Competing Technologies within Hydrogen Car Community

Not only is the hydrogen car industry being pressured by outside competition such as electric cars and those that run on biofuels, but there is competition within the hydrogen car industry itself. Many people are anxious to get going on building a supporting infrastructure to support hydrogen cars.

Yet others balk at the idea, when the hydrogen production and distribution for cars has not been standardized yet. The positive aspect of standardization is that it speeds up the plan of getting from point A to point B more quickly. The negative aspect of standardization is picking technological winners at the expense of retarding growth of competition.

Below is a list of competition within the hydrogen car industry itself at present, which will show why many companies are slow to commit to building out an H2 refueling infrastructure.

• Hydrogen fuel cells versus H2 Internal Combustion Engines (H2ICE)
• Compressed hydrogen gas versus a hydrogen rich chemical compound carrier
• Use of hydrogen pipelines, trucks, tankers for transport versus hydrogen on demand at or near the pump
• Hydrogen on demand inside or outside the vehicle
• Centralized versus decentralized creation of hydrogen and distribution of H2
• Methods for creating mass quantities of hydrogen such as steam reforming natural gas, high temperature cracking of water, electrolysis of water, use of algae or microbes to create H2
• Who will build, distribute and install hydrogen pumps? Government, Big Oil, big chemical companies or specialty gas companies
• Hydrogen fueling stations versus home hydrogen fueling pumps

Standardization versus invention of new technologies is certainly a consideration for upstart companies wanting to join the race for a nationwide rollout of hydrogen cars. Perhaps the transition to hydrogen cars will involve a short evolutionary process of best technologies similar to the transition from Betamax to VHS to DVD’s or records to 8-track tapes to cassette taps to CD’s?

The rapid advancement of technology will by itself create winners and losers in the marketplace. Many companies will adapt to changing market conditions and some won’t. But, the important part is to keep pushing on all hydrogen development fronts and eventually let the market itself decide the shortest path to the commercial rollout of hydrogen cars.

10 Responses to “Competing Technologies within Hydrogen Car Community”

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I was surprised to see this post today. I don’t know anyone who’s suggesting that we should wait to expand the infrastructure except maybe the people who just don’t want to spend money on anything, hydrogen or not!

    Specifically, I have to respectfully disagree that the following elements are slowing down the development of the hydrogen infrastructure:
    + FCVs vs. ICES (both can use pure H2)
    + compressed vs. hydride storage (both use gaseous H2)
    + pipelines vs. trucks vs. onsite (these choices are benefits)
    + methods for producing H2 (again, having the choice is a benefit since each location can choose depending on what makes the most sense to them)
    + corner stations vs. home stations (again, it’s a benefit to be able to choose)

    The only one on there that I agree is up for debate is who will pay for stations, but then I don’t know anyone who’s anxious to spend money on anything these days. Yet, we need to be aggressive and “built it so they will come.”

    Building out the infrastructure is a challenge that we have the tools to solve. It just requires more private and public will to get the ball rolling faster and get more stations built as soon as we can to be ready for the next wave of vehicles. Thanks for helping to pave the way in that direction with your posts!

    Patrick

  2. Hello Patrick,

    I agree that we need to aggressively pursue building out a hydrogen infrastructure. My only argument is that the path is a bit fuzzy right now, which is perhaps why some players are taking a “wait and see” approach.

    If there were standardization such as we’ll concentrate on fuel cell vehicles that have a 300 mile range that use only gaseous hydrogen at 10,000 psi that will be produced onsite and on-demand then this would be a clearer pathway than saying we’ll focus on FCV’s and H2ICE’s with varying range and various PSI at the pump and the hydrogen could be produced in a centralized or decentralized manner, and perhaps use liquid hydrogen or perhaps use a hydrogen slurry inside or outside the vehicles and there will be one of twenty different ways to produce the hydrogen, etc. then the pathway is a bit fuzzier.

    As I was trying to point out in the blog post, this negative is also a positive as it engages business, universities and entrepreneurs in coming up with a better hydrogen mousetrap. I don’t disagree with your points. My intent was to try to point out the positives and negatives of standardization versus invention.

