Hydrogen car lunacy.

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  • #1
esbo
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I have seen some 'stuff' saying hydogen is the way forward in term of pollution,
however, whils the cars themselves may not polute, in terms of CO2, I would
bet a sizeable amount that the energy required to produce the hydrogen produces
as much, if not more pollution, than if the cars ran on gasoline.
 

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  • #2
Ivan Seeking
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Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear power, and biomass, to be used as a pollution-free energy supply for the transportation sector. But hydrogen is only an energy carrier and not an energy source in the same way that petroleum is today. So you are correct: We need to solve the source problem in order for a hydrogen economy to be practical.

BTW, this is day one of Hydrogen 101. The people who are serious about moving to a hydrogen economy understand all of this.

Right now Iceland has begun to convert entirely to hydrogen, but they have plenty of geothermal power.

There are processes that can produce hydrogen as a byproduct, and we need to address the practical aspects of hydrogen storage and distribution, so it probably makes sense to explore the practical application of hydrogen technologies on a limited basis, for now.
 
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  • #3
ivan moller
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Most new ideas and innovations have a multitude of problems. Think back to when the first combustion engine was introduced. It must have been the most uneconomical piece of machinary ever, not to think about the early gasoline refinaries and the pollution they generated. But life today is unthinkable without it. I think hydrogen is not a BAD idea but rather a NEW one, that can be refined to levels beyond our imagination. Think how batteries has evolved in the last ten years due to cell phones, give new ideas a chance. I can imagine the critisism Leonardo Davinci got when he planned the first helicopter, maybe if he had more support and achieved flight back in the day, our lives would be much different.
 
  • #4
Azael
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I have a hard time seeing what advantage hydrogen has over batteries for vehicles. :confused:
 
  • #5
Integral
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As well as being heavy, batteries are chemical nightmares. They have a limited life and at the end of that life must be disposed of, at which time they become very UNgreen. Currently they are just one more example of "feel good green".
 
  • #6
Azael
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But battery car avoids the main problems that hydrogen has. There is already a distribution grid and batteries seems to become better quickly. Plus the overall efficiency of batteries are much better than hydrogen.

Hydrogen seems to have a lot more obstacles to overcome, while batteries "only" need to get lighter and cleaner.
 
  • #7
mgb_phys
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while batteries "only" need to get lighter and cleaner.
And greener to make and recycle and able to be completely re-charged at a filling station in a couple of minutes. One of the big advantages of hydrogen is that you can use the existing infrastructure of gas stations.

Of course hydrogen has a few technical problems of it's own !
 
  • #8
Go H2 Go

If the only problem of distribution is money ... Then this is a non-problem.

( how much is spent on weapons per year? ) Ha ... I think I can find the money.
 
  • #9
mgb_phys
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The main 'advantage' of hydrogen and biofuel is that they fit the current business model of large production companies and existing infrastructure of refineries/tankers/gas stations.
The problem with batteries is that people will think and plan short trips around the city and might consider public transport instead. It also means the oil companies shut down and the power companies become all powerfull - unlikely to happen!
 
  • #10
linton
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Um batteries need to be charged and, unless i am mistaken, most electricity is still produced through the burning of fossil fuels. So, using batteries does not eliminate the carbon footprint that automobiles produce, it might reduce it, and re-distribute it... but there will be a greater demand for electricity, and again, unless i am mistaken, that is already a problem. Whereas we cannot say how we will produce a viable amount of hydrogen.
 
  • #11
mgb_phys
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Hydrogen is just a battery alternative - both require you to generate the energy somewhere and use it in the car.
It's simply a question of which offers the most convenience in a car (size, power density, refilling time) and wether it it easier to transmit electricity long distances from cheap sources of power or transport hydrogen.
The advantages of either is that you can generate electricity efficently in large facilities and have less pollution concentrated in cities. It's the reason we have grid electricity to our homes and offices instead of individual gasoline generators on the sidewalk.
 
  • #12
linton
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Well, I don't think that can be argued effectively without the technology being researched further, we don't have hydrogen being mass produced for this purpose, and for that matter, with respect to the replacement of all IC engines, we don't mass produce the required batteries.
As for distribution of power, we could have battery stations in the same way we have Petrol stations, but instead of charging a battery, you just swap it with a charged one, that the battery station collects (or gets delivered) from a central source. Carrying on your explanation of Grid power vs. Sidewalk generators.

Although i think i would say that coal fired power stations may be more efficient than a portable petroleum generator. But this is not more than hopeful supposition.
 
  • #13
Hydrogen is just a battery alternative - both require you to generate the energy somewhere and use it in the car.

That sounds so dismissive !?? Just a battery alternative ? :(

Alternative is the word of preference I promote. Enough of 'stay the course', time to adapt.
 
