By on June 3, 2011

 

The ominous Hydrogen Year 2015 is popping up again.  Last year, Byung Ki Ahn, general manager of Hyundai-Kia’s Fuel Cell Group said: “There are already agreements between car makers such as ourselves and legislators in Europe, North America and Japan to build up to the mass production of fuel cell cars by 2015.” Going  through the many files produced in Brussels, you find that in Europe “car manufacturers are getting ready for the commercial production of hydrogen vehicles by 2015.”

Now Daimler will begin series production of hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2014. This is what Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche told Das Autohaus. Together with Linde, a manufacturer of industry gases, Daimler wants to build a small network of hydrogen fuel stations. By 2014, the n umber of hydrogen stations in Germany will rise to 50. Germany alone would need around 1,000 hydrogen stations for a nationwide supply.  And then, motorists will complain that they won’t find any in Italy if they decide to drive to Italy.

 

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34 Comments on “Daimler Plans Volume Production Of Hydrogen Cars In 2014...”


  • avatar
    V572625694

    “And then, motorists will complain that they won’t find any in Italy if they decide to drive to Italy.” That’s probably what they told Gottlieb Daimler: “Sure, Gotti, you can run your ‘automobile’ thingy here in Deutschland, but how where you get benzin in Italy, or France?” So he probably should have given up and stuck with real horsepower.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, they said: “Gottlieb, was if ze next pharmacy ran out of the
      gottverdammte Benzin? ”

      At the time of the invention, gasoline was widely distributed. Every pharmacy had it – at pharmacy prices.

  • avatar

    Don’t all of Linde’s hydrogen plants in Germany use steam reformation of natural gas? And Germany now imports over 90% of their natural gas?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why? I mean seriously, why? This is Ethanol II: Son Of the Bride Of the Revenge Of the Return of Greenwash.

    Hydrogen as a fuel is about as net-energy negative as it gets. You need to spend enormous amounts of power to crack it, it transports poorly and stores worse. As far as I can tell, it only exists because it doesn’t require the rethink that EVs or PHEVs do, and if you don’t look too closely, seems remotely green. And it’s amazing the lengths that business will go to avoid disrupting an existing model, provided someone else socializes the cost.

    I’m all for hydrogen once someone invents a commercially viable fusion reactor, but outside of that? No, thanks.

    You think demand-side subsidies for EVs are a boondoggle? They’re nothing compared to supply-side and structural subsidies for oil and it’s bastard children, ethanol and hydrogen.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, the exhaust is water? How is this not completely positive?

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Even if the exhaust is water, when you need to expend more energy (which is probably a fossil fuel, or nuclear fission) to make that hydrogen than you would by just burning gasoline directly (or running generators to make power that charges an EV), you’re losing.

        Hydrogen would need to be made by solar power to be even remotely viable, and even then you could just charge your EV with it.

        The exhaust is the only good thing about it. Other than that it fails every test of viability.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        @psarhjinian

        You ignored the value of using H2 in a downtown core. No pollution. No heat. No green house gas. The air temperature would be a couple degrees lower, thus reducing air conditioning energy/expenses.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        @wsn: No, I didn’t. Or rather, I ignored it because EVs can do it better.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        EV has a range problem for the time being.

        Of course you can say that EV is the ultimate solution. But exactly when does that “ultimate” come, is hard to say too. GM tried to reach there all at once, by the EV1 and then the Volt. Only to lost to Toyota who opted for an intermediate solution — hybrid in the past decade. And as it stands, GM still doesn’t have an EV, only an extended electric-range hybrid, which Toyota will soon have.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I knew sooner or later I’d agree with psarhjinian on something!

      But I thought Daimler’s angle was hydrogen fuel cells, versus simply cramming lots of high-pressure gas into a tank and burning it. The USN has been experimenting with some interesting carbon nanotube materials for creating ambient-pressure hydrogen sinks between the walls of ships to charge up fuel-cells, but I suppose that’s easier when your vehicle is the size of a building.

      • 0 avatar
        Omnifan

        I remember a presentation from a potential contractor a few years back about an auxiliary power unit for one of our combat vehicles. It was powered by a fuel cell and so compact that we shouldn’t say no to it. Sounded real good until the admission by the contractor, who was almost whispering by this time, that we had to find space for the hydrogen generator and storage tank in the motor pool. So much for that idea.

    • 0 avatar

      “when you need to expend more energy (which is probably a fossil fuel, or nuclear fission) to make that hydrogen than you would by just burning gasoline directly”

      Citation please? Clearly you have an anti-hydrogen bias here but don’t just spread false information that you have made up. Reforming methane gas and using it in a HFC is much more efficient than burning the methane directly. Reforming processes are about 80% efficient and the fuel cell itself is about 55% efficient. How is that worse than the (not commonly achieved) 20% maximum average efficiency of burning it in an ICE?

