The article ponts out that FEVs will represent a small percentage of auto sales, because the assumption is, I/m sure, that they require a hydrogen disrtribution infrastructure. It wouldn't be the case if they can run directly on gasoline, diesel, and/or biofuel. Still, it's really great to see the automokers working hard at developing the most promising EV technologies, rather than falling back on the tired old battery-powered EV so predictably.
Related to this, I hope people are also paying attention to the U of Waterloo research on global warming. Another body of work that finally runs counter to the popular orthodoxy du jour.
A fuel cell converts hydrogen+oxygen into water+electricty. Most fuel cells require very pure hydrogen, so you require a very expensive infrastructure to generate, clean, store, and transport the hydrogen.
Storing hydrogen is fraught with difficulties. Cyrogenic cooling takes a large amount of energy and the hydrogen boils away relatively quickly. Compressing takes less energy but the hydrogen still leaks through the tank... A tank of hydrogen also stores relatively little energy and is very heavy compared to the amount of energy it contains.
All in all it's simply impossible to get the same efficiency as an EV. You also need to use oil/gas to generate the hydrogen as splitting water using electricity is too inefficient. This is why I don't think hydrogen will ever become popular in the future.
Wilco1, the entire hydrogen reforming, fuel cell operation, and power to the wheels should be at the very least two to three times as efficient as a regular ICE car, in actual service. And by doing the hydrogen reforming on board, you avoid all of the problems of distributing and storing hydrogen, and you can use the existing fuel delivery infrastructure.
Also, no matter how you slice it, even if batteries become so advanced that you can recharge them in 3 or 4 minutes, or even if these unlikely battery swap techniques become widespread, and even if one can get a real 300 mile range out of the battery, the amount of energy required for such refueling will be right in the same ballpark as the amount needed to power a home for a given time period, if not more. Scaling this up to where BEVs become the norm on the roads, rather than the second car exception, seems unlikely to me.
Also, as Junko reported, people are tending to shed those second cars, not buy more of them. For instance, we haven't had a second car for, let's see, 17 1/2 years now. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a FEV (which generates H2 on board), but I wouldn't feel comfortable buying a BEV. Not unless I planned to rent a car for all those "other" occasions.
Prabhakar, yes indeed. With a so-called hydrogen reformer. It's the same way hydrogen is usually produced industrially, only sized for a single car.
The fuel cell takes H2 and oxygen, and converts it to electricity and water. The electricity is used to run an all-electric power train. For instance, the electric motors can be built right into the car's wheels, avoiding any form of mechanical transmission or differential.
Wilco1, no, not that global warming is a scam. The scam is this religious adherence to man-made CO2 as the cause. As we already discussed at length, anyone not bent on just blindly accepting the most banal of "explanations" for global warming should have asked himself, when a politician picked the most common natural byproduct of any combustion process and of any living organism as the supposed cause, what is the human contribution of this gas, overall?
The human daily/annual contribution is still minuscule.
Therefore, let's wake up and search for other, more probable and worrisome causes. E.g. chemicals that in fact humans DO uniquely produce, and that could be dangerous to the environment.
Sorry but that skeptical science piece was silly. They accuse this U of Waterloo study of being based only on statistics. Like I already asked, as opposed to what? As opposed to the statistical "proofs" that the CO2 orthodoxy has been trumpeting for years? Or as opposed to the "put your brain in neutral and just say that 'most scientists' believe it's CO2," without bothering to ask the most obvious questions?
If CO2 is indeed the cause for global warming, it is not the fact that humans are creating too much CO2, but rather, that humans are destroying the natural CO2 sequestration mechanism, through deforestation. So, without danger of harming anything, let's work to reforest the globe, as has *already* been happening within the US. That's a no-harm change that would actually help the CO2 problem, if CO2 is the cause.
Pretending that reducing our 3 percent contribution to daily CO2 generation, even by 100 percent, will fix anything, is pretty ridiculous, wouldn't you say? Aren't we supposed to be engineers who are trained to be skeptical of unlikely explanations?
On the issue of CO2 look at the Stanford study that indicates soot and particulates are almost as large a factor in climate change -- then compare change in areas where soot is removed with areas where soot is not treated out of emissions.
