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

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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  • Electric. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:03PM (#47001135) Homepage
    It's much simpler.
    • Re:Electric. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:06PM (#47001173)

      Hard to top the energy density in a gallon of gas

      • Unlike those fire proof gasoline powered cars.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Easy to top the energy wasted by burning a gallon of gas in a ICE and not even factoring out the pollution effects.

      • Electric! Electric! I have one electric car and I like it like no other car I have had. The problem is that all those mechanical engineers do not do volts and amps so they are struggling to give us something they can do, but it is just a matter of time before there is a breakthrough in battery or power supply technology, like this for ex (300 miles of power) which was just announced: []
      • Re:Electric. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:35PM (#47001537)

        Hard to top the energy density in a gallon of gas

        You need to multiply the energy density times the efficiency. A gasoline burning ICE has an efficiency of about 15%, an electric motor is over 90%. After that, you will find that the gasoline still wins on range, but loses on cost (excluding the initial cost of the vehicle). Battery technology is improving faster than ICE technology, so is likely to eventually win, as the battery production costs come down and the range goes up.


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

          by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:03PM (#47001867)

          I would question the 15% efficiency number you provide, that may have been true once, but it has gotten better since then.

          Still, today I wouldn't expect it over 30%, small engines simply not being as efficient as large engines can be.

          That being said, cost is but one concern, ease of refueling is another, plus the cost to purchase in the first place.

          Once again, we come back to EV costing FAR more than ICE does. Fix that and I think most people will deal with the range issues.

          I know I'd be a buyer if the price were closer.

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

            by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:29PM (#47002157)

            I think you'd be surprised. In urban driving, some some typical numbers would be engines about 40% efficient in terms of extracting energy from fuel, which sounds pretty good on the surface. The problem is you lose another 17% to idling. Another 6% in the drive train. Another 2-3% in powering the accessories. And you lose about 6% of the energy in the fuel just from braking. An electric car doesn't have to idle. The drive train is massively simplified, reducing losses there. Accessories are directly powered without the losses of an alternator. And you can recoup some energy with regenerative breaking.

            Those numbers are for urban driving, they are slightly better for highway cruising but you have more losses inside the engine as RPMs increase, so the difference ends up being only a few percentage points. Obviously hybrids can address some of those issues as well, by getting rid of the idle, through regenerative braking, and evening out some of the power surges needed to accelerate.

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

              by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:38PM (#47002253)

              All reasonable points...

              Offer the Chevy Volt for $20K and they could sell half a million of them a year...

              At $35K, it is a non-starter...

              It begins and ends there, all other arguments are really academic...

            • Re:Electric. (Score:4, Informative)

              by sribe ( 304414 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:05PM (#47002621)

              I think you'd be surprised. In urban driving, some some typical numbers would be engines about 40% efficient in terms of extracting energy from fuel...

              Uhm, no. Maximum theoretical efficiency of a perfect (massless, frictionless) ICE at the compression ratios available in passenger cars is more like 35%. Actual efficiency doesn't top 85% - 90% of 35%, in other words, less than 30%.

              • Re:Electric. (Score:4, Informative)

                by uradu ( 10768 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:25PM (#47002895)

                Here is a Wikipedia excerpt regarding modern turbo diesels, currently the most efficient automotive ICEs:

                "Modern turbo-diesel engines are using electronically controlled, common-rail fuel injection, that increases the efficiency up to 50% with the help of geometrically variable turbo-charging system; this also increases the engines' torque at low engine speeds (1200-1800RPM)."

                A 50% efficiency is pretty amazing and testament to over a century of dogged, steady improvement. We're approaching the theoretical maximum efficiency of the ICE.

              • Most source I've seen quote efficiency of an ideal Otto cycle as over 45% for a 10:1 compression ratio - and some engines have much higher compression than that (e.g. Mazda Skyactiv 14:1).