  • #14
mgb_phys
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>Alfi
An electrico-chemical battery, hydrogen, a fly wheel or even a tank of compressed air are all just energy storage systems - rather than fuelled engines. Which you use is just a an engineering question.

>linton
We could have battery swap outs - but without a MAJOR change in battery technology the batteries are going to be large and heavy enough to be a major structural part of the vehicle. Certainly requiring some sort of powered machine to swap them, you aren't going to pop-out a laptop size unit at the gas station and get a new one from a vending machine. There is also going to be an issue of all vehicles (from a smart car to a Ford F350) taking the same size/shape of battery and mounting it in such a way that it can be accessed with the same machine quickly and easily.
There are also issues of the value of the battey being much greater than the value of the power it stores and th elimited life. None of these are impossible, some of them are solved for LPG cylinder sales for example.

I suspect there will be multiple solutions:
Plug-in small electric Smart cars for city commuting, recharged at parking spots.
Hydrogen for larger family / performance cars with fuel stations on highways.
Biodiesel for heavy commercial vehicles.

And hopefully a few more bicycles ;-)
 
  • #15
LURCH
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Right now there is a capacitor being developed at MIT (with help from Ford Motor Company) that could replace batteries. It wuold store as much electrical energy as a Lithium-Ion Battery of the same size and weight, but because it is a capacitor, it would charge quick and last longer than the vehicle. If and when this gets developed and mass-produced, the electric car will become a viable technology. I just I don't think batteries are ever going to be a reasonable alternative for powering vehicles, for the reasons already stated.

But this cap would be made to the same dimensions as the batteries currently used in hybrids. I'm hoping plug-in hybrids become common just about the time the cap makes it to market. Owners who are dissalussioned at the end of the service-life of their first battery could replace it with the cap, and suddenly find themselves in possession of a storage device that they will never need to replace, that isn't effected by cold weather, and (if they have a high-current outlet available) can be fully charged in an hour or so.

Then, service stations (seeing a chance at a profit) will start putting in a "plug" in addition to their pumps. This would be an ultra-high Wattage source (the kind you can't get in a residence) that can charge a cap in a cuople of minutes. They would charge a little more per KWhr than they are paying the utility, which comes to an equivalent of about $1/gal, and their customer traffic would increase. Soon, drivers with plug-in hybrids will start arranging their daily drives so that they can get to the staion before the charge runs out and the IC engnie comes on, and any station that wants to stay in business will have to have a plug.

As I see it, this is the most likely scenario for switching to electric. Not perfectly green, but I've run the numbers and its less than half the CO2 of gasoline.
 
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  • #16
mgb_phys
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Even with supercaps replacing batteries it's still tricky to quickly charge a car.
Gas/petrol stores around 35MJ/litre - so a typical 10gal fuel tank = 1.75 GJ
You can refill this tank in a couple of mins - pouring gas at 0.5L/s is equivalent to transferring 20MW of power. Even if super caps could absorb this rate it's going to take some fairly chunky jump leads at the gas station.

Supercaps also have issues of high leakage rates and low breakdown voltages - they are probably best used for 'buffer memory' storage in a regenerative braking system to avoid shallow charging/discharge cycles on the main battery. I imagine 'turn off while idle' and regenerative breaking electric startup/slow speed will become standard in the next 10years - certainly in small in-town cars.
 
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  • #17
Ivan Seeking
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But battery car avoids the main problems that hydrogen has. There is already a distribution grid

Actually, there's not. We would have to effectively build another one [double the existing capacity or more] in order to supply and carry the power that would be required. As it is we have areas that experience brown-outs and temporary black-outs during periods of high demand on the grid, so we can barely keep up now.

Based on the current energy demand, it would probably require 200 years to build enough nuclear plants to power a nation of electric cars, and that assumes a dedicated national effort and that its even possible politically!
 
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  • #18
esbo
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Oh dear virtually every body seems to have missed the main point that fossil fuel is required to make hydrogen and charge batteries. - Ah well dream on.
 
  • #19
mgb_phys
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No we haven't. Although the problem is the same for either battery/hydrogen - using either technology gives you some advantages.

You get to generate 'energy' in bulk in a more efficent plant. Which ideally would be nuclear.

Even with fossil fuels you isolate the pollution in a single source where you can fit smokestacks/scrubbers to reduce the effect rather than spread it around a city at ankle height.

You can generate the hydrogen where power is cheap and ship the 'energy' to the customer even where the distance makes a power line impractical eg. Iceland=geothermal, Middle east=solar, Canada=hydro.

As I said before - if large scale power generation and distribution is so much less efficent than gasoline, why don't we all have 3rd-world Honda generators outside out houses!
 
  • #20
Ivan Seeking
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Oh dear virtually every body seems to have missed the main point that fossil fuel is required to make hydrogen and charge batteries. - Ah well dream on.

