Fuel Cell Writing
In reverse Chron order.
21 November 2007
Shelly Carson posted this to the Rav4EV list after first posting it on an Alt Fuel Yahoo list. (please note that spelling and grammar are left as originally presented)
Tens of millions of dollars are being spent by battery companies
in order to
discredit hydrogen because hydrogen works better than batteries. A large
number of “pundits” who act as “writers”, “bloggers”, “authors” and
“non-profit evangelist group founders” are actually supported by financial
gain from battery companies who are terrified of hydrogen displacing their
revenue streams. You will see a list of these people and their backers
online soon. The following facts are cut and pasted from tens of thousands
of validating scientific sources available online and in libraries, federal
studies and university research papers.
Hydrogen can be made at home. Anybody who says it can’t
is either a shill,
an idiot or completely out of touch with reality and technology. You can
make it for free, at home, all day long and all night long. Anybody who says
it costs too much or that it has some evil chain reaction of “negative
karma” or “sour grid source” or causes cancer because of something back in
the energy chain is almost always a shill because the energy chain is
constantly improving. Anybody who says the numbers say it is all wrong or
bad or evil or inefficient are also usually a shill who are quoting numbers
from six months or six years back (which is ancient history in hydrogen
timeframes). It now costs less to make hydrogen from water than any known
way to make gasoline and it continues to get cheaper every month. The
“battery shill” spin has worn thin and has been supplanted by facts.
Hydrogen is made from WATER via solar energy, wind energy, microbes, radio
waves, sunlight and salt, and other FREE sources of energy. Hydrogen can
also be made from any organic garbage, waste, plants or ANYTHING organic via
lasers, plasma beams or dozens of other powered exotics which can be run off
of EITHER the grid or the free hydrogen made from solar energy, wind energy,
microbes, radio waves, sunlight and salt, and other FREE sources of energy
OR the grid. There is no oil that needs to be involved anywhere in the
production of hydrogen. These systems trickle charge hydrogen into storage
containers, either tanks or solid state cassettes, 24/7.
Hydrogen processors now make hydrogen with 91% efficiency.
NO INFRASTRUCTURE IS NEEDED!!! This is the biggest lie of all.
number of start-ups have solid state hydrogen solutions that entirely use
Battery Shills, backed by companies who are invested in batteries,
usual suspects in anti-hydrogen reporting.
A “fuel cell car” and an “electric car”
ARE THE SAME THING. The shills want
you to think otherwise. The only difference is where the electricity is
stored. You can pull the batteries out of every Zenn, Tesla, Zap, EV1,
Venture Vehicle, etc. and pop a fuel cell/hydrogen pack in the same hole and
go further, more efficiently in EVERY SINGLE CASE.
A modern fuel cell and hydrogen system beats batteries on every
FIRE- Batteries catch on fire constantly and have been the result
massively more fires and explosions than hydrogen.
Life Span- Hydrogen power systems run massively longer and provide
greater range per charge than batteries.
Run Time – The run time of batteries constantly shortens
while hydrogen does
Memory Effect- This effect is not present in hydrogen systems
Recharge Time- modern hydrogen systems are instant recharge.
Charge life- Modern hydrogen systems can recharge massively longer
batteries before end of life.
Nano powder batteries have cancer causing powder that falls into
of the Chinese factory workers skin and gives them potentially fatal
Cost- The cost per 300 mile range for a hydrogen car system is
lower than a battery system
Energy from “sour-grid”- A modern hydrogen system
can be charged from a
completely clean home energy system.
Can’t make energy at home- Hydrogen can be made at home. Batteries cannot.
Storage Density – Modern hydrogen technology has a massively
density than batteries.
Bulky Size- Hydrogen systems are dramatically less bulky than batteries.
High Weight- The weight of batteries is so great ir reduces the
travel of a vehicle which causes the use of wasteful energy just to haul the
batteries along with the car. Hydrogen energy systems weigh far less.
Environmental soundness- The disposal of batteries after use
deadly environmental issue.
Self Discharge issues- Hydrogen does not self discharge like batteries.
The charge-keeping capability of a typical lithium-ion battery
steadily over time and with use. After only one or two years of use, the
runtime of a laptop or cell phone battery is reduced to the point where the
user experience is significantly impacted. For example, the runtime of a
typical 4-hour laptop battery drops to only about 2.5 hours after 3,000
hours of use. By contrast, the latest fuel cells continue to deliver nearly
their original levels of runtime well past the 2,000 and 3,000 hour marks
and are still going strong at 5,000+ hours
The electrical capacity of batteries has not kept up with the increasing
power consumption of electronic devices. Features such as W-LAN, higher CPU
speed, "always-on", large and bright displays and many others are important
for the user but severely limited by today`s battery life. Lithium ion
batteries, and lithium-polymer batteries have almost reached fundamental
limits. A laptop playing a DVD today has a runtime of just above one hour on
one battery pack, which is clearly not acceptable.
