By on October 23, 2013

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Speaking to Tesla enthusiasts at a Tesla service center in Germany, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk insisted that batteries made more sense for powering electric vehicles than hydrogen fuel cells, calling them “bullshit” and saying that hydrogen isn’t safe to use as an automotive fuel.

“Oh god, a fuel cell is so bulls**t. Hydrogen is suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” said Musk, not missing an opportunity to promote his SpaceX enterprise.

Musk was trying to get his audience to become evangelists for EVs and sustainable transportation to get people to see that electric vehicles are the next step beyond burning hydrocarbons. Getting on to the topic of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells, the Tesla CEO insisted that the major automakers that were investigating hydrogen either as a fuel for combustion engines or with fuel cells for EVs were doing so strictly for marketing reasons.

Musk went on to lay out what he believes are technical reasons for batteries’ superiority to fuel cells, power density relative to mass and volume along with the fact that fuel cells are expensive. Then he got on to an explosive topic, the safety of carrying around a pressurized vessel filled with hydrogen. “Hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. you know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he said.

The Tesla head was in Germany to help boost sales of the Model S, which have been slow. Hoping to sell 200 to 300 cars per week in Germany by the end of next year, Musk announced that the company was developing an “Autobahn tuning package” for the Model S that will be offered to existing and future owners, though he didn’t give many details beyond improved high-speed handling. It’s possible that the package would allow more high speed accelerations than the current Model S does before artificially limiting power to preserve the batteries. No word on whether that feature will just be available in Europe.

Germany has higher speeds and the faster you go the less range your EV will have, so Musk also announced that installations had begun for the first six of what will be a countrywide network of Tesla Supercharger stations. Totaling between 40 and 50 stations, nobody in Germany would have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) to find the next charge. Superchargers have also been upgraded from 120 kW to 135 kW with even greater outputs anticipated. Tesla also will be be building enough service centers to have 80% of the German population within 100 km (62 miles) of a Tesla service location.

Musk’s remarks begin at ~16:20 in the video above.

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73 Comments on “Elon Musk: “A Fuel Cell Is So…”...”


  • avatar
    redav

    IMO, hydrogen & fuel cells are not a promising tech for cars, but the “hydrogen is unsafe” is bulls**t. It isn’t worse than gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      ydnas7

      yeah, its only stored at 350 or 700 bar

      H2 explosive range is 4% to 75%
      CH4 explosive range is 5% to 15%
      hexane explosive range is 1.2% to 7.4%
      Acetylene explosive range is 2.5% to 100%

      so its less than but similar to Acetylene in explosive range, and is stored at massive pressure. no worries.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        You do know that there are other ways to store hydrogen than high pressure tanks, right? And have you ever seen a pressure tank rupture? (They aren’t bombs–volume is typically a greater concern than pressure.) How often do you see acetylene explosions? Do you think that might be because we’ve figured out those problems?

        Hydrogen is so light it quickly escapes to the upper atmosphere when leaked. (That’s actually an environmental problem and one reason I don’t care for hydrogen as a fuel.) The concentration of H2 in the air around a car after an accident goes to zero very quickly. Conversely, gasoline stays around to burn.

        Numerous demonstrations have been conducted of cars with gasoline & hydrogen in them, they are allowed to leak, and then they are deliberately set afire. Real observations (not internet blather) indicate H2 is not more dangerous than gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Hydrogen is considerably more unsafe than gasoline. “Remember the Hindenburg!”

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        Horsepuckey. Escaped hydrogen floats away and dissipates rapidly while gasoline pools on the ground and emits flammable vapors for a long time.

        The Hindenberg was such a disaster largely because of its fabric skin coated with a highly combustible silver paint/sealer.

        • 0 avatar

          Even if put Hindenburg aside, but we commented on hydrogen station explosions right here at TTAC, less than 2 years ago. That was not before WWII, it was happening now, and it was happening to effing stations that were fueling vehicles! I find that more relevant than Hindenburg, and don’t pretend these things did not happen. The fans of H2 better invent new excuses why New York Port Authority was an exception and not the future of us all.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Ever seen a gas station explode? That happens, too–even today–and it’s a truly terrifying sight.

