By on June 19, 2008

img25415_t.jpgWhile the mainstream media (with the help of some freelancing bloggers we could name) are happy touting alt fuel/laptop-powered concept cars and prototypes that will (supposedly) free us of our dependence on the sweet crude crack, the reality is often much less exciting. It's nearly impossible to find out the answer to the obvious follow-up questions about these vaporware or one-of-a-kind models. Infrastructure costs? Safety? Range? Recharge/refuelling time? Thanks to Reuters, we have a little real world information about GM's Equinox hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle, and it is drastically different from the manufacturer's press release specs. I'll pause while you recover from the shock… While Motor Trend pleasantly regurgitated GM's estimate of three  to five minutes for refueling, Nichola Groom of Reuters observed that the fuel "only lasted about two days." She drove to one of four locations in Los Angeles where you can refuel the Equinox. "A GM engineer refueled for me, a process that took about 15 minutes for half a tank." For aspiring Fields Medal winners, that's 30 minutes to refuel a tank of gas. As the keys click away to comment that "You gotta start somewhere," remember that the first gen [1997 Japanese market] Prius took exactly as long to fill-up as any other car. What really rankles is that GM must know this, and intentionally or not, mislead the press/public. That's not how you build support for new technology, or enhance your credibility in this or any other field. In case you didn't know it.

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37 Comments on “Hydrogen Fuel Cell Equinox: 30 Minute Refill...”

  • avatar

    How long does it take to fill up a Clarity?

  • avatar

    Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles actually are safe. The fuel tanks are way more robust than a standard gas tank, due to needing to hold much higher pressure, and hydrogen dissipates so quickly that it doesn’t present an explosion risk like gasoline vapors. The only bad part is that you can’t actually see a hydrogen flame. Anyway, the fueling time issue is minor compared to the energy negative, water/natural gas intensive, process of turning electricity into hyrdrogen and then back into electricity. Not to mention that fuel cell vehicles emit a very dangerous greenhouse gass, water vapor.

  • avatar

    Talk about gas lines. We’ll have to make appointments for fuel. Hopefully the benevolent government will allow us to fill when we want to but I’m sure there will be rules about that too.

    Hydrogen has promise but the key is going to be home based refilling. Most people commute in their cars so this can work. It’s the long haul that becomes a problem since Backwater, USA is not going to get Hydrogen stations anytime in the next few decades.

    I’ve got a better idea, why not drill for more oil domestically and knock off this nonsense once and for all.

    How about THAT for someplace to start?

  • avatar

    Not to mention that fuel cell vehicles emit a very dangerous greenhouse gass, water vapor.


    And people emit one too, CO2 to be exact.

  • avatar

    This is what’s upsetting about the mainstream press and the bandwagon hopping they do with these new and untested technologies. The misinformation is vast.

    Step 1: Man reads all of these articles about fueling cars on everything from Ethanol to used huggies.

    Step 2: Man walks into dealership and looks at current crop of vehicles. He gets upset when he can’t buy car with a nuclear reactor under the hood.

    Step 3: Man blames automotive companies and “big oil” for his problems without realizing the massive investment it takes in building a new car, let alone an entire infrastructure to fuel the new car.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Is that rear hatch just for show, or does the hydrogen line snake up through the tailgate?

  • avatar


    That’s a good question. Does anyone here have the answer? It seems to me that the story itself, as reported by Reuters, unnecessarily singles out GM for an issue perhaps common to all hydrogen concepts in their current form. I must admit I haven’t read the entire Reuters article, as I’m a working person without the time to do that, or to comment endlessly on this site, all day long (as some do), without losing my shirt financially.

    From what I can infer, the firm apparently providing this information to the press (i.e., Reuters) is GM. So at least they’re being honest and transparent. And it wouldn’t make sense that they’d be doing this just as an empty PR stunt; you do PR stunts to look really good, not just to be seen no matter what.

    BTW…not sure how the Prius comparison fits…that’s a gasoline-powered engine working in concert with battery power. The Equinox, and other manufacturers’ equivalents, are hydrogen powered. To my knowledge, there’s no infrastructure or passenger vehicle intake system in common use that’s designed to fuel hydrogen-powered cars/trucks. This is a start, and I imagine we’ll get somewhere if people put their heads to it, and if the peanut gallery perhaps resisted the urge to look for the sarcasm in everything. We didn’t get to the moon that way, and we won’t get to mass usage of alternative energy that way, either.

    Yes, my keys “just click[ed] away to comment that ‘You gotta start somewhere…\'”

  • avatar

    GS, water vapor is a far more active greenhouse gas than is CO2. Look it up.