Such limitations have led to an enormous interest in alternative power
sources, of which the fuel cell is the most promising candidate. Storage
density, i.e. the electrical capacity available per unit mass of energy
storage means, is one of the most important parameters.
So you have battery evangelists who are anti-hydrogen sheep:
Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum, Alec Brooks, EV World Sam
Thurber, Cal Cars and others.
Yet for every manipulated argument they come up with, they are
shot down by
hundreds of sites with facts.
The interventions of these 'doubters' fall into a number of
which I'll summarise as:
1 "You can't succeed because no-one has ever succeeded at
this (sports car
making / battery-power / taking on the majors, etc etc) before". - May I
commend to everyone Dava Sobel's wonderful (and short!) book, "Longitude",
which offers a perfect map of the tendency of government and the scientific
establishment collude to reject true innovation. This effect can only be
overcome when a tipping-point of perceived popular utility is reached, at
which point the establishment suddenly has a bout of collective amnesia
about their earlier denials. (Same story many times over, historically, of
course - from Gallileo onwards.)
2 "It's inefficient to carry around". Rather as it's
inefficient to carry
around a full tank of gas, perhaps? Or to carry around a SUV chassis which
itself weighs a ton or more? (Come on, Detroit, you can find a better
argument than that, surely?)
3 "This technology is not a solution and never will be."
This very much
reminds me of the IBM's famously short-sighted take on the prospect of home
computing, back in the 70s. The language of these contributions, let alone
their content, points to a thought-process rooted in volume-producers'
vested interests. Consider the successes of some other new-tech challengers
of vested interests: Dyson taking on Hoover with a bagless vacuum-cleaner;
Bayliss bringing clockwork (i.e. battery-less) radios and laptops to the
third world; thin-film solar panels (sorry, can't remember who, but you know
who I mean). On this point, it was deeply depressing, at a high-level
environmental science conference of the UK Government last year, for me to
witness a "leading and respected" Professor of Transport rejecting electric
traction out-of-hand with the words "it will never be more than just power
storage on a trolley". Given that this "expert" was advising ministers of
state setting future national policy on alternative transport, my immediate
thought was "Who pays this man's research grant?"
So let's be vigilant for any who claim, in a smooth way, that
can't possibly have the answers. From a position of some expertise in this
field, may I remind readers that the "you-don't-understand-how-our-industry-
works" argument has been the policy instrument of choice for numerous corporate
fraudsters and protectionists down the ages (Enron, anyone?). New York's energetic
DA, Mr Spitzer, has made a fine career out of challenging such thinking in the finance
sector (with the simple rejoinder: "WHY does your industry work like that? Against
customer choice?"). And then of course there's the entire consumer movement
(remember Flaming Fords? remember "Unsafe at Any Speed"?). We can and should
ask the same questions of the conventional auto industry.
The good news is that genuine innovation will out - as long as
consumers are able to find it and buy it. One of the early lessons of the
twentyfirst century, thank goodness, is that the old-school, browbeating
style of corporate communication - terrorising one's customers into
rejecting alternatives - increasingly fails as people wise up to making
decisions based on their own independently-gathered information about
benefits and risks. (Interestingly, a popular reaction against "selling by
fear" is also now happening in the political field. Now why might that be?)
As a consumer, one doesn't have to agree with the in-ya-face techniques of
anticorporate critics like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock to still
subscribe to the view that we can buy what we want to buy. We no longer want
to be told by old-tech that new-tech is inherently suspect. Isn't it
old-tech that brought us dependency on oil, climate change, wars over energy
So c'mon people, how about a reward system for "spot the
spoiler"? I'm all
for free debate on the issues, but some of these blogs smell rather like the
work of paid old-tech corporatists trying to sabotage your success.
Challenge such interventions with the greatest possible vigour, and let
consumers decide for themselves!
1.) Battery companies are spending millions of dollars to knock
because it works longer, better, faster and cheaper than batteries! Most of
the people writing these screaming anti-H2 articles are battery company
shills or have investments there. H2 does beat batteries on every front so
the should be SCARED!
2.) The steel unions hate H2 because H2 cars don't use steel.
too hard to afford any more so nobody will use it in any case.
3.) Activists hate H2 because they think it can only be made
by the oil
companies and they hate the oil companies. This is a falsehood created by
the battery and steel guys.
4.) Oil companies hate H2 because it is so much better than oil
only get to hate it unto 2030 when the affordable oil runs out. Then they
know they must love it because H2 energy will be all that is left. The Oil
industry is dismayed that H2 is coming on so fast and they are trying to
slow it down even more.
5.) Other alternative energy interests hate it because it is
of the funding because the polita-nomics are better with H2 than ANYTHING
ELSE ON EARTH.
If the gasoline in your car blows up it will do a VAST AMOUNT
more death and
damage than H2 ever will.
You are driving a MOLOTOV COCKTAIL. In 2030 oil is GONE and there is NO
OTHER OPTION that can be delivered world-wide in time but H2!
