power draw problems is already available”

            But doesn’t that just create the other problem? To solve the charging load problem, you implement a system of energy rationing that doesn’t let people charge as much as they want and need. People get stranded, miss work, or hospital, because the system says they can’t charge.

            That’s a problem that simply doesn’t exist for gasoline powered cars because the amount of fuel you get out of one pump has nothing to do with the pump of another fuel station. If the station has fuel, you have fuel.

          4. Again, can’t reply to Luke for some reason… Certainly it is true that large short term fluctuations in energy demand is an issue also for hydro, in practice this isn’t an issue because, as you mentioned, people generally don’t all plug in the same minute. Therefore, the generation is generally not turned on and off, but generator throughput is adjusted slightly.

            Also, our hydro was not built to trade power with our neighbours, it was built for national industry – our role as “European battery” is a far more recent thing. Little new hydro has been installed in the last few decades. That being said, had we not started building the large scale transmission network that exists today, it is unlikely we would have seen the amount of upgrades to existing hydro plants that is happening. Also, it is worth mentioning that our net export is in the region of ~5TWh/year, out of a total production of ~150TWh, and although this masks a larger amount of import/export, power delivery to other nations is still a small part of the total picture.

            Coffee makers are probably going to be a larger problem for the foreseeable future, grid suppliers in Norway can see the dip every morning at 8 am as everyone comes to work and puts the pot on near simultaneously.

            And for the second point, most chargers that support this sort of feature is generally governed by electricity price and lets you set fixed state of charge % based on price, i.e. “if power is scarce and price is high, I’m fine with a 30% charge for now, otherwise just keep charging”. For some more advanced chargers, rate of charge can be adjusted depending on price, and some can adjust depending on the current total draw of your intake which allows effect tariffs to be managed.

            A charger that simply shuts off with no communication with the owner would certainly create the scenario you present in some cases, but even now we’re beyond that, and I would expect charging management smarts to improve in the future. It is fairer to say that smart charging management does

            Of course the ultimate end goal is two way charge management where the car delivers power back to the grid in a certain state of charge window (i.e. > 80% for example), which could alleviate rather than aggravate net load issues. This is also technology that, from the car side of things, is already available – however to my knowledge there are only a few sparse pilot projects going currently for this technology from the power supplier side. That being said, the time to implement this kind of technology should the need for it arise ought to be short as the technology already exists and isn’t particularily esoteric.

          5. That’s pretty good.

            Though on the V2G side, most owners would not want to spare the top 20% of the battery for grid management, because that state of charge also causes the battery to wear out the most. You want to keep the battery below 80% for maximum shelf life.

        2. Since the sustained power requirements are only a third of the current generational capacity, we could tolerate a degree of uneven distribution. I am also assuming people charge only during an 8-hour overnight period, where there isn’t really that much of a transport bell curve.

          In practice, a fair proportion would charge during the day (e.g. people on long trips needing to charge en-route). Finally, it’s not too hard to implement algorithms to even out charging; even a random charging time algorithm would pretty much sort it out.

    5. You’re right – it’s a concern. But at the same time, it isn’t. If you look at the demand curve for electricity over the course of a day, you’ll see that there’s a small peak in the morning, when people are getting ready for work. Demand drops a bit during the day, then there’s a much larger spike in the early evening, when people return home from work, start cooking, doing laundry, etc. That means that the grid already has to support that peak. (The shape of the demand curve is often called the duck curve, as it looks kind of like a duck’s back, with the duck facing to the right, and the head is the highest peak during the day). Demand then drops back down overnight. That means there’s underutilized assets, not making power all night long. Those “peaker plants” still have to be paid to be available, whether they are being used or not. Most of the recent EVs (or chargers) allow you to schedule when you want to charge. Some areas in Europe already have time-of-use billing, so using electricity during peak hours cost you more (as it costs the grid operators more to pay to keep those peaker plants running). So instead, you schedule your car to charge at night, when there’s less demand and lower prices.

      There’s also the advantage of vehicle-to-grid. One of the charging standards (CHAdeMO) allows electricity to travel in the opposite direction – from the vehicle, back to the grid. In some areas, with high peak electricity rates, a BEV can actually be used to make a small amount of money by acting as a miniature peaker plant. I don’t think a hydrogen vehicle has any way of doing that.

      The one thing that does need to be sorted out is grid storage. Solar and wind combined seem to make for a fairly even base-load, but grid storage may still be necessary unless they are both over-provisioned (meaning we build more wind towers and solar farms than we actually need). That seems inefficient (both in terms of building costs and dumping excess electricity), so it kind of makes sense to use some sort of grid storage. Pumped hydro is one option, and batteries are another option. Battery costs are coming down, but it’s still going to cost a bit to add enough grid storage to provide a reasonable backup.

      1. > Solar and wind combined seem to make for a fairly even base-load

        No they don’t. The reason for the duck curve shape is presently the fact that solar power cuts in properly around 10 am and starts waning at 2 pm. It shows up as a dip in demand because most solar power is subsidized private homes pushing power back to the grid to reap the free electricity (net metering) at night. Where there isn’t solar power, there’s more commonly a peak right in the middle of the day when all the businesses, shops and factories are running at full power.

        Wind power is usually quiet during the heat of the day, because the sun is warming the ground and the air is rising up instead of sideways. It picks up after then sun as gone down and the ground begins to cool, with the hot air still rising above, which draws in air masses from the surrounding areas and causes the air currents to turn sideways. This usually happens early in the morning because for the first part of the night, the ground is still warm and it needs to cool down first.

        They’re not even. The combined output is like a two-humped camel with the added disadvantage of being randomly distributed because not every day is sunny, and not every night is windy, and if it hasn’t been a sunny day then it’s not going to be a particularly windy night either, except when it is because there’s a storm.

        1. The randomness of the humps can be smoothed somewhat by smart meters, smarter cars, and surge pricing.

          Imagine plugging your car into a smart meter that always knows the instant price of electricity, and configuring it to pay a max price of $0.12 / kWh. As wind or solar creates surplus energy at peak production times, the price of the electricity could drop, and cars would start charging. If the clouds come out and the wind dies down, the price of electricity would rise due to power companies bringing supplemental natural gas fueled generators online, and the cars would stop buying the expensive electrons. And as the car’s battery level drops, it could be configured by the owner to pay a progressively higher rate so as not to fully deplete itself. (At less-than-an-average-commute remaining, or if you hit the override button, it would pay the going rate.) Larger battery capacity that could let you ride out a steak of bad weather would allow for progressively lower costs. Or smart controllers could choose to charge at slower rates if costs are too high.

          No, it doesn’t solve the problem for every single car and driver on the road, but it would maximize the utility of the peak output whenever it’s available, and that would work for the large majority of commuters.

          1. I wouldn’t, because it means that after some nights my car won’t be charged at all because the price was too high.

            I could set it up to charge anyways for at least X kilometers so I can get to work, but then when everyone does that, everyone starts charging at the last possible moment before it’s too late, and they all bunch up to load the grid at the exact same time, further increasing the power price.

            The problem would be solved if my car had a big enough battery to last me the whole week, but that’s not economically or technically sensible because such a battery is very expensive, big, and heavy, and it would die of old age before I manage to get my miles out of it.

          2. Then there’s also the untested prospect of what happens when you feed a price signal to a system, which affects the power draw of said system, which affects the price signal that you feed into the system…

            Does that sound like feedback loop oscillation to you? Further complicating the matter is the people trying to game the system by setting different price thresholds according to how you’re trying to drive the system, so you got a double loop feedback going on and that’s a chaotic system right there because your “tuning” of the control parameters affects the behavior of people who set their charging parameters, which then drives the first feedback loop and forces you to adapt your tuning parameters again…

          3. @Luke, your “won’t charge” problem is exactly the same as using current fossil fuels. If you don’t want to pay for fuel you don’t get fuel. If you only pay for enough fuel to travel a certain distance you only get the ability to travel that certain distance.

          4. Fuel prices are much more stable than electricity prices, especially when the latter depends on whether it’s windy outside. The “won’t refuel” problem isn’t the same the “won’t recharge” because the fuel prices don’t randomly quadruple for one night and then plummet to near zero the next.

  6. My wife’s QC lab had a gas-phase chromatograph. It used H2 as the transport fluid. That meant there were H2 tanks just outside the lab, and they happened to be near the area where the fork-lift trucks went by all day long. Heavy barriers directed the fork lifts on a detour around the tanks, to avoid any accident. Every day the barriers were found to be moved away, and the fork lifts went zipping by, inches from the tanks. Every day she would move them back.

    One fine day the company president came by and talked about safety. My wife asked him, “Do you really mean what you said about safety?” “Yes,” he said. She told him her story. He sent the plant manager a directive about safety. Things happened, and the barriers finally stayed where they were supposed to be, but there was a lot of resentment. My wife could eat the hatred with a spoon.

    She does not work there any more, and is happier without having to store H2.

    1. It’s funny you mention fork trucks, as that’s probably the largest market for FCEVs right now (if not, it’s public transportation).

      Plug Power and Nuvera (now owned by Yale-Hyster, also involved in FCEV buses) are both pretty big in replacing propane and BEV fork trucks with FCEV power. For the most part, they do on-site generation from natural gas into big storage tanks – with permanently installed bollards in low traffic areas.

      Refill times comparable to propane, no noxious fumes, and not having to swap unwieldy batteries halfway through a shift make it a pretty attractive option in that respect.

      In your wife’s case, it sounds like the plant manager just kept failing at safety repeatedly. Tanks shouldn’t be in a high traffic area, barriers shouldn’t be movable, the fix shouldn’t have been giving the operators a talking to, etc. Probably a good thing she’s out of there regardless of the hydrogen.