      “Hydrogen would need to be made by solar power to be even remotely viable, and even then you could just charge your EV with it.”

      Why is it just REMOTELY viable? Seems if you can make hydrogen with just the sun’s power that’s a great thing. And now you’re telling me that fueling your car in <5 minutes is disadvantageous compared to charging an EV for hours? Did you go to school, like, ever?

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Reforming methane gas and using it in a HFC is much more efficient than burning the methane directly

        And you would transport that hydrogen how? Those fuel cells are where? You’d get that methane, en masse, from what source? You’d use this instead of the existing gasoline/diesel/electric distribution systems why? You’d prefer this over a PHEV or EV that’s almost as good but an order of magnitude or more less expensive because?

        Seems if you can make hydrogen with just the sun’s power that’s a great thing

        It would be, if it could scale. It doesn’t. While batteries have been improving significantly, solar cells still have a ways to go. Every solution that involves hydrogen has this little asterisk attached to it, noting the absolute show-stopper, be it distribution, scale or cost.

        I’m not against hydrogen for no good reason: it just doesn’t work as replacement for oil, or as a primary power source. It hasn’t worked for well over a quarter century. Meanwhile, admittedly-unsexy things like hybrid-electric cars and, now, pure EVs are making actual progress while FCVs and hydrogen cars are still selling for Ferrari prices and can’t be fueled up anywhere.

        Take the Nissan Leaf: it does, without huge subsidies or a whole new distribution system, what hydrogen has promised for years, and does it the cost of a slightly premium “normal” car. Yes, it takes some time to recharge, but it’s also not a huge leap to think about battery swap stations (which have been done with forklifts for ever), or that batteries might improve significantly.

        I’m an avowed pinko and greenie, but I’m also a pragmatist. As much as I’d love the government to strong-arm industry into using sustainable technology, hydrogen (and ethanol) are poor choices. If they weren’t, we’d be using them already, and they’re little more than a sideshow distracting us from existing methods (EVs, PHEvs, smart grids, urban planning that isn’t completely stupid) that could help us use less energy.

        Maybe I’m just a little bit embittered from watching GM (especially, though they’re not alone) trot out hydrogen concepts for years while grinding out mediocrity, or glad-handing at ribbon cutting ceremonies for hydrogen stations that aren’t more than R&D subsidies. I think I’m allowed a little bitterness, though, when it seems like we’re more interested in trying to make our broken and unsustainable system work “some time in the future” than doing the real work right now.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        And you would transport that hydrogen how? Those fuel cells are where? You’d get that methane, en masse, from what source? You’d use this instead of the existing gasoline/diesel/electric distribution systems why?

        There is the natural (or bio) gas reforming Bloom EnergyServer from BloomEnergy . A natural gas tank, a chassis that can support 10 tons of weight, and you’re good to go. They’re working on getting the cost down and the unit they sell now is designed to power a building, so I don’t know what the weight and cost would be for a car. Their main target isn’t to produce a vehicle system as far as I know, but to create a smaller home version. You could then effectively charge your EV through your natural gas line.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @thefronge:

        He’s referring to nothing other than the first law of thermodynamics. It’s covered in every decent physics textbook, but here’s a reference:
        http://www.physicsplanet.com/articles/three-laws-of-thermodynamics (in English)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics (in Science-speak)
        The idea is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

        To put it another way: The product of burning hydrogen and oxygen is water. Now, suppose that you want to take that water (or any water) and turn it back in to hydrogen and oxygen. Doing this is un-burning the water. However, since you can’t create or destroy energy, you must put the energy that you got from burning the H2 and O2 back in order to unburn it.

        So, now, the question that all of us hydrogen skeptics are asking is obvious: where do you get all of this energy to unburn that water? Everyone wants to say “solar”, but as psarhjinian said, using that electricity to charge an electric car is at least as good as using the electricity to make hydrogen.

        If that this seems like a drag, you could fly out to Saturn and pick up some unburned hydrogen there…

    • 0 avatar

      To your first questions, you can reform the methane on-site. My company produces methane reformers for precisely the purpose of eliminating the need to transport the hydrogen. The methane comes naturally from the earth or can be made using several natural processes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane#Sources_of_methane_for_human_use). One would prefer this over an EV because it DOESN’T NEED TO BE CHARGED as I stated previously. You think that swapping the batteries out of an EV is better than filling your car with fuel at a gas station? I think that on a large scale having hydrogen fueling stations is much more practical than battery swapping stations for several reasons.