If I am a shill who could I possible be working for? I say it
is all free
and you don’t need an oil company or energy company anywhere in the loop.
- Shelly Carson
----------------------- Darell's response:
Welcome to the Rav4EV group. I'd like to be one of the first to go on record as saying that I'm a proponent of Battery Electric Vehicles - a proponent that donates large quantities of time and money for the advocacy of Battery EVs... and is paid by NOBODY to do this. My goal is to find the best form of personal transportation that benefits us all, and that is available TODAY to help us get off our dependence on oil. And that "best", quite clearly, is Battery EVs. The future might be different. I have no crystal ball. All I know is today's reality. And today's reality could not be more clear: It takes more energy to use H2 in a Fuel Cell Vehicle than it does to charge a Battery EV.. It takes WAY more money to build a Fuel Cell Vehicle than it does a Battery EV. We have electric infrastructure, and we don't have a Hydrogen infrastructure. The list goes on and on. That's today's reality. No amount of un-supported rantings can change what we can quantify today.
No infrastructure is needed? How many of your friends have H2 factories in their garages today? I have so many friends with car chargers in their garages (many with two!) that I couldn't even count them. And many of those chargers are even fed power from PV systems - like mine. What you contend to be so simple to implement doesn't even exist today! What I contend is a step in the right direction DOES exist today - and I'm driving it. Been driving it for seven years. A solar-powered Battery EV. I'll challenge you to ANY sort of automobile competition right now. Distance? Recharge time? Calendar life? Speed? Acceleration? Cost of vehicle or fuel. Whatever you like. You hop into your Fuel Cell Vehicle, and I'll hop into my solar-charged Battery EV... and see who wins. Wait... WHERE's YOUR CAR?! Don't tell me you're driving a gasoline car while you wait for Fuel Cell vehicles to be available! Who's helping the situation more today? Those who drive Battery EVs? Or those who are waiting for Fuel Cell V's?
I'm not a battery company. I don't act as a "blogger" or "author" or a "non-profit evangelist group founder." I'm just a regular guy who wants to leave this place a bit better than a found it. Waiting for FCV's to be commercialized at the expense of doing something that works TODAY is not gonna get that done.
-------------------- Nate's reponse:
There is so much science missing from this I'm not sure where to begin. There are many arguments in this posting with unsound logic and circular reasoning, other "facts" are just not true. Frankly, I am not "a shill, an idiot, or completely out of touch with reality and technology". Rather, I am an engineer with a background in Chemistry, Electronics, and Automobiles.
I am currently employed at a large corporation in a position where my technical abilities are critically important to the success of my product line. Also, I am generally respected in the industry for my ability to spell, especially words like "it, verified, Internet, and library".
Let me just note a few simple things, things that are actual facts which disprove many of the claims below:
1. I can watch an entire DVD on my laptop battery. Two, actually.
I did it on the way to LA and back to pick up my Electric Car. ;-) 2. Darell
makes energy at home. Electricity actually. Well actually, he just move energy
from his roof to his car. (Please refer to Laws of Thermodynamics for details).
3. Hydrogen is flammable. Really, really it is. I've burned it before.
On a final note, please take a high school science class. Preferably some physics/ chemistry.
29 Sept 2006
From Ian Wright in reponse to a rash of FCV debate on the Rav4EV board.
"Politics is the art of the possible." Engineering
is the art of tradeoffs - what to optimize for at the expense of what else.
Science is about discovering truth, getting closer to reality. "Is our hypothesis a good one?"
All have value in society.
The difficulty with what I understand to be Mark's (FCV proponent) position is that it can lead to something of the order of legislating to make pi = 3. I heard that actually happened in Arkansas or somewhere, but it's probably an urban myth. Good metaphor, nonetheless. In case the point is lost on anyone, the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter is a transcendental number a bit greater than 3, regardless of politics or human laws. It's a number that is built into the fabric of the universe, and anyone can measure it. Pure science.
Which leads us to FCVs.
I do understand that if there's political momentum and public support and federal funding for FCVs, it may be possible to get something legislated in favour of the technology, and not possible for other technologies. Which some may believe is better than doing nothing.
But it's not.
As an engineer and businessman, who has now invested a considerable fraction of his net worth and 3 years fulltime in startup companies to build energy efficient vehicles - and yes, I do hope to make money from these ventures - I've been free to look at available or "over the horizon" technology to do this with.
From a high level, fuel cells might sound attractive:
-no tailpipe emissions other than dihydrogen monoxide (geeky joke, google it)
-hydrogen is not a fuel, but an energy carrier. A fuel cell system is like a battery, except that it can produce electricity as long as it has a supply of hydrogen. You can "recharge" it by filling the hydrogen tank. In the past this has been much faster than recharging batteries.
-it's possible to run a fuel cell car without using any oil, or indeed any fossil fuels. This is NOT true for any currently available car, hybrid, diesel, cng...