            Fuels burn (which is why we use them as fuel). Don’t be lulled into complacency through familiarity. Gasoline is quite dangerous, but we’re okay with that danger.

        • 0 avatar

          RE: “Escaped hydrogen floats away and dissipates rapidly”

          True, until it finds a spark. Then it dissipates even more rapidly in an event called “explosion.”

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            What the hell are you talking about? gases like hydrogen (or even propane) aren’t explosive. The only way to get them to “explode” is to confine them inside a sealed container mixed with the correct amount of oxygen, then ignite it inside the container. And even then, the “explosion” is a result of the container bursting. hydrogen is the lightest known element. If you release a quantity of it, it’s going to haul ass skyward and dissipate rapidly. And even if you happened to be extremely unlucky as to have a nearby ignition source present at the exact moment the rising H2 gas is at the proper concentration in air, you’re not getting anything more than a brief “whoof” of flame.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            And if you do blow up, it’s your own damned fault.

            – Ruggles

          • 0 avatar

            Have anyone in this thread seen how the insulation of Delta IV Heavy changes from orange to black in “a brief woof”? Same would happen to your body if you were nearby. And yes, strictly speaking it’s not “explosion”, so your kin will have easier time collecting your charred remains that remained unscattered. I suppose it’s a big help from hydrogen.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @jz (etc.): “What the hell are you talking about? gases like hydrogen (or even propane) aren’t explosive. The only way to get them to “explode” is to confine them inside a sealed container mixed with the correct amount of oxygen, then ignite it inside the container. And even then, the “explosion” is a result of the container bursting. hydrogen is the lightest known element. If you release a quantity of it, it’s going to haul ass skyward and dissipate rapidly. And even if you happened to be extremely unlucky as to have a nearby ignition source present at the exact moment the rising H2 gas is at the proper concentration in air, you’re not getting anything more than a brief “whoof” of flame.”

            Have you ever tried burning hydrogen? Even once? The only thing that burns faster than hydrogen is a purpose-built explosive. The simple fact that you cannot even STORE hydrogen outside of a pressurized container means that if that container is ruptured the chances of an explosion are very, VERY high! Because it is so flammable, a spark igniting the “dissipating” gas can and WILL race back to the ruptured container and INTO that container. Now you have a confined space, a LARGE amount of highly flammable gas and an opening FAR too small to vent the sudden massive increase in pressure. Result? Massive Explosion.

            Try it for yourself some time, if you think it is so safe.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “Have you ever tried burning hydrogen? Even once? The only thing that burns faster than hydrogen is a purpose-built explosive. The simple fact that you cannot even STORE hydrogen outside of a pressurized container means that if that container is ruptured the chances of an explosion are very, VERY high! Because it is so flammable, a spark igniting the “dissipating” gas can and WILL race back to the ruptured container and INTO that container. Now you have a confined space, a LARGE amount of highly flammable gas and an opening FAR too small to vent the sudden massive increase in pressure. Result? Massive Explosion.”

            Vulpine, you’re talking nonsense. There would be no oxygen inside the hydrogen tank to support combustion inside the container. The situation you describe would be no different than if it was a tank of propane or CNG.

            you watch too many action movies.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @jzetc…:

            Since you are so confident that it is perfectly safe, how about you filming a controlled experiment doing exactly that? Prove to everybody that works with flammable fuels how wrong they are.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Ignited by a tiny spark from the mooring mast.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        “Remember the Hindenburg!”

        What about the humanity?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      A 100kW solid-oxide fuel cell that can get 20-25kW out of a gallon of gasoline, fit in the space of an I4 or V6, and cost less than $10k isn’t bullshit, though it’s likely a fantasy. When it comes to a H2 infrastructure rollout or H2 fuel cell economics, Musk is right IMO.

    • 0 avatar

      I sometimes create Hydrogen gas by dissolving Aluminum foil in HCl Acid to demonstrate chemistry for kids I tutor.

