By on November 21, 2014

2016-toyota-mirai-6-1

Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell owners will be able to refuel their new FCVs for free for three years, but only because it’s hard to put a price on hydrogen.

According to Autoblog, a seminar held at the Mirai launch regarding hydrogen revealed the fueling stations currently in place in the United States aren’t able to accurately measure how much hydrogen is pumped into a given vehicle. Without that accuracy, no FCV owner can be charged for the fuel, a problem the California Air Resources Board is working to fix. Deputy Executive Officer Alberto Ayala explains:

If you think about it, it’s a real simple yet real practical challenge. If you’re going to pay for X amount of hydrogen, you’re actually getting that amount of hydrogen… We are at a point where we are solving multiple remaining questions [with hydrogen infrastructure], and that just happens to be one of them.

National Fuel Cell Research Center director Scott Samuelsen adds that this was once the issue with gasoline, with agencies like California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Weights and Measures setting standards for fuel pumps, then routinely inspecting said pumps to ensure they remained accurate. Once “the right meter” to measure hydrogen is in place, the new consumer fuel source would fall in line.

A solution to this problem is expected to arrive within a year’s time at the latest.

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39 Comments on “Accuracy Issues Real Reason For Free Hydrogen For FCV Owners...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is because the pressure of the product changes constantly throughout the delivery system. It’s not as though anyone can dispense a gallon of H2 and compare it to a flowmeter reading at atmospheric pressure, as you can with gasoline.

    This will lead to fraud if H2 ever becomes widely available, which it won’t.

    • 0 avatar
      bills79jeep

      Why is metering H2 any different that other gasses? Natural gas is metered coming into a house, propane is metered going into a 20lb tank (or is it weighed – been a while since I’ve filled a tank with exchanges becoming ubiquitous), etc.

      Is there something different about [email protected] as compared to other gasses?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Just looking at this car one just wants to give it what ever it wants and hope that it goes away

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Vaudeville never died, it just moved out of the Catskills.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Metering isn’t hard in theory, you just measure in mass (kg of H2) rather than volume, its just engineering to do it right. But…

    Hydrogen is IMO a fraud: Its either a “quick fill” battery where you lose a ton of efficiency compared to, you know, an actual battery, or a “green” fossil fueled car that isn’t.

    Some real world numbers from the FCX Clarity.

    Its about 60 miles/kg of H2. If you use electricity to generate that hydrogen by electrolysis, that is about 65 kWh of energy. Which makes it <1 mile/kWh.

    Which is horrid, the leaf is ~3 miles/kWh. So you are getting 1/3 of the efficiency of a battery-operated vehicle, and although its "faster" to fill, you need an entirely new station infrastructure to do this.

    Or if you use natural gas to produce that hydrogen instead with steam reformation, 1 kg of H2 releases 3 kg of carbon as CO2, which becomes 11 kg of CO2. So that "pollution free" fuel cell is actually spewing 180 g/mile of CO2.

    At which point, why bother: just burn the natural gas directly in a conventional hybrid!

    The FCX's efficiency in terms of g/mile is effectively the same as a Toyota Prius (which is actually burning a far more CO2/joule fuel in long chain hydrocarbon).

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      On a cost basis, the FCX Clarity works out to about 28 mpg ($8/gallon, 60 mpg). The H2 fans can’t really show any compelling reason to buy these vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicholas Weaver

      Some more reasons why H2 sucks:

      If you made a CNG powered Prius (the modifications are pretty straightforward), you’d not only have lower CO2/mile than a H2 fuel cell vehicle using natural gas as the H2 source, but CNG is a much more energy dense gas: CH4 instead of H2 means you get ~3x the energy in the same volume of gas at the same pressure, which translates to either 3x the range (for the same sized tank at the same pressure) or a tank that needs substantially less pressure and is therefore far less of, you know, a pressure bomb.

      Finally, lets assume a fuel cell car is a good idea: Fuel cell cars need a battery anyway (for regenerative braking). Give the battery a 40 mile range and make it a plug-in:

      You’re already dealing with a hugely expensive vehicle, the additional cost for 40 miles of battery are pretty minor by this point, but the cost/mile driven on battery is 1/3rd that of the cost/mile driven on H2.

      Oh, but wait, if you’re going to do this, most of your driving is going to be on battery, so you can just use, you know, a conventional gasoline engine instead of the fuel cell since thanks to Amdahl’s law, the efficiency of the generator matters a lot less when its only 20% of the energy used by the car…

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        Thanks for the detailed scientific explanation. You are spot on.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Nicholas Weaver — +10 – H2 is a boondoggle – If I were a conspiracy theorist (ahem), I’d say that the entire scheme was dreamed up by Big Oil to discredit any new technology – so that people will lump FCV’s and EV’s together.