Sounds good. No pollution, no range limitation (assuming a hydrogen distribution infrastructure, which could be legislated into existence), and no oil.
So why am I not using them?
Well, that's pretty straightforward engineering. We looked
at the efficiency of the fuel cell system.
-Electrolysis has a theoretical upper limit of 70% efficiency.
-Compressing the hydrogen to 5,000 psi is 90% efficient, best case.
-Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells (the only type it is practical to use in cars) have a theoretical upper limit of 40% efficiency.
0.7x0.9x0.4= 25%. THEORETICAL upper limit. Best you'll ever do, without making pi = 3. Don't worry about development, throwing taxpayer's money at it - it won't ever be better than 25%.
So compare that with the best current hybrids, and with current
It's WORSE than the hybrids, and 4 times worse than BEVs.
OK, current hybrids have to use oil. So you might argue for FCVs for that reason. But BEVs do not, and they are already 4 times more efficient than FCvs will ever be. They are also 10% of the cost to build.
At that point, in the engineering art of making tradeoffs, it was very easy to decide. There's no argument, ever, for building FCVs. If they will always use more energy than a Prius, and there are better alternatives (better=more efficient and cheaper) that can use no fossil fuels... forget it. Oh, and there are now batteries shipping in commercial volumes that recharge in 15 minutes... so that argument for FCVs has gone as well.
So it would actually be worse than doing nothing to spend taxpayers' money or to legislate for FCVs.
If the engineering doesn't do it for you, then consider the tide of public opinion. I think Dan Neil's comment (LA Times) sums it up: "hydrogen is as dead as disco."
29 Aug 2004
Dan Neil wrote a reasonably fair and informative article about Honda's FCX in this weeks Calendar section.
It's a good read (you have to register), but he unfortunately arrives at a conclusion that since FCV's aren't the answer, there is no answer, "There are no white knights to slay the dinosaur. But with any luck we can outlast it."
In any case, he deserves some praise for at least seeing past the high-tech glitz of fuel-cells to how truly impractical they are.
S. T.'s response:
I read with considerable interest your article on the Honda FCX. Thanks for a very refreshingly honest piece about automotive fuel cells. I'm sure, as an automotive writer, you've heard more than an earful from the very few drivers who were lucky enough to outlast the wait lists in order to get one of the few commercially available BEV's that were on the market before the ARB caved in on their ZEV requirements. I've written a few letters in the past that have been met with general disbelief because of the din of misinformation that is out there. So, I'm hoping you'll be open to considering my letter without too much negative preconceptions of us, in Dr. Lloyd's word's, "...rabid EV drivers." In my quest to be free of the Dinosaurs now instead of some nebulous date 10 years in the future, I've driven over the past few years a lead acid EV1, a NiMH EV-1, a NiMH Ford Ranger-EV, and currently own a NiMH Toyota Rav4-EV.
Having also followed the fuel cell saga for several years now, I was not at all surprised by your conclusion that it is not the white knight the automakers, feds, and even the CARB would have us believe. I am surprised that you don't see the latest Li-ion BEV's as that white knight. The big story that I've yet to read about, is that I suspect the real impetus behind the fuel cell transportation lobby/movement is that battery technology had finally advanced to the point where a practical, desirable, and affordable BEV could be mass produced if the political will was there. The automakers knew this, and that is why, with the help of the chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership (who also just happens to be the chairman of the CARB ... go figure), they have successfully convinced our state and federal governments to give them a break while they work on fuel cells instead. Otherwise, the gig would have been up and they would be forced to pursue an admittedly risky venture, in the sense that it is an unproven business model, of BEV manufacturing.
Consider the following. Those solar panels used to make the 1/2 kg of Hydrogen per day for Honda's FCX (from 60 kwh's of electricity ... is it really that bad?!?) could power my Rav4-EV 200 miles per day, or 1400 miles per sunny week. AC Propulsion's Li-ion T-Zero could go 2100 miles/week based on the same 60 kwh of electricity. A far cry from the measly 200 hydrogen miles. My RAV4-EV would have to stop slightly more frequently to recharge/refill ... it has a realistic range of 100 miles/charge, more than a bit short of the promised 140 miles/charge (sounds like the automakers continue the exaggerate with the FCV's as well), and it takes 6 hours to recharge from completely empty to completely full. However, it is based on old NiMH battery technology coupled with a slow charger. The T-Zero, given an electric circuit capable of it, takes about an hour to charge, and, on your trip to Brea, if you had gotten in trouble, the T-Zero could have plugged into any available outlet to absorb a few extra amps and get you home worry free. Given the few million dollars Honda spent on their hydrogen station, one could have quite a few fully charged battery packs just sitting on standby to swap in and out, dropping the charge time for the RAV4-EV or the T-Zero from 6 hours to a few minutes. Or, more practically, several hundred fast re-charge stations could be build for $50,000 apiece that could recharge in the same 15 minutes the FCX requires to refill.