      I use a bottle to fill a balloon and then detonate the balloon with a lighter.

      THAT SH!T IS DANGEROUS.

      My arm hair was burnt off immediately and my skin smells like burned pork.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        ** NEWS FLASH: Igniting fuels is dangerous! Film at 11. **

        What do you think would happen if you did the same thing with gasoline?

        Remember folks, we aren’t comparing H2 to a clear, sunny day. We’re comparing it to an extremely energy dense, volatile fuel that also tends to blow up.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Unless someone offers a big enough tax subsidy. They he’ll be on it like a monkey on a banana.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    Of course Musk says they’re BS, Tesla’s not working on them.

    Or maybe they are, and he’s working up to a Steve Jobs-like about-face.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Here’s a hint: the weight of an airliner is upto 45% (47% for long-haul 777, Concorde was 55% just across the Atlantic).

      If H2 was such a wonderful fuel, why hasn’t Boeing (or Airbus) made a jet that uses it? Even if efficiency was even close, cutting the wieght by a third or more should make up a lot. But since they don’t listen to bull**it artists, somebody has to peddle it to car owners.

      For rocketry uses, cutting the weight in ~half (they still carry O2) is worth it. Air-breathing H2 burners are the holy grail (lose something like 90% of your mass, but how in the world do you get the needed thrust).

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Who’s still working on hydrogen fuel cells?

    • 0 avatar
      Travis

      Honda?

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      everyone?

      actually, the “fuel cell” portion of the tech is pretty much solved. The “hydrogen” portion isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Honda, Toyota, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes, Nissan…

      Toyota has all but said their first fuel cell cars will be on sale in 2015. Nissan says 2017. The rest saying 2020ish.

      She’ll is installing hydrogen filling “stations” in Hawaii as a proof of concept in cooperation with automakers.

      Toyota in particular is on the record saying basically electrification is b****** and fuel cells long term is the answer.

      Other than that…no one is working on fuel cells.

      The oil industry supports (surprise) as they refine H2 from natural gas – (there are other refining processes) so even in a migration to H2, we remain connected to fossil fuels for some of the supply.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        If we could get 20+ kWh worth of H2 out of a gallon of gasoline, it would increase efficiency greatly. Electric drivetrains get 3 or more miles per kWh.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Fuel cell cars are electric cars who need a battery for regenerative breaking anyway so the question is what is more expensive? Fueling the fuel cell or charging the battery? The obvious answer is the battery so a plugin fuel cell car makes sense and with it the demand on the fueling infrastructure will be to small to be economical viable.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      @danio3834:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-and-bmw-plan-to-take-the-lead-in-commercializing-fuel-cell-cars-lets-revisit/

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/hyundai-assembling-fuel-cell-tucsons-for-mass-production/

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/honda-gm-team-up-for-fuel-cell-technology-as-alliance-trend-continues/

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/toyota-will-launch-2015-fuel-cell-car-volkswagen-wont/

      http://dailykanban.com/2013/10/10/daily-kanban-drives-toyotas-2015-fuel-cell-car-talks-to-its-father/?doing_wp_cron=1382543287.2589271068572998046875

      People seem to have short memories if four month old articles are already wiped from the memory banks. Personally, I think battery cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars are BOTH losers, but Toyota begs to differ on the Fuel Cell front, and they’re smarter than I am and probably any of you lot as well.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        One has to wonder if the Tesla/Toyota tie up is starting to sour.

        I still believe Toyota’s motivation was to unload NUMMI and wait for Tesla to follow the other automotive start ups of the last 30 to 40 years to the grave, snap up the patents and use the batteries in their hybrids.

        Between Teslas success and apparent viability, the sales flop the electric RAV-4 is, the weak reception to the plug-in Prius, and Toyota’s business plan of basically skipping electrification (the California emissions standard plug-in Prius the outlier) I suspect Musk’s comments were not appreciated at the Toyota mothership.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Thanks for the refresher, I don’t follow that end of the business often.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Sounds like what I would expect to hear from someone committed to batteries. Because farting around for an hour or two waiting for your steadily degrading battery to charge is so non-bullshit.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    This guy needs to learn some humility. Silicon Valley Jesus or not, once someone like BMW gets their marketing and dealer network up to speed on electrics (and they are), Tesla is dead in the water.