    I know, I know, it’s not PC to actually mention salient facts like this.

    But it’s true.

    It’s also very probably true that CO2 is not in reality making virtually any change to our climate, because – gasp ! – the plants can use it and turn it into oxygen! So do the oceans!

    The probable reality of global warming is that we have been going through a ‘maximum’ since the mid 19th century, after four ‘minimums’ in a row which made up the little ice age.

    Look up “Maunder Minimum” (the 2nd to last of the four in a row which cooled the earth).

    In plain English, we’re all being conned by the CO2 fanaticicst and their false religion (because that’s what it really is). The earth has been warming and cooling with the solar cycles since the creation. And real scientists know it.

    The irrefutable facts are that the earth warms & cools on cycles due to solar warming & cooling, which relate to 11 year solar flare cycles and long 166 year solar flare cycles. It’s really complex.

    Real scientists also are aware that we are in for a single cooling phase which is coldest in about 2030, which means it won’t start warming up to “normal” until about 2050.

    Real scientists are also aware that over the time from January 2007 to January 2008, the mean (that is to say overall average) global temperature has gone down as much as it went up over the prior CENTURY.

    NOW can we go slap Al Gore on all four cheeks? Pleeeeez?

  • avatar

    Almost forgot to mention that the Australians didn’t even have a summer 6 months ago (during our winter). It was the coldest since 1966.

    A global warming meeting was cancelled due to severely cold weather in the US earlier this year.

    In Washington state, inland, snow was so deep and the winter was so long, that some state and federal camp grounds aren’t going to open until July 4th (instead of the more normal Memorial Day on June 6th) due to the depth of snow still there.

    And here in Northwestern Michigan, we are not having any summer at all. Temps are running 15 to 20 degrees below normal and have been pretty much all this spring and what passes for summer.

    Yes, this does not bode well for the human race, and yes, in the little ice age, folks did starve to death because it was too cold to grow crops.

    Instead of concentrating on CO2 foolishness, we need to face reality as a world, actually pull together and start planting foods instead of sugar cane in places like northern Brazil and also other temperate regions.

    Within two decades, the food from the bread basket of the world – the Canadian prairies and northern US – won’t be available to us.

  • avatar


    AND…in 2030, when we’re at our coldest, the CO2 fanatics (or manipulators…) will claim that it’s cold because they had the wisdom and foresight to regulate and tax the p!ss out of Americans and everyone else. They’ll make these pronouncements from the limousines, penthouses and summer homes they were able to buy with all that tax money.

    I gotta get a job in politics. That’s where the money is.

  • avatar

    Our current vegetation on our planet has plentiful carbon dioxide – but human release of Co2 from fossil fuels equates to 2 major volcanoes erupting 24/7 x 365 – that’s a lot of Co2. Plus methane from over breeding of cows for food is even worse than Co2 or H2O.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Not to mention that fuel cell vehicles emit a very dangerous greenhouse gass, water vapor.”

    What nonsense. All combustion releases water vapor. If the hydrogen is made by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen then the later recombination in a fuel cell results in a net zero change in the water available on the planet.

    There are plenty of potential problems with fuel cell vehicles, but the water vapor boogie man is bs.

  • avatar


    I have to assume your definition of ‘Real Scientist’ = scientist who agrees with what I’m saying?

    Man, that leaves a lot of un-real scientists out there…..just saying.

    I don’t assume that all the climate change claims are solid enough to be definite, but a preponderance of all the evidence makes it pretty clear that we (and our Co2) are having a slow, building, negative effect on our climate.

    To assume that a vast majority of those in the climate analysis game are left-leaning-biased enough to skew all the numbers, is serious tin-foil hat territory.

  • avatar

    Two questions regarding this article (well three).

    1) How much/long/far was this person driving the Equinox for the fuel to only last two days?

    2) GM really expects us to wait 30 minutes for a fillup? Better market this thing to the Buick set (then again they might fall asleep and who knows what that might do to safety at the pumps).

    3) How long does it take the BMW Hydrogen 7 or the Honda Clarity to do the same fillup? I’m sure Honda at least would’ve figured this out and made the refueling somewhat quicker.

  • avatar

    As much as I like the relevance of the 1/2 hour fill up. I still would like more media play on the enormous energy costs of H. Since it is not an easy element to work with. It is not an energy source at all, but an energy carrier.

    The main form of commercial processing of purified H is steam reforming of natural gas (in which you release lot’s of C02). Anyone looked at the price of NG lately? Over $13 a therm! Of course there is electrolysis, but why use electricity to create H (with energy loss) then put in a fuel sell to make electricity (with energy loss) to recreate water?