      1. The Quality folks (who tend to quit or get fired a lot) often find that at manufacturing plants they have to do Safety as well . She once worked at a plastics plant where she had to do fire-fighting. What, solving problems that kept pouring in? Yes, but also using the fire extinguisher a lot. She quit. Could not get management to adhere to proper QC or to proper safety methods.Two weeks later two of the guys got molten polystyrene (that’s 210 degrees C) on their faces when an extruder exploded.

        Fabrication can be dangerous. Try to avoid working for anyone who disregards known, common-sense safety. I guess than means avoid me, too. I walk behind my horses frequently.

      2. I would be wary of hydrogen vehicles indoors and around warehouses.

        There used to be a website cataloging hydrogen accidents and explosions as they happen in industry. Hydrogen is commonly used for cooling turbogenerators, and the accidents usually happen when the re-filling system springs a leak.

        You see, hydrogen does not simply “vanish into the blue sky” as most people believe. It’s the most rapid gas to diffuse and mix with air, and when it does so it loses its buoyancy. It’s also got the widest explosive range of all flammable gases, so you don’t need to get an exact mixture like with propane etc. to have a BIG explosion. It explodes anywhere between 5 – 75%. It also requires the least amount of energy of all the common gasses to ignite. This is also the reason why it’s difficult to run a regular engine on hydrogen: it tends to backfire and blow up the intake a lot because it’s too easy to ignite and too fast to burn.

        In other words, hydrogen forms clouds of easily explosive gas that hang around inside and around buildings. You can’t smell it, it’s not toxic so you don’t feel any strange sensations, and the flame speed is so high that it breaks you if you get caught anywhere near the explosion.

    2. ” Things happened, and the barriers finally stayed where they were supposed to be, but there was a lot of resentment. My wife could eat the hatred with a spoon.”

      Till accidents happen and haters start dying.* People can be their own worse enemy sometimes.

      *People wouldn’t mind the Darwin so much except the innocent suffer, and property gets damaged.

  7. Yes, I’m going to be That Guy.

    Lewin misstates the arguments against electric cars. I love my EV. It has ALL of the low-end torque and it’s incredibly efficient. It serves all of my needs within 200 miles of home, which is the vast majority of my driving.

    The argument against EVs is that if they are universally adopted then it would eliminate the freedom of people to take road trips whenever they like unless we decide to pour an unfathomable amount of money into overhauling the electrical infrastructure.

    I have 40 years of experience driving up and down I-5 from the Bay Area to San Diego. Looking at a typical gas station in the Central Valley, you’d find (just to make the math easy) 10 pumps. Each one delivers liquid energy at a rate of something like 5 MW (a gallon of gas is 33.4 kW-hr and you can dispense 20 gallons in maybe 5 minutes). It doesn’t matter how fast you charge an EV. If you want to replace all the petromobiles going up and down I-5, you need to achieve a *throughput* that requires each gas station equivalent to pump out energy at a rate of ~50 MW (if you charge more slowly than pumping gas, then you have to scale horizontally to an equivalent level. So a whole parking lot full of 100 kW EVSEs or literally acres of L2 EVSEs and enough beds for everyone to sleep overnight). That’s the equivalent of about 50,000 homes. Scaling up to that level would require revolutionary upgrades to our electric infrastructure, and would require them in places where there’s almost no comparable electric infrastructure currently in place.

      1. I’m not in the EV field, but do follow the general engineering society and trade publications, as well as the ones specific to my field. This is a KEY point that has been discussed for a number of years (going back to the early 1990’s and GM’s EV1, at least), and is regularly written about by key players in the field, even in general (engineering/science) readership mags like IEEE Spectrum, American Scientist, and so on.

        I would suspect (this is where I show that I am ignorant enough to make such a statement….) that hydrogen will continue to show up as a fuel in many applications, but only will see limited use as a motor fuel UNLESS more efficient means are developed for production and several difficult storage issues are solved (no way to know if or when). IF some of these issues are addressed, I would expect the balance to lean less heavily to pure electric, but never fully change sides.

        The efficiency (cycle) using hydrogen fuel cells vs. pure electric is not as bad as some here make out– it is convenient to forget that charging a battery pack is less than 100% efficient, recovery from the cells, also, and the losses getting the electricity to the the charging station in the first place– but, presently, H2 is lower efficiency. Of course, the argument for pure electric comes with shouts of “Solar at the charger!”, to make electric look much more efficient. H2 can be stored at high energy density more readily (I did NOT say more easily…) than solar power, for the cloudy times and night, and the same argument applies to H2, and, if making these arguments, it is only reasonable to compare one fully charged/fueled vehicle to another, as all losses prior to that point are being explicitly ignored (yes, you may need more solar power to get to a particular vehicle state, but, again, that is irrelevant here).

        Most users are not going to be in a position to have their own solar charging station, or their own H2 production system, that will substantially meet their needs, so any comparison really should consider commercial or community sources. There are exceptions, but, for the non-commercial world, this is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

        It is not an either/or and the trade-offs are much more complex than a short, basically non-technical article can get into.

        Wait. I generally agree with the article? Wow!

      2. Tesla superchargers around California already suffer from total gridlocks with wait times stretching up to hours around popular holidays.

        And only a handful of people currently own Teslas.

          1. I’m not telling lies.

            “Tesla starts limiting charge to 80% at busy Superchargers to reduce wait times”

            “On Tuesday, Kevin Sanchez reported 8 cars waiting to charge at the Culver City Supercharger, which is one of the bigger ones with 16 charge points”
            “Tesla apparently took some precautions at high traffic stations by limiting the time you could charge to 40 minutes”

          2. I’m not lying. Tesla has already resorted to means like limiting charging time to 40 minutes, or limiting charging to 80% in the worst locations. There’s news reports where people were waiting 8 cars in a line for a 16 charger lot around the easter holidays 2018. They’re supposed to have almost 2,000 charging locations around, but that’s not helping because the people driving in to charge aren’t dispersed evenly, so some 10-20% of the locations suffer from severe crowding and waiting times stretching up to hours exactly because it takes so long to charge up.

            The comment system ate my reply when I tried to post links.

    1. You rent. In 20 years, few people will own cars. It wont make sense when you can lease an autonomous one by-the-minute to drive you (and some neighbors along the way) to work.

      1. One side issue with the idea that “in the future everyone uses JonyCab” is that it becomes another loss of privacy.

        Yes, I use Uber and Lyft on occasion, but does anyone have any real confidence that those databases are private?

        Back to the point, though, those JonyCabs have to be charged too.

        I think the better solution to the road trip problem are rental pusher-trailers for EVs. In the short term they can be gasoline powered. And there have been enough proofs of concept for those to show that it only takes something like a motorcycle engine for it to work – maybe 30-50 kW (60 hp). Just enough to handle level ground cruise. With 60 kW-hr of battery, the EV itself can do everything else.

      2. @Alan Hightower, keep dreaming. Maybe for some cityfolk, but most people won’t want to put up with disgusting, badly maintained fleet cars that no-one cars about (because it’s just a rental). Because that is what will enevitably happen.

    2. I don’t think it’s as bad as you make it out to be. How many of those people travelling on the I-5 are travelling a distance more than 200 miles in a day? I suspect not that many. Road trips are still quite possible, but with current battery sizes, it does mean stopping about every 3 hours to charge for 30+ minutes.

    3. I really wish there was a standard that every ev had to follow when it came to battery packs. So that you could swap out the batteries at stations. This would get rid of the range anxiety and the battery packs could be checked and charged optimally. Ofc it would be some logistics problems, but no solution is perfect it seems

      1. There was an Israeli company trying to do this about a decade ago. The idea was you’d pull in to a station, a machine would slide out your depleted battery rack, and pop in a fully charged one. It would take less time than refilling a petroleum tank. The service stations would charge and maintain the batteries, replacing dead cells, repairing damaged racks, etc. It sounded ideal.

        Never got off the ground. I suspect that had more to do with companies wanting to patent and license their tech than to the actual technical hurdles.

        1. Batteries are large and shaped to the vehicle. Standardization isn’t possible yet. Even if it were, I wouldn’t want someone else’s batter anymore than I’d want their diesel motor.

    4. While you are absolutely right, you do need to remember that high speed roadside charging should be considered the exception rather the the rule. Charge overnight, not once a week. While this won’t work for long trips, I do suspect 120 – 180 kWh batteries to be the us norm in a few years from now.

  8. I’ve often wondered why people seem to completely ignore the possibility of running a fairly normal internal combustion engine directly on hydrogen (similar to a natural gas conversion). I’ve seen it done so I know it is possible, though not without its own set of difficulties of course. The infrastructure for building huge numbers of cheap IC engines already exists, and the metallurgical and other changes needed to make this work would probably be achievable with a much lower costs than trying to implement a fuel-cell based system. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it might be a decent intermediate step, as it would allow most existing vehicles to be converted relatively easily (“relatively” being the key word).

    1. You can take this a step further and just run a vehicle on compressed natural gas. CNG has just as much potential to be done in a carbon-neutral manner as pure H2 (neither of which are carbon neutral today).

      1. Consider that most hydrogen production is from gas anywy, cut out the middle man.
        It’s often flared off to produce petroleum products, considered waste !

        Honda did CNG cars quite well. They burn well and have significately less emissions.

        EV’s are like running on waste veg oil.
        It’s all nice green and hippy but it doesn’t scale at all.
        Just virtue signalling and/or taking advantage of government grants which come about from virtune signalling.

      2. One does not just “Run CNG”..
        The low energy density requires many upgrades to the IC engine, else it is a slug and will not get out on the road correctly.
        Honda, modified the CNG car with forged internals, higher compression ratio, simply to “Approximate” a normal IC engine in power.