    And not for nothing, but the i8 is drop dead gorgeous and the i3 at least has some character about it. The Model S is very, very generic from a design/styling standpoint.

  • avatar

    Elon Musk is quite right on this, and the arguments against hydrogen as energy carrier for vehicles were well known long before Bush 43rd started talking about “the hydrogen economy”. In particular they were summed up by Dr. Robert Zubrin in his essay “The Hydrogen Hoax”. He even marshalled — you won’t believe it — actual numbers in it.

    Note, however, that when it comes to constructive proposals, the scientific and engineering comminities fall short. We may be certain that hydrogen does not work, but we do not know what does — except lyquid hydrocarbons. Dr. Zubrin’s hobby horse is ethanol. That one is fine to power a car (unlike hydrogen), but where do we get it? Import from Brazil? The corn ethanol already screwed up all of the cornbelt states. Mr. Musk’s answer is the battery, but those have their own challenges, which his detractors pointed out many times.

    I think the weakness in alternatives is what fuels the hydrogen idiocy, at least in large part.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      It’s a non-solution looking for a problem, as is ethanol. Oil and natural gas are abundant and, relative to the alternatives, cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Oil? NOT that abundant. We could well run completely out within your lifetime.
        Natural gas may be more abundant, but with its lower energy density requires more volume to perform the same work. And “cheap” doesn’t even begin to factor in the costs in lives that have already been destroyed and farmland damaged by the extracting and transporting of these fuels.

        Or maybe you’ve forgotten about the vast amounts of pollution created by the uncontrolled burning of these fuels and others? Maybe you’ve forgotten about the acid rain that has irreparably damaged historical structures. Maybe you’ve forgotten about that severe asthma you had while growing up. Take a look at China today, and that’s where we were 40 years ago.

        We need CLEAN fuels and CLEAN energy. I was raised in one of the top 100 most polluted cities in the U.S. In fact, it was one of the top 10. That city is now one of the top 10 cleanest cities in the country. A big part of that became possible by changing the fuels used by industry. Another part came by scrubbing exhausts from both vehicles and industrial chimneys. It all came by spending money which made the cost of everything skyrocket. Cleaner fuels means less cost to clean up the waste means less cost to manufacture which means lower prices to the consumer.

        Let the hydrogen fuel the electric plants around the country and let the electricity generated that way power the cars and trucks that we all drive.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Those clean cities are still powered by hydrocarbons Vulpine. So are the cars and buses. Oil and natural gas are will be powering our cities and cars when our grandchildren are driving around. It is extraordinarily abundant.

          Hydrogen is extracted using electricity, which is generated by hydrocarbons, because it is practical to do so.

          Abundant hydrocarbons have helped us to become wealthy enough to attend to our environment and clean it up. That is why wealthy nations have the cleanest, healthiest environments.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Not all electricity is produced by burning hydrocarbons. In fact, a lot of hydrocarbon power plants could be easily replaced by other, less damaging systems that are already in use elsewhere.

            No, wind as we currently use it isn’t really viable.
            No, tidal pumps as we currently use them aren’t really viable.
            Solar, on the other hand, is QUITE viable through a number of different methods currently in use.
            Wind, wave and tide can be made more viable through modified technologies.
            Nuclear–such as Pebble-bed reactors and Thorium reactors would be quite viable (and far safer).

            We don’t NEED oil any more as a fuel. Other systems, while expensive to set up, can and will be far more efficient.