                Your figure of less than 30% overall is probably right though, because engines spend most of their time operating quite a way from their peak efficiency. IIRC the Prius's engine has a peak efficiency of about 37%, with the benefit of the hybrid being that it can operate near that peak much more than a normal car by avoidin

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

      by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:08PM (#47001205) Homepage

      Exactly Hydrogen requires wasted resources to create a new fuel cycle (good for capitalists I'm sure). Electricity is agnostic. It is simple (AC motor), and requires less 'special handling' and transport.

      Hands down straight up electricity...just that pesky problem of are our batteries good enough yet?

      I think so, but apparently Merrica needs 300+ mile range day to day.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )

        I for one don't need 300 mile range, but I do need ~120 mile rated range because I do 50-54 miles round trip each day and I live in a place that routinely sees temps of -10F so to have enough range to cover my commute after 5+ years of battery degradation plus cold weather I need a pack that starts around 120 miles of rated range.

      • Exactly Hydrogen requires wasted resources to create a new fuel cycle (good for capitalists I'm sure). Electricity is agnostic. It is simple (AC motor), and requires less 'special handling' and transport.

        Hands down straight up electricity...just that pesky problem of are our batteries good enough yet?

        I think so, but apparently Merrica needs 300+ mile range day to day.

        I don't regularly need 300 mile range. Give me a battery that gets me to work and back, pick up the kids, and a grocery run -- 100 miles should be fine most of the time. The rub is that it takes too long to charge a battery if we want to take a road trip. Currently I can fill my gas tank within 15 minutes and drive for 400 miles. Compare that with hours to charge a battery.

        • I don't regularly need 300 mile range.

          Not regularely, no. But once in a while you do, and then you hit the recharge-time hump. There's really no substitute for filling up your tank in a few minutes with liquid fuel (that includes LPG). That's the main problem with adoptation of electric cars at the moment IMO: electric-only cars are too expensive to have as a second car (except for the happy few), and a hybrid is is too complex, too heavy and thus even more expensive.

        • 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.

          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 LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        No but I do need a 200 mile range.
        I drive 70 miles round trip to work every day. And I have a mother in law in bad health that is another 50 miles. I also have family more than 100 miles away that I go and visit.
        250 miles would be great for most driving so yes a Tesla would work for me but I can get two really nice VW Passat TDIs for the same price or two Prius for the same price or two Mazda 6 for the same price. The Mazda 6 and Prius both get 40 MPG highway while Consumer reports says the Passat gets 50MP

        • I'm not really interested until I can get a reliable 300 mile range. This lets me go visit my parents, do some moderate driving while I'm there and still makie it back home on one charge. I could probably get by with the Tesla S 85, but the cost is out of my league. 60k is the top end I can afford for a car and it needs to have the same luxuries as a similarly equipped BMW, Audi, Mercedes, etc.

          This means leather, heated seats, high-end audio, GPS, collision detection, cameras, etc pretty much standard at th

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

        by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:46PM (#47001669)

        Hands down straight up electricity...just that pesky problem of are our batteries good enough yet?

        Let's add some facts to the discussion...

        Electricity also involves losses in transmission and transformation.

        Battery charge/discharge is only ~85% efficient under moderately realistic conditions: []

        Electrolysis is reported to have efficiencies up to 80%: []

        Line losses for electricity are in the 10% or greater range (the figure for Canada is almost 40% due to the amount of power we get from relatively remote hydroelectric facilities). So electricity and hydrogen aren't too far off-base with respect to losses.

        The weird thing about hydrogen vs electricity is that while hydrogen's energy density is great per unit mass, it's volumetric energy density is terrible given any reasonable storage technology. So while Li-Ion batteries have 10% of the specific energy density of hydrogen, they have almost equal volumetric energy densities: []

        And it is worth noting that hydrogen's volumetric energy density is 20% that of petrol, so to get the same range you'll need a fuel tank that's five times larger. Advanced storage technologies can help, but not all that much.