The costs of FCV's vs BEV's has been compared
by a few studies. One very recent one that assumes a best
case scenario for an FCV
still shows a BEV to be about 2.6 times more efficient. A more realistic approach (based on real world numbers from the FCX) was shown by AC Propulsion to the air board in 2003 and shows BEV's to be 4 times more efficient.
I would like to invite you to test drive my car any time and I'm sure AC propulsion could be convinced to let you drive the T-Zero. I think you'll find that the holy grail of dinosaur independence is already here with currently available BEV technology coupled with a few roof-top solar photo voltaic panels. Our only danger now is letting it slip though our fingers because the automakers are distracting us with a promise of a glittery, high tech fuel cell future on one hand, and bemoaning a completed and failed BEV experiment on the other. Neither one are true.
Thanks for your time and interest,
01 May 2006
Tom Gage of AC Propulsion wrote this piece:
SFgate article on Hydrogen for transportation
Thanks for shining some much needed light with your May 1 front page article about hydrogen, but it deserves harsher scrutiny than you give it . If hydrogen is the emperor, you timidly observe that the he is barefoot. Why don't you tell the whole truth - the emperor is standing there fat, hairy, and naked with a boner.
You dutifully regurgitate the tired facts that hydrogen comes
from water and is the most common element. These two irrelevancies misleadingly
suggest that hydrogen is fuel we'll never run out of. In fact, the abundance
of hydrogen atoms is no help at all, it's meaningless. Energy is what we need
for transportation, so it is the energy in hydrogen, not the hydrogen itself
that has value. Only molecular hydrogen, H2, and specifically its potential
for bonding with oxygen, can provide energy.
The hydrogen in water is spent of its potential, it's useless for providing energy for cars or anything else.
H2 is produced either by extracting it from natural gas or by using electricity to pump energy into water to separate the H2 from the oxygen. In other words you have to start with natural gas or electricity and go through expensive and inefficient processing to get H2. This is very bad news for hydrogen because both natural gas and electricity are much better fuels for cars than hydrogen is. In turning them into hydrogen you spend more money to get less energy. For example, a Prius converted to natural gas instead of hydrogen would have more range with the same size tank, and would use less energy and produce less CO2 per mile of travel than the hydrogen version.
Starting with electricity, an electric car running on batteries could drive just as far on a single charge as a fuel cell car could on a tank of hydrogen, about 150 miles, but the fuel cell car would need four times more electricity. This is because the whole cycle of producing hydrogen with electricity and running a fuel cell car is much less efficient than charging a battery and running an electric car. That four-fold factor of energy use translates directly into four times the pollution from electricity generation – the fuel cell car will pollute four times as much per mile driven, as the electric car.
Even if the electricity comes from renewable resources that
produce no pollution, the electric car will still be four times cleaner. Why?
Since the electric car goes four times as far on a given amount of electricity, the renewable electricity resource can power four times as many electric cars as fuel cell cars. That means four times as many gasoline cars can be displaced and four times as much pollution eliminated.
As you mention, the results with electric cars have been disappointing, but the electric cars themselves have not. Four years ago, there were at least a thousand electric cars on the road in California. Their drivers loved them for the way they drove and the convenience of plugging in at home, and that was before today's high gas prices. The disappointing part is that they are gone now, recalled and crushed by the automakers.
Electricity is a great fuel for cars in California because
it's clean, efficient, ready to use, and more than 99% of our electricity
comes from non-petroleum energy sources including the sun, wind, and rain.
Are we still promoting electric cars in California? No, instead we’ve
got engineers and scientists lining up at the federal funding trough babbling
about far-fetched schemes like carbon sequestration and biogenesis of hydrogen.
Our governor wasting good taxpayer money building a "hydrogen highway"
that will never be used. It makes you
wonder: who killed the electric car?, and why?
AC Propulsion, Inc.
441 Borrego Court
San Dimas, CA 91773
22 March 2004
Joseph Romm writes The Hype about Hydrogen.
03 May 06
Mark Looper wrote this to CARB staff (Analisa Bevan) after attending (and airing these criticisms) at a Hydrogen Highway workshop in November, 2006
My concern was that automakers, except maybe Honda, do not
a lot of credibility in promising hydrogen vehicles, based on their track
record with NGVs (not to mention battery EVs!). If California is going to
spend public money on hydrogen refueling stations and general market
development, we need a reason beyond reliance on automaker promises.