            Oh, and Chattanooga, Tennessee is NOT powered by hydrocarbons; it’s powered by water. In fact, the Tennessee Valley Authority sells water and nuclear-generated electricity to many parts of the country outside of Tennessee itself.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Vulpine I certainly agree with you about nuclear, but solar will always be niche and never take the place of power plant run by fuel such as hydrocarbons, hydro, or nuclear. The energy density issue you spoke of regarding natural gas is nothing compared to the energy density problems of solar. Plus, you have to store the energy for when the sun is not shining or put in redundant conventional backup. It is too expensive, takes up too much space and is impractical for many other reasons. Germany is discovering this, as are all nations which have screwed their consumers and taxpayers by chasing sunbeams. In the applications where it is practical, it needs little or no subsidy. Regardless, it will never be a substitute for hydrocarbons. Not even close. We need oil as much as ever and we are lucky to have plenty of it.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            * “Solar will always be niche…”
            Tell that to Spain, where four solar power plants are performing the work of at least as many coal-fired plants.
            For that matter, do a little study on “Molten Salt” solar technology; it stores the heat, allowing the plant to work overnight and continue generating electricity.

            You see, I tend to keep up with where technology is and where it’s going. I see “big money” constantly resisting progress and trying to refute advancements until those advancements simply cannot be ignored any longer. The interesting thing is that Spain OWNS those solar plants and their success has allowed them to shut down several conventional plants. Sometimes government HAS to step in to give the newer methods the start they need to become financially viable.

            And NO, we don’t have “plenty of it (oil)” We ARE running out and at the sudden growth in the rate of use we may not have enough left to last even 50 years. If we don’t have viable alternatives in place BEFORE we run out, you can’t imagine the economic disaster that would result.

          • 0 avatar
            charly

            All sources of electric energy are niche.

            Solar only in the day
            Wind if it blows
            nukes and coal need to run none stop so can’t be used for peak
            oil is way to expensive
            Hydro is to small
            geothermal is to local
            and even gas is to expensive

            Electricity networks need a mix to be as cheap as possible.

            Solar and wind have a big advantage over other methods of electricity production in that they need no water. But the isn’t true for molten salt who are almost by definition build in deserts.

            Solar itself is expensive but it does drop the price of electricity overall.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Spain, and Europe’s, solar energy ventures have been a financial disaster. Charly, anyone who thinks hydrocarbons are a niche energy source for generating electricity is not living in the real world.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You really don’t know what hydrogen is, do you?

      Hydrogen is probably the most abundant element in the universe–far more abundant than even Oxygen.
      Separate hydrogen from water and you get oxygen as the “waste” gas.
      Burn hydrogen in oxygen and you get… water.
      As noted above, hydrogen is FAR more energy-dense that hydrocarbons… simply because it doesn’t have that carbon atom bound to it.
      As such, hydrogen is a far better choice for a fuel.

      *BUT*

      Being more energy dense, it is far more volatile–meaning explosive.
      Hydrogen cannot be stored as a liquid *at room temperature*.
      Infinitely more care must be maintained in the storage and dispensing of hydrogen.
      Infrastructure costs would blow through the roof at least until fully established.

      In other words there are trade offs between having better power and almost unlimited source vs simple safety. If a hydrogen-fueled vehicle’s tank is penetrated, the resultant explosion would almost certainly be fatal. If a hydrogen service station has a “spill” it would almost certainly be catastrophic–think in possibly hundreds of lives. Yes, we transport and use hydrogen in many aspects of industry, but the amounts are typically limited and transport systems are prohibitively expensive. There’s a reason Hazmat vehicles–especially those carrying flammable and explosive substances–are not allowed through tunnels and other restricted-access routes.

      Again, as a fuel it’s almost ideal. But the transport and dispensing of that fuel is almost as risky as transporting nitroglycerin.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        :facepalm:

        Hydrogen is not “probably” the most abundant element. It IS the most abundant. However, we live on earth, not out floating in interstellar space. We are limited to what we find in the earth’s atmosphere and crust.