          1. The forged internals are to support higher compression ratios. Period.
            Yore statements are invalid.

            “Tailpipe emissions result from fuel combustion in a vehicle’s engine. The emissions of primary concern include the regulated emissions of hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), as well as carbon dioxide (CO2). Due to increasingly stringent emissions regulations, there is less difference between tailpipe emissions benefits from natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and conventional vehicles with modern emissions controls. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all fuels and vehicle types to meet increasingly lower, near zero, thresholds for tailpipe emissions of air pollutants and particulate matter. One advantage to NGVs is their ability to meet these stringent standards with less complicated emissions controls. NGVs continue to provide life cycle emissions benefits—especially when replacing older conventional vehicles.

            Natural gas is increasingly used to replace gasoline in smaller applications, such as forklifts and commercial lawn equipment. Because natural gas is a low-carbon, cleaner-burning fuel, a switch to natural gas in these applications can result in substantial reductions of hydrocarbon, CO, NOx, and GHG emissions.”

    2. Hydrogen embrittlement kills standard IC engines. They run for a while but then bits the piston and cylinder start flaking off and then the engines dies very quickly. There alloys that mitigate this but they are expensive and hard to work with in engines. Also you get a best case efficiency of 40% say compared to 75% with a fuel cell and you produce lots of nitrogen oxides due to the high temperature to boot.

      Though there were engines that ran on coal gas which was 50% hydrogen…

      1. It’s not hydrogen embrittlement that kills it. Hydrogen just burns so violently that you get stress fractures.

        And trying to get a standard engine to run on hydrogen, you’ll blow the air filter out repeatedly because it backfires like a b****.

    3. “I’ve often wondered why people seem to completely ignore the possibility of running a fairly normal internal combustion engine directly on hydrogen (similar to a natural gas conversion).”

      When BMW tried it (a number of years ago) the engine required 2 superchargers, and still had weak output.
      [citation needed] Something about the energy density of hydrogen or something mumble mumble.

    4. Lpg vehicles have a lot less ghg emissions than gas or diesel. Propane is a low carbon fuel and emits less co and co2 as well as particulates. If coal power is used to charge EV, propane blows away even their emissions! Of course having a big tank of gas under pressure turns some people off!

  9. Pro: Quiet, water as a by product.
    Con: Flammable. Actually, flammable is way over rated. (Along with other arguments)
    The vehicle has a storage tank, resulting in limited capacity.
    Even if ignited, the limited volume goes out quickly.
    Hydrogen, being lighter than air, rises if a leak occurs.
    Tanks are composite so metal embrittlement is a non starter.
    Hydrogen doesn’t like being away from water. A leak creates a large vapor cloud, and that cloud rises.
    Limited supply sources available, (True) but there is one near my house.
    Nobody complains about CNG vehicles, even though they also have compressed tanks full of a flammable gas.
    Original CNG tanks were certified for replacement @ 10 years. Today, that’s been extended to 15.
    I suspect Hydrogen tanks are similar.
    First response crews, (Fire, Police, Tow Trucks) should be schooled in the realities of a traffic collision.
    (I teach that class here in California)
    What’s funny, the label on a diesel tank, (Flammable).
    The best way to put out a lit road flare, is stick it in a bucket of diesel.
    And, it’s possible to store hydrogen as a solid. Yore argument is invalid.

  10. Some neighborhoods in Belgium/Germany/Netherlands are equipped with solar roofs, even factories and farms. during the day these houses are not occupied by the owners and the power from these panels are fed to the grid. For a couple of houses, that’s not of any problem, but a whole neighborhood is a different story. When everybody is off to work, the voltage rises due to the problem that nobody is consuming the energy created by the solar panels. This has to be regulated at the transformer, and could even cause local grid problems. Now, wouldn’t it be great to have a small hydrogen plant generating hydrogen at these “during the day” energy peaks of that whole neighborhood, and just fill up the car in the evening? You then would even have a back-up plan if there is a power-out from the main grid. Then you reverse the Cell, and you supply the neighborhood. keeping net-pollution/over voltage to a minimum and localized. Only make sure that the cell is strong enough to keep the solar cells @ proper frequency/voltage if the voltage outage is in the day….

    1. 1. The cost of water in many places makes local hydrogen production cost prohibitive.
      1a. If you’re on the coast, using sea water means desalinating it first.
      2. You still have to store it, because you can’t crack hydrogen (reasonably) at the rate you would want to dispense it.

      1. Number 2. Actually, not true. (Sometimes)
        My cousin rigged up a cracker (Battery Powered) for his motor home.
        Three small glass retorts, hooked up just fine.
        Ran the raw hydrogen into the air cleaner with a small valve to regulate the flow.
        Gave him 5 more MPG.
        All he needed was to clean the device every 6 months.

        1. Oh yeah, the age old “HHO generator” scam.

          The fuel savings come from the observer effect (hawthorne effect). When you’re monitoring yourself, you keep a better watch on how you drive and that saves fuel.

          1. Also, when you’re putting significant currents through a jar of water to make it bubble up, it actually heats up and boils – and the output is mostly water vapor, not hydrogen.

            Injecting water vapor into an engine can however increases the efficiency – much more than the “Brown’s gas” they often claim to be producing.

          2. Of course. There’s going to be -some- hydrogen in it that burns.

            Still doesn’t mean it works. These hydrogen generators are downright homeopathic – because the amount of water they actually split is microscopic compared to the amount of air and fuel the engine goes through in the same period.

            But if you really wanted to, you could test the point. Buy a hydrogen canister and open the regulator just enough to pass the amount of hydrogen that should be coming off of the electrolyser. See what difference it makes by turning it on and off in a blind test. 200 grams per liter of water consumed. I’m willing to bet you can’t even crack it open by that little.

  11. I have much greater worry: hydrogen is abundant here on Earth only because it is very tightly bound in heavy molecules. Any gaseous hydrogen released or leaked is out of this planet very fast. Having enough water, and by that I mean geologically enough, so that plate tectonics work, is what makes Earth different from e.g. Mars. Sloppy and shortsighted as we humans are, using hydrogen on global industrial scale would be a sure way to really seriously and truly irreversably f*ck up this planet for good, on a scale on which anthropogenic global warming is but a joke. Runaway global warming has been seen in geological past, and it was a disaster, but Earth recovered eventually. But if the water is gone, it is a game over. So please, pretty please, avoid using pure hydrogen as main energy carrier.

    1. I don’t think you need to worry.

      It’s a gigantic logical leap to believe that we could decide that our transportation needs would be best met by turning sea water into H2, and even if it were, there are just short of a trillion gallons of sea water, and the hydrogen cycle would not be anything close to 100% lossy from an atmospheric-shedding perspective.

      Besides, over a long enough timeframe the Sun expands and cooks away everything on the surface anyway.

    2. @Salec, remember that hydrogen fuel cells create *brand new* water molecules as they operate. Most of your day-to-day H2O molecules are millions of years old. Who want those?

      It is a circular system with solar energy input — solar is transformed into electricity (perhaps via photosynthesis-to-algae-to–oil). Use that electricity to split water and capture the hydrogen, then use the hydrogen to power a car fuel cell and generate new water. We don’t lose the hydrogen to outer space.

    3. I live near a lake with 410 trillion gallons of fresh water, with more coming in over Niagara Falls all the time, so I’m not worried. Maybe we can gasify it and pipe it to California, and they can burn it back to water. So that much less will fall as snow here.

  12. Even if we build a Dyson Sphere it will eventually run out. No solution will be permanent. We are only up to 2019 AD and seeing just a hundred years with petrochemical resources now having a definite limit which we WOULD go to war over, plus we keep botching it up with nuclear. Please do remember we need the environment healthy if we want to survive even just another 1000 years, much less beyond, and we’ve been botching that too.

    Rely on humans to make the right choices! ROFL…. gimme a break! We’re the ones causing it! Cave men did great for a lot longer than we have in this supposed intelligent and enlightened world, and I feel we will be going back in that direction, forced by the planet… but… then we will survive but at much lower numbers and many more bows and arrows. I don’t like this as the end result for current society, but nobody really has an answer. We need to lay a lot more faith in that expanding our scientific knowledge provides the only potentially possible path UPWARDS. Nothing we have now even comes close and the planet has already been warning us.

    1. The solution is everything. It’s responsible nuclear power (by the way, nuclear power is still one of the least dangerous electricity production methods in terms of lives-per-tW-hr), it’s increased use of renewables, it’s carbon-neutral fuel production, it’s carbon sequestration, it’s efficiency improvements, it’s reforestation and management, and – yes – it’s probably even going to require a little bit of terraforming (some suggest releasing anti-greenhouse compounds into the upper atmosphere).

      I am optimistic that we can gradually work around the problem to make a better tomorrow. The past has shown that we’ve done that time and time again.

      1. Nuclear can accomplish a reduction in carbon emissions in ten years that would take renewables over 50 years to accomplish simply because it’s ROI is much higher.
        Plus the cost of electricity would go down and not up.
        The proof is people in France pay half what people in Germany pay.

        1. Although I do think nuclear has a place in the energy mix, the ROI on nuclear is certainly lot higher than renewables – it is dismal, but this is occluded because most current nuclear power plants have directly or indirectly been heavily subsidized by governmental funds, mostly in periods where power prices were subject to a lot more political control than is common today.

          1. That’s false information. For example, in the US, nuclear power is subsidized to the tune of $2 per MWh while renewables up until recently were getting around $250 at worst. The trick: they cost a lot to build up, but unlike renewables they don’t need continuous subsidies to operate and so the amount paid per energy produced diminishes over time. It actually pays back.

            Source: EIA reports.

            But, nuclear power also pays a small surcharge tax for every MWh sold, so up to date they’ve actually paid the subsidy back in taxes. The only problem in the US is that this extra surcharge on nuclear power was supposed to pay for the disposal of nuclear waste – it’s about $23 billion collected so far – but the government refuses to spend it on the purpose, so the supreme court ordered them to stop collecting the tax until they do.

          2. For some reason I can’t reply to Luke’s post down below. However, I felt the need to reply as the idea that nuclear requires less running subsidies than renewables is not correct.

