Fuel Cell Vehicles?

"You can think of a fuel cell as an inefficient battery"

So. Who cares about BEVs when FCVs are right around the corner? Well, besides vehicle price, fuel price, fuel availability, inefficiency, complexity, pollution and probability of production - and the fact that this technology is currently doing NOTHING to wean us off of oil right now, I can't think of any reasons not to love FCVs! The fact of the matter is - the promise of FCVs is making our air dirtier, and allowing us to remain addicted to fossil fuels that much longer. Why? Because with the promise of FCVs came the wholesale neglect for today's truly clean highway-capable personal transportation: Battery Electric Vehicles.

"...a nickel-metal-hydride battery is nothing more that a hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cell unit within a single very efficient package. I don't think you can make the usage of hydrogen more practical or more cost effective than that. Some volume manufacturing, automation, and production engineering, along with a well-engineered recycling program should get NiMH or any other battery technology a lot further along than fuel cells will progress at the same development cost."   - Ed Stoneham, 1994

° From this article, http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13518/ we find:

The technical challenges are enormous. In September 2003, a U.S. Department of Energy panel on basic research needs for the hydrogen economy, chaired by MIT professor of physics and electrical engineering Mildred Dresselhaus, reported that transportation fuel cells are 100 times more expensive than internal combustion engines. The most mature hydrogen storage systems-using ultrahigh pressure-contain seven to 10 times less energy per unit volume than gasoline, and require a significant amount of compression energy. Just last month, a prestigious National Academy of Sciences panel concluded that such storage has "little promise of long-term practicality." And a report published this month by the American Physical Society concluded that "a new material must be discovered" to solve the storage problem. The Department of Energy panel noted that the cost of producing hydrogen would have to be reduced by a factor of four to make hydrogen economically competitive with today's fossil fuels. Major advances would also be required in hydrogen infrastructure and safety. The panel concluded that these gaps "cannot be bridged by incremental advances of the present state of the art," but instead require "revolutionary conceptual breakthroughs."

Watch this NOVA show for some of the hurdles that Fuel Cell Vehicles face today.

° In 2008, a "green" hydrogen station opened in Sacramento. The station has extensive solar panels (80 KW), and uses the produced electricity to perform electrolysis, and compresses the hydrogen up to the 5000 psi needed by the hydrogen cars.  It is energy neutral on the grid (net zero grid use).  It powers hydrogen cars from sunlight, right? Sounds COOL!  It's a joint venture between the City of Sacramento, BP, US Department of Energy, and Ford Motor Company.

Now the details:  The station cost $3.2 million, including the $1.7 million in solar panels.  It produces 12kg of hydrogen per day (about the energy equivalent of 12 gallons of gasoline).  It will be used by the city of Sacramento to power their 7 hydrogen cars each being driven 12,000 miles/year.

If you figure the cost of the money at 5%, assume that the life of the facility is 20 years, and that there will be no maintenance or human involvement in 20 years (unlikely), the cost of each fill up (to go 230 miles) calculates to $879.  Cost per mile: $3.82.

A 20 mpg gas car costs about 20 cents per mile, and an efficient electric car costs 3 cents per mile.

If the output of the solar array on this station was instead used to feed battery electric cars or plug-in hybrids, then the facility could support 54 electric cars, instead of 7 hydrogen cars, all being driven 230 miles per week.  (The 80 KW solar array on the station will produce about 440 KWH per day, and a decent electric car or plug-in hybrid gets about 4 miles per KWH).

Excerpt from Who Killed the Electric Car re. Fuel Cells.


And here's Jack Nicholson in the 1978 talking about this wonderful, cheap fuel that is "non-polluting" and "limitless."


Blog-type Writing on the subject of FCV

The issues facing Fuel Cell Vehicle mass production (thanks Erik)

CARB hearing comments (that had much to do with FCV vs BEVs)
Do Less with More fuel
Why Hydrogen?
The Hydrogen Hoax

Hydrogen for Transportation
Hydrogen vehicle myths

We want to support GM

The Argonne GREET 1.6 study from 2001
Hydrogen and Fuel Cells: A Comprehensive Solution in the Fight against Global Warming
Carrying the Energy Future: Comparing Hydrogen and Electricity for Transmission, Storage and Transportation
Fuel-Cell Vehicles: Solution or Shell Game?
Draft Technology and Cost Assessment for Proposed Regulations to Reduce Vehicle Climate Change Emissions - CARB April, 2004
Hydrogen's Empty Environmental Promise, by Cato Institute
GM: 1 million FCV's by 2012, 2007
Hydrogen Cars and Hot Air, 2008

2014 - Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Fuel Cell vehicles (long, supported and accurate)
2014 - Fuel Cell "clean fuel" advertising. From Tesla Motors forum

FCV, H2 and energy density factoids

Quotes and stuff.

Some of the inherent difficulties with hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells (Thanks Erik)

Some things I've learned in the past 10 years about BEVs and FCVs from the press:
(Uh... for the record, please don't quote these as fact with credit to EVnut!)

Battery EVs

Fuel Cell Vehicles

04.28.04  Eco party at Genentech Vacaville. I found myself parked next to one of the UC Davis FCVs for the event. The amount of energy that this FCV consumes at idle would power me down the road at about 25mph. And for accuracy, this is a FCHV, or Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle. Why hybrid? Because it has a bunch of battery capacity on board as well as the Fuel Cell stack. Toyota Rav4EV - meet the Toyota Highlander FCHV. The vehicle on the right cost about 150x as much money to make as the vehicle on the left, and requires 4x the energy to create the "fuel." That's the kind of math that I can do in my head.

After my daughter's piano recital in 2008, we came out to find this familiar scene:

Mercedes' attempt at a FCV. You should hear how loud and wheezie this thing is!

Click for
EVnut.com_home page