Why are Hydrogen cars not popular?

In summary: Are rolling blackouts due to the lack of recharging infrastructure, or the low storage density of hydrogen?The lack of recharging infrastructure.
  • #1
yungman
5,718
241
I have no idea about this, I hope it's not a controversial subject. I know it's been around, it's not new. All I know is H2 is dangerous. Other than that, I have no idea. Just want to hear from people with scientific knowledge.

Thanks
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
As far as I am aware safe storage is the main problem. You don't want to drive with a pressurized tank of a gas waiting to leak and explode.
 
  • Like
Likes pinball1970
  • #3
Two main reasons:

1. They are inefficient compared to electric cars.

2. Hydrogen storage density is low.
 
  • Like
Likes DaveE and BillTre
  • #4
When I see what people routinely do with gasoline, the idea of those same people going to a service station and filling up their cars with 3000 psi hydrogen makes me very afraid.
 
  • Like
  • Haha
Likes Slimy0233, CalcNerd, jbriggs444 and 3 others
  • #5
OP, do you drive a hydrogen car? If so, what do you see as the advantages over gaslone, electricity, etc.?

If not, why do you think other people should?
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50 said:
OP, do you drive a hydrogen car? If so, what do you see as the advantages over gaslone, electricity, etc.?

If not, why do you think other people should?
I just want to understand why H2 car is not popular after all these years. EV has a lot of disadvantage I think people don't think of.

We already starting to have black outs and brown outs in our area. this is with only about 5% of cars are EVs. If we have more EVs, infrastructure are not going to support and result in constant rolling blackouts. People cannot charge their cars.

Because of anticipating more and longer blackouts, I am putting in solar panels and battery backup right now costing me $60K(need to replace roof) AFTER the 30% tax credit(90K up front). Daly City just had black out for 3 days because of the storm. When people buy more EVs, it will get worst, the only reliable way is to put solar panels and battery on their houses. That's a lot of money.

Also, battery in EV is NOT exactly safe. When they catch on fire, they cannot be extinguished with water. I almost bought an EV until I heard on news during flooding in Florida. I want EV for totally different reason, I don't drive that much. My SUV is 9yrs old and only 17K miles on it. I spend more effort to drive it once every 2wks, drive long enough to totally warming up and good circulation of all fluids. This is getting OLD. EV don't need this, it has no motor oil, radiator fluid or transmission fluid. You literally can move it a few ft every so often and it won't hurt the car. Gas car is HIGH MAINTENANCE.

I know H2 is EXPLOSIVE. Other than that, I want to know is there any other reason preventing it from being more popular? I want to ask people in scientific field, I don't want to hear speculation. That's why I post here. I don't want to hear politics, I want to get opinion from people using SCIENCE.
 
  • #7
yungman said:
I know H2 is EXPLOSIVE. Other than that, I want to know is there any other reason preventing it from being more popular? I want to ask people in scientific field, I don't want to hear speculation. That's why I post here. I don't want to hear politics, I want to get opinion from people using SCIENCE.
Two main reasons:

1. They are inefficient compared to electric cars.

2. Hydrogen storage density is low.
 
  • Like
Likes DaveE, berkeman and yungman
  • #8
russ_watters said:
Two main reasons:

1. They are inefficient compared to electric cars.

2. Hydrogen storage density is low.
What do you mean by storage density is low. You mean say 1gallon of H2 won't go as far as 1 gallon of gas? Or because it's dangerous, you need thick steel tanks that are heavy that make it inefficient?
 
  • #9
yungman said:
What do you mean by storage density is low. You mean say 1gallon of H2 won't go as far as 1 gallon of gas?
Yes.
[edit]
....though googling this I'm finding some concept/limited production cars with surprisingly good ranges.

Also, the "efficiency" question is a bit deep. For example, most of the hydrogen used commercially is made from natural gas, so a hydrogen car is mostly a natural gas car. If you use electricity to make hydrogen then a hydrogen car is an electric car with extra steps and lower efficiency.
 
  • Like
Likes BWV, yungman and Nugatory
  • #11
yungman said:
We already starting to have black outs and brown outs in our area. this is with only about 5% of cars are EVs. If we have more EVs, infrastructure are not going to support and result in constant rolling blackouts.
how much of these rolling blackouts are due to the 5% of cars that are EVs?