On the issue of fuel cells vs conventional fuel -- there is a pilot plant in the UK that is producing Petrol from electricity, air and water -- realise that it may be possible to do closed cycle petrol vehicles given sufficient water, air and renewable source electricity.
* Fuel cell technology is currently intended to replace the classic 'liquid fuel' cars - though with a smaller operating distance (more like 400 km). Having refuelling times targeting 3 Minutes they surely rival the EVs in useability.
* Hydrolysis efficiency is not so bad - assuming the electricity is not generated in 'classical' generating plants. The current hydrogen supply consists of either 'excess hydrogen' from chemical plants (little) or from 'reforming' natural gas. Natural gas reforming is standard industrial practice and would only require access to the existing natural gas infrastructure (which is given here in Germany).
* In the past there have been several appoaches to generate the hydrogen with 'on-board' reformers from gasoline (wouldn't really improve the situation) resp. methanol (better but poisonous). Only one of these developments succeeded. To get a 'single souce' infrastructure, the car makers agreed upon gaseous hydrogen as losses from pressurized tanks are much lower than from cryogenic storage (where losses are at least 1 %/day).
* You might think about hydride storage, but this is currently only feasible for 'very special' applications (eg. the latest German Subs). There it seems to be more than appropriate as it allows for improved thermal management.
* Anyway - having read about the not-so-old cooperation of Honda with GM I would not expect to see volume production ready for daily use before 2020. Though car makers' press releases state other dates
"Fuel cell" size was least issue. Learning from prototyping systems. incremental improvements in intra-cell geometry have been developed. Improving homogeneous gas supply, increasing catalyst activity (and reduce catalyst loading) and reducing source resistance were some of the topics.
More work had to be invested into the reduction of the peri- phery. And there is quite a number of peripheral systems like air supply, hydrogen circulation, humidification and - quite a task - cooling. An ICE is offloading most of the losses via the exhaust. Being at a lower thermal level (making the job more complicated), a fuel cell system must offload 100 % of the losses via the cooling system. This becomes especially tricky at raised ambient temperatures.
Whilst the prototype systems were 'lab' systems put on wheels, the later systems were developed with 'typical automotive' targets reducing size greatly.
If you want to learn more, a patent research on "fuel cell" and /or the car makers involved in fuel cell system development will reveal the results developed since the early '90s. You'll be overwhelmed what topics have been addressed.
Fuel cells small enough to fit in cars were already available. From what I've been reading, some key concerns were longevity of the fuel cell, using materials that aren't ultra expensive, and being able to use less that very pure hydrogen as fuel.
I don't think the hydrogen reformer angle is present in this Honda, as an on-board asset. But to me, that will be another key ingredient. I kind of dismiss the notion of a hydrogen distribution system, sort of along the same lines as an EV battery-swap system. They seem like "too hard," meant primarily to keep the technology's evangelists evangelizing.
Here's an interesting upcoming experiment from the French postal service. They're going to add hydrogen fuel cells to extend the range of electric postal vans, with plans to make the entire 60,000 vehicle fleet electric by 2050.
As written before, the on-board reformer angle is (at least currently) dead.
Regarding hydrogen infrastructre: it depends. Speaking for Germany, 400 public fuelling stations will be erected until 2023. (As of 2013: 15 public stations were available.) Total invest is said to be 350 millions EURos.
Regarding liquid fuel synthesis, the synthesis chain is as follows: 1. Get hydrogen. From electrolysis, from algae, from whatever. (Reforming natural gas does not make sense in this context.) 2. Add carbon dioxide (best source: power station exhaust - that has already been done for other purposes). The output of this stage could be synthetic methane as well as methanol. 3. If you like: concatenate methane/methanol to get 'longer' hydrocarbons.
As each stage requires additional efforts/energy, it is clear that hydrogen is the easiest to generate, followed by methane/ methanol. If a liquid fuel is desired, methanol is the easiest to synthesize. (Alas - the one with the lowest volumetric energy density.) Long-chain hydrocarbons are less feasible - except for volumetric energy density.