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Transportation Power

Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Fuel Cells Are 'So Bull@%!#' 479 479

Frosty P sends this quote from AutoblogGreen: "Elon Musk is unafraid to speak his mind. Whether he's talking about other players in the electric vehicle space or sub-par reporting from The New York Times, this is a man with few filters. Musk says that fuel cells are not part of the solution that electric vehicles offer for giving up the hydrocarbon addiction. After commenting that the only reason some automakers are pursuing hydrogen technology is for marketing purposes, that lithium batteries are superior mass- and volume-wise for a given range, and that fuel cells are too expensive, Musk capped it all off with the safety issue. 'Oh god, a fuel cell is so bull@%!#,' Musk said. 'Hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. You know, it's suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,' he said."
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Fuel Cells Are 'So Bull@%!#'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @03:56PM (#45216399)

    In europe, en netherlands in particular we have a gas distribution system for cars. liquified petroleum gas is already safely implemented in many cars without any major incidents. It's sold by all gas stations except those in city centers. So transport, en storage is not a real big issue.

    The simple fact that you can quickly pump gas into a car versus hours of charging is a huge advantage if you want to drive beyond the action radius of a single charge.

  • by sackvillian (1476885) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @03:58PM (#45216417)

    I've seen hundreds of researchers work to try to come up with a car-ready inexpensive fuel cell that's, if not safe, at least not going to level a block during a fender-bender. The conclusion I came to long ago was that the big car makers pursue fuel cells to avoid explaining why they've not pursued (or actively stalled) the development of electric vehicles. The fact is that electric cars have a much, much greater potential to replace internal combustion engines than fuel cells for the near future.

    Even just the fact that infrastructure is basically in place for widespread transportation of electricity and not even on the radar for hydrogen gives electric a huge edge!

    I'm not saying the technology might not prove itself within a few decades, but if half of the fuel-cell resources were placed into improving batteries, electric vehicles would be damn near ubiquitous by now. Would anyone argue that the existing automakers really wanted that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @04:11PM (#45216569)

    I recently wrote an article on the ability to extract hydrogen from plants and a discovery by Percival Yang but the results of the discovery means that hydrogen can be extracted from plants at almost maximum efficiency in a low cost enzyme based process. Not only did Zang discover a way of way of extracting the hydrogen but he also went out an a limb and suggested another method using hydrocarbon storage of the extracted hydrogen as a method of holding the hydrogen in a safe and easily extractable form of storage. It wouldn't have the ability to go boom with car accidents and wouldn't require huge temperatures to extract the hydrogen. It would be safe or safer than lithium batteries. It would however require a beginning startup period where electric batteries would be required for the first 15 minutes of vehicle operation.

    This discovery met ALL of the long term goals of power density, including an equivalent to 300 to 500 mile power density.

    So in short I think Mr. Musk is wrong.

  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @04:31PM (#45216881) Homepage
    No, not the same thing at all. Hydrogen is usually produced directly from fossil fuels within the chemical reaction itself (see here [wikipedia.org] for details). This is in opposition to electricity for batteries, which is just as good coming from a solar plant as it is from a coal or gas plant. Hydrogen can also be produced from electrolysis, which is actually the most popular way to talk about it in schools, but it's very inefficient and expensive in terms of energy.
  • by mythosaz (572040) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @04:31PM (#45216883)

    Tesla's charging system is a joke, having to go park in some far off small town and wait a hour for your car to recharge is not a solution to range anxiety

    n.b. I own a Leaf.

    Range anxiety is real, but subsides pretty quickly when you realize that since your car tops off every day when you get home, you're rarely in danger of exceeding your range -- and that's true even for me, living in a suburb of Phoenix with it's massive sprawl.

    While you certainly need to conscious of your driving plans and charger locations, rarely do you have to divert to some far-away location. Most of the time you're driving your car, it's to work and back, or running errands, or out socializing -- and there's a pretty good chance that you're going to end up somewhere where there's a charger already in the front row waiting for you at your destination. There's 232 Blink chargers alone in Phoenix proper and over 500 in Metro Phoenix -- and that doesn't count chargers from the other companies.

    You don't go somewhere foreign to charge. You just top off occasionally while you're already doing what you're doing - many times for free.

  • by McKing (1017) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @06:16PM (#45218107) Homepage
    A friend of mine was really interested in hydrogen as a fuel source for cars, to the point that he converted one of his half-dozen 80's Honda hatchbacks to a hydrogen-powered vehicle. He was a huge fan of hydrogen, until the day that he was working on his car and didn't realize that a fuel line had developed a pinhole leak and caught fire. Since the flame was invisible and he had no reason to be alarmed he reached into the engine compartment to work on something and passed his hand straight through the flame. It was only like a 1/2 second before he realized that his hand was burned and he yanked it out (seriously, it was like he smelled his hand burning before the pain hit).
  • by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @06:17PM (#45218115)


    That seems to sum up the vast majority of this thread, and the alternative energy debate in a very concise way.
    Let me take this opportunity to summarise the thread:
    30 pages of people arguing about the safety of hydrogen. 20 pages of people arguing about their opinions of Elon Musk.

    Let me now summarise the issue:
    A) Danger is not the issue, yes hydrogen tanks are dangerous, but we are talking about private transportation here. If we cared about safety we would have banned all of it decades ago. No one really cares if a few people get torn to pieces by a car.
    B) Hydrogen fuel cells are a bad idea because the production of hydrogen is hugely inefficient. The thermal efficiency is only about 50% and that is ignoring the massive compression that would be required for private transport, as well as distribution costs. This means hydrogen powered cars will use significantly more energy than other alternatives, energy that is generated in power stations, mostly through burning fossil fuels. The issue we have with cars is that they use too much energy. Neither Musk's electric cars nor any hydrogen technology currently on the market do anything to change this at all. It is all a huge PR lie so that all the happy consumers will feel good in the fluffy cotton wool illusion that they are saving the planet.
    C) Quit the celebrity worship, hundreds of people have quite clearly explained the pro's and cons of hydrogen fuel cells and we should not care more about this guy's opinion just because he is rich and famous. We could care about his opinion because he has a physics degree, but then again there are a great many people with physics degrees who have opinions on hydrogen fuel cells.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @06:49PM (#45218403) Journal
    I do find it interesting how every one has ran with the Hindenburg angle, you've gotta hand it to Musk, he knows how to pervert a conversation with spurious propaganda. WTF has the Hindenburg got to do with fuel cells? - This is Musk doing a Tomas Edison, except it's uncool to electrocute elephants as "evidence" that a competing technology is dangerous these days, so he picks an unrelated human tragedy instead as "evidence".

    The fact is Honda has a fuel cell car that is in many ways more practical than the cars he makes, and from a "save the planet" pov fuel cells are cleaner and simpler to scale up than batteries. Worse still for Musk Honda's car (and a cameo by it's owner, Jay Leno) was featured on the same Top Gun episode as the Tesla sports, he famously attempted to sue TG for an "unfair" review and was (rightfully) laughed out of court. Musk who is definitely smart and rich has decided the best way to compete with Honda has nothing to do with innovation, the best way to compete is to try and scare people by pulling horror stories from his arse..

    I like Musk's cars, but they are not "revolutionary" they are simply the state of the art in battery powered cars, which have been around for a century now. I won't be buying any of his stuff, even if I could afford it. The man is a greedy liar who thinks the only way to "win" is to drown the competition's reputation in bullshit and silence critics with a team of lawyers, behaviour I really do not want to encourage with my wallet.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?