            In fact, New York proposed to keep three of their nuclear plants running until 2050 rather than replacing them with new power generation, this was estimated to cost approx. 26 billion USD in subsidies.

            The paper below actually found that tearing them all down now and replacing them with new wind or wind and utility-scale solar would be considerably cheaper.


            The numbers for new nuclear are from the handful of sources I scanned considerably worse from a cost perspective.

          3. That’s a bit apples to oranges, as you’re talking about keeping old nuclear plants on life support, which is indeed an expensive prospect on all counts, from insurance to maintenance with parts that no longer have any suppliers.

            These are systems that weren’t built to be maintained so far beyond their planned lifespan, but what can you do? You’re not allowed to build new ones, yet you can’t drop them because you need the power.

          4. The problem with nuclear power has very little to do with the concept of nuclear power and much more to do with the fact that every nuclear power plant in significant commercial operation today is a decades old shitty PWR or BWR design. We knew in the 60s how to make better reactors more resistant to LOCA (and both TMI and Fukushima were LOCAs, and Chernobyl’s trigger event was also a loss of coolant) and didn’t. Because of that, the public mind has been poisoned against the concept, so no progress gets made.

  13. I think the fact that the amount of hydrogen required would leave us needing to rely on the oil industry was the biggest take away when I took the Hydrogen Economy class. Electrolysis is a nice thought, but when you do the math you quickly come to realize it’s just not feasible. Oh, and because the reaction sites on fuel cells tend to foul easily, there would need to be even more refinement on top of the standard methane conversion process.
    Fuel cells have a fair shot at modes like otr hauling and buses. But, I imagine they will continue to only find their way into niche applications where all other options just don’t quite fit the bill.

  14. Hydrogen solutions generally fall flat at energy efficiency, power density, fuel cell costs, not to mention storage safety.

    A very simple solution to a lot of long range issues with electric vehicles would be a user replaceable battery system.

    Though, problems I have seen with prior attempts at this is:
    1. No standardized form factors. (No charging station desires to carry a battery for each type of car model/manufacturer….)
    2. Most often tries to replace the full set of batteries of the vehicle, at once. (This is simply impractical to do in most cases.)
    3. Swaps large heavy batteries using specialized equipment, or a forklift. (Not cheap, nor confidence instilling for a lot of end users.)

    Standardizing a form factor for the user replaceable battery pack would be needed, not just a standard covering one car maker, but rather all of them.

    Also the user replaceable battery pack shouldn’t be the car’s only battery, it is simply just the battery one can quickly replace at a charging station to get some new range into the vehicle. It could still make up 20-40% of the vehicle’s total capacity, maybe more.

    This battery pack could have a capacity around 1-2 kWh, then a given car could have a handful of them. Included in the pack would be a controller of sorts, keeping a track of charges, battery age, wear, manufacturer, service provider, etc. Main reason for the low capacity of the battery is to keep its weight down so that no specialized equipment will be needed for the process. (a typical human shouldn’t consider it heavy. 1-2 kWh of Lithium-ion battery would weigh around 4-10 kg)

    And one can always plug the car into a fast charger to charge its main battery during the battery swap.

    The main advantages here is:
    1. Swapping batteries is considerably faster then charging batteries.
    2. The user replaceable batteries can be charged slowly at the service station, increasing energy efficiency of the charge/discharge cycle, and also extending the working life of the battery.
    3. Old worn out batteries can be taken out of circulation, ensuring that the end users always have fresh, reliable batteries. (The “worn out” batteries not fit for vehicle service can move to other fields, like UPS/energy-storage solutions, or just get recycled.)

    How service stations would charge for this service, and manage batteries is a different question. But preferably, we should be able to swap these batteries at any service station and get the same service, and pay a reasonable fee for that service.

    1. The problem with that is that a typical car today will need a couple dozen of those easily swappable batteries, and assuming that cars are still burning their energy at current rates, the charging stations will still need massive infrastructure upgrades to keep up.

      It’s still the same amount of energy needing to go in and out, so the only thing you would really be gaining is a bit of a buffer (ideally you almost run out of batteries in peak hours, and catch up overnight.)

      Really, the answer is for short range travel (the majority of trips for most people) to be done in much smaller lighter vehicles. I have an electric cargo bike which is around 35kg, with about 0.8kWh of capacity, and it’s easily enough for my daily round trip commute, with enough left over to run out for some groceries after work, etc.

      I don’t expect that most people will be willing to ride bikes, but some kind of efficient, relatively low speed city/commuter vehicle could put a huge dent in our fuel consumption.

      Even if everyone kept their standard vehicles for the times they’re actually necessary, it would probably still be better in aggregate than everyone swapping to massive EVs with almost the same energy consumption as the vehicles they’re replacing.

      1. Yes, changing to more energy efficient vehicles overall is a major point.

        But yes, user replaceable batteries would still consume roughly the same amount of energy as fast chargers. Though, the difference is that one consumes X energy over many hours to charge, the other wants it in 20 minutes. So from the power grid’s perspective, one needs a lot more infrastructure then the other. Then there is the additional energy losses of fast charging batteries, and power losses in cables associated with that faster charging.

        Not to mention additional wear on the batteries from the faster charging that can lower their life expectancy by a lot. So reducing this wear is also making a difference on the solution’s environmental impact. (Charging at just twice the current can more then halve the expected life of the battery.)

        That one would need 10-40 batteries to get up to a sizable battery worth of energy is a downside, but the idea weren’t really to swap out all of the energy the vehicle can store, but rather a decent chunk of it.

        Though, with increased energy efficiencies of smaller electric vehicles, we could get rather far.
        As an example of current technology, a Nissan Leaf from 2016 would only need 15 of my hypothetical 2 kWh user replaceable batteries, each weighing 10 kg, to get the same energy storage as the car’s original 30 kWh battery capacity that makes it able to reach 172 km of range according to EPA.

        Swapping these 15 batteries would likely only take a couple of minutes at most. (Though, if the service station has workers doing this for one, or if one does it oneself is though a different question. But its a free work out in the worst case.) And the battery should be packaged in a way that makes user replacement a breeze, and safe.

        Then the car would still need an internal energy “storage” solution, even if it is just super caps. Since these user replaceable batteries shouldn’t be charged quickly. (and preferably not even discharged quickly.) All in the name of their life expectancy. Since high power delivery from an energy storage solution is something that the car itself can specialize on, with aforementioned super caps. (Or flywheels, batteries of its own, or other energy storage solutions.)

        This last point about the batteries not providing large amounts of power is also so that we can select a battery technology with high density and long life expectancy, above one that is able to deliver large amounts of power. And it also means that the battery connector will not see large amounts of current. (It will probably still see some 40-80 volts and 20-30 amps. 1.5-2 kW. The car provides peak power to the motors with its own energy storage, the batteries provides the average over time.) Next reason for no high power delivery is so that we don’t need to incorporate an active cooling solution into the user replaceable battery pack. But for everyone thinking 2 kW of power isn’t enough to drive a car, then I say, take it times 10 or 20, or however many batteries your car would logically need to have. There is plenty of power to go around.

        In the end, it might not be the most easily implemented solution, and no, a big rig 18 wheeler or a buss sure as hell wouldn’t use these batteries. But for a small electric vehicle, it wouldn’t be too impractical in practice.

        1. The battery of a Nissan Leaf is flat and integrated to the floor so it doesn’t take up all the space at the back. If it was replaceable modules, you’d have to provide access hatches and mounting mechanisms, and put the battery somewhere accessible, which would add more mass and take up even more space.

          Battery energy density is pretty poor as it is. No sense in making it worse by adding extra casings and connectors and mechanisms.

          1. Yet another sign of misunderstanding my concept.

            I am not saying that the main bulk battery of the car should be user replaceable modules.

            I am saying that there should be a separate set of batteries that are user replaceable. In locations that are always easily reached, so that one can do a quick swap at a service station and get back what would equate to a decent charge. Around 10-40%. (Potentially more for a smaller electric vehicle.)

            I only used the Nissan Leaf as an example that one in fact wouldn’t need all that many of these battery modules to get something comparable to an actual existing product’s total capacity.

          2. But the main bulk battery is only good for about 100 miles. What’s the use of swapping 10-40 miles worth of battery modules – you’re not going much further anyhow, unless it’s to the next service station to swap again.

            It would be a good idea to have a service plug in the trunk, so the AA can carry you a spare battery when you get stranded by the road, but there’s absolutely no point in making half your battery out of modules that still require the additional complexity of plugs and hatches and access ports…

          3. “but there’s absolutely no point in making half your battery out of modules that still require the additional complexity of plugs and hatches and access ports…”

            Well, when the road service comes along to help you get on your way, they can simply have a stack of freshly charged batteries with them, swap out a couple for you, and you should be able to get to the next service station, where you can swap out the rest, set the car on a charge in the process, and take a short break.

            The idea is mostly to beat quick charging, since 20 minutes of quick charging can give you 50-80% of the battery. Swapping batteries could give you about 40% in 1-5 minutes, and during those 1-5 minutes you can also quick charge the car’s main battery, likely giving you another 10-20%.

            So it is more a question of, 80% in 20 minutes, or 50-60% in 5 minutes?
            You can always wait the rest of the 20 minutes and likely get to 90-95%. (maybe even 100%)

            And if you are close to your destination, then getting to 60% might already be overkill. (since one can always charge the rest at once destination.)

        2. “But for everyone thinking 2 kW of power isn’t enough to drive a car”

          Regular cars need about 15-20 kW to drive at motorway speeds, and about 60-70 kW minimum if you want reasonable 0-60 times for getting up to the speed. It’s the acceleration that is actually the problem, not the steady state driving, because you can’t pull much more than 2C discharge currents out of the cells without stressing them. That’s why the practical minimum battery size for an EV is around 25 – 30 kWh.