        Hydrogen also suffers from handling issues (embrittlement) and is extremely explosive. Natural gas has a relatively narrow range of fuel-air mixtures (about +/-5% around the 50/50 mark) where it will go bang rather than just burn. Hydrogen goes bang from about 5% to 95% mixture.

        So while batteries have their issues, hydrogen is so clearly not a competitor that it's curious that Toyota is going for it. On the other hand: prediction is hard, especially with regard to the future.

        This is the great thing about capitalism: it encourages people to explore those avenues that look utterly wrong-headed to the rest of us, and sometimes... they are right, and we are wrong. No centrally planned economy of any kind has ever been able to figure out how to do that (nor yet to deal with the problem of corruption that is endemic in human societies of all kinds, including capitalist ones.)

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

          by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:57PM (#47002505) Homepage

          The problem with hydrogen is not just electrolysis being 80%. You lose another 20% just compressing the hydrogen. Then comes safety. Hydrogen leaks and tends to rise so parking a hydrogen vehicle indoors (i.e. a garage) is not safe. It is explosive under an extremely high range of mixtures. It burns with a nearly invisible flame. It can spontaneously combust. It embrittles metal. Unlike CNG you can't just add an odorant either since it will foul the fuel cell.

          There is a hydrogen filling station in my local county for filling experimental HFC buses. They've already had one fire at the facility which is not used by the general public.

          Hydrogen filling stations are also going to be far more expensive than gasoline stations. The equipment to generate hydrogen is very expensive. You can't transport hydrogen in the quantity needed by truck in a cost effective manner unlike gasoline and diesel and existing pipelines cannot be used due to embrittlement.

          Look at how hard it is to stop all these gasoline engine fires. There's dozens every day. Gasoline doesn't spontaneously combust and requires a good spark or heat source to ignite it. It also is not explosive except under a rather limited range of mixtures. If hydrogen starts leaking in a garage it won't slowly combust like gasoline tends to do, if it ignites it will likely explode. With all those poorly maintained vehicles on the road how do you think things will fare with hydrogen? Unlike a gasoline car which only explodes in Hollywood movies, hydrogen is extremely explosive at a mixture between 4 and 74% in air. It will rise so it if leaks in an enclosed space it will rise to the ceiling. Hydrogen requires extremely little energy to ignight. It can spontaneously ignight from a leak or be ignited by sunlight.

          Fuel cells are also only 42-53% efficient. Combine that with the losses from compressing the hydrogen (20% loss) and creating the hydrogen (25% loss under the best case). Also, almost all hydrogen manufactured today comes from natural gas and at least 20% is lost due to the endothermic reaction. You then have the same losses you would have with an electric vehicle and the losses of a battery, since HFC vehicles also need a battery for regenerative braking and to handle acceleration since the HFC will likely not handle peak load.

          While some things have improved since it was written, others have not and are limited by the laws of physics.


        • A series of statements that are only half correct is not insightfull, it is rather stupid or missinformed.

          Electricity also involves losses in transmission and transformation.
          Not inside of a car. Distances are to short.

          Line losses for electricity are in the 10% or greater range (the figure for Canada is almost 40% due to the amount of power we get from relatively remote hydroelectric facilities). So electricity and hydrogen aren't too far off-base with respect to losses.
          Sigh, line losses are alredy calculate

        • Re:Electric. (Score:4, Informative)

          by anorlunda ( 311253 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @06:24PM (#47004225) Homepage

          Line losses for electricity are in the 10% or greater range (the figure for Canada is almost 40% due to the amount of power we get from relatively remote hydroelectric facilities). So electricity and hydrogen aren't too far off-base with respect to losses.

          I call bullshit. The losses are not that high.

          From []

          " For example, a 100 mile 765 kV line carrying 1000 MW of power can have losses of 1.1% to 0.5%. A 345 kV line carrying the same load across the same distance has losses of 4.2%. ... Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.6% in 1997 and 6.5% in 2007"

          I can tell you that most of those losses are in low voltage local distribution, not the long distance transmission.

