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So, What's Up With Hydrogen Fuel Cells?

Toyota is apparently going the Hydrogen Fuel Cells route. They will begin making Hydrogen cars available in early 2015. I believe I read somewhere else that California now has a dozen Hydrogen filling stations in place. Why is Toyota investing so heavily in Hydrogen? Will there be a competition between Hydrogen fuel and Electricity, until one or the other ultimately becomes the technology that replaces gasoline cars?

Toyota is stupid. No competition between the two, HFC is expensive, complex, requires maintenance, takes more space than batteries etc. etc. etc.

Found this:

4.Making hydrogen is a profoundly wasteful way to power a car vs. using electricity. There are losses of 30% to make the hydrogen (if using electricity) and then about 30% more in the compression and recombination.
5.Making hydrogen using natural-gas reforming is less bad energy-wise but actually not particularly efficient vs. just building natural-gas powered vehicles, which are cheaper.
6.Fuel cell cars are complex. They still need batteries because they have to built as “hybrids” or else the power is inadequate. So they aren’t cheap inherently. And fuel-cell stacks are never going to be cheap.
7.Fuel-cell advocates have dumb beliefs like, “we can get by with a lot fewer H2 stations than we have gas stations because we’ll build them smarter.” They point out that some corners have multiple stations (true) and therefore we don’t need to duplicate that kind of thing. But then they cite studies that ignore human behavior and use population density to suggest that people will drive 5-10 minutes out of their way to a station just because it’s the only station. They won’t! Where I live — in the heart of the greenest part of the country — those 5-10 minutes on the way home from work would put you home about 30 minutes later than planned thanks to traffic. No one is going to do this. Because of this, advocates wildly underestimate the needed number of stations. The amount of money required for even 1,000 stations in California deployed as public/corporate Level 2 and Level 3 electric vehicle stations would be enough of a critical mass of chargers to basically tip California into an EV cascade that would be unstoppable. (Not everyone would get an EV, but the move to an EV majority would be underway and the threshold would be crossed by mid-century.)

Toyota is anti-EV because of its substantial investment in hybrid technology. It would like to see attention drawn away from EVs, so it is highlighting their biggest and most important weaknesses: charge time and range. if it can generate smoke and FUD, it hopes to delay the EV transition, perhaps make hydrogen somewhat viable, and eventually adapt to whatever is really going on. One idea, for example, that might have “legs” down the road is short-range EV powertrains (like the Leaf) with a range extender (like the Volt has) using a hydrogen fuel cell. This could allow for an all electric powertrain and the hydrogen stations would be freeway based only since they’d only be needed for longer trips. This would allow smaller, lighter batteries for day-to-day use and maybe the range extenders would even be removable and suitcase-sized. But for now, this is all science fiction.

In the land of the real, the Toyota and the Hyundai are stillborn, designed to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s mandates for Zero Emission Vehicles. But not designed to actually sell in any meaningful numbers, because they are ridiculous to buy.

The above answers are biased.

Just like most technologies, both EV tech and Hydrogen Fuel Cell tech both have benefits and downsides.

Here are some benefits of Hydrogen fuel cells.

*Refueling speed. Hydrogen cars can be refueled in around 3 minutes.

*Energy density. Hydrogen fuel is more energy dense than batteries, which has advantages in terms of range and weight.

*Cost. While platinum used for the hydrogen fuel cells was costly, Toyota and Hyundai have managed to bring down the amount of planium down to no more than that of gasoline cars. Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to be cheap.

Of course, hydrogen has disadvantages too. Like infrasctructure being one of them. But Totoya is a smart company and an automobile industry leader, they know far better what they're doing I believe than people on forums, or Tesla when it comes to hydrogen fuels. Both EV and hydrogen fuels are technologies that work.

"HFC is expensive, complex, requires maintenance, takes more space than batteries"

This is wrong.

*Hydrogen fuel cells are not very complex, certainly not as complex as an EV car. The main issue is designing the catalysts and keeping the hydrogen fuel under the right pressure. But hydrogen cars are much simpler than EV.

*Hydrogen fuel actually takes up much less space and weight than EV. Hydrogen fuel has a 10 to 1 energy density ratio of EV at normal vehicle PSI.

That was a well put response, Kiyoris. I also believe that Toyota's engineers are not stupid. Infrastructure, I think, is not a valid argument against HFC. If or when the need arises, the infrastructure will be put into place, as evidenced by what Tesla is now doing. I also believe that for EV's to become universal, their range will have to increase, and the charge time for a full charge will have to significantly decrease. Well, we'll just have to see how all of this plays out in the next ten or twenty years.

Personally, I hope that sometime within the next ten years, I'll be driving across the country in a Tesla.

Energy density being greater is false claim. HFC system is larger than equal battery electric. Much larger in fact. (HFC car is basically a small-battery BEV with HFC range extender)

If we talk about potential costs, then battery-electric have also potential to be very cheap.