      Why do you say that batteries are improving but solar cells are not? Once again, please cite your sources. Solar cells have dropped in price by 21% this year and increased in efficiency and you’re telling me that’s not progress? (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-26/solar-may-be-cheaper-than-fossil-power-in-five-years-ge-says.html)

      The Nissan Leaf has a $7,500 subsidy funded by the taxpayers, how is that not a huge subsidy? That’s nearly a quarter of it’s freaking price! On top of that, it STILL doesn’t do what hydrogen promises to do: fuel your car without having to wait and charge it. And how is installing hundreds of thousands of new charging stations and battery swapping stations across the country not considered a new infrastructure? Sure, you can charge it with an existing 120v outlet and an extension cord very slowly. But there’s not way we’re going to be running extension cords out of every house and office in the country. And even then, that’s a several hour charge time vs the couple of minutes fueling your hydrogen car. People want to get up and go when they get into their cars. Nobody (besides, perhaps, you) wants to plan their driving trips a day in advance based on where they’ll be able to charge their cars if they plan on going more than 90 miles. Or want to use the air conditioner. Yes, batteries might improve significantly. But so will fuel cells. And anything people put money into.

      We haven’t been using hydrogen because the technology behind it has sucked until recently. Now, however, the efficiency and power densities have increased greatly to the point where it IS a viable source of power for your car. Of course hydrogen fuel cells are still expensive, but I bet you if they had the same subsidies that the EV industry has been receiving and enough companies willing to invest the price would drop to a very affordable point.

      “…it seems like we’re more interested in trying to make our broken and unsustainable system work ‘some time in the future’ than doing the real work right now.” What do you mean? What broken system are you talking about and what is this “real work” you’re referring to? Please, stop spreading your misinformation once again.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I agree that hydrogen is a lousy vehicle fuel. Why not use the methane directly? How do methane fuel cells compare to hydrogen fuel cells in performance? The advantage of using methane is it exists in nature in large quantities and is therefore cheap. We also have an efficient distribution system in the form of natural gas pipelines.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        But what’s the point of using reformed natural gas, when I could just use the natural gas directly in my engine?

        The LEAF is at least agnostic about what kind of fuel it runs on. Coal one day, natural gas the next, nuclear during the week, and solar on weekends. The car don’t know and don’t care.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    If Germany replaces its old-style fission plants with safe, ‘neighborhood’ LFTRs, then cracking water may end up being a practical way to fuel H2 vehicles.

    But, IMO, Sodium or Lithium Borohydride fuel cells would be better than storing pressurized H2. Or, carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels generated from atmospheric CO2 + H2O. Liquid hydrocarbons really are a conveniently dense and manageable store of energy.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I remember when Kip Siegel, chairman of KMS Fusion in Ann Arbor MI, discussed the coming hydrogen economy at a college lecture seminar. He said that hydrogen was a “no brainer”, that we would use existing natural gas distribution systems to the home and factory. Any day now, with KMS Fusion’ technology, hydrogen would be a reality.

    The year? 1974. Yes sir, Herr Zetsche, let’s get the hydrogen economy going!

    Or are the purveyors of today’s hydrogen economy the same crowd that said nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter?”

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Didn’t T. Boone Pickens say a few years ago that we needed a “bridge” to a different form of power? Wind wasn’t the answer, although it works for a few applications, but maybe hydrogen is one of them.

    I will not cut down each and every effort to come up with an alternative to oil – it will have to be done somehow, either that or our car-dependent way of life must drastically change.

    I give credit for trying.

    Is it me, or does Herr Zetsche look somewhat gaunt?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Picken’s bridge is natural gas.

      I don’t necessarily like his plan. But the more I study the issues, the more the Pickens plan reflects what I think *will* happen — regardless of what I actually like.

      In other words, we’ll start realizing that we’ve used up the oil and we’ll start converting to natural gas while building out some alternative power generation (such as wind power).

  • avatar
    wmba

    Hydrogen cars, eh? No doubt they’ll float away.

    Oh, hydrogen FUEL CELL cars. Crazy headlines round here at TTAC. Hang on, fuel cells generate hydrogen. So why are Mercedes putting in hydrogen filling stations? Makes no sense, if their cars have fuel cells?!?

    Utter BS about this all happening by 2014. Fuel cell research died with Ballard. Ask a truthful Mercedes executive.

    Hydrogen in old gas lines for distribution? For the cars without fuel cells, perhaps? The damn stuff leaks through two inches of steel, costs a fortune to make, and has poor energy density. Only people with a poor technical education advocate this method of energy distribution. Oh wait that’s about 99% of the people. On Earth, hydrogen is not a fuel, it’s a method of energy transfer, like electricity. People mix up primary energy supply versus energy transfer all the time.