    It is all just silly.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the co2/water vapor/stupid scientists thing get boring.

    Thread after thread gets sidetracked by this.

    I’d like to discuss the fact that we’ll need special hydrogen filling stations, hoses capable of handling considerable pressure. In order to liquify hydrogen you can either cool it (but that’s not feasible in cars) or keep it under considerable pressure.

    This means that the pumping station, hose, attachment nozzle on hose and car, etc — will be a pressurized, flammable environment.

    Now, my neighbor rarely drives sober, and I definitely don’t want him filling the tank in front of me. Which means that we’re back to the gas filling station attendants (now hydrogen transfer technicians) of old.

    Half an hour to fill the tank. Way to go.
    Guess it’s time to put on the thinking cap again. (Have to confess I never wondered about the filling time of hydrogen – but of course it’s going to be difficult.)

  • avatar

    “I have to assume your definition of ‘Real Scientist’ = scientist who agrees with what I’m saying?”

    No, car-nerd, I’m not a democrat, but thanks for asking…. (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one).

    It appears as though planet earth is going to see cooler temperatures “only” through about 2040. Give or take a few years. A cold period could extend as late as 2086. Give or take. Assuming I’m reading the paper correctly. (While I’m somewhat used to scientific research papers, I’m not a celestial mechanics scientist, by any means).

    Read it for yourself. Written in 1999, it pretty well predicted that we would see a cool-down similar to (but thankfully shorter than) the solar minima (“cool down”) occurrences called Wolf (1270-1350), Sporer (1430-1520), Maunder (1620-1710) and Dalton (1787-1843). Having these solar minimums jammed fairly close together made for a pretty cold planet Earth between 1270 and 1843. Hence, all of these together are described as the mini-ice age.

    It’s pretty heavy reading. Pay particular attention to

    Sections 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11

    And Figures 10 and 11

  • avatar

    How large is this tank relative to the Honda Clarity? I thought the Clarity only held two pounds/gallons or something like that. What are the refuel times for the two vehicles compared to each other. That would give is a balanced view of where these two companies are in terms of something approaching production usefulness.

  • avatar

    Well, it could be that the attach and detach procedures are 13 minutes and the actual H2 transfer is only two minutes and a full tank would be two more minutes. Maybe.

    Still, 15 minutes? I’m in and out of SA in under 5. Does boil-off or some other factor make this more hazardous than gasoline refueling? Should the refuel procedure only be performed by techs who are trained? Are we going back to “Full Serve” as the norm?

    Menno, H2O enters the atmosphere all the time, evaporated off the surface of bodies of water. It falls out of the atmosphere all the time, too. It has both warming and cooling effects.

    There’s a report about this that the curious can read, published by the IPCC. There’s just a world of stuff in it. One might be surprised. It’s awful long, though. And full of numbers. Whew! Much easier just to diss the hardworking people that put it together.

    I’m sure all the “scientists” at Human Events Magazine or TownHall or or wherever you’re getting your talking points have a much better understanding of all this, anyway.

  • avatar

    These where the same Vehicles that GM Canada drove around Toronto this week, lots of publicity and exposure to the Press here.
    The last Equinox I saw (Regular version) had a terrible smell in it from the plastics inside it! Not sure about the Cell version though.
    I agree with Menno, no warm weather here either, SW Ontario where we normally grow soft Fruit and Tobacco

  • avatar

    Of, course, the comparison between the Clarity and the Equinox is academic since the Clarity actually exists as a real car – however small the quantities.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t GM have about 100 of these with drivers right now? How is that not a “real” vehicle compared to the Clarity. GM has given them to real people and not just Hollywood lefties. I do not believe they are charging them for the operational test either.

  • avatar

    IIRC, up in Cloquet, MN, there is a gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Among it’s features was an observation deck where travelers could relax while their cars were being serviced, etc.

    Considering the 30 min fill time, if it holds true for other Hydrogen fueled vehicles, instead of adding the infrastructure to existing fueling stations it might make more sense to build new dedicated Hydrogen stations with an attached Starbucks. Either that, or put them in front of big box stores and offer valet service. You can shop while your vehicle is fueling.

  • avatar

    @ Menno & George Labrador :

    I agree with Menno, no warm weather here either, SW Ontario where we normally grow soft Fruit and Tobacco.

    OK, I’m going to bite:

    Here’s a chart with anomaly in the average temperatures — plotted as annual averages and five-year averages – since 1860.

    Here’s a chart with the average temperature at the earth’s surface, ’50-’99.

    The variations that have scientists worried are not of hte “you’ll have hot balmy summers” kind.