It can work for very large vehicles, but for ordinary passenger car BEV is clear winner.

HFC car is BEV with HFC. How an earth could that be simpler than pure BEV?

HFC system is much larger than batteries. HFC itself takes quite a lot of space (unless you are designing a golf cart), hydrogen tanks are actually quite large, and battery/capacitors for acceleration/regen are usually much larger/kWh than high energy density BEV batteries (requires higher cycle rate). Add in pumps and other stuff.

Here's the link to Toyotas own site:

Just look at the bottom of that car.

Personally, I think that the car companies pursuing FCEVs are being paid off by "Big Oil."

No, I'm not paranoid.

To me biggest issue with fuel cells is safety. Below is a good article on hydrogen Fuel Cell Saftey:

Remains to be seen how safe they will be. Fuel cells also require someone to setup the infrastructure for hydrogen and see that as a huge barrier to over come.

Well, I've been doing a lot of reading on both pros and cons of HFC, and I see no need to post all that I've read. All that I now know is simply from what I've read, and that certainly doesn't makes me an expert on the subject. The real experts are the engineers actually working on both HFC and BEV. At the end of the day whatever will play out will play out, and my personal hopes for a BEV future won't alter the final outcome.

We're probably going to see a mix of technologies in the future, but consider this: a "hydrogen highway" was set up in 2010 between Vancouver and Whistler for the Olympics for fuel cell vehicles. It has now been shut down due to lack of interest. Tesla, on the other hand, has just opened a Supercharger station on that same road. I guess people just don't want to drive around in a vehicle that contains something (i.e. a compressed hydrogen tank) that will take out half a city block if it explodes.


For me, that is a big appeal of EV's. I'd much rather plug in a car to charge it up than to stand there pumping fuel.

As far as the Olympic road is concerned, has it been shut down simply because no one owns a fuel cell car? And if some people do own them, where would they have gotten them from?

Saying Hydrogen cars is comparable to a hydrogen bomb is like saying all cadmium is dangerous.

If a substance is dangerous all depends on it's chemical form and storage.

Cadmium is soluable form is extremely dangerous. Cadmium in a binder is safe. Low soluable cadmium in a binder is extremely safe. Not 100% safe, you don't want to eat it, but it's relatively safe.

But just mentioning the word cadmium, just like hydrogen, gets people on edge, unjustly, because plenty of hydrolics operate on hydrogen throughout the country.

I guess people just don't want to drive around in a vehicle that contains something (i.e. a compressed hydrogen tank) that will take out half a city block if it explodes.""

A hydrogen car can not take out a whole city block.

What hydrogen does when it leaks is that it disperses incredibly fast, in almost all cases the dispersion is so in favor of oxygen that hydrogen can not burn at all.

Actually the reason why almost no spectator was hurt in the Hinderburg accident is because it was a Hydrogen balloon. And it was the alimimium that burned, not the hydrogen.

If the Hindenburg would have been filled with gasoline, many many spectators would have been killed, gasoline does not evaporate and it's not dispersed during an accident.


You've mentioned infrastructure. Can you expand a little bit on that?

CNG tanks have much, much lower pressure than hydrogen tanks. Hydrogen always leaks. By todays rules CNG or hydrogen tanks cannot be stored garages under buildings(local law may differ).

Kiyoris, don't be silly, nobody is thinking FCVEs with hydrogen tanks as thermonuclear bombs on wheels (fuel-air more likely).

"You've mentioned infrastructure. Can you expand a little bit on that?"

I think one of the benefits of EV is that people can charge them at home and the infrastructure for EV cars is much better than it is for hydrogen.

But this is just a time issue, hydrogen is used throughout the US, it powers many type of lifts and hydrolics, because many companies already have hydrogen infrastructure and this allows them to lower CO2.

I think the infrastructuve will be solved by companies and then trickle down to consumers.

Some companies that are smaller don't have the money to put a windmill park on their terrain like BP oil does, but they still are forced to lower emissions.

One way many companies do this is through hydrogen power. Vehicles on hydrogen are common, but we don't think of them as vehicles, they're lifts and hydraulics and machinery.

This idea that EV is the future and hydrogen is not, is shortsighted I think, both have a future. A company can not charge a pack of batteries for their lifts, they need mobile high density power, and hydrogen is perfect for that, it's energy dense and it doesn't need to be charged.

EV has other benefits.

Yeah, I don't think infrastructure is a valid argument against anything. Look at what Tesla has accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Look at a map of their projected infrastructure for 2015. If the need is there, the infrastructure will follow soon enough.

On the other hand, it's sort of a double-edged sword. People will be reluctant to buy an HFC because their are no fueling stations, and business will be reluctant to invest in HFC refueling stations, because no one's buying the cars.

It was a different story with the advent of automobiles. They were the only game in town, so gas stations had to go up all over the place.

Think so too. Many companies also use hydrogen as a back-up energy, some hospital use it now.

