Hi Junko, I don't think you want to put all your R&D in one direction if you are a big car company. Neither EV or hydrogen cell cars will surive without goverment incentives. And who knows what the government will do? Last time they pull out all incentives for solar power killing quickly growing industry in the process. The same can happen with EV or hydrogen cells. If I were them I would place small bets here & there and try to see what the consumer driven givernment incentives would do. People love green technologies as long as they don't have to pay a cent more for them ;-)...Kris
There is no doubt one of the biggest challenges to EV is recharge rate. There is all kind of solution coming up lately. Fast charging and Battery swap. Yet, there doesn't seem to be anything as fast and as convenience as pumping gasoline. What if a fuel that can be injected into a battery get a recharge? Neglecting production and transporation of hydrogen fuel, I believe fuel cell might actually be able to contribute to our energy future, especially as an alternative fuel to vehicle.
Addition: Honda has been putting a huge bet on fuel cell vehicle, believing hybrid does not have the long term future. They pulled the plug as soon as Obama cut the funding in 2009. I am glad to hear Honda is coming to the game again.
The number 1 battery swap company just went belly up...so much for the good idea in theory but poor in practice that neglects reality of consumer behaviour...who would want to swap EV batteries instead of just umping gas???
I did read about a scheme in which you pump fresh electrolyte into the battery, to achieve a full charge in the time it takes to refuel standard cars. Not sure where that went.
Failing that, I've always thought that fuel cell cars have a brighter future. But hydrogen in a tank does not. It's very volatile, has the teensiest atoms, and these tanks therefore deplete themselves as fast as, or maybe faster than, batteries die when left without recharging.
Besides, how disingenuous is it to say that fuel cell vehicles are pollution-free? Surely, that depends entirely on how you produce the H2 they need. From coal-fired electric plants, they pollute at least as much as ICE cars.
I put my hopes on separating the H2 from a fuel, stored in the car, in a regular fuel tank. The entire process should easily be twice as efficient as internal combustion engines are, and more efficient than that at low power levels, such as city driving. So that's how you cut the CO2 emissions. I mean, the typical 30 percent figure we see for ICE applies only at the best operating modes. In typical driving, try something in the high teens and twenty percent ranges. A fuel cell should be on the order of over 50 percent. The reformer should be way higher than that.
I hear you, Kris. I understand. But here's the thing. Despite some progress made in hydrogen cars earlier, why does it feel like that the technology development in hydrogen cars had been dormant or slowed down in the past decade,,, Is that because the auto industry shifted their interest more to EVs?
I think the reason why development has slowed for fuel cell autos is the hydrogen storage problem. An aqueous solution of sodium borohydride can have a similar energy density as gasoline. It is reasonable non-toxic, non-explosive, it doesn't burn and is stable. A little catalyst and it releases its hydrogen and leaves behind sodium borate, i.e. borax. The problem is production. Ideally you should be able to react hydrogen with the sodium borate to reform the sodium borohydride. But so far it cannot be done economically.
Pretty much all of the other storage solutions are technically challenging, expensive, risky or some combination of the three. I think the auto industry would prefer to wait until the sodium borate -> sodium borohydride problem is solved.