        We don’t have ready access to elemental hydrogen. Our hydrogen is tied up in chemical bonds (like water) that have to be broken (i.e., energy input). Where does that energy come from? It isn’t free. Electrolysis of water is only around 70% efficient. That means for every kWh of energy you spend to get hydrogen, you only have 0.7 kWh of chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. Fuel cells are only around 40% efficient (some claim up to 50%, but that’s not yet very realistic). That means your initial kWh of electricity is now down to 0.28 kWh of electricity, assuming you actually get all the hydrogen and none of it escapes through leaks (good luck with that). Splitting water to get hydrogen is a fool’s errand.

        The primary source of hydrogen is actually splitting hydrocarbons in natural gas. The process produces CO2 and relies on fossil fuels, so it isn’t exactly a solution for the ills that hydrogen is supposed to solve. However, this process does create a high-efficiency system. So, in other words, a viable hydrogen economy has the same downfalls as the current energy economy.

        Energy density is not the same thing as volatility. “Volatile” has taken on the meaning of “ready to ignite” like an oppressed people itching for independence. However, this is from poetic license. “Volatile” more appropriately means “evaporates quickly and/or easily.” Gasoline is quite volatile, which makes it work well in engines. Being already a gas, it doesn’t make much sense to call hydrogen “volatile.”

        Energy density is not the determining factor for explosiveness. Explosiveness requires the stored energy be rapidly released. (That’s why volatility is associated with it–gases are more available to react than liquids or solids.) Sawdust’s energy density is no higher than regular wood, but it can explode while wood simply burns. That’s due to the massive surface area which increases the rate of reaction. Flour also can explode, but we don’t worry about bread detonating in the toaster. A natural gas leak in your home can fill it with a nice fuel/air mixture, which if ignited can level your whole block. But when a controlled release of natural gas is ignited, it’s perfectly safe to use for cooking. A hydrogen tank that ruptures, leaks, and ignites can behave in the same way–a finger of flame burning at the leak until the hydrogen is fully consumed. Again, it isn’t the chemical so much as how much and how quickly.

        High pressure tanks are not grenades. Movies are lies. A hydrogen tank (or any other) that is properly constructed will not blow up like the end of Jaws. Go watch the Mythbusters episode where they tested it. When a pressure tank fails, it leaks (quickly & with much force, yes–but not with instant and total release).

        I laughed at your comparison between the hazards of nitroglycerine and hydrogen.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Hydrogen is not “probably” the most abundant element. It IS the most abundant.”
          Your conceit is showing. While I agree that it is the most abundant element we are *AWARE* of, we as a species don’t know everything–not yet, anyway.

          No, high-pressure tanks aren’t grenades–they’re bombs. The only reason they don’t rupture is the fact that they are made of extremely heavy steel and the bottles themselves weigh upwards of 50 pounds or more when empty. Those tanks are designed NOT to rupture if at all possible under normal industrial conditions. However, they HAVE been known to rupture either through having the control valve knocked off or by puncturing due to other industrial accidents involving falling, heavy equipment striking it or other similar incident. The point is that the tank itself is heavy and when fully charged to sometimes 500 psi or more become significantly heavier.

          Sixteen gallons of gasoline in a thin aluminum, plastic or even steel shell weighs less. Then again, since gasoline is already a liquid even in arctic conditions there is almost no pressure differential to worry about and as such industry doesn’t have to be AS concerned about the strength of the tank itself. You look at any pressurized gas system–such as CNG or propane now used in industrial vehicles–and those tanks are significantly heavier for carrying less equivalent fuel. And yes, the term “energy density” is still valid because 20 gallons of CNG only takes said vehicle about as far as 10 gallons of gasoline. Sure, CNG is cheaper, but you have to either add more CNG tanks or a larger tank to get the same range which adds not only hundreds of pounds of weight but also takes up several cubic feet of bulk. Since we’re talking about vehicles, please note that CNG pickup trucks and those that are now listed as dual-fuel CNG LOSE about ⅓ of their cargo capacity by weight and volume. If said truck only has a 5-foot bed to start with, it’s almost useless for carrying construction tools and supplies and becomes little better than a 4-door sedan with an open trunk. Hydrogen, as compared to CNG or gasoline, if burned as fuel would get more than three times the range of CNG for equivalent volumes though it would still be subject to the weight and volume considerations that inhibit pressurized gas usage in the consumer market. Again noting those trucks, the conversion (or addition) of CNG adds between $5000 to $10,000 to the price of that truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Liquid hydrocarbons _may_ be more efficiently used as sources for locally-generated H2 (or onboard solid-oxide fuel cells) with an electric drivetrain. If you can get 50% efficiencies out of cracking a gallon of gas, that’s at least 16kWh, with which an EV can get 48-64 miles.