Asking because EV recharging is one of the better candidates for off-peak consumption. If the power distribution infrastructure in a sunbelt city can handle the afternoon air conditioning peak, there will be substantial excess capacity in off-peak hours. Every EV owner I know is driving during the day and charging at night, often taking advantage of off-peak rates.
Of course this works because home chargers are readily available and affordable…. which tends to reinforce the point others have made in this thread, that the adoption of a technology depends on much more than just its merits considered in isolation.
 
  • #12
I don't see an answer to my question. Let me be more direct: if you don't drive a hydrogen car, you must have your reasons, Wouldn't other people have the same reasons?
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
I don't see an answer to my question. Let me be more direct: if you don't drive a hydrogen car, you must have your reasons, Wouldn't other people have the same reasons?
I don't see that as a valid question, or rather its superficial, assuming that the buyer has more control than they do and not addressing why the downsides are what they are. For example, one downside might be "there aren't any hydrogen cars available for purchase in my area". That's really not a very useful answer.
 
  • Like
Likes weirdoguy
  • #14
Nugatory said:
how much of these rolling blackouts are due to the 5% of cars that are EVs?
Probably none.

First, "EVs" have a squishy definition. These usually include PHEVs which can have a great deal of variation in their electricity/fossil fraction. Next, 5% of cars is not the same as 5% of energy use or even 5% of electrical use - it's smaller than that.

Second, California's (I assume we are talking about California) problems stem from other factors:
  • They are not self-sufficient in electricity. They need to import.
  • Power is generated far from the coasts where it is used, so they are particularly reliant on the grid.
  • Grid maintenance over such a large area is expensive and has been continually deferred to keep prices low.
  • Warning signs, like blackouts and brownouts inland were ignored until they hit the coastal elites.
None of these have to do with EVs or hydrogen cars.
 
  • #15
Nugatory said:
how much of these rolling blackouts are due to the 5% of cars that are EVs?

Asking because EV recharging is one of the better candidates for off-peak consumption. If the power distribution infrastructure in a sunbelt city can handle the afternoon air conditioning peak, there will be substantial excess capacity in off-peak hours. Every EV owner I know is driving during the day and charging at night, often taking advantage of off-peak rates.
Of course this works because home chargers are readily available and affordable…. which tends to reinforce the point others have made in this thread, that the adoption of a technology depends on much more than just its merits considered in isolation.
I just look at my PG&E, I use about 22KWh a day, I have AC and all that, my bill is like $400/mo. Now compare to the small Tesla 3 battery, it's 57.5KW
https://ev-database.org/car/1555/Tesla-Model-3
Meaning one charge use like 2 1/2days of my electric bill. That's for driving around 236miles.

If you get a bigger EV like Model S, the battery size is 100KW. One charge is 4.5days of my usage on PG&E.

People do commute to work, I drove like 100miles a day before. meaning my electric usage will be DOUBLE easily if I have an EV.

So back to the question, can the grid support 50% increase if 50% of the cars are EVs?

Also, I think people use more electricity in the modern days, all the AC, big screen tv, computers, phone chargers. Each might be peanuts, but a lot of peanuts do add up. Not like the days when the majority of the transmission lines were built.
 
  • #16
yungman said:
I just look at my PG&E, I use about 22KWh a day, I have AC and all that, my bill is like $400/mo. Now compare to the small Tesla 3 battery, it's 57.5KW
https://ev-database.org/car/1555/Tesla-Model-3
Meaning one charge use like 2 1/2days of my electric bill. That's for driving around 236miles.
Even for California that sounds high by a factor of 2. Please check/verify the numbers on an actual bill. But even still, 236 miles is a lot of driving in 2 days. On a per charge vs per gallon basis an electric is always much cheaper than gas.
yungman said:
So back to the question, can the grid support 50% increase if 50% of the cars are EVs?
No, it can't. Upgrades are required.
yungman said:
Also, I think people use more electricity in the modern days, all the AC, big screen tv, computers, phone chargers. Each might be peanuts, but a lot of peanuts do add up. Not like the days when the majority of the transmission lines were built.
Energy intensity (how much energy each person uses) peaked decades ago and has been dropping since. The shift to EVs will only drop it further because they are more efficient than gas cars. But per above shifting the source from gasoline to electric (and natural gas to electric for heating) will require a major increase in electricity production to compensate for the large drop in gas/gas for other uses.
 
  • Like
Likes DaveE
  • #17
It's probably worth pointing out that producing hydrogen consumes energy, so it's not clear how much this helps. Of course, Californians can buy it from other states, so it's not their grid that's being overstressed.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #18
russ_watters said:
Even for California that sounds high by a factor of 2. Please check/verify the numbers on an actual bill. But even still, 236 miles is a lot of driving in 2 days. On a per charge vs per gallon basis an electric is always much cheaper than gas.