          “Just add supercapacitors” isn’t a trivial solution to the issue, because of the way capacitors work (different voltage-charge curves), and because the energy density is 30 times lower than batteries, so your capacitor bank is soon as big as the battery if you add more reserve than just the 10 seconds acceleration.

          1. I see that you stopped mid sentence to write your comment, so here is the rest of the sentence:
            “then I say, take it times 10 or 20, or however many batteries your car would logically need to have. There is plenty of power to go around.”

            Yes, I am very well aware of the fact that a car needs more then 2 kW of power to even handle air resistance alone at highway speeds.

            Adding capacitors be it super caps or not is already largely done in a lot of electric cars. It greatly reduces wear on the batteries by a lot. And a moderately sized capacitor bank can provide ample amounts of energy for peak acceleration.

            a 2000 kg car traveling at 40 m/s (144 km/h 90mph) only contains around 1.6 MJ of inertia, or about 20 Farads worth of capacitors at 400 volt. Or roughly 40 thousand standard mains filter caps used in modestly powered SMPS solutions the world over. These aren’t even impressive in their energy density. Since it will need about 2000 liters worth of volume. And cost around 140 k€.

            So I suggest going with the far denser and cheaper super cap. A solution that would only need a 100 liter volume and cost about 14k€, still expensive though. But no real need to store the full energy of the aforementioned inertia, especially at such speeds. Not to mention that the batteries will provide power during acceleration as well.

            Cost/volume information gathered by ball park estimates and specifications from (while not even looking for a cost/volume effective capacitor. Not to mention that a car manufacturer likely goes to the capacitor manufacturer directly for the best price. Or just out right buys them like Tesla did with Maxwell.)

            Saying that capacitors are harder to deal with due to their linear charge/voltage curve is a bit like living under a rock. The linear charge/voltage curve of capacitors is fairly trivial for a modern DC-DC converter to deal with. Yes, power is a bit low when it reaches low voltages, and efficiency can vary a bit throughout the voltage curve, but in the end, it isn’t a particularly complex thing to implement.

            Capacitors is though not the one and only solution, but rather one cog in a larger system. Providing the extra energy during peak acceleration. They don’t need to store all that much energy, a couple of hundred kilo Joules goes a long way. And a few hundred kJ isn’t a particularly impressive capacitor bank btw.

          2. >”. The linear charge/voltage curve of capacitors is fairly trivial for a modern DC-DC converter to deal with.”

            Yes, but then you need yet another DC-DC converter as well – one that can handle the full power demand – and it’s not efficient in the least.

          3. “Yes, but then you need yet another DC-DC converter as well – one that can handle the full power demand – and it’s not efficient in the least.”

            Both yes and no.

            I already answered the question in the prior comment, so I’ll say it again:
            “Capacitors is though not the one and only solution, but rather one cog in a larger system. Providing the extra energy during peak acceleration.”

            Ie, they do not need to handle the full power demand of the whole system, but rather the energy that couldn’t be provided by the batteries themselves. The batteries are still there providing a large portion of the energy.

            The DC-DC converter’s efficiency will though drop significantly when the capacitor bank is nearing being empty, but then it has been time to start to lowering the acceleration regardless, since one is running out of power to sustain it.

            Then there is also other methods of integrating a capacitor bank into a power delivery system that doesn’t involve extra DC-DC converters, but rather having a power buss that allows for large voltage “swings” during operation, and simply putting the capacitor bank onto the very buss itself.

        3. The problem is, that when you close the loop, of flat batteries being swapped in and needing charging, you still have the same amount of energy going into charging to make up for the energy going out, which is set by how much energy the cars use. From the batteries’ perspective, it’s okay, because if you have more of a buffer (larger stock of packs on the shelf charging) then you can charge them slower, instead of cooking them at 5C to get them recharged in a half hour. From the infrastructure perspective, the station still needs the average number of watts going in to be equal to the average number of watts being consumed (including the charging losses). Whether you’re doing it with a lot of packs charging at low rate, or a few charging up quickly. you’ve still got customers buying full packs at a fixed rate, which means you’re pulling that amount of power from the grid.

          As I said before, with enough buffer, you could level off the peaks in demand, and be consuming at a near constant rate, but if everyone’s driving them, that rate would still be huge.

          Also, I think you’re underestimating the complexity of the on board electrical system that would be needed for something like you’re proposing. You can’t just randomly throw packs in series/parallel with different states of charge. The most effective way to do it would likely be to have each pack have its own built in power supply buck converting to below the pack’s minimum voltage, so they could all be paralleled on a bus at the output. Then these buses could be put in series, as long as there’s sufficient capacity installed at any given time.
          After that, you would probably have to write a really smart controller that would intentionally load one pack at a time, so that they you have a few empty packs to replace, instead of 20 of them all at 50%, and needing to swap 250kg of batteries to get a full charge for a long trip. (obviously it would have to spread out peak loads to not cook the cells)

          And, one thing that I’ve learned through a ton of my own projects, is that the “simple” mechanical stuff is usually where 95% of the actual work is.
          Designing cars to have a lot of easily accessible storage, which is also well distributed to make a vehicle that handles reasonably would be very difficult. Getting a bunch of different manufacturers to all agree on it would be near impossible.

          Doing some kind of hybrid solution, where you’re essentially doing a portable charge boost pack kind of thing also shares more of the same difficulties which basically all boil down to (power in >= power out) The granularity of the fueling process isn’t the main factor. Figuring out how to get the overall power equation to work is.

          1. Yes, charging batteries with X amount of energy needs X amount of energy regardless.
            But my point isn’t to magically lower one side of that equation, but rather to extend the working life of the battery itself by treating it less harshly. Also a slower charge has lower charging losses associated with it, but this in the larger scheme wouldn’t be saving more then a couple of percent at most. Though, the working life of the batteries can be extended by a lot. Spreading out the construction cost of the battery over more charges, making it more environmentally friendly.

            But from the grids perspective, comparing it to fast charging where we want X energy in a short amount of time, or with battery swapping, where we want the same X amount of energy but over a larger amount of time, would mean that our load on the grid is far less spiky and would avoid the risks of brownouts.

            But looking from the car’s own electrical system, yes there would be added complexities.
            Though, I wouldn’t use a buck converter.

            I would propose a system that uses a boost converter, as to get as little current losses in the car’s electrical wiring as possible. (Not to mention contact resistance for the user replaceable battery.)

            Secondly, having a pack tell the car’s computer its current charge state and temperatures is fairly trivial. And having the car tell the pack weather or not its boost converter should be active or not is yet again trivial. This can either be done in an analog fashion with just a couple of control signals, or in a digital fashion over a buss. (The later might need a protocol, but designing such is also fairly trivial.)

            Ensuring that all these boost converters are regulating to the same output voltage might seem less trivial. But we can just have a large window that we regulate to.

            As an example lets say that at 400 volts we need no current, since we have no load.
            And at 390 volts and bellow, we want full current, since we have full load.
            Detecting this 10 volt difference and applying sufficient current in accordance to it, is trivial.

            The voltage sensing will be done by an on board controller on the car, that then sends its desires to the battery packs. This means that the controller can prioritize discharging our most empty batteries first, and also selectively switch in more batteries when the power is needed. (So it all becomes a question of how good a software control loop can be.)

            Do note, the boost converters in the battery doesn’t care about their output voltage, but rather just regulates based on output power/current. So the controller simply states how many percent it wants, and the battery then gives power/current in accordance to that.

            This digital bus used for sending this control signal will though bring some added latency to our control loop, but this isn’t an issue, since we can easily add on a large capacitor bank onto our power buss, ensuring that it won’t be changing voltage all that quickly as far as the control loop is concerned. Also, the capacitor bank will offer far higher peak power delivery compared to our batteries.

            Also, the controller can change the desired buss voltage in preparation of regenerative breaking, ie dramatically lower the output power from the batteries, discharge the capacitor bank by a fair bit ahead of breaking. If the regenerative breaking leads to the buss going above 400 volts, then the buss and all things connected to it should be built to sustain voltages of 450 volt and above. (Since one should have tolerances, but we preferably should be dumping power into the car’s main on board battery bank while breaking.)

            If we were to look at some fabricated numbers as a back of the envelope reality check:
            Lets say that we have 8 user replaceable batteries, each storing 2 kWh, and able to give 2 kW of power.
            The car itself has an on board battery bank consisting of 20 kWh of batteries and able to give a 40 kW of power.
            The car has a 10F capacitor bank on its 400 volt power distribution buss. And the buss can go to 200 volts minimum.
            This means that peak power delivery will be 56 kW without discharging the capacitor bank.
            Peak during a 10 second acceleration will be 76 kW (about 100 hp.), discharging the capacitor bank to 200 volts in the process.
            Peak for a 5 second acceleration will be 96 kW. (128 hp)

            Do note, we only have 36 kWh of battery capacity here to play with, with a combined C rating of 1.5, far from impressive as far as batteries are concerned. In reality, the user replaceable batteries would likely be closer to 2-3 C by themselves. And the car’s on board battery would likely be closer to 5-10 C.
            Taking the lower end of those numbers, we could reach 132 kW from the batteries alone. (Not to mention that the capacitor bank adds another 40 kW for a 5 second acceleration. For a total of 172 kW or 230 hp.)

            From a range standpoint, if this were having the same energy consumption as a Nissan Leaf, then with our total of 36 kWh of battery capacity, we could get a distance of roughly 200km (according to the Nissan Leaf’s EPA number of 30 kWh reaching 172 km.), a battery swap would replace 16 kWh, giving us a new 91 km of distance. (Though, likely more due to the fact that we can charge the car’s main battery during the battery swapping process, and likely take a short coffee break too, so by that point, we might be back at nearly fully charged.)

