Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why you will never drive a hydrogen car

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If you go to promotional events (like the public ride & drive that was part of the EDTA conference last year and pictured at right), you can drive hydrogen fuel cell vehicles around the block. If you're really lucky, you can go 300 miles in one. But if you can't make these event - and you're not a celebrity - the chances that you'll be cruising down the street in a car that emits nothing but water vapor are awfully slim. Chris Nelder, solar designer and writer, says over at Renewable Energy Access that your chances are actually zero.

Here's his intro graph:

I'm going to make a prediction today: you will never drive a hydrogen fueled car. Although hydrogen does indeed have some benefits in certain applications, it's my task today to separate the reality of useful fuel cells from the hydrogen hype. That may seem like a bold statement to you now, but by the end of this article, you'll understand why.

Good, huh? You can read the whole thing, but for the time-impaired, here's the short, short version. The "hydrogen economy" so many people are talking about is really nothing but hype, and because it takes energy to make hydrogen (which then needs to be compressed or liquefied), the energy return on investment (EROI), what we really get is The Hydrogen Buzzkill. Cut to the chase:

In the end, about 80% of the original energy generated in order to produce the hydrogen is lost, for an EROI of 0.25. Since it doesn't pay to have an energy regime with an EROI of less than one, hydrogen cars seems a permanent improbability.


These numbers, of course, won't stop people from making hydrogen-powered cars, but it's still difficult to see why we'll need them once battery technology can meet the needs of people who drive. Of course, if batteries can't meet those standards, then Nelder might need to rethink his prediction.

[Source: Renewable Energy Access]

 

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