No, it can't. Upgrades are required.

Energy intensity (how much energy each person uses) peaked decades ago and has been dropping since. The shift to EVs will only drop it further because they are more efficient than gas cars. But per above shifting the source from gasoline to electric (and natural gas to electric for heating) will require a major increase in electricity production to compensate for the large drop in gas/gas for other uses.
I am very sure about my bill. I was looking at the bill to post. The reason is because I am putting in Solar panels right now, all these are important numbers to apply how may panels I need.
 
  • #19
Vanadium 50 said:
It's probably worth pointing out that producing hydrogen consumes energy, so it's not clear how much this helps. Of course, Californians can buy it from other states, so it's not their grid that's being overstressed.
Nor their grid that burns carbon based fuel. Convenient!
 
  • #20
yungman said:
I am very sure about my bill. I was looking at the bill to post.
Neither 22 kWh/day nor "like $400" are numbers that could possibly have come from a bill. So please, give us the real numbers. And fyi, google says the average for CA is indeed half that:
https://www.energysage.com/local-da...residential electricity rate,rate of 20 ¢/kWh.

yungman said:
The reason is because I am putting in Solar panels right now, all these are important numbers to apply how may panels I need.
?? Are you saying that your bill isn't really a normal bill from PG&E and is higher than the normal cost of grid power because you're paying-off solar panels? That wouldn't shock me but isn't what you'd implied...
 
  • #21
yungman said:
I know H2 is EXPLOSIVE. Other than that, I want to know is there any other reason preventing it from being more popular?
Frankly, hydrogen-powered vehicles are a bad idea on multiple fronts.

Hydrogen is very flammable

It is very difficult to store, particularly if you want that storage to be safe in the event of a severe impact

It tends to make metal brittle

It has no natural source so it must be manufactured

The usual way to manufacture it at scale is through stripping it from hydrocarbons, thus producing all of the usual carbon emissions of fossil fuels

The alternative method of manufacturing it, electrolysis, is highly inefficient and would produce huge demands in the electricity grid if done at scale. If the local power grid is based on fossil fuels then it still produces carbon emissions.

Hydrogen based internal combustion engines need very large pistons and have relatively little power

Hydrogen based fuel cells use a lot of expensive materials in decently large quantities

IMO, it is a gimmick for getting research funding rather than a realistic solution to any current problem. In any case, calling hydrogen a fuel is false, it is an energy storage technology, one that is vastly inferior to other existing energy storage technologies
 
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes nsaspook, DaveE, russ_watters and 3 others
  • #22
I mean, technically, we've been driving hydrogen cars for more than a century, its just that the recipe for energy storage has historically included more carbon and oxygen.
 
  • #23
russ_watters said:
Neither 22 kWh/day nor "like $400" are numbers that could possibly have come from a bill. So please, give us the real numbers. And fyi, google says the average for CA is indeed half that:
https://www.energysage.com/local-data/electricity-cost/ca/#:~:text=Electric rates in California,-The easiest way&text=The average residential electricity rate,rate of 20 ¢/kWh.?? Are you saying that your bill isn't really a normal bill from PG&E and is higher than the normal cost of grid power because you're paying-off solar panels? That wouldn't shock me but isn't what you'd implied...
This is the graph of my average bill
Average PGE electricity.jpg

High is 25KW, low is 18.74, I average to 22KW.

I know how much I paid every month on PG&E. You know there is penalty if you use over certain amount? Yes, if you conserve, bill will be DISPROPORTIONATELY lower.

As I said, I had to submit all these info, that's why I know it's real.
 
  • #24
Thanks everyone, I have a pretty good idea now.
 
  • #25
yungman said:
This is the graph of my average bill
The actual numbers would have been better than a hard to read graph, but clearly that bill includes natural gas, not just electricity.
 
  • #26
russ_watters said:
The actual numbers would have been better than a hard to read graph, but clearly that bill includes natural gas, not just electricity.
He marked in red the relevant numbers for electricity only, didn't he?
 
  • #27
russ_watters said:
nor "like $400" are numbers that could possibly have come from a bill
This is California, after all. If there were ever a state where the bills are "Like send us like $400, dude, Tubular!" that would be the one.
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz and russ_watters
  • #28
Bandersnatch said:
He marked in red the relevant numbers for electricity only, didn't he?
Not exactly. The other half of the equation for cost per kWh is cost per month, which I'd have to read from the hard to read graph.