Ivan Seeking said:
We need to solve the source problem in order for a hydrogen economy to be practical.

People do understand this. You should read what has been posted.
 
  • #21
W3pcq
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Batteries have many problems. First of all they are very heavy, I would wonder if they are more efficient, when the addition weight of the vehicle is factored in, than the hydrogen fuel cel process. Secondly, batteries are not a renewable resource.

Burning fossil fuels is not necessary to make hydrogen. The best way to make it would probably be using wind energy, which could probably be made to make a very large amount of our hydrogen. In fact some states are so well suited for wind energy methods that it might even be worth it to use the extra energy from the wind turbines to make hydrogen so that the hydrogen could be burned when needed either for energy production or for fuel.

Someone mentioned swapping batteries at the charging station. That is a joke. First of all, you need a pretty hefty load of batteries to run your car, secondly, making them easily removable isn't entirely practical.

One thing which would be neat about hydrogen cars, is that if necessary, or practical, a consumer could make his own fuel out of water. Say I lived on a windy piece of land, or a very sunny piece of land, or say I had a large downhill stream running through my property. I could generate my own hydrogen, and be completely self sufficient, at least until I ventured further than a half a tank away. The idea of being able to do this is neat to me, but probably not a perk for the industry.
 
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  • #22
W3pcq
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Farmers would be happy, because their land can be used for both fuel production and food production at the same time, and without inflating food prices. They could also ditch their diesel tractors and run hydrogen instead. That is a win win win situation if you ask me.
 
  • #23
mgb_phys
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In fact some states are so well suited for wind energy methods that it might even be worth it to use the extra energy from the wind turbines to make hydrogen
That's one of the big advantages of hydrogen over electric - it is a good storage medium.
Currently it's rather difficult to store large amounts of electricity, pumped storage schemes are the best but aren't practical in most cities. Hydrogen is a good solution for making use of intermittent free power like wind.

One thing which would be neat about hydrogen cars, is that if necessary, or practical, a consumer could make his own fuel out of water.
Some fuel cell based systems allow you to make hydrogen with the same hardware that burns it - so making a self contained battery.
 
  • #24
W3pcq
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Another reason that a hydrogen car would be a good thing, is that hydrogen is a very high quality fuel. I have a hard time seeing a battery powered car competing with a hydrogen powered car.

One cool feature that could be added to a hydrogen car, is a portable solar powered hydrogen generator, or even a small one built into the car, and maybe that new plastic solar panel material could cover your entire car body. If you broke down in the middle nowhere, you could generate enough fuel to make it to the next station. One cubic foot of water contains so much hydrogen, that all the water you would need to supply that feature could fit into a small water bottle.
 
  • #25
esbo
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Well as generating hydrogen generates carbon you are back to square one, yes you could
concentrate the carbon production in a central place, but we do that anyway with our
power stations so you have not changed much there infact you have, made it worse
as there are more loses as you convert to hydrogen and then convert back into electricity.

SO you are going
fossil - electric -hydrogen - electric
when
fossil - electric
which we have now cuts out two wasteful stages.
 
  • #26
W3pcq
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Why do keep insisting that we would have to use carbon based fuels to make hydrogen. I'm pretty sure that coal power plants are old news. What makes you think that burning fossil fuels would be necessary?

Generating hydrogen does not generate carbon. Generating hydrogen, generates oxygen. Maybe you need to take a chemistry class.

What is wrong with:

Wind-electricity-hydrogen-combustion
 
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  • #27
Azael
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Actually, there's not. We would have to effectively build another one [double the existing capacity or more] in order to supply and carry the power that would be required. As it is we have areas that experience brown-outs and temporary black-outs during periods of high demand on the grid, so we can barely keep up now.

Based on the current energy demand, it would probably require 200 years to build enough nuclear plants to power a nation of electric cars, and that assumes a dedicated national effort and that its even possible politically!

I think you are overestimating the electricity needs for the car fleet or american driving habits are completely different than here in sweden. In sweden 45 TWh of fossil energy is used in cars. If they where replaced by battery hybrids the total energy need would shrink to 10TWh electricity. Thats less than what a EPR reactor produces in a year and about 1/15 of the electricity produced in sweden today. Sweden is a large country with a small population and we consume per capita more gas then the rest of europe.

Even if america needs 200 reactors that can be built in far less time than 200 years. How long did it take to build the 100+ reactors running in the states today? 30 years?
 
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  • #28
esbo
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Why do keep insisting that we would have to use carbon based fuels to make hydrogen. I'm pretty sure that coal power plants are old news. What makes you think that burning fossil fuels would be necessary?

Generating hydrogen does not generate carbon. Generating hydrogen, generates oxygen. Maybe you need to take a chemistry class.