    This is pure PR from Mercedes. Must be seen to be doing “something”. Plus hydrogen doesn’t work all that well in IC engines unless you run it rich. Oxides of nitrogen still form if combustion temperatures are high enough as 78% of air is nitrogen. There’s enough info around on the net if one cares to look for it in the more technical articles, rather than some journalist “interpreting” something he/she doesn’t really understand in a news clip. Politicians are the same as journalists in their deep understanding of technical matters. Why here in Canada, we have a Prime Minister who knows more about nuclear reactors than the scientists running it. That’s why we have ethanol fuel, too.

    Hydrogen as fuel is the ultimate philosopher’s ideal. As reality, it sucks way more than electric.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Hydrogen combustion is not the same as hydrogen fuel cells, and fuel cells do not generate hydrogen, they generate electricity as a byproduct of an oxidization process.

      Hydrogen would never work in anything like “old gas lines” for many reasons, but chiefly because it’s a tiny atom that leaks very easily and over time it ruins most metals (hydrogen embrittlement).

      It does, however, suck as a fuel.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    “Daimler will begin series production of hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2014.” Good to know fuel cell costs will plummet and the hydrogen storage problem will be solved by then. I’m sure the new, really cheap, membrane won’t be damaged by ice when it gets cold. Wait, what am I thinking. They have the same team from the Chrysler merger on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Damaged by ice? I don’t know about Daimler’s fuel cells, but I know that ours start with ease at -40C using glycol coolant. The membrane isn’t even in contact with H2O but that’s another issue that you clearly want to spread lies about.

      • 0 avatar
        pbxtech

        Good to hear all the technical problems have been solved. I’m pretty sure that there are more effective ways to store and transport energy then Hydrogen. That said, I hope I’m wrong. I hope three years from now there is nothing but water being emitted from my tailpipe. I hope one of the catalysts in development is producing Hydrogen at near 100% efficiency from water. So cheaply, in fact, that fuel cells become ubiquitous. This would be a game changer though. This would be like spotting Microsoft as a startup.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @pbxtech: Where are you going to get the energy to convert water to hydrogen? Even at 100% conversion efficiency, fueling up a hydrogen car would still take roughly (+-30%) the same amount of energy as an electric car (because energy can neither be created nor destroyed). So where does that energy come from?

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Interesting comments. I tend to side with Psar, I attended a conference about fuel cells that featured several companies with fuel cell drivetrains that were a year or two from production…in 1999. I’d like to find out that my cynicism is misplaced, any chance we can talk you into doing an article about the viability of modern fuel cells Bertel?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Back in 2005, BMWNA has a dual fuel 7 their display in the lobby of the Zentrum down in Spartanburg. The Navy’s idea of using voids in ships to store hydrogen is nucking futz. Their boats are floating bombs as it is. It is doable, but how can you build an infra-structure for hydrogen whatever powered cars that can compete with gas and diesel? What is it gonna take? If they started building today, it will take way more than 4 or 9 yrs to build one of significant size. The stuff doesnt play well with metals, so a conventional ICE is out. All in all, it is too big a re-think for the players involved.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    “Of course hydrogen fuel cells are still expensive, but I bet you if they had the same subsidies that the EV industry has been receiving and enough companies willing to invest the price would drop to a very affordable point.”

    You might want to research how much money Canadian governments poured into Ballard Power. Not to mention public utilities like British Columbia Hydro. Until recently, Ballard was trying to make a practical hydrogen setup for cars. After decades of unmet predictions and promises, they have given up and sold the technology to Mercedes. (for $40 million. Windfall, I’d say.) Ballard is now concentrating on power units for buses, forklifts, and standby power. Their stock is around $2, but was once close to $200. They have enough capital to survive another 18 months. Anyone who truly believes hydrogen is the answer for cars, will also be able to tell me how much money they have invested in stocks in companies involved in this boondoggle.

    Then there was the hydrogen leak from a tanker truck delivering hydrogen to Ballards’s shop a few years ago. They evacuated square miles, and the fire chief on (near) the scene was visibly shaking as he described the hazard. You want this stuff in underground parking garages? I expect the insurance industry will have something to say on this eventually.

    Hydrogen molecules are smaller than the molecules of anything you try to contain it with. Hence the high rates of dissipation and high cost of anything used to store or transport it. Not to mention risk.

    Yes, urban air pollution is a problem. But last time I looked, the air around cities is not contained. Hydrogen will create more pollution, not less, because it requires energy from thermal power plants to create it. And as others have said, the efficiency numbers are bad.

  • avatar
    slumba

    @ Praxis – you are aware that blasting coal with steam gets you “town gas” and from there you can easily get H2? This tech has been around for over 100 years.

    Also, one problem with H2 is that it can make metals brittle; don’t know if they have solved this problem, but it could certainly contribute to longevity problems if not.


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