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Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric? 659

Posted by Soulskill
from the place-your-bets dept.
cartechboy writes: "Back in 2010, Toyota and Tesla teamed up to develop electric cars. That partnership gave us the RAV4 EV electric crossover, but it seems as though that will be the only vehicle we see from that deal. The partnership will soon expire and Toyota has no plans to renew it. Why? Because Toyota believes the future is in hydrogen fuel cell cars, not battery electric vehicles. We knew trouble was brewing when the RAV4 EV failed to set the world on fire when it came to the sales floor. Then Toyota and Honda announced plans to debut hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as early as next year. Add it all together and the writing was on the wall. Is Toyota right? Are hydrogen fuel cell cars the future, or is it missing the mark?"
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Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?

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  • by BLToday (1777712) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:06PM (#47001169)

    Why not Zoidberg? I mean both. I can't imagine hydrogen fuel being cheaper than charging at home within the next 20 years. But with hydrogen fuel cell you can have a relatively quick refueling for extended driving. Something like a hydrogen/electric plugin vehicle would be the most appealing to me.

  • by plopez (54068) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:20PM (#47001343) Journal

    The best way to get hydrogen is through a process called "Hydrocarbon Fractionation" or steam reforming. Both of which produce large amounts of CO2 which is a green house gas. Natural gas is often used in the process but you can also use coal (Hello Koch brothers!). And when hydrogen is burned it produces a large amount of H2O vapour which is a greenhouse gas. That is why I call it a scam, it does nothing to improve the global environment or remove the dependence on fossil fuels while adding yet another layer of inefficiency to the energy to transportation process.

  • Re:Why not both (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:49PM (#47001721) Homepage Journal

    I agree with "try both". There are too many variables to pick a winner up front at this point. Electric has a lower infrastructure barrier of entry (we all have power outlets already), but hydrogen offers potentially more efficiency.

    By the way, why not put solar panels on more electric cars? My car sits in the parking lot 9 or so hours in direct sun. It could power roughly 1/3 of my commute if the roof and hood(s) had panels. Some say the weight of the panels cuts into too much of the benefits, but what if the panels WERE the top and roof instead of being glued on top? I'm not a materials expert, so maybe that's where the bottleneck is. Expert anyone?

  • Re:Electric. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:50PM (#47001735)

    Currently I can fill my gas tank within 15 minutes and drive for 400 miles. Compare that with hours to charge a battery.

    Solutions:
    0. Buy a plug-in hybrid instead of a pure electric.
    1. Drive your other car for long trips. Most American families own two.
    2. Rent a car for the trip.
    3. Rent a temporary battery booster pack and put it in your trunk or roof rack.
    4. Rent a tow-behind generator.
    5. Since self-driving cars (SDCs) are likely only a few years ago, you can use platooning to extend your range.
    6. While your SDC is platooning, you may be able to engage in automated transactions with the other cars in the platoon, and purchase power from them. The power could be transferred by magnetically coupling the cars while they are physically separated by a few inches. People on short trips could then make some money by transferring power to those on longer trips.

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:03PM (#47001861)

    Cars will be fueled next on Compressed Natural Gas. Why? Because there is a cheaper option that doesn't weigh a lot or take up lots of space.

    Hydrogen is decidedly NOT efficient to produce. The cheapest way to make it right now is to reform natural gas (releasing CO2 in the process). Don't even think about electrolysis to get hydrogen, not even remotely cost effective or efficient Not to mention that the infrastructure needed to distribute H2 doesn't exist. It also is difficult to pack enough H2 into a tank to get enough energy inside to go very far unless you liquify it, but that requires cryogenic temperatures which are both dangerous and expensive. As nice as hydrogen sounds, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

    Electric power (battery powered) is closer than hydrogen. The distribution infrastructure exists for the most part. Electricity is not hard to produce, even though we generate the bulk of it from fossil fuels. The problem with battery powered cars is that batteries are heavy, expensive, discharge quickly and take a lot of time to charge. You might get 100 miles out of a charge, maybe even 200, but eventually you are going to stop for a charge or replacement battery pack. If the temperature is high or low, your battery won't last nearly as long. The infrastructure for remote charging or battery swapping doesn't exist so distance anxiety is a real issue for electric car owners. Batteries are usually really large, compared to the equivalent tank size for gasoline. Batteries are not as inefficient as Hydrogen, but they still have serious issues.

    Compressed Natural Gas suffers from fewer problems. The distribution infrastructure exists with natural gas pipelines nearly everywhere. In some areas CNG stations already exist. If you have NG in your home already, you can compress your own fuel for about half of the price at the station. Existing engines are easily converted to CNG with little loss in power and run cleaner and longer on CNG. If you convert correctly you can burn either CNG or gasoline/diesel. Tank size needs to be bigger than gasoline but most cars usually have the space available, trucks almost certainly do. Many fleet operators (taxis and such) already use CNG. But the biggest advantage of CNG is that it's cheap when compared to the other options (and gasoline/diesel for that matter). Not to mention that it is nearly 100% domestically sourced (at least in the USA).

    So, the next adopted motor fuel will be CNG, not hydrogen or electric.

  • Re:Electric. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boristdog (133725) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @05:31PM (#47003695)

    Then one day somebody discovers this awesome substance called gasoline that has so much more energy

    Do you honestly think that if we didn't have gasoline powered cars already ANY company could get a tank full of gallons of a highly volatile and explosive liquid put under the back seat of a car (where the CHILDREN sit) approved by ANY government agency? Sure, it's fine for daredevils and stuntmen, but you would be thrown in the looney bin for even suggesting that families use it for daily transportation.

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