The most common back-up power is still a massive electric generator coupled to a diesel engine.

When people say hydrogen won't work. It works right now, that Tesla car was probably put together by some lifts that relied on hydrogen, somewhere in the chain, either at Tesla or at Panasonic or wherever.

Maybe in the consumer market EV or Hydrogen will win out, but we have different types of fuels in gasoline too, too many to count. There's no reason why EV or Hydrogen cars can not coexist.

You mean, they could just get along?!!

"I think the infrastructure will be solved by companies and then trickle down to consumers".

As long as it is solved by companies and consumers who buy their products I am fine with it.

What I am not fine with is somebody expecting taxpayers to take the tab of building hundreds of stations across the country with each costing a few millions.

At first target market for EVs are persons that can charge at home. When adoption grows charging infrastructure follows. Charging point is dirt cheap and easily positionable to almost every parking spot as compared to hydrogen filling stations.

Using flammable gas in infrastructure at urban settings (like hydrogen filling station) is bureaucratically nightmarish compared to offering charger outlet. Cost of single station is measured in millions not in some thousands (or sc cases couple hundred thousand).

Price of mile in fuel cost is favorable to EVs. Paying 100$/€ at pump insults every time. Usually its cheaper to offer free charging than charge for it. Most payment processing companies charge more from their services than is cost of electricity. Use rate of non free charging point must be high to generate income from sales of electricity.

Giving out free (and slowish) charging point most likely increase income of company offering the service by increased sales of goods and generating goodwill.

"Look at what Tesla has accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Look at a map of their projected infrastructure for 2015".

They've projected about 200 super stations, with each being around .25 million. The total cost for the country being around 50 million.

Any estimates for hydrogen fueling stations?

"If the need is there, the infrastructure will follow soon enough".

True. But who said the need is there???

For large vehicles like long-haul semi trucks HFC could work very well. The actual HFC doesn't need to scale like batteries would need to in order to give the range needed, plain hydrogen storage expanded for that would be cheap to scale up.

Something like 600-900kW FC would not be any larger than 200-300 liters in size. That sounds a lot, but it really isn't. One liter is 10cm^3 300 liters is just 66cm*66cm*66cm, IE smaller than large semi engine. Hydrogen tank could be as big as you would want it to be because it is not taking precious space from passengers.

Fast refill also would benefit those, and electric motor torque would be superior to any ICE in truck use.

A big semi can easily use over ten times more fuel than passenger car, so if Model S uses 300Wh/mile that would use 3kWh/mile. To give it reasonable real life 300 mile range it would then require 900kWh battery. With cheap $200/kWh that's $180000 for battery alone, and charging that in, lets say an hour, would take 900kW connection. That's just not practical.

HFC has its use, just not in passenger cars. There pure BEV is clearly superior.

Big problem with HFC is kind of chicken and egg problem: there are no filling stations because there are no cars to use them, and there are no cars because there are no filling stations to fill those cars. It would take someone like Tesla motors to build an infrastructure for them.

Without filling station HFC car is completely useless unlike BEV which can at least be charged in home even if no other chargers exist in neighborhood so that you can at least do commuting with it.

I think looking at the forklift market is interesting.

Forklifts traditionally relie on either on gasoline / gas or batteries.

However, some companies that use Gendrive forklifts reliant on hydrogen fuel cells instead of batteries:

-Coca Cola
-Whole Foods
-Fed Ex
-Mercedes Benz

These companies obviously foound some kind of benefit in hydrogen over EV. They can store their hydrogen as a back up power for their plant, they can't store it in batteries, a hydrogen tank costs a fraction of what a massive battery would cost to store energy. And hydrogen has the super fast charging time for their forklifts.

Hydrogen works well, I don't think the argument if hydrogen works or not is relevant anymore, it works extremely well. The question if it will trickle down to consumer cars, I'm not sure. EV have the benefit of charging at home, and I think that it a great benefit.

I can understand the justification for fuel cell forklifts: Battery forklifts are a problem because charge time is difficult for use in 24 hour operations, and ICE forklifts create noxious fumes unsuitable for indoor use.

Automobiles have neither of these issues, and obtaining hydrogen from fossil fuels does not seem any better than just using the fossil fuel directly. Maybe someone will come up with the big breakthrough to economically obtain hydrogen directly from water, but they have been working on it a for a long time with no solution in sight.

Hydrogen pumps may be able to fuel up a FCV faster but the fuel is obviously extremely dangerous. In all of the pictures I have seen of hydrogen pumps, there is a hazard diamond posted "4" being the most dangerous and of course hydrogen is a number 4. I have never seen one of these hazard diamonds on a gas pump.

Also that infrastructure is being paid for by the tax payers in CA. Tesla didn't lobby for tax dollars to build its SC network.

Energy density of H is 1/4 that of CH4 and it is very escape prone. The total carbon footprint is really very high for H. which includes storage, distribution, production, etc. Don't see a snowballs chance in hell for this technology to succeed.

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