Consider the advantages of NGVs over hydrogen vehicles, which
- California has had over 100 CNG stations for years, compared
maybe 50 to 100 hydrogen stations by 2010
- Range per refueling for CNG vehicles is 200 to 300 miles,
not 100 miles
or a bit more as seems to be typical for hydrogen vehicles; my personal
best in my 1993 Dodge van is 326.1 miles, and I was able to drive it
from L.A. to Maine and back in 1998 using public fueling stations
- CNG is consistently cheaper than gasoline, rather than somewhat
much more expensive as is hydrogen
- The price premium for CNG vehicles over ordinary gasoline
comparable to that of hybrids, not some unguessable amount that
depends on major component cost reductions as for fuel-cell vehicles
- Almost all of an NGV can be worked on by an ordinary mechanic
no special training, which is an advantage even over hybrids, let
alone fuel-cell vehicles
- Factory NGVs have been around for over a decade, with literally
miles of real-world "drive testing" (85,000 of them on my own van)
- Building code, fire safety, fuel quality, and other regulatory
issues for NGVs
and natural-gas refueling stations are settled questions, rather than open
problems as for hydrogen
- Widespread natural-gas pipeline infrastructure means that
building a station
requires only tapping into that infrastructure, rather than either creating the
fuel outright on-site or creating a new distribution system as for hydrogen
Despite all these advantages, every automaker except Honda
has cut back or
completely killed their NGV offerings. In the U.S., that is--Ford and others
continue to introduce new models abroad, so it's not as if there were something
inherently wrong with NGVs, the way that corrosion concerns (among other
things) spelled the end of M85. So if automakers don't think that they can
make a go of NGVs in the U.S., despite all these advantages, why should we
expect them to scale the much higher mountain of the obstacles to hydrogen
vehicles? I have yet to see anything like a business plan under which it makes
sense for automakers to build hydrogen vehicles; and if there is one, why isn't
it there, in spades, for NGVs? We are about to spend a lot of state money, and
surrender a lot of ground on EVs or even plug-in hybrids by allowing automakers
to meet ZEV production requirements with a few fuel-cell prototypes; we really
need something stronger than mere promises from automakers to go on.
As I pointed out in my second comment last week, this is not
rehash of old arguments that have been settled by the adoption of the Hydrogen
Highway initiative; rather, this is a critical persuasion/education issue for any
potential users of hydrogen vehicles, fleet or consumer, not to mention for
taxpayers, and it needs to be addressed up front. Informed consumers will know
that there were EVs, and now there aren't; there were factory NGVs, and now there
aren't; and they'll wonder why, if a few hydrogen vehicles get built, they should be
expected to be on the road for any longer than those. I have read that automakers
expect to make a business decision on hydrogen vehicles around 2015; that's
ten years from now, which is about as long as it took for (say) GM to go from
introducing the Impact show car to halting renewal of the leases on EV1s
preparatory to sending them to the crusher. It's longer than it took automakers
except Honda and (halfway) GM to go from their first NGVs to their last ones.
So informed consumers are rightly very skeptical; and at the Public Education
Topic Team meeting last fall, I heard a fleet manager say that she had just
had the resale value of her NGVs shot out from under her by the end of
factory support, so why should she take a risk on hydrogen vehicles? If
these questions are not answered with hard-numbers arguments rather than
mere promises from automakers, then nobody except a few wealthy novelty
freaks (to quote one characterization, or rather mischaracterization, of EV1
drivers that I read back in 1996) has any reason to take a chance on the
hydrogen-vehicle market, and it's dead before the automakers even have
a chance to decide it's dead in 2015.
This goes hand in hand with a question I have been trying to
answer to since Bush, Schwarzenegger, and the automakers first started
touting hydrogen vehicles in a big way a few years back. You may recall
the old story of the guy who was sentenced by a king to be executed, but
who promised the king that, if given a reprieve, he would teach the king's
prize pig to sing, which amused the king enough to stay his hand for a year.
The guy's friends thought he was crazy to think he could teach a pig to
sing; but he said, "At least I have a year; in a year a lot could happen. The
king might die; I might die; and who knows, the pig just might learn to sing!"
I have been trying hard to find a reason why this is not a good analogue for
automakers' promises of hydrogen vehicles. After all, the last time they were
"sentenced" to a ZEV mandate, the king died: by a combination of lobbying,
lawsuits, and foot-dragging, they got the rules changed so they don't actually
have to put any ZEVs on the market, just some partial-credit gasoline models
and a few hydrogen prototypes. They have quite a few years before the new
rules actually ramp up the numbers of required ZEVs, and they may figure this
is long enough for them to get this king killed, too; and who knows, maybe
there will be a series of breakthroughs in cost, manufacturability, durability,
and all the other barriers, and that pig will actually learn to sing.
But, as with battery EVs a decade ago, I find it impossible
myself that they actually expect to go through with the singing lessons. We
EV advocates continue to maintain that, if automakers had been serious about
battery EVs, all they needed to do to build the market was to use a little actual
marketing (education) muscle to get across the idea that even a basic lead-acid
battery EV has enough range per charge for daily driving, instead of counting on
a battery breakthrough that didn't happen in time (lithium-ion batteries may
be the answer, but several years too late). With hydrogen vehicles, which can't
just be recharged in anyone's garage overnight, they don't have that relatively
easy option, and they _must_ make a series of technological breakthroughs for
the pig to learn to sing. They promise they'll have them when the time comes;
do we believe that? Do _they_ believe that? Unless fleets and informed
consumers alike can be persuaded of this, the state's (and the nation's, and
the world's) hydrogen efforts cannot succeed.