          You claim 40% losses from the remote hydro in Canada. James Bay alone makes 16 GW of power. 40% of that would be 8.4 GW. In order to dissipate that much power from those thin wires, the temperature of those wires would have to be hotter than the core of the sun, and it would warm up the transmission corridor to Miami Beach climate. That's nonsense.

          Think of countries like Sweden and Brazil where the bulk of the power is generated thousands of miles from the consumers.
          They operate without excessive losses.

          Cite your sources dude.

    • I'd buy one today if I could get one with the entry class luxury of a fully decked out Audi A4 and around the same price point.

    • Germans beat us all to it, and called it the Zeppelin.

  • by DaWhilly ( 2555136 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:05PM (#47001163)

    "We knew trouble was brewing when the RAV4 EV failed to set the world on fire"

    I heard that some of the Tesla cars have set the world on fire...

  • Diesel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:05PM (#47001165)
    When you travel across the country and you don't know what kind of service station you'lll find along the way, diesel always wins. No alternative fuel even comes close to the reliability and availability of diesel engines, and that's not changing anytime soon.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Sure, but how often do you do that? Is it worth having a diesel car all the time just to cover that edge case, or would it be better to have an EV and just hire a diesel once a year when you need to drive to some random place without any changing infrastructure.

      • It might be, if you could hire a diesel that you wanted to drive... if the cost of that was reasonable, and if the infrastructure still existed to support it...

        Then you have the issue of the EV costing quite a bit more to buy...

        EV's time may come, but it isn't here yet...

      • With my 110 mile round trip to work I will say an EV is an option but Leaf, not a chance. With ~250 mile range of a Tesla I could live with renting a gas vehicle to drive cross country on the rare occasion I need it... unless they get enough fast chargers. I can live with a 10 minute break every 250 miles. Now if they would just bring the price down to the point where I'm not spending more buying that car than I do on gas.
    • Re:Diesel (Score:4, Informative)

      by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:39PM (#47002269) Journal

      No alternative fuel even comes close to the reliability and availability of diesel engines

      Electricity is both more reliable and more widely available than diesel fuel, by FAR.

      • But electric charging stations for cars are not, at least at this time. It's like saying hydrogen? There's water all around us.

  • 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 Gnaythan1 ( 214245 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:07PM (#47001187)

    let them in and see which one is preferred. A decade with both hydrogen and pure electric competing ought to make for a hell of a lot of innovation in both sectors.

    My bets on Elan Musk. At this point I really just want to throw my money at him and shout "just do something awesome with it."

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

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

  • Hydrogen. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:07PM (#47001191) Homepage Journal

    So many advantages to hydrogen. It automatically increases the fuel tax by leaking, and further by requiring active cooling to keep hydrogen contained. It's expensive to produce and transport, so it doesn't threaten oil companies with lower fuel costs. It's plentiful, so you can use tons of other fuels to separate water into hydrogen.

    • So many advantages to hydrogen.

      Ha Ha!

      Or it would have been, had your idea of hydrogen not been from sometime around the 50s.

      Expense of generation has been coming down for a long time. Ease of storage has also been improving steadily.

      If Toyota thinks the future of electric cars is hydrogen, you are pretty ballsy to say you disagree with a company dedicated to understanding the future of transport... how can you be so sure they are wrong? Might it not be that your own understanding of the technology around

    • Actually almost all of the commercially available hydrogen comes from natural gas, not electrolysis.

  • Economics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:09PM (#47001217) Journal
    The reason the electric vehicles aren't taking of has a lot to do with price (although there is also a legitimate concern about range between charges). But the price is a major factor, especially in an economy where the middle class (the lion's share of all car purchases) continues to get squeezed every time we look the wrong way. Seriously, let's look at price -- even the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt (plug-in hybrid) are $40,000 vehicles. And electric vehicles go up from there -- up to the Tesla Roadster in the six figure range. The average American doesn't even spent $30,000 on a car, so the price range of these new vehicles is still in the realm of the rich for toys and games. And to be honest, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are going to be priced in that same $40,000 and up range as well, so we won't be seeing those in the mainstream anytime soon. Henry Ford had it right back in the early 20th century. If you want your product to be adopted in the mainstream, you need to pay your workers enough to afford the product to be worth owning. They haven't done that yet, and until they do, we won't be seeing electric of hydrogen fuel cells in mainstream life anytime soon.
    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      The Volt starts at $35k and the next generation (2016 MY) will have a low end offering starting at $30k [] which compares favorably with the average new car price of almost $31k last year []