  • avatar

    Kix start, I’m glad to get your heads up on water vapor having both warming and cooling effects. I hadn’t read any scientific papers on it, and I’ve just been curious as to why it wasn’t written about by the global warming crowd, since I’d read that water vapor was a far bigger global warming culprit than CO2.

    So at least we don’t have to worry about a massive global warming for our grandchildren who might be lucky enough to be driving around in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

  • avatar

    Stein, the scientists who are talking about the fact that we are now over a year over-due for the start of the next 11 year solar flare cycle (which when it does start, will very probably be quite quiet – i.e. cool sun/cooling earth), are saying that they don’t want to absolutely “call” a “minimum” for another year.

    We (humanity) may still luck out, and the solar flares could come back “nearly” as good as the last cycle (which was lower than the previous one, however, just as scheduled if the cycle patterns are normal and from all accounts, they continue to be).

    So far, however, even the START of the next 11 year cycle being “behind” by a year is very, very chilling news (pun intended).

    Did you notice on both of the graphs you shared with us, that at the right, both suddenly take sharp down-turns?

    We’ll see by next year, won’t we?

    It’ll be kind of hard for the global warmists to ‘splain away (LUCY!) “summer time” temps in the ’50’s north of the mason-dixon line, though, won’t it?

  • avatar
    Stan V

    Here I thought a single point a trend does not make, but who am I to question a “real scientist”. The graphs have sharp up and down swings all throughout, it’s the general trend upwards that’s disconcerting. Am I reading too much into it or something?

  • avatar

    Honda also claims the Clarity takes just “a few minutes” to fill up (some sites say five), for a range of 270 miles. Has that been verified yet?

  • avatar

    Well you DO have to start somewhere and I would expect all these technologies to improve over time. But any alt-fuel technology will take enormous amounts of time — decades — to penetrate the market or build up the infrastructure. That’s why we can’t innovate our way out of the current crisis. Need to drill.

  • avatar

    Menno –

    The Little Ice age isn’t considered to have started until the 1600s, and of course those 4 minimums have peaks in between, with no correlation to temperature.

  • avatar

    Yes, vegetation turns Co2 into oxygen. But deforestation and deserticifation reduce the “lung capacity” of the planet. And The warmer the seas get, the poorer they absorb CO2.
    What ever happened to “saving the rainforest?” Maintaining, or even better increasing the amount of forests on the planet should have an even better effect than reducing emissions. As it is now were reducing forests and increasing emissions. I can’t see how that could possibly be anything but bad news.

    I really hate that the car is the root of all evil nowadays though. Kind of makes me want to get the biggest and fastest gas-guzzler available just to piss people off.

  • avatar

    Get this straight – many scientists write articles for political purposes and not for the science themselves. The report by the EPA on global warming was edited by the current WH before distribution.

    Billions of gallons of potential carbon dioxide has been stored in liquid and gaseous form for millions of years and we are releasing this energy and the Co2 as the byproduct and people thing this will not have an effect on the environment. The same story I hear about dumping toxic chemicals into rivers as it goes away and has no effect on environment.

    For many who have agendas they look selectively for what serves their own and not objectively at the data. For those who don’t believe in global warming – they will likely never believe b/c it does not fit their opinion (and that is all that we have). Human growth and use of resources does affect our planet (but this is still a debate today) – to how much a degree our effect is the crucial question.

  • avatar

    John Horner

    2H2O + energy = O2 +2H2 –> 2H2O + energy released for power — does restore the balance, but the laws of thermodynamics – namely the one that says you can’t break even – informs its a lossy process. Not a problem if you have a lot of clean reliable nukes, but moreso if you are producing from other sources. Carbon based power just changes the time and place of pollution; wind/solar isn’t going to deliver quantity anytime soon.

  • avatar

    menno wrote, “Kix start, I’m glad to get your heads up on water vapor having both warming and cooling effects. I hadn’t read any scientific papers on it, and I’ve just been curious as to why it wasn’t written about by the global warming crowd, since I’d read that water vapor was a far bigger global warming culprit than CO2.

    So at least we don’t have to worry about a massive global warming for our grandchildren who might be lucky enough to be driving around in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”

    Well, menno, I’m not sure I get your point. I’d have to take a guess as to what you do and don’t know and what you do and don’t think you know which ain’t so, which is a problem all in itself.