Sorry to be such a doomsayer, but I've followed the divergence
automakers' promises and actions for a decade and a half now, and I don't
see any deviation from the pattern. I was shocked when they cut back or
abandoned NGVs; I had thought CNG was a "done deal," and I had been
looking forward to concentrating on promoting hybrids as a bridge to plug-in
hybrids as a bridge back to battery EVs. Not that my voice is a particularly
loud one (one little web site., www.altfuels.org, plus the occasional letter to
the editor or op-ed piece in the South Bay Daily Breeze, and the occasional
interjection at ARB and CaFCP events); but the job that needs to be done
in persuading me is the same as the job that must be done in persuading
fleet managers and informed consumers. We are relying on ARB to hold the
automakers' feet to the fire and extract from them something besides easily-
what I have literally never seen addressed by _anybody_ is
between their approach to _NGVs_ and their approach to FCVs.
The hard question that needs to be answered in order for
automaker FCV promises to have any credibility at all is, what
advantages do FCVs have from a _business_ perspective that NGVs
don't have? Of course, from a _regulatory_ perspective FCVs qualify
as ZEVs, and NGVs (or H2 ICEs) can't; but if automakers are only
interested in hydrogen (FCVs or ICEs) to meet regulations, then
in the event they encounter difficulties in the business sense
(including technological ones) then they have a strong incentive
to "kill the king" and lobby or sue those regulations out of
existence. I simply cannot see any _business_ case for hydrogen
vehicles that isn't there in spades for NGVs; and since every
automaker but Honda has cut back or killed their NGV offerings
in the U.S., it looks to me as if they are in it only for political
or regulatory reasons, both of which can change with a change of
administration and/or a judicious expenditure on lobbyists and
lawyers. I have literally never seen an explanation, from anyone,
as to what _business_ advantages hydrogen vehicles have over NGVs.
So forget EVs for the moment; the NGV question is the acid test
for automakers' seriousness about hydrogen.
I keep excepting Honda; in fact, at the Clean Cities Conference
in Palm Springs last May, Steve Ellis, the head of Honda's
alternative-fuel division, pointed out ("angrily," the interviewer
said) that seriousness about NGVs is a prerequisite for seriousness
about hydrogen vehicles, and that no other automaker acknowledged
that. So I am provisionally willing to grant Honda a "pass"; but
even Ellis didn't discuss the business proposition in any detail,
but rather simply noted the problem. So maybe we'll see a few
more Civic GXs on the road; but as the CNG SuperShuttle vans and
Crown Vic taxis disappear, and public CNG stations start to close
because commuters' Civics don't use nearly as much fuel as (larger)
taxis and shuttles that drive all day, more and more people are going
to start asking what ace the automakers think they have up their
sleeve to avoid sending hydrogen vehicles to the same fate in several
years. So forget BEVs; the business question about NGVs is the
showstopper, and in my view must be addressed up front.
01 May 2006
Paul Scott brings us this update on CARB's Response to the short-comings of FCVs.
Paul sent the following letter to several journalists
in radio, print and TV. Some have responded, but I don't know if there will
be a story produced or not. We need to get CARB to respond to this paper
Alec Brooks wrote that compares the energy used, and pollution generated,
for FCV vs. BEV. He makes a crucial point that the Hydrogen Highway as envisioned
by CARB, Schwarzeneggar, etc. is based on false assumptions.
I sent the following email to several members of the media as well as some state legislators. I wanted you to know in case you get calls.
I am sorry to have to take this measure, but I felt your office was not responding to this issue in a timely fashion, and sometimes the media can get to the bottom of things when a citizen cannot. The extreme delay in CARB's response to this paper has many thinking CARB does not want the public to know the results.
Gerhard had promised your response would be no later than the
end of April. Now he says no later than May 26th. After half a dozen deadlines
without delivery, I am not holding my breath. However, the longer you delay, the more pressure I will bring to bear. If this is not a big story, you are making it one.
I hope to see CARB's response no later than May 26th.
Plug In America
The following is an accounting of a series of communications
between Plug In America and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) dating
from November 8th, 2005. The communications have to do with CARB's apparent
refusal to respond to a paper written by Alec Brooks that throws into question
basic assumptions used to justify CARB's California Hydrogen Highway. In short,
Brooks contends that the use of renewable electricity to generate the hydrogen
for fuel cell vehicles is four times less efficient than using that same electricity
to power a battery Electric Vehicle (EV). Brooks presented
an earlier version of this paper in a December 2002 CARB workshop on the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate and was ignored then, too. Subsequent to that hearing, CARB pulled the plug on battery EVs and put its effort behind fuel cell vehicles.