            In the end, It isn’t hard to integrate a large capacitor bank onto our buss, while having many independent power sources regulating to the same wide voltage window, giving us the ability to have both an on board battery bank in the car itself, and a set of user replaceable batteries for quick “charging” at a service station or similar.

            And this here might either seem way too simple, or overly complicated, depending on your knowledge in electronics, and expectations of what the system complexity should be.

            Technology wise it is fairly simple, making it a usable service in practice is where it gets complicated.

            The hardest part with making this a reality is from a legal standpoint, and also making car makers willing to follow such a standard, and also build out the infrastructure and service for the battery swapping too. Not to mention the bigger question of how the actual battery swapping process in terms of licenses, payment, quality of service, etc will need to work for it to be a good experience for the end user. It can all be summed up with, “who owns the battery, and how/where can you change it?” Then there is questions of rent or swapping fees, and what about lemons/old-batteries?

  15. This article (#notahack) still leaves out many engineering difficulties and engages in much wishful thinking. Electrolysis? That only works in 5th grade science class. Industrial quantities can only be economically formed by steam reformation of natural gas. There are many other problems, but I’ll leave those for the other commenters.

  16. Intersting read!

    Most arguments against hydrogen are valid against other forms of energy imho;
    Electricity can be quite lethal, gasoline is rather explosive and storing and transporting it is equally dangerous as hydrogen.
    We do already have a grid to transport electrical energy. The transport of electricity is not without losses at all. a considerable amount of the energy goes to waste as heat. transporting any kind of energy takes energy. This grid is all nice and well, but when we want everyone to switch to all electric the grid cannot handle this and a lot of work and energy has to be put into expanding the grid. At the moment [in europe] servercompanys are demandinh so much electrical power that the grid is stressed to the max. Powerstations can hardly meet the demands.
    So i guess tha any kind of cleaner energy is nesseccary and it it just a matter of choice which one its gonna be. Mankind hast to layout new networks and grids no matter what kind of energytransition there will be.
    Lets not get to emotional about our personal preferences and go for the cleanest cheapest and most democratic option

    1. One thing that bothers me about the present generation of battery electric vehicles is they do occasionally go up like a Roman candle and the mining of cobalt for the cathodes is extremely environmentally destructive.
      Just look up cobalt mining in the Congo the mines there makes Picher Oklahoma look pristine.
      The total pollution of an EV may actually be worse than a gasoline car until this is addressed.

      1. The total pollution from EVs is way lower than gasoline cars even in coal-heavy markets, check out the latest meta studies on this.

        Also although EVs do burn some times, they are about 8 times less likely to do so than ICE cars (which are actually more likely to catch fire the newer they are). This is borne out in numbers from the norwegian authorities (DSB).

        1. I’ll just leave this here.

          They really need to look into other chemistries maybe LiFePO4.
          That said it takes several years for an EV to amortize it’s savings to off set the cost of it’s manufacture one of the shortest is the Nissan Leaf maybe seven years but something like a Tesla may take twice that or more.
          Still battery electric do have their place but they are not a cure all for all transport as the energy density is over an order of power lower than chemical fuels.

        2. The ESOEI (Energy stored per energy invested) of a lithium-ion battery is about 10:1 if the battery is used to its full potential.

          The issue is that in a big EV like a Tesla S, the battery is never used to its full potential. Suppose a nominal cycle life of 2,000 cycles, then 340 Wh per mile, then 160,000 mile lifespan before the battery is replaced (10 years, 16k per year). The battery goes through just 544 full cycles, which is 27% of its potential storage lifespan used.

          This changes the ESOEI to 2.72:1 which means that the manufacture of the battery itself consumes an additional 36% more energy from just driving the car, or expressed as “system efficiency”, the true energy efficiency of the battery ignoring charging losses is just 74%.

          1. But if the battery is not used to its full potential; why replace it? If the car is used up; repurpose it as solar battery. But just replacing it while it still holds 90% ish charge is silly.

          2. >”why replace it? ”

            Because lithium batteries have a “best by” date regardless of how much you use them. 10 years is the practical maximum shelf life for a high-density battery as far as anyone has managed so far.

          3. Although, the ESOEI calculation is a bit worse in reality because of over-provisioning the batteries. The shelf-life gets dramatically better if you don’t charge the cells up to 100% so the manufacturers add extra cells on top of the nominal capacity. This may be from 5% extra up to 25% or more for the smaller packs, because the smaller pack is more often charged to full capacity, whereas the owner of the larger pack is happy at 80%

  17. ok I gotta say. I’d love an electric van (or hydrogen) or anything other than the Diesel.


    I drive upto 400+ miles a day working. parking where I live is non existent so running a charger – from a rented house no less – is less than practical.

    so. whats the solution? get another job? swappable battery packs on commercial vehicles? call the boss each time I can’t get somewhere in a timely fashion because of charging issues?

    somethings on this planning to ditch petrol/diesels has yet to be made clear….

    1. Here’s the thing: you are an outlier on just about any chart. A solution only needs to work for “some” people in order to make significant progress. A solution that includes you can be developed much later.

  18. The point that many people seem unable to fully get their heads around is the fact that *we cannot store intermittent renewables at TWh-scale*. I will explain this briefly, but its obvious – there is never going to be enough pumped hydro/CAES/thermal storage to replace the fossil energy system. So we will need hydrogen storage, which is happening (various salt caverns being built for H2, notably in Utah, Germany, the UK etc). Not a problem, cheap etc.

    So if you want to power your car on solar, you can only charge it during the day. Perhaps there is wind, but from a commercial perspective, you need what is called an ‘always on’ power source. No two ways about this.

    So, lastly, the ‘electrify everything with batteries’ proponent will say – we can use HVDC to send electricity around the country! Now, this is a great idea, if it weren’t for a few caveats. 1) No HVDC has been built in the US since 1998. 2) Its expensive, for the few GW of electricity it transports (compared to pipelines). 3) You have a lot of land ownership and planning rights laws which usually take a decade to get through, if at all.

    So, we are back at the storage issue again. And I just explained that, unless you want more data. Hydrogen is the only way to store large volumes of electricity.

    Rather than re-electrify it, the better answer (realistically) is to put it directly into a fuel cell at 60% efficiency. So, that should be about it.

    Oh, and add to these reasons the fact that hydrogen can be co-produced with electricity for lower than the cost of electricity, and you start to understand why all major EU steel producers are switching to hydrogen-DRI, all gas turbines will be 100% hydrogen compatible by 2030, and the gas network itself will be converted and is being converted given the cost of re-fitting an older building to accommodate low-temperature heating.

    I hope commenters do not adhere to 10-20 year old data when they respond to this post, because the technology has truly moved on, and it is time to start thinking realistically about the cost reductions that will be arriving.

    1. Excellent points, @Daniel Williams.

      The narrow focus on conversion efficiency leaves out the fact that about 25% of renewable energy today is lost because there is no grid storage. The efficiency of converting this lost energy to hydrogen is 100%.

  19. Hydrogen fuel cells are just batteries. Rather than “refilling” the car with hydrogen, the fuel cell should be modular: swap the old one out and swap a new one in. Like propane tanks for barbecues. Taste the meat, not the heat.

    1. Nice try Hank..
      The fuel cell uses the hydrogen to create the electrical energy, and it is saved in a battery to use for running the drive system Google will also show hydrogen stored as a solid, and for sale now. So, if the limited volume of “gas” bothers you, go solid.

  20. Was hoping this thread would show a couple good probabilities for our transportation future. But sounds more like we’ll be getting to something of a mix between Soylent Green and THX-1138, if we’re lucky.

    Plus we’ll have to downgrade our transportation hopes from an electric car, to an electric moped, or rely totally on mass transit. Good time to invest in shoe mfgs. We’ll have to just watch the rich folk pass by in their cars.

    …. bah! The war over petrochemical resources will fix it for us all… one way or another.

    Not jesting. Bummed. But gonna enjoy it while I still can.

    HAD been holding out belief that we’d get past this.

    1. Maybe going from an electric car to a moped isn’t a downgrade, depending on the purpose.

      I think the days of excess, moving a 100kg payload with a 2000kg vehicle are going to have to end eventually.

      IMO, multiple vehicles for more specialized purposes is the way to go. Something small and efficient (and slow-ish) for short-range commuting, and local trips (the majority of travel, on average), and your more conventional (by today’s standards) vehicle for when you want to take your whole family on a road trip, etc.

      1. “depending on the purpose”

        The point of owning a car is that a) you’re protected from the environment and other vehicles, b) you can transport an amount of cargo and other people at least occasionally, c) you can go long distances at will.

        The moped still requires you to own the car on the side for all the other uses, which means you have to pay more for insurance, taxes, maintenance…

    2. Not sure why everything thinks there will be a perfect solution…there won’t be. There will always be tradeoffs, and a certain set of trade-offs will work for some, and a different set of trade-offs will work for others. Some will be voluntary (I’d like a 2 seat sportscar instead of a sedan) and some won’t be (I’d love a Tesla electric car, but can only afford a 1979 Datsun).

      Those trade-offs will change in the future. Perhaps in 50 years people would love to have an ICE car, but the cost of gas precludes it, so they’ll have to ‘settle’ for an electric.

      Then flying cars will happen and everything will get turned upside down again.


  21. I should mention that there are now two nuclear plants that I know of who will be converting to hydrogen production (Excelon in the US, and one in the UK); it is being produced from biogas now in Australia without the need for CCS (via an iron-based catalyst, leaving only graphite and hydrogen), it can be pyrolysed also without CCS (although this is going to be needed, at scale), it can be produced from waste plastic without CCS (initially 10 plants now being built in the UK, for transport fuel).. the list goes on.

    We will need a lot of hydrogen to replace fossil fuels.

    1. Hydrogen production also could be a solution for what to do with excess energy from renewable sources like solar and wind which is one of their biggest problems when you put a lot of them on the grid.
      Just dealing with the duck curve is hard enough with batteries and pumped storage is out of the question when needing to store an entire summer’s worth of excess power.