    The fact of the matter is, whenever I hear someone going on a little mini-rant about global warming alarmism, if often has, at the core of it, some such BS notion that responsible people looking at the prospect of AGW haven’t noticed that the atmosphere is made up of – gasp! – more than one gas! And it really cheeses me off that people who feel fully entitled to throw these little mini-rants (often fuelled by reading clearly political screeds written by people who also don’t have a clue) haven’t taken the time to read and make an effort to understand what scientists are actually concerned about and why they think this gas which, admittedly, makes up a very small percentage of the atmosphere by volume or mass (and no one is hiding this, they will cheerfully tell you it’s 385ppmv) turns out to be extremely important.

    When you started to go on about water vapor in the atmosphere, did you really think that nobody on the IPCC panel ever looked out the window one day, noticed it was raining and said, “Hey, guys, there’s moisture in the air! Do you suppose that should have any effect on our calculations?”

    And, if someone actually did suggest this, did you think that the rest of his buddies would say, “No, there’s no way water, which causes the atmosphere to bank heat in interesting ways,which we’ve known about for centuries, could have any role in atmospheric heat retention or that those white fluffy clouds could reflect solar radiation back into space or longwave infrared radiation back to the ground or act as insulation or any of that, so forget that water business, close the blinds, get over here and help us figure out how to use the CO2/AGW bogeyman to destroy Western Civilization and please our Chinese masters?”

    Other things that I just love to hear:

    “CO2 has risen and fallen in the past.” No shit. However, apes with larger-than-normal-but-not-quite-big-enough brains have never dug up, wholesale, what Mother Nature thougtfully sequestered over the last billion or so years and rapidly FORCED CO2 levels up (or down, either, for the matter of that) in the past. It’s a big science experiment to do this and we’re all participants in it! Fun! Hey! But, surprise surprise surprise… This is actually considered in the IPCC report! People are looking into this all the time!

    “The Earth has warmed and cooled in the past.” No shit. However, it also hasn’t done it really, really fast before (which is our current concern) or in response to anthropogenic manipulation of CO2 levels and the pace of extinction and evolution is very likely to be forced ahead. What is arable land today might be desert tomorrow. Of course, what is desert today might be arable land tomorrow but – here’s a news bulletin for some – desertification is the faster of the two processes. Hey! Surprise surprise surprise… This is in the IPCC report! People are looking into this all the time!

    “There’s this big ball of fire in the sky that rains down heat upon the Earth and drives heating and cooling cycles.” No shit. Hey! Surprise surprise surprise… The impact of the Sun is also covered in the IPCC report! People are looking into this all the time!

    Now, it MAY be that the sunspot cycle or perturbations in Pluto’s orbit or the strength of cosmic radiation or the frequency of supernovas in M31 or something equally interesting and remote has an effect but a) none of this stuff has been carefully observed for a very long time b) no GW theories have been proven in relation to any of those things and c) anyway, none of it would explain why CO2, which has a known heat-retention capacity would NOT cause temps to rise.

    Now, menno, if you’d like to start doing your “research” somewhere besides Rightard web sites, perhaps some progress could be made in dialog.

  • avatar

    Where to start? Where to start? There is so much nonsense that I need to get my hipwaders on. Wait a sec I meant my chest waders. “just drill for more oil”, “water vapor is worse than CO2”, “get ready for the next ice age since it’s been cold this spring in Washington”. The only thing I didn’t hear was about the mystic telling me that god has a plan for all of us. But I do have just a few simple questions about the magic of hydrogen: first, how do you intend to produce the hydrogen? what is your source of energy? how do you make it more cheaply than oil? secondly, what are the capital costs and timing to build the infrastructure required to convert from gas to hydrogen. By the way, I’ve got a copies of early 1960’s issue of Popular Science that gives the definitive picture of hydrogen future in the 1990’s.

  • avatar

    Has anyone suggested genetically engineering plants and trees that can absorb more CO2 than they normally would? If we can get a mouse to glow in the dark is that really too big of a challenge? I’m tired of all this ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ logic. This logic is like blaming a good meal for a dirty kitchen. Why not have the best of both worlds by applying a little innovation (maybe a little elbow grease too) and cleaning up our messes. People could have un-neutered cars and a healthy environment too. I guess that’s just too bipartisan for some people…..

  • avatar

    reclusive_in_nature, Yes, people are looking into that. The problem is that plants need a variety of things besides CO2 (sunlight, proper temperature, space, water in the right amounts, trace elements) to thrive and their growth is paced by a number of things, some of them internal but this is one of the reason reforestation is a topic – and deforestation is another.

    Paper companies have developed trees that grow faster but principally to reharvest faster for paper. And such trees don’t make for a diverse ecosystem.

    Also, warming affects how plants live and thrive… there’s a variety of beetle that seems to be taking off in the west that’s just ripping the forests apart. Insects can easily derail efforts to sequester carbon in trees and plants.

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