What is wrong with:

Wind-electricity-hydrogen-combustion

Well you may as well stop at

Wind electricity.
And we already have that
As we already have
Nuclear electric
and
Hydro electric.

Now suggesting adding
electric - hydrogen - electric
looks slightly inefficient.

It does not look like much different from what we already have really.
 
  • #29
W3pcq
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Well you may as well stop at

Wind electricity.
And we already have that
As we already have
Nuclear electric
and
Hydro electric.

Now suggesting adding
electric - hydrogen - electric
looks slightly inefficient.

It does not look like much different from what we already have really.

We would not be converting the hydrogen back into electricity to run the car, the hydrogen would be burned. Also we do not already have hydrogen cars available to the public.

The potential for wind energy has barely been exploited.

Also, what choice will we have when our oil runs out? Natural gas will last us a while, but as supplies dwindle, prices will soar higher and higher. It has already begun to be more costly to drill for oil because the easiest places have already been exploited. Now we will be trying to get the remaining "scraps left" which are only left because of difficulty. With almost free energy available to us in the form of wind, why not make fuel with it as well?

You may call hydrogen fuel for vehicles lunacy, but the fact is that it is the future, and there is no better alternative known.
 
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  • #30
Ivan Seeking
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I think you are overestimating the electricity needs for the car fleet or american driving habits are completely different than here in sweden. In sweden 45 TWh of fossil energy is used in cars. If they where replaced by battery hybrids the total energy need would shrink to 10TWh electricity. Thats less than what a EPR reactor produces in a year and about 1/15 of the electricity produced in sweden today. Sweden is a large country with a small population and we consume per capita more gas then the rest of europe.

Even if america needs 200 reactors that can be built in far less time than 200 years. How long did it take to build the 100+ reactors running in the states today? 30 years?

We are showing about 1.4E19 joules of electrical energy produced annually.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_4.pdf

We use about 400E6 gallons of gasoline per day, so at 125,000 BTU per gallon, I get 1.9E19 joules per year. Now, in the case of electric cars we might expect greater efficiency by a factor of 70/30 or so, but we are still in the ball park, and we still have to factor in the dust to dust efficiency of batteries, etc, which also affects the grid and the demand for fuel. Also, we haven't considered diesel fuel.
 
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  • #31
Ivan Seeking
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The existing 100 nuclear power plants provide about 20% of our electrical power,
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_6.pdf
so in order to provide 5 times as much power in addition to the existing supply, we would need another 500 nuclear power plants of similar size. So if we built 100 plants in 30 years during the days of naive innocence wrt nuclear power, back when it was "too cheap to meter", perhaps 200 years to build 5 times as many is reasonable given the realities of nuclear power today – most people don’t want to live near a nuclear power plant.

As a side note: Can you even imagine creating a failsafe system for the fueling, operation, and decomissioning of 500 commercial nuclear plants? I can't. No system is perfect. Sooner or later there will be a catastrophe. Also, what is the lifespan of a nuclear power plant? It's probably not even possible to build that many plants before the first ones built need to be decomissioned.
 
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  • #32
W3pcq
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A vehicle could be made with solar panel material covering the entire body, which slowly replenishes your fuel supply giving you better efficiency. When you leave your car parked in the sun for x amount of time, you come back, and your tank is now full. For the occasional use driver, a good portion of their fuel could be supplied in this way.

Hybrid technology could also be applied using stop and go/coasting downhill to help replenish your fuel supply as well.

Filling stations could use solar tech as well to boost their supplies, further reducing demand.
 
  • #33
Ivan Seeking
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In sweden 45 TWh of fossil energy is used in cars. If they where replaced by battery hybrids the total energy need would shrink to 10TWh electricity

How did you get those numbers?
 
  • #34
mgb_phys
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A vehicle could be made with solar panel material covering the entire body, which slowly replenishes your fuel supply giving you better efficiency.
Probably not worth the weight at the moment. You get about 100W/m^2 for available panels tilted at the sun - so even assuming panels on the roof and sides facing the sun you are only going to generate about 1Hp. If your car uses 100Hp then you are only going to recover about 1% of the energy.

In sunnier regions of the USA this would end up costing you energy as the absorbant solar panels would heat the car and require more air conditioning.
 
  • #35
Ivan Seeking
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Here is a link for demand for gasoline by country
http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/energy-resources/variable-291.html [Broken]

So this looks correct in that your numbers agree: Sweden uses about 1% as much gasoline as the US. But I don't understand how we get to 10TWh from there.

You have about 9.1 million people and we have 301 million, so you have about 3% of the population, however,
84% of the population lives in urban areas, which comprise only 1.3% of the country's total land area
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden

So the relatively high population density in Sweden likely accounts for some of difference - the 300% higher demand for fuel, per capita, in the US.
 
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