  22. I’m surprised to see no mention of the fact that the best hydrogen tanks we can make, still leak. The hydrogen molecule is s small that it diffuses right through the walls of the tank. The best tanks I know of have a half-life of about 30 days.

    1. Hydrogen tanks not only leak but you are installing a bomb in your vehicle. You can still utilize the hydrogen energy without the need of a hydrogen tank. H2O auto power limited in Cambridge Ontario has recently developed a simple, safe and an efficient device that can be installed in any vehicle to generate hydrogen from water.

      1. The following excerpt is pulled directly from ‘s FAQ; “Hydrogen Generator decreases fuel consumption by increasing the octane level and forcing the base fuel to combust more completely and efficiently. Higher octane result in increased horsepower. Higher octane, increased horsepower and efficient base fuel ignition is equivalent to much more km per liter.” This is not how a car works. Increasing octane on your average car will do nothing except maybe make it run worse.

        1. Nick, is your comment on the octane based on published scientific evidence or based on your personal impression? Please provide any published scientific evidence to support your comment. Thanks

          1. Spoken like a true snake oil salesman. You’re asking me to prove the statement on the website is wrong when there is no information at all to indicate that said statement is correct in the first place. Octane rating is well understood and documented. All you have to do is read.

        2. Close, butt no effing cigar.
          The higher the octane, the “SLOWER” the fuel burns.
          This was a solution looking for a problem. Early on, newer IC engines began to “Ping” with cheap gasoline. Enter the “High Octane” fuel that burns slower, preventing ping/knock and solving the “Cosmetic Problem”. Adding ethanol, to gasoline, (30% O2) required almost double the volume of fuel to achieve the desired increase in power. (In a race car, double size carb jets, and higher compression just to make it work) So now the “Flex Fuel” Fords and Chevys have the absolute worst fuel economy on the planet.
          The real scam is, emission controls require the engine to run at a high temp, yet ethanol cools the system down.
          Do you smell cross purposes here?

        3. “by increasing the octane level ”

          That is patently false. Hydrogen is easier to ignite than gasoline -> lower octane number. Hydrogen causes the engine to knock more readily, which causes the ECU to retard the ignition and loses engine power and efficiency.

  23. It’s worth mentioning that there are actually many more hydrogen-powered semitrailers on the road than cars. It makes sense there b/c the battery load for long-distance trucking is a real problem, and H2’s energy density really changes things. Not to mention that truckers are paid by the hour, even when recharging.

    There is a scale where H2 becomes more environmentally friendly as well, despite the inefficiency of storing energy in H2 relative to batteries. And that’s somewhere between long-haul trucking and family driving. Electrical vs H2 is kinda “right tool for the job” for different jobs.

  24. Hydrogen has a place, but it’s not passenger cars.

    It’s locomotives and container ships.

    Both have a limited number of fueling stations, locomotives have the benefit of being their own transportation to deliver hydrogen to those fueling stations, and both would require massive batteries to even begin to compete with their fossil fuel equivalents…

    If I were in hydrogen, I’d be looking to get a diesel locomotive, and convert it to hydrogen.
    You don’t even need to change the drive systems since they are all electric anyhow… you just need to scale the technology up to be able to generate enough power to run a locomotive…

    1. Oxygen is not a fuel, it’s an oxidizer. For something to burn, you need fuel, oxygen and a heat source (fire triangle). You can get explosive vapour/gas/air mixtures. Explosives contain their own oxygen (e.g. nitrates) so can work under water/ in vacuum.

  25. I am still surprised at how off the hype still is for hydrogen vehicles. One thing not mentioned is the energy density verses cost. Then you see just how expensive it really is. I worked on alcohol fuel cells (~4% wi water) and we spent few years getting the efficiency very close to H2 cells. Our demonstrator vehicle used the alcohol fuel cell and a a pack of ultra caps. That is the way to go from dino juice to something a bit more enviro friendly. We had this demo when asked about the “dangerous” fuel where we would start a small fire then put it out with the actual fuel mix. I always thought it made more sense then trying to build a new hydrogen distribution structure as the entire distribution system was already in place. And if worse came to worse you could home-brew your own fuel (think making beer or wine)lol.

    1. The following excerpt is pulled directly from ‘s FAQ; “Hydrogen Generator decreases fuel consumption by increasing the octane level and forcing the base fuel to combust more completely and efficiently. Higher octane result in increased horsepower. Higher octane, increased horsepower and efficient base fuel ignition is equivalent to much more km per liter.” This is not how a car works. Increasing octane on your average car will do nothing except maybe make it run worse.

  26. The water vapor a fuel cell car emits is very low to be relevant. To affect the climate the height of the emission is also relevant, and a field of grass will also emit water, this is why your feet get wet when you take a morning stroll in the garden. Also a wet road will dry after a rainfall “automagically” by sunlight, also water vapor is emitted.

    But back to topic:

    – Burning 1L gasoline will emit 1L of water through oxidation (due to the high temperatures from the exhaust this is water vapor) – a “typical” automobile and a sane driver will use ~ 7ltr./100km and emit 7 ltr. of water vapor over a distance of 100km

    – oxidizing H2 in a fuel cell (toyota mirai will use ~1,2kg/100km) will react with O2 from air to roughly about 9kg(~9Ltr.) of water (1kg/1ltr.) due to the lower temperature reaction inside the fuel cell only some water vapor will be emitted but also liquid water

    So my friend a hydrogen car will emit just 2L more water than your gas guzzling machine?

    However I would say driving too many H2 cars during sub zero (Centigrade! -> now Imperial Unitarians can make sense of Mortal Combat!) temperatures might lead to a very slippery road.

  27. “Only 500 miles of range? Electric cars are useless! Me, and everyone I know, drives 502 miles every day at a minimum! Having to spend more than 3 minutes to recharge is completely offensive to my entire way of life.”

    Man, I am glad i am in the minority here. I would shoot myself if I had to drive 502 miles every day.
    Jeez, if you cant spare 3 minutes of your life to charge. I would re-evaluate your life.

  28. I have a 2004 c240 and I installed the device in it and now it saving me 60 % on gas it used to take 91 gas but now It take 87 I never had any problems with the device and it works great.

    1. That’s nothing, I taped some cow magnets to my gas line, and saved so much gas that I have to siphon it out every few weeks or it overflows. I use the extra for my lawn mower. Buy my book and I’ll show you how!

  29. Who is waiting for hydrogen fuel cells?

    Direct ETHANOL Fuel Cells
    hats where you should put your money.

    We have an ethanol distribution system in place. The tankers to transport it. And a growing surplus of export crops as we tank relations internationally. And that doesnt even touch on Algal alcohol production or supercritical water treatment of waste cellulose into sugars for feedstocks.
    AgriOil is going to dominate as soon as DEFCs are perfected, scaled, and implemented broadly.

    1. That’s a lot of “as soon as”es. It’s not just turning the crank on development, we need some breakthroughs first. And sometimes breakthroughs run up against the laws of physics.

      1. no.
        its a single “as soon as”
        Hydrogen is the largest obstacle to direct ethanol fuel cells. People holding onto petroleum company propaganda dumping billions into gassy cells stymie progress. Its not like this is some scifi technology no one has any clues about, The first DEFC Powered test vehicle hit the road in 2007. In the years since membrane efficiency has improved significantly and there have been some significant advances in Non NOBLE catalyst systems as well.

        As I stated we have the infrastructure. Gas stations are already pumping ethanol and ethanol enriched fuels. They dont even require new equipment.
        We have a growing surplus of fermentable crops thanks to the current diplomatic trends
        Algal alcohol production doesnt need anything but a demand for its product….and its a very easy tech to scale
        Supercritcal water oxidation to convert cellulose to sugars is already a thing….The biggest thing holding this up is that SCWO reactors are most commonly being deployed to deal with hazardous industrial waste at this point….again because there isnt really enough demand for the ethanol production yet.

        1. If this was currently feasible, there would be a million ethanol fuel cell vehicles running around Brazil right now, where there are E100 pumps at fuel stations. The rest of the car is just an EV without a big battery; the sticking point is the cost of the DEFC.

      1. Ethanol is not a fossil fuel. You do know what fossils are dont you? Corn, Algae, cellulose…NOT fossils.

        Do Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells put off CO2…yep sure do.
        BUT where oh where did that CO2 come from?
        Was it trapped beneath the earth millions of years ago in a large pool of diatoms that gradually converted into petroleum over a millennia or two….NO….thats not it…
        OH WAIT….ALL those plants GREW and SEQUESTERED the CO2 from the air???
        So you are NOT increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? Awesome.

        The efficiency of a DEFC…even the currently available commercial ones….BLOW ANY FORM OF COMBUSTION out of the water! <hehe pun So even though you may be stirring the CO2 cycle around a lil….you would be SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCING vehicle emissions…FOR REAL. Not for pretend…LIKE ELECTRIC BATTERY OPERATED CARS.

        Do you know where your battery is getting charged? It isnt in some fancy carbon sequestering process..NEARLY 2/3s of the US Power grid is pumping COAL and NATURAL GAS….REAL FOSSIL FUELS.
        Im not even going to start with the true carbon costs of RENEWABLE energy.

        Dream the improbable dream.

        Im investing in DEFC

  30. Hydrogen is not a liquid at room temperature no matter what the pressure. I can only be liquified at very low temperatures. It is a gas and does not behave as a liquid at all.

  31. Commercial hydrogen is produced by steam reforming methane. It’s expensive and not readily available. Hydrogen is a energy carrier, not a energy source. At best it’s a leaky bucket for whatever energy source is used to create it.

