Hydrogen Hype Takes a Hit

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
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hydrogen hype takes a hit

The Detroit Free Press reports that Canada's Ballard Power Systems has so much faith in the future of hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobiles that they're looking to sell that part of their business. And here's the kicker: Ballard wants to off-load the whole hydrogen kit and caboodle on the unit's minority partner: Ford. The news comes one day after USA Today touted GM's recently released experimental fleet of 100 hydrogen fuel cell Equinox. And just two short years ago, "then-CEO Dennis Campbell was in Detroit touting the fact that a hydrogen economy was on the horizon and that fuel cells would likely replace the internal combustion engine." Yes, well, Campbell now reckons it's time to bail, due "to the lengthy projected timeline to commercialization and high cost of development." Needless to say, the move hasn't deterred the faithful, although they have moved the goalposts. Again. The National Hydrogen Association expects automakers to decide in 2015 whether to mass market the technology. We can't wait!

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  • Stuntnun Stuntnun on Nov 08, 2007

    egr i think stands for engine gas recirculation and it uses a filter to capture the nox(think its charcoal)mazdas saying zero emissions-heres a link to another article -it was printed before they updated the hydrogen mileage-also norways bought 30 rx-8s but im sure that cost a small fortune. http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/print.php?sid=116 -the hydrogen is directly injected into a separate chamber and then moved to its own chamber for combustion-so yes it is much safer -just look up the animation of a rotary working and you'll see it better than i can explain it.

  • Jaje Jaje on Nov 08, 2007

    Honda is the manufacturer with a Hydrogen Fuel Cell passenger vehicle closest to commercialization - all others are concepts or use ICE to burn hydrogen. For what it's worth we can make judgements on the 2008 FCX which (unlike Ford or GM) Honda does stick to timeframes and promises.

  • Rex Rex on Nov 12, 2007

    We, at the National Hydrogen Association, see the daily progress being made toward a hydrogen economy. While can not speak on behalf of Ballard, their hard work and all other fuel cell manufacturers and researchers have motivated all automakers to take seriously the positive impact fuel cell technologies can offer. The automotive industry needs to build on its progress so far to make commercially affordable hydrogen fuel cell cars a reality. We see Ford and Daimler’s willingness to invest in fuel cell technologies as a very positive step. Such action reflects the seriousness of both organizations to invest in and develop hydrogen cars using fuel cell technology. This also proves that if fuel cells weren’t viable, the auto industry would invest in other alternative options. Honda is working to begin leasing its hydrogen car starting 2008. General Motors has launched “Project Driveway”, which will allow people across the country the opportunity to test and give feedback. BMW is currently testing its version of a hydrogen car. If automakers didn’t believe in hydrogen being utilized as a fuel, we seriously doubt they would invest and develop such options. With all the conversations surrounding fuel cells in automobiles, it is easy to overlook that fuel cell technology is applicable far beyond the automotive industry. Fuel cells are already being utilized by the cellular phone industry to power cell phone towers and by specialty transportation in forklifts. As the cost of oil increases, we have no choice but to seek out and learn about the various alternative options and solutions. However, hydrogen holds the most promise because using certain hydrogen technologies will either cut or virtually eliminate emissions, improving our environmental outlook. It should also not be forgotten that many of the alternative energy solutions being explored can be used to generate hydrogen as a fuel, such as using wind or solar energy. We are certainly open to answer any questions and concerns you may have about the prospects of a hydrogen economy and the use of fuel cell technology. We also encourage you to visit the National Hydrogen Association website at www.hydrogenassociation.org, for additional information about hydrogen as a fuel.

  • Shelly Carson Shelly Carson on Nov 21, 2007

    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. A large number of start-ups have solid state hydrogen solutions that entirely use existing infrastructure. Battery Shills, backed by companies who are invested in batteries, are the 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 front including FIRE- Batteries catch on fire constantly and have been the result of massively more fires and explosions than hydrogen. Life Span- Hydrogen power systems run massively longer and provide massively greater range per charge than batteries. Run Time – The run time of batteries constantly shortens while hydrogen does not. 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 than batteries before end of life. Nano powder batteries have cancer causing powder that falls into the pores of the Chinese factory workers skin and gives them potentially fatal diseases Cost- The cost per 300 mile range for a hydrogen car system is massively 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 higher storage 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 reange of 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 presents a deadly environmental issue. Self Discharge issues- Hydrogen does not self discharge like batteries. The charge-keeping capability of a typical lithium-ion battery degrades 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 clear categories 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 invention 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 ordinary 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 sources? 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 H2 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. Steel is 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 but they 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 getting all 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.