By on January 13, 2011

EVs are the darling of the media. In Europe, the Leaf is the COTY. In the U.S. and Canada, the range extended Volt is the COTY. Then why are most big European manufacturers (except Renault) and most Japanese manufacturers (except Nissan) dragging their heels when it comes to wholesale electrification of their fleets? Maybe because they are working on wholesale adoption of hydrogen. As previously reported, there are agreements between automakers and governments in Europe, North America, Korea and Japan to prepare for the mass introduction of fuel cell cars by 2015. Japan is ahead of the game.

Thirteen Japanese companies (no bad omen in Asia, nine would be bad, four would be really bad) got together to move ahead with hydrogen: Toyota, ,Nissan, Honda on the manufacturer side teamed up with supplier-side companies JX Nippon Oil & Energy, Idemitsu Kosan, Iwatani, Osaka Gas, Cosmo Oil, Saibu Gas, Showa Shell, Taiyo Nippon Sanso, Tokyo Gas, and Toho Gas. Note the presence of gas and gasoline companies. Note the presence of Nissan.

Today, these 13 companies jointly announced:

  1. As development of fuel-cell systems progresses, Japanese automakers are continuing to drastically reduce the cost of manufacturing such systems and are aiming to launch FCVs in the Japanese market—mainly in the country’s four major metropolitan areas—in 2015. The automobile industry hopes to popularize the use of FCVs after their initial introduction as a way of tackling energy and environmental issues.
  2. Hydrogen fuel suppliers are aiming to construct approximately 100 hydrogen fueling stations by 2015, based on the number of FCVs expected to initially enter the market, to ensure a smooth launch and to create initial market.
  3. With an aim to significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by the transportation sector, automakers and hydrogen fuel suppliers will work together to expand the introduction of FCVs and develop the hydrogen supply network throughout Japan. The two groups are looking to the government to join them in forming various strategies to support their joint efforts and to gain greater consumer acceptance.
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16 Comments on “Cars Won’t Run Out Of Gas. They’ll Just Use Different Gas...”


  • avatar
    charly

    Fuel cell cars are by definition electric cars. They are also battery type hybrids because of practical reasons which leads to plug in capability

    In short fuel cell cars are battery cars with a fuel cell range extender. Which makes the financial proposition of H2 tank stations iffy

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I’m not sure you’re correct, other than the fact that electric cars, gasoline (or diesel)-electric hybrids and fuel-cell cars all use an electric propulsion motor.
      Fuel cells can operate on methane as well as hydrogen, if I’m not mistaken, although the issue becomes what to do with the carbon in the methane, if the goal is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions.
      And, while hydrogen can be generated by the electrolysis of water, why would it be desirable to build such capability into a fuel-cell powered vehicle?  And conventional batteries are not attractive because of their relatively low energy density, so what would be the purpose of including one in a fuel-cell vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      DC Bruce,
      In order to allow the fuel stack to solely power the car, you need to make it much larger and more expensive. Using the fuel cell as a range extender (in the same fashion as the 1.4L engine / generator in the Volt) allows a much smaller fuel cell stack (say 20kw) to charge a set of batteries that power a larger motor. Say, 120kw.
       
      $10k 20kw fuel stack / $5k 15kwh (120kw) battery pack
      vs
      $60k 120kw fuel stack that’s operated most of the time at < 20kw
       
      Numbers are pulled out of my ass, but I believe they’re somewhat similar to the 2015 targets.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The Japanese moved when they got their 13-omen…  the West will move after they are sure that (a) the risk of a Hindenberg Omen is past, or (b) customers start clamoring for them…

  • avatar
    TR4

    In a few years the enviro-weenies will declare H20 to be a harmful greenhouse gas and that will be the end of fool cell vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      YellowDuck

      H20 is already the most important greehouse gas, but our putting more of it into the atmosphere won’t make any difference.  The vapour concentration of the atmosphere is determined by equilibrium with the oceans.  H20 vapour is a greenhouse gas, but it is a response variable, not a forcing variable.  “Enviro-weenies” concerned about climate change know this. People who want to cynically dismiss their concerns out of hand might be well served to actually learn something about the topic first.

    • 0 avatar
      Tricky Dicky

      Does the posting policy allow us to respond to troll-like comments, with the accusation that an individual poster has “turd for brains”?

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      @YellowDuck:  Thank you for the helpful explanation!  My comment was triggered by something I read about concern over vapor trails from aircraft contributing to climate change but perhaps that is a different issue from ground emissions.

  • avatar

    You STILL have to generate the hydrogen gas…

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Still with the hydrogen. Leaving peroxide behind was a step ahead I guess.
     
    Far more practical answers here.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    It’s going to be tricky for the enviro-Luddites to keep the stigma on large vehicles as those vehicles become powered by non-gasoline substances. They will still seethe with a Puritanical disgust while the general population guiltlessly tools around in big SUVs, ‘unnecessary trucks’ and ‘overpowered’ cars.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I’m not a greenie by any stretch, but I’m going to complain about being unable to see around large SUVs that are everywhere. I really couldn’t give two flying f***s at a rolling donut what a person drives, but if I can’t see around it I’m not happy. Especially when making a right hand turn and somebody in a large SUV is inching forward even when they have a red light and can’t go anywhere anyway. I generally try to pass an SUV when on the freeway, not because I think I’m privileged, but because I like to pay attention to what’s coming up on the roadway. I don’t complain about sports cars because they are fun to look at even if I no can haz and I can see around them.

    • 0 avatar
      newcarscostalot

      “I really couldn’t give two flying f***s at a rolling donut”
      That is just great! I hope I find myself in a situation in which to use that phrase myself.
       

  • avatar
    chris724

    There will still be plenty of CO2 generated when they crack natural gas to make the H2. Fuel cells make even battery EV’s look good. This will never pan out.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    My wife gave me one of those little hydrogen cars for christmas a couple years back. Even comes w/solar panel if you want to fuel it up w/sun versus 2 AA batteries. 

    Expect electric cars to have a good run before hydrogen powered vehicles start showing up.

  • avatar
    202mph

    I assume most of you know Honda already sells FC vehicles in the states? Ya might want to view this if you haven’t.
     


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