      • Yes, that may all be true... but you continue to compare a cheap compact 4 seat car to the average new car which includes all the big expensive stuff.

        You can buy a Chevy Sonic which has about the same amount of space and is about the same size as a Volt, for about half the price.

        Deal with that problem, then we'll take your "but it is affordable" comments seriously. No one buying $30K+ cars "wants" a 4 seat compact, unless it comes from BMW.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      $15,000 gets one a i-MiEV from Mitsubishi. No, this isn't a luxury car, but it is a decent city runabout. A cow-orker has one, and for commuting and running around in the city, it is close to ideal.

      For long trips, it suffers the same problems as the Leaf, but if one has two cars, it may be a decent choice because it doesn't require stopping at gas stations, and it requires very little upkeep (no oil changes.)

  • Right now most R&D is going into the generation of electricity. That is all well and good as we need to replace fossil fuels. The issue with the new technologies are two fold; time and space. Sure one could generate most the the electricity needs of the world using solar cells in the Sahara desert. The problem is that it does not help users in South America or when it is night in the Sahara. Storage and transmission become issues neither of which are easy or cheap to solve. Electric cars add to the issu

  • Electric in the short run is more economic than hydrogen because the technology is here and developed. One of Hydrogen's problems is the embrittlement of classic construction materials. So exotic materials need to be researched and made. The production of these materials at first will be expensive, but as time goes by, the materials will get cheap. An example of a piece the hydrogen car needs is the gas tank. The gas tank needs to be able to hold pressurized hydrogen in an exotic material, but other than that, it is just a gas tank. Compare this with a battery array. In the long run a gas tank is going to become cheaper than a battery array, but in the short run, electric cars are there already.

    Hydrogen is refillable. Hydrogen stations only needs electric and water. People will have them at their own houses. People who want to make a hydrogen refilling station will have a low barrier to entry. There might even be people who get solar arrays to help produce more hydrogen for their gas stations. So hydrogen is poised to be the more economical car in the long run (like 10-20 years if research keeps going).

    Electric will always have the advantage of regenerative braking though. So it is possible the future hybrid cars might be Hydrogen + Electric anyway. Unless maybe its possible to make your own hydrogen on the fly with the electricity made from regenerative braking.
    • Framing the issue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:38PM (#47001571)

      In the long run a gas tank is going to become cheaper than a battery array, but in the short run, electric cars are there already.

      So a hypothetical gas tank is hypothetically cheaper than an existing and very real battery? Curious argument you have there. How about we just plug in a hypothetical Mr. Fusion while we are at it? I frankly disagree with how you are framing the issue given the lack of cited evidence.

      Hydrogen is refillable. Hydrogen stations only needs electric and water.

      If you already are delivering the electricity, why not just put it into a battery and use it directly? (presuming the battery has sufficient energy density)

      Electric will always have the advantage of regenerative braking though.

      Electricity has a number of advantages. It is independent of the fuel source. Electricity can come from coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind etc. Electricity also is compatible with other types of motors. You can have a gas-electric hybrid, a diesel-electric hybrid, a fuel-cell-electric hybrid, etc. No other energy source can do that. We do not have the technology to use hydrogen directly (requires pressure and/or cooling tech beyond current economic practicality) and there is no near term likely prospect for a practical hydrogen based fuel.

  • 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.