  32. The *only* reason to be pro Hydrogen is if you are going to sell it! (Or sell the H-cars) They are very complex compared to a BEV, and of course someone wants to make big bucks on something that not everyone already have at home, like electricity. If you don’t like gas being expensive you shouldn’t convert to Hydrogen. Sure, it is the most common element in the universe, but it’s not like we can just pump it out of the ground. Vast amounts of energy is being used to refine it. So for personal transportation it is just stupid.

  33. > you’d be better off using the wind power to recharge the batteries in a car

    Seeing you huff and puff your car’s battery back to full charge should be an interesting side-show.

  34. The elephant in the room for fuel cells is precious metals. Economies of scale do not really apply to precious metals and in order to get the higher efficiency levels precious metals are needed. Specifically for vehicles having a high efficiency is paramount.

    1. New nanostructured electrocatalysts (HYPERMEC by ACTA SpA for example) have been developed, which are based on non-noble metals, preferentially mixtures of Fe, Co, Ni at the anode, and Ni, Fe or Co alone at the cathode.

  35. We might gain a bit clearer picture of the future if we envision the societal changes needed to make this energy source conversion successful. Need to look at the endpoint rather than the first wailing and screaming at the early changes. I post this proposal to rattle loose a few more good ideas from HAD’s readers.

    I envision wide ranging effects upon society no matter whether we accomplish the needed changes or not. Let’s say we do accomplish them though as the alternative isn’t at all pretty.

    – Employers
    Will have to shift to the needs of the many. Long commutes will decline till forgotten. Your resume will include a line about time to and from work daily and method of transport as foot, public, bicycle… etc. Telecommuting will become a thing and employers will gain credits for keeping all these commute scores low as possible by mandate.

    – Private Local, to still take care of the individual’s needs.
    Foot traffic, public transport, and privately owned bicycles, plus at most electric mopeds with perhaps tiny 4 seater EVs with limited range but these will be phased out slowly over time to become a public item you reserve in advance, if available, only as needed. There will be a special need for other public provided transportation to medical facilities and this would be arranged by the medical facility at same time as the appointment .

    – Long distance travel.
    Publicly owned vehicles you reserve in advance, heavy emphasis on rail and bus transport. Air travel possible but restricted to instances where fast travel suits the needs of the society rather than individual. Also see Railroad.

    – Cargo
    Long distance as well as local. Trucking in a variety of sizes. EV and H2 self-driving vehicles acceptable for the long haul as there simply won’t be much human traffic on the freeways anymore. Drivers for local city use.

    – Heavy construction equipment. Gasoline and diesel till these can also be converted to more efficient systems.

    – Railroad. The engines are already gas turbine-electric so converting to other fuels sources should be no hurdle.
    Do remember that trains can get you to Yosemite and Grand Canyon at this time, and go nearly everywhere. Holiday train trips for major vacation travel should become quite a thing.

    Believe I could get along with all of that right now!

    Now, as I said, this proposal is made to rattle loose further ideas. Am not counting that I have it right, but together we can get it right.

    1. Uh, no..

      “Union Pacific operated the largest fleet of gas turbine-electric locomotives (GTELs) of any railroad in the world. The prototype, UP 50, was the first in a series built by General Electric for Union Pacific’s long-haul cargo services and marketed by the Alco-GE partnership until 1953. The prototype was introduced in 1948 and was followed by three series of production locomotives. At one point, Union Pacific said the GTELs hauled more than 10% of the railroad’s freight.[citation needed]

      Fuel economy was poor, for the turbine consumed roughly twice as much fuel as an equally powerful diesel engine. This was initially not a problem, because Union Pacific’s turbines burned Bunker C heavy fuel oil that was less expensive than diesel. But this highly viscous fuel is difficult to handle, with a room-temperature consistency similar to tar or molasses. To solve this problem, a heater was built into the fuel tanks (and later into fuel tenders) to heat the fuel to 200 °F (93 °C) before feeding it into the turbine. Eventually UP switched from Bunker C to modified No. 6 heavy fuel oil, which contained fewer pollutants and solvents.[citation needed] Soot buildup and blade erosion caused by corrosive ash plagued all of the turbines. Changes to the air intake systems on the production turbine locomotives improved the quality of the air that reached the turbines, which in turn reduced the wear to the turbine blades and increased the turbine’s running life. The GTELs were operated into late 1969 and the final two (numbers 18 and 26) were stored at the Cheyenne roundhouse in operating condition until being retired in February 1970.[citation needed] Both of these units were later sent to museums. “

  36. Apparently a solid form of hydrogen has been achieved – hydrogen ice. It may have the property that once it is formed under very high pressure, it will remain in the solid state as the pressure is reduced. If true, this can be used for very high energy density storage and be great for rocket fuel and for fuel cells, vehicles, etc.

  37. At first glance a Hydrogen powered car seems to be a good idea its super clean hydrogen oxide (better known as WATER) being the only remnant of hydrogen combustion. However from my personal experience in the semiconductor industry where I installed MOCVD reactors that used hydrogen as a working fluid that carried the reactant materials. 1. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule element and it can seep through any gap, seal, tube or other device utilized to contain it. Only the best designed and properly used fittings with metal to metal sealed gaskets have a chance to keep it where it belongs. Hydrogen also has the unique property of the widest EXPLOSIVE range of any gas, it is from 4 to 96% in air it doesn’t just burn at this range of concentration it EXPLODES! the smallest leak of hydrogen is super dangerous and a certain fire / explosion if not detected and repaired when it happens not next time you think to have it done. When hydrogen is used in a semiconductor fab, there is a sensor network separate and isolated from all other sensors it operates 24/7 just detecting H2, the equipment is installed and then leak checked at least 2 times, hydrogen is introduced in stages and pressure raised step by step slowly while engineers use sniffers and monitor for any sign of a leak. This is in a secure factory with professional people well trained monitored 24/7. I cant imagine the disaster of tens of thousands of cars running around with h2 tanks and piping on them there would be fires explosions and dead burned people in the wake!
    The other little fact not ever talked about is the lower energy released burning hydrogen compared to the energy contained in the same mass of gasoline. the energy comes from the bonds between hydrogen and carbon atoms in the gasoline more broken bonds more energy. Hydrogen has 1 bond to break compared to gasoline , which is a blend of long multiband hydrocarbons with any where between 10 and 20 or more bonds to break when it is burned. Carrying liquid H2 in tanks would require lots of tanks and the weight of the tanks as in thousands of pounds to go the same distance 30 gallons of gas does. don’t mean to pee on any bodies pop tart but benefits are outweighed by the properties of the stuff!

    1. Hydrogen prefers to travel in pairs and is easy to contain. Helium is the one that is hard to contain since it likes to be an inert single atom – an alpha particle with electrons hanging about. Chemists like to call hydrogen ions “protons”. But as a gas or liquid you find H2. H2 also rises quickly in air, making explosions unlikely (it doesn’t pool) and fires that won’t spread.

  38. So, converting the old railroad engines to H2 won’t work. Was expecting this. As a matter of fact, was expecting none of it would work out well.

    Just helping to define and set expectations.

    1. Many solutions are under way. Dual fuel diesel/CNG systems actually work. The engineers will figure it out.
      My gas turbines burned really crappy sewer gas from the sewage treatment plant. The quality was up and down, so the turbines were started on diesel, up to speed, switch to methane, energize to the grid, profit from energy sale to Edison. We had the same setup on the landfills. (Yes, plural) Sold energy to Edison to offset operating costs.
      Back in the early 1980s, the methane was tried in small utility trucks on site. This was prior to anyone actually knowing how to build or repair CNG vehicles. Eventually, they were parked and scrapped, but today, Honda does a nice job.
      The only real problem with a CNG vehicle is the large tank in the trunk. East coast Mafia members would never buy one of those CNG cars, no room in the trunk for a dead body.

  39. I always say that hydrogen cars offer the best selection of the worst downsides: High up-front vehicle cost like a BEV, expensive fuel like an ICE, fossil-sourced fuel like an ICE (virtually all hydrogen is currently produced as a fossil fuel byproduct, making hydrogen practically a fossil fuel), the need to send fuel via pipelines and trucks like an ICE. The only downsides it doesn’t have is the longest refuel times and the shortest range – refueling a hydrogen car being slightly quicker than a half-hour-to-80% quick charge, and ranges still exceed the best BEVs, but those come with a caveat related to one of its unique downsides I’m about to get to.

    Hydrogen cars also offer unique downsides that BEVs or ICEs don’t have: Extremely rare fuel (there are only a few dozen hydrogen stations in the US, mostly in a few coastal states – the range and refuel time don’t look so practical now, do they?), fuel that must be highly pressurized, escapes through solids, and embrittles steel on the way out, and fuel that can explode in the car from a room-temperature, apparently safe resting state (due to pressurization, if the container is ruptured).

    Hydrogen cars initially may have looked like a slight improvement over ICEs, but today seem like a terrible idea. BEVs are the future. They offer longer ranges and quicker charges over time, a fuel that is currently available in just about every structure and can be delivered over wires from any source, and the environmental damage of making batteries is miniscule compared to that of constantly extracting fossil fuels over time for ICEs (or, currently, hydrogen cars). In the future the batteries may even have far less environmental impact – look up dual-carbon battery technology.

    If a form of fusion power is ever realized that leaves us with excess hydrogen, the best thing to do with it would be to use it for stationary power generation at the source and use that power to charge BEVs.

  40. The Elephant In The Room: Hydrogen fueled autonomous vehicles.
    Insurance companies will kill anything that reduces the cash cow called “Premiums”.
    Media reports autonomous cars on the horizon, lobbyists are loading up the tip jars. (Bribes)
    Never happen.

    1. “Insurance companies will kill anything that reduces the cash cow called “Premiums”.
      Media reports autonomous cars on the horizon, lobbyists are loading up the tip jars. (Bribes)”

      Reads like they’re imminent threat racketeering organized continuing criminal enterprises masked robbing then and can be counter assaulted. Another root cause of all the deviants that need to be targeted.

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