        They have the money and the motive to do that, but I have no proof… just a nagging, itching feeling that when common sense is being violated, something is “afoot”.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Agree hydrogen has its efficiency drawbacks but don’t neglect the energy loss and carbon from producing that battery electricity in your comparo. Obviously that varies wildly between various sources.

  • avatar

    It’s fun to watch the Tesla fans dismiss fuel cells out of hand without pondering the implications of the fact that the world’s largest automaker (and world’s largest seller of gasoline-electric hybrids, by far) has chosen to invest big in this technology over BEVs. Toyota’s not dumb, guys.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      They’re not dumb, but why can’t they design a car that doesn’t frighten women and children

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Honda and Hyundai are in it too.

      Being a large automaker doesn’t qualify you to make good business decisions, as GM, Ford, and Chrysler often prove.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I keep thinking that they have a trick up their sleeves, like reforming ammonia on the fly to produce the hydrogen for the fuel cell. Whatever it may be, these guys sincerely believe that the fueling and efficiency issues will be addressed. There just isn’t enough PR value in these efforts for it to be merely green-washing.

    • 0 avatar
      Silverbird

      Could be like Mazda and the Rotary. They were one of the first to get it feasible in a passenger car, however because they were at it alone, they couldn’t get it to a high enough level of “perfection” to compete with Piston engines (apex seals, oil consumption, etc)

      Honda and Toyota are the same, they’ve sunk Millions (Billions?) into H2 development since before BEV were anything but a hobby. 15 years ago H2 and CNG were the leading non-gasoline technologies.

      They just need to admit defeat.
      The JDM would be better served by BEV than these, since they don’t have Nat Gas to make H2 from, they are stuck with electrolysis. If you are going to be consuming electricity, get the BEV efficiency as NW pointed out, and reduce the number of Nuclear or Themal Power plants required to produce the elctricity.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Makes total sense, thanks

      • 0 avatar

        @silverbird
        the problem with the rotary is that the design constraints imposed by an engine with three moving parts dictate that the combustion chamber must have the worst possible shape for efficiency.

        If it didn’t have such a constraint, the rest of the big car companies would have porduced them.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          Hydrogen has a similar problem. Just like the rotary’s poor combustion chamber shape is inherent in the design and can’t be corrected , the thermodynamic inefficiency inherent in a hydrogen powered vehicle is not something that can be engineered out.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I’m sure that the fossil fuel interests would be willing to drill for natural gas in my backyard, pipe it to the Texas/NJ coasts, liquify it, pump it into bunker-fuel fed LNG tankers, and ship it off to Japan to be converted into H2.

        Simple.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      H2 fuel cells are merely plays for 9 CARB credits, nothing more.

      The energy it takes to electrolyze 1kg of H2 from water (60mpkg) would drive an electric car would move an electric car at least 100mi.

      When fuel cells hit $50/kW unsubsidized and H2 at the retail pump is $2/kg or less with pumps as common as diesel, and you can fit 100kW of fuel cell stack in the volume of a 4cyl engine, then maybe it’s worth looking at. There will never be an H2 pipeline infrastructure and will never be H2 home filling, so cheap-enough H2 will only come from reformulating onsite or really cheap nuclear power (like 2c/kWh delivered).

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      There isn’t much reason for automakers to invest seriously into EVs. They are manufacturers, not scientists, and can contribute little to improving batteries or other power storage technology. Those sort of advances would probably come from academia, and the automakers can adapt to those easily enough if those improvements do happen — it won’t be hard for the OEMs to build mass market EVs if the batteries make that leap forward.

      But that doesn’t mean that hydrogen will work. However, automakers probably are in a position to improve fuel cells, and they’ll own the IP if they achieve sustainable results. It can’t hurt for them to try, and they’re being pressured to do it, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> Toyota’s not dumb, guys.
      Let’s see now… the Scion iQ, Scion itself, …

  • avatar
    MGV001

    I just can’t believe what’s coming out of the styling studios these days. Seems these guys are all in a dare game to outdo eachother on how ugly a car they can design and sell to the public.

  • avatar
    Sketch

    Honda’s had FCVs in limited release on the market for nearly 10 years now. How have they handled this problem? Is the Honda home fueling station their only source of fuel?

  • avatar
    Guildenstern

    So, a scale would be not a solution because……?

    Weigh car, Fill car, Weigh car. Difference = Hydrogen added.

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