      If the goal is reducing fossil fuel usage, seems to me that that’s certainly one way of getting there. Piggyback on existing infrastructure: in fact, there’s plenty of NG pipelines as well as gas and diesel, and all of those hydrocarbons could be reformulated into H2, so filling stations would have their choice as to which source to use as feedstock depending on the economics at the time.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Yeah, what the hell does Musk know about the technical challenges in storing hydrogen fuel, anyway? It’s not like he’s got a space launch company on the side of his Tesla business or anything.

    • 0 avatar

      Ironically the space launch industry started looking at CH4 because of manifold hydrogen challenges. Hydrogen is good for ultimate performance, which is why it was used during the Moon Race. You can select materials that insulate and resist embrittleness when taxpayer funds you. But as soon as dollars enter the picture, accounting people start pushing back. And then we have the problem of propellant depot.

      Elon himself actually looked at hydrogen seriously when it became clear that F9 was not competitive in GSO comsat market. The program was revealed in Max Vozoff’s presentation back in 2008. They apparently started working on RL-10-class engine called “Raptor”. Since then, however, little was heard of it, and SpaceX go full steam ahead with a monster all-kerosene rocket known as FH. The hydrogen revolution is postponed yet again.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Exactly. If Musk could have leveraged some hydrogen-related R&D synergy between his space business and his green car company, he would have done so. Instead, he has a kerosene launch vehicle and a battery electric car. QED.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        NASA was literally blown away by how much more power solid propellant has compared to the liquid systems they were used to. The first time they tested the shuttle’s SRBs, they broke a whole bunch of stuff.

        • 0 avatar

          The specific impulse of the PBAN-based SRB is very impressive, and of course the segmented solid is an amazing engineering feat. Still, Japanese put a kibosh on them in favour of monolithic solids for a reason of safety and cost. Arianne is the only remaining launcher in the world still using them (until SLS).

          Chinese probably have a good idea with kerosene boosters for a hydrogen core. We’ll see when CZ-5 flies.

          Nonetheless all of those are government systems.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    forget everything else about hydrogen and just worry about one thing: LOGISTICS.
    There is a massive, massive MASSIVE infastructure for widespread carting and delivery of gasoline and diesel. it is not set up for pressurized hydrogen. You can build a thousand hydrogen refuelling stations, (you’d need many thousands to be competitive with gasoline), and you’d have to store it somewhere in massive bulk and be able to deliver it to the filling stations. It’s literally an insane propsition, and therefore, complete bull****.

    EV’s only have the problem of delivery stations, which while not easy, is only as hard as building stations (and developing a customer base). There is no issue with stockpiling and delivery of fuel since pretty much anywhere along any significant road in ths country, you can find a 3 phase power drop.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    Volvo says his batteries are now BS. Has Volvo learned to store electricity in carbon fiber?

    In an Oct 17 press release entitled, Volvo Car Group makes conventional batteries a thing of the past, Volvo says yes.

    When are you guys going to cover this story?

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    .
    Having to stop at a charging station sort of defeats the purpose of hauling 120MPH down the autobahn, no?

    I was hoping this latest IPCC report would wake up the masses and start to expose the hoax that is anthropogenic climate change. Or course the media doesn’t report the fact that the IPCC has seriously dialed back their predictions of catastrophic warming; rather they spin the report’s conclusions with meaningless proclamations like, “we’re now 95% confident that CO2 emissions from man-made sources are affecting the climate.” The uninformed public happily drinks the Kool Aid; alternative energy policies that drive up the cost of everything will continue unabated.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      +1 E46. Amen.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      That 2% (not 5%) of Climate Change naysayers are NOT valid scientists but rather individuals going out of their way to try and disprove that Climate Change is even marginally affected by mankind’s pollution. A single week in September of ’01 proves even those few wrong. We *are* affecting our climate and accelerating the warming that those few are proclaiming as 100% natural.