Now, three years later, after over 4,000 EVs have been destroyed by the car makers, less than 100 fuel cell vehicles have been built and the infrastructure to refuel them is virtually non-existent.
In light of this lack of progress, CARB cannot justify its move toward hydrogen technology and away from EVs. When pushed to go public with a full accounting of why they don't agree with Brooks' paper, they have spent six full months hiding from the truth.
Please read the following history of my attempts to get this response from CARB, and then read the attached document from Alec Brooks. I encourage all interested media to look into this story and ask CARB why they continue to spend millions of tax dollars on what appears to be a costly and inefficient solution for our transportation energy crisis.
With gas prices setting records, the Californians deserve to know why EVs are no longer available.
Plug In America
On 11/8/05, I wrote the following letter to Analisa Bevan, Program Manager of the California Hydrogen Highway Network.
California Hydrogen Highway Network
Air Resources Board
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95812
Dear Ms. Bevan,
I attended the November 2nd meeting in Los Angeles of the California
Hydrogen Highway Network. During that meeting, Alec Brooks presented a paper
describing the relative merits of Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) and Battery
Electric Vehicles (BEV).
Following the presentation, much discussion ensued regarding
Mr. Brooks' key
contention that BEVs produce significantly less CO2 than FCVs. However,
there was neither the time nor the resources to weigh the merits of Mr.
Brooks' paper, so it was decided to have that discussion in the near future.
I attended the meeting as a representative of Plug In America
(PIA), a group
whose mission is to advocate for the use of plug-in cars, trucks and SUVs
powered by cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's
dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. In that
capacity, I made the suggestion to hold this very pertinent and crucial
dialogue in a public manner via email. PIA, along with other organizations
devoted to alternative fuel options, is very interested in the outcome.
Please let me know when this will be taking place and how we may observe.
Plug In America
cc: Plug In America/www.pluginamerica.com
In a phone call on, 11/9/06, Ms. Bevan told me she would set
up a conference
call some time after Thanksgiving to discuss Mr. Brooks' paper. She said a
written report with the results of the call would be made available on the
ARB web site.
On 11/28/05 I wrote the following letter to Ms. Bevan:
When we last spoke on November 9th, you indicated that a conference
would be set up to reconcile the specifics of Alec Brooks' testimony with
the assumptions of the Hydrogen Highway, followed by a written report that
would be made available on the ARB web site.
Now that we are past the holidays, I was wondering when this
call might be
scheduled. Have you set a time, and who will be participating on the call?
If possible, I would like to participate, and I suspect that
both Tom Gage
and Greg Hanssen would if their schedules allowed. There might be others as
well. Please let me know if this is possible so that I might contact them.
Thank you for keeping us involved in this important matter.
Plug In America
12/22/05 - After several unreturned phone calls and emails,
I finally got a
response from Analisa's office. She had Gerhadt Achtelik respond for her. He
told me that they were working on a response to Mr. Brooks' paper and would
post it to their web site by late January or early February.
2/16/06 - I called Ms. Bevan to find out the status of the
CARB response to
Alec's paper. She says they have been very busy getting the RFP out on the
FCV program and had to pull everyone onto that project. She said the
response is mostly finished, but it will have to wait till the RFP is
complete. She said it would be ready by the end of February, but then
changed that to early March.
Starting in mid-March, I called several times for Ms. Bevan
and Mr. Gerhard
to ask about the status of the CARB response to Mr. Brooks' paper with none
of the calls being returned.
On 3/29/06, I left a message on Ms. Bevan's machine telling
her I was going
to talk to the news media about this issue since it was becoming apparent to
me CARB was trying to hide from the conclusions of this paper. That
afternoon, I received a call from Mr. Gerhard who apologized for not
responding to my previous calls. He told me that he would be able to finish
the response in two weeks, but said if I could give him a full month, he
would guarantee it. I told him a month would work if it was released no
later than that as we had need of CARB's position for upcoming events. He
told me they would absolutely release it within a month.
Today (Thursday 4/27) is one month later. I called Mr. Achtelik
afternoon and he told me they still needed a month for "upper management" to
review the response before it could be released. I expressed strong
disappointment in this additional delay, especially since I was attending a
fuel cell event that night and wanted to be able to discuss the response
with those in attendance.
I am sending this history to interested parties including several
the media who have been asking for the results of CARB's response since
November. I feel there is a serious problem with the way the California
Hydrogen Highway has been portrayed to the public, and given the multiple
delays in responding to Mr. Brooks' paper, my fear seems to be justified.
I have attached Mr. Brooks' paper to this email for those who
wish to read
it. I ask that the media representatives I have copied on this email
consider looking into this story as the ramifications of CARB's move away
from battery EVs to fuel cell vehicles has seriously delayed implementation
of clean, oil-free transportation alternatives that could have been
numbering in the tens of thousands by now instead of the paltry 100 fuel
cell vehicles built over the past three years. This delay in implementing
cleaner technology is proving to be very costly to us and our environment.
Plug In America