(Edit: # of days can be gotten from the graph...).
 
  • #29
russ_watters said:
Nor their grid that burns carbon based fuel. Convenient!
Well, that's kind of the point. Californians can pat themselves for being green by shifting emissions to other places, It's actually a very California thing to do. The undercurrent of this thread - shouldn't other people drive hydrogen cars - is also very California.

In principle, you still can win. If the whole system is more efficient - and I mean the whole system from natural gas well to fuel-cell based car - you could emit less carbon. That seems not to be the case, as @Dale points out,

Fuel cells are where batteries were 20-30 years ago. They'll be where batteries are today in a few decades, I am sure. But I also expect batteries to have improved in that time.
 
  • Like
Likes Dale
  • #30
In Calif, they punish you for using too much gas or electricity. It is NOT linear. That's why I am spending over $80K out of pocket to put solar panels and battery before tax. Whole thing still over $60K after all the tax credit. Of cause it's for black out also as the battery is like $35K alone.

Also, they increase the charge very steep, big difference in 3 or 4yrs. It is still going up. This is copy of bill, you see the$120.07 for Silicon Valley Clean Energy charge? This amount varies with amount of ELECTRICITY used as PUNISHMENT.

PG&E 9_22.jpg


This cost is only enough to take care of electricity of the house, It is NOT ENOUGH for charging an EV. I just absolutely REFUSE to buy EV because of the fire hazard. I literally need to double the amount of solar panel to support one EV.

It is NOT hard to use a lot of electricity, other than AC, I have LED lights all over the house already, we don't do cook much. Usage mainly on AC, Dryer and some stove. Even AC, I set to 76deg, not exactly that cold.

With solar, I have to use small space heater instead of central heat that uses gas in winter.

If not for family here, I'd move to Texas in a heart beat.
 
Last edited:
  • #31
yungman said:
In Calif, they punish you for using too much gas or electricity. It is NOT linear....

Also, they increase the charge very steep, big difference in 3 or 4yrs. It is still going up. This is copy of bill, you see the$120.07 for Silicon Valley Clean Energy charge? This amount varies with amount of ELECTRICITY used as PUNISHMENT.
SVCE's website tells me they are an optional 3rd party generating company, which unless you're in some group that requires it means you've chosen for that charge to be put on your bill. And yep, generation charges (like most charges) are based on usage and in many cases aren't linear. They claim that rate is lower than PG&E's.

I still wish you'd provide just kWh per month and cost per month, because now the numbers on the kWh per day are too small for me to read. From the prior bill I'm getting something like $0.34 / kWh. It's in the ballpark of the $0.30 I'd guessed and that google tells me is average for San Francisco.
 
  • #32
I am not sure why we are discussing any member’s utility bill information. Isn’t the average sufficient
 
  • Like
Likes Vanadium 50 and russ_watters
  • #33
Dale said:
I am not sure why we are discussing any member’s utility bill information. Isn’t the average sufficient
Mostly just because he claimed an impossibly - and inaccurately - high electricity cost.
 
  • Like
Likes Vanadium 50
  • #34
Dale said:
I am not sure why we are discussing any member’s utility bill
The argument is that if other people drove hydrogen cars as opposed to electric cars, the OPs power bills would be lower. I think this has been exposed as, at best, oversimplifies.

The number that doesn't make sense to me is the $35K for batteries. That buys about 35 kwh of storage, or about a day and a half assuming full electric use during a blackout. That seems excessive, especially as electric use can be throttled during the outage.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #35
There are two mechanisms to use H to power a vehicle - internal combustion engines (ICEs) and fuel cells. I am not aware of any serious attempts to build H ICEs, as they suffer from the inherent inefficiencies of ICEs - electric motors are about 2x as efficient in delivering energy to the wheels, which is why EVs can overcome the weight and lower energy density of batteries relative to gasoline or diesel.

So the only possible contender to EVs are H fuel cells. However, they have the same issues with power required to produce H - given the power losses to create H, why not just use that power to charge a battery?

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/vi...difference is that,using a hydrogen fuel cell.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters

Similar threads

Replies
4
Views
861
Replies
2
Views
516
Replies
3
Views
950
  • General Discussion
2
Replies
40
Views
2K
Replies
17
Views
1K
Replies
13
Views
1K
Replies
14
Views
911
  • General Engineering
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • General Discussion
10
Replies
349
Views
16K
  • General Discussion
Replies
2
Views
946
Back
Top