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        Vulpine, the climate apparently didn’t get your memo as there has been no statistically significant warming in the last 15 years. (Spare me the contradictory web links as I can cite a page full of links that support my thesis too.)

        I can tell you’re one of the uninformed as you cite hydrogen’s abundance as some sort of evidence of its efficacy as a motor fuel. While outer space may be full of free hydrogen, virtually all of the hydrogen here on Earth exists in a lower energy state–that is, it’s bound to some other element, mainly oxygen in the form of water. Separating the hydrogen from oxygen requires a net INPUT of energy. The hydrogen in hydrocarbons can be combined with oxygen to produce a net OUTPUT of energy. Big difference between the hydrogen in water and the hydrogen in crude oil.
        .
        .

        • 0 avatar
          J.Emerson

          “as I can cite a page full of links that support my thesis too”

          By all means, then.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The evidence is clear that man HAS affected our global climate. One week in September, 2001 proved it as real temperatures fell almost 5° below forecast day and night in the mid-Atlantic states and rain patterns changed during that period.

          No, I’m not saying Man *caused* the overall shift we’ve seen (and you absolutely can NOT ignore the fact that glaciers around the world have melted so fast that many which took thousands of years to develop are almost gone today) but that we HAVE *affected* it–raising those temperatures by as much as 5° above where they would be without our pollution.

          Your argument about, “… there has been no statistically significant warming in the last 15 years,” only shows that our efforts to limit pollution are finally taking some effect, but all you have to do is go to China and see that we haven’t yet eliminated pollution and still have a long way to go.

          As for hydrogen’s efficacy as a fuel, yes, it could be; IF we can devise a safe means to carry and dispense that fuel without a heightened risk of fire and explosion. At a minimum the vehicle would have to be grounded AND electrostatic neutral to the tank–meaning physical connection to both ground and tank–just to reduce the risk of a spark setting off any leaking vapor. Having been certified to refuel both civilian and military aircraft, I’m well aware of the potential created by lacking those grounding points. Such accidents are rare with gasoline and kerosine, but they HAVE happened and when they have, they’ve been catastrophic.

          No, personally I prefer the all-electric route or, as some have mentioned above a solid-fuel cell approach, to drive an all-electric vehicle. Both systems qualify as Zero Emissions and can offer similar, if not superior performance to gasoline powered vehicles if, for now, lacking the range.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      http://www.upworthy.com/10-reasons-why-global-warming-is-a-big-fake-3?c=ufb1

      That’s worth watching. Good points, all of them.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Musk is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks hydrogen is a threat to his sales of 300 cars a month in Germany. The best way to dissociate hyrogen from water is with electricity, and the most economical way is using nuclear power plants. Germany shut down its nuclear plants, so large volumes of hydrogen at reasonable prices won’t be available.

    Germany also went whole-hog into alternate energy sources, primarily wind and solar, and even with government subsidies, electricity in Germany is now twice as expensive as in the U.S. THAT’S why he can’t sell 300 electric cars a month in Germany.

    • 0 avatar

      What does the “best” mean here? The fact is that the vast majority of the industrial hydrogen is produced by reforming the natural gas today.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Reforming natural gas is another source of hydrogen, not another way to dissociate hydrogen from water. For Germany, which buys natural gas from fickle Russia at whatever price Russia decides, and which uses it primarily for home heating, dissociating hydrogen from water using electricity is the best alternative source. Germany has precluded that by shutting down it’s nuclear plants that produce the cheapest electricity, and now has expensive electricity, making hydrogen production for cars, and electric cars themselves, uneconomic.

  • avatar
    Les

    Urm..

    So, just how much more dangerous is Hydrogen… compared to LPG, CNG and/or Propane?


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