  • Did you see the movie? The oil companies and other incumbents want it dead. They bought all the patents they could get their hands on for the components of electric cars but the much of the proverbial cat was already out of the bag. However, they already own just about everything related to hydrogen fuel and it's pipeline. So they're pulling out all the stops to kill the electric car.
  • 1) Electric has established delivery infrastructure

    2) Electric does not have the PR problem of the Hindenburg.

    3) Hydrogen has everything else going for it. It is A) lighter, b) short refueling time, c) does not have recycling issues, d) does not have charge/discharge cycle limit d) zero energy loss from temperature (cold batteries lose energy). Hydrogen is the objectively better system if we were designing from scratch. But the infrastructure advantage that electric battery cars have is huge - the

  • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:26PM (#47001435)
    Yes, they're[plug ins] cleaner than hybrids, but they still depend on electricity ...produced by dirty fossil fuels... hydrogen fuel cells are, for now, the greenest of many options,

    Hydrogen has to be cracked from complex molecules using...wait for it...electricity, so no, fuel cells aren't any greener than plug-ins. I suppose one could argue about whether the manufacture of fuel cells causes less pollution than that of batteries, but I expect it's pretty much a wash. I think the economy and convenience of recharging at home trumps hydrogen's greater range and shorter refueling time, and eventually battery technology will narrow those gaps.
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:39PM (#47001587) Homepage Journal

    Toyota made a decision that works within their existing car infrastructure. Think about it. The car will still have a fuel tank, and will still run an internal combustion engine.

    There will be no "range anxiety" and you won't have to worry about replacing the entire battery pack after 3000 charge cycles.

    They are going to have to start forcing gas stations to carry hydrogen as well, the way some places carry diesel and kerosene, but that's not *their* problem, is it?

    The advantage to hydrogen is that they can still continue to make cars "as is" -- hell, they can even make hybrids too, a Hydrogen Electric Prius is sure to be in the future, without changing much about their existing factories.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:41PM (#47001607)

    Hyrdogen Fuel cells do not eliminate the majority of gas stations and the distribution network that support them.

    EV's eliminate > 90% of gas stations and all of the supporting infrastructure.

    The Fuel Cell lobby group is strong and well backed.

  • by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:48PM (#47001707) Homepage Journal
    The book "Reinventing Fire" looks at both technologies. It gives electric the headstart but sees fuel cells as catching up in about 15 years or so. []
  • 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.

  • ...What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:07PM (#47001903)

    Okay, first off hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric. They just don't use a conventional battery.

    Second, hydrogen fuel cell cars are not remotely competitive. Batteries are better and they're terrible.

    Electric is just marginally competitive with gas and even then only in certain circumstances.

    Someone is boundless going to tell me something great about hydrogen... but the problem is that its logistically difficult to move around, it escapes from any vessel you put it in especially under pressure. And ultimately you have to get the gas by pouring electrical grid power into some sort of electrolysis machine. And where is the grid power coming from? About half of it is still coal. So... by all means... get your green car and accomplish nothing.

    We need fewer of these flash in the pan solutions and more ACTUAL solutions.

    We need municipal power storage. Something more reasonable then deep cycle batteries. There are some places that pump water from a reservoir to a higher one to store power and then run that water through a hydroelectric dam to recover it. So far the most scalable power storage system we know. But we don't have enough of those. We need to look at flow batteries.

    Once we're storing renewable energy electric cars will ACTUALLY have an impact on carbon emissions. Until then... irrelevant.

  • Combustion engines (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rising Ape ( 1620461 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:08PM (#47001913)

    There's still a lot of improvements that can be made to the good old internal combustion engine. Both batteries and fuel cells are much more expensive - they may come down (slowly), but the efficiency of combustion engines will keep going up, thus maintaining the gap.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:25PM (#47002101) Homepage Journal

    Diesel baby, all the way.

  • by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:46PM (#47003159) Journal
    Hydrogen has a huge infrastructure problem. Ie., what do you do when you need some electricty to charge something? Reach over and plug it in. Vs. what do you do when you need some hydrogen. Uh, yeah, right.

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