  3. Entrepreneurial Key: Hybrid Renewable Hydrogen/Ammonia Corridor. See the posts at the Holland Sentinel.

    http://www.hollandsentinel.com/opinions/x1945258430/Our-view-It-s-entrepreneurs-who-hold-key-to-economy

  4. The vehicle technology with the most potential to resolve transportation problems is ‘plug-in hybrid’, not hydrogen fuel cell, not battery electric, not standard drivetrain burning bio-fuels.

    To start, a plug-in hybrid vehicle engine can utilize combustable bio-fuels including hydrogen. Beyond that, they offer many advantages in vehicle safety (very important) and in economic incentives to drive less, the crux of our problem. We drive too much, for too many purposes, at too high cost and impact.

    Battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles aim to offer a vehicle that allows us a daily driving range no less than current norm. This is a mistake and major drawback on these technologies. The plug-in hybrid aims to provide a 10-40 mile range on zero-emission batteries, a clear incentive to drive less, thereby enabling more trips to be made without having to drive. Walking and bicycling become more viable travel options, and mass transit more practical to arrange.

    The battery pack of a plug-in hybrid is 1/2 the size of a full battery-electric car; a significant cost savings, and a better match with rooftop photovoltiac solar panels that allow households to survive an emergency grid failure indefinitely. The so-called Smart Grid is only achieved by giving households the means to store and conserve energy and feed it back to the grid.

    I could go on. The advantages of Plug-in hybrids far surpass any benefit other technologies offer. Get off the hydrogen fad while the gettings good.

  5. Art L,

    I’ve said many times in this blog that I believe that hydrogen fuel cell plug in hybrid electric vehicles are the way to go since they provide the best techologies into one vehicle.

    http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/blog2/index.php/hydrogen-cars/nickel-hydrogen-batteries-for-hydrogen-cars/

    There are several hydrogen cars that are also plug in hybrids.

  6. Kevin, I appreciate your reply, but it doesn’t address my main point, namely, the vehicle technology with the most potential is the one that incentivizes driving less, ie, we drive too much, too far, for too many reasons, at too high a cost and impact. We MUST reduce motorized travel and transport by at least half, soon, and plan accordingly.

    I read yours and the University of Florida articles about ‘hybrid’ technology. (BTW, as I understand it, the state of the art hybrid battery pack today is nickel-metal hydride – NiMh – road tested to last 100,000-125,000 miles of deep cycle recharging). Still, battery technology is a secondary if not tertiary consideration. All the talk about Lithium-ion and ‘other’ battery advancements, as I said, is only designed to maintain today’s average driving distances which makes them absolutely futile.

    I favor plug-in hybrids (converted Pruis-type, not some new definition of hybrid) for a long list of critically important advantages and benefits. Low on that list is their capability to utilize combustable hydrogen.

    If you have no opinion regarding various means to incentivize reduction of motorized travel and encourage land-use and development patterns that enable non-motorized travel, you’re behind the curve, more a part of the problem that part of the solution.

  7. Art L,

    When automotive fuel prices spike, people travel less, so this is the biggest incentive for fewer people traveling. Good luck on trying to reduce motorized travel outside of any financial incentives. IMHO people want and need to travel, on average, especially in the U. S.

    Sure, it’s good to encourage people to walk more or take bike rides, but this isn’t always efficient. Tell a single mom with 3 kids from 2 to 13 that she has to walk or take a bike to get her kids all the places they need to be and all the stores she needs to travel to and she will give you a mighty strange look. Try to take the cars away from people in California who have to have transportation because resources are spread so far apart and you’ll have a revolt on your hands.

    In the ideal world and in some places in the real world, traveling less will work. But, as population increases and people move around the country, people both need and want to travel using motorized vehicles. Now days, however, the average citizen and major automakers are aware that green cars are needed to cut greenhouse gases, help with global warming and reduce our dependence upon foreign fossil fuels.

    Encouraging people not to travel will do a small amount of good. But, giving people green cars will do the most amount of good in regard to living in a greener world. This is how I see it.

  8. There is a regional aspect to hydrogen production also.The type of resources used to produce H2 in the northeast may be mainly coal,midwest may be nuclear,southeast wind or each could have combinations of whatever is cheapest and most readily availible.I wonder if there will be a standardization of price per litre.H2 is not like oil where if it is cheaper on the westcoast or eastcoast that comodities brokers can not transport from one region to another depending on where the lowest prices are.It will be very interesting to see how that all plays out.$2.00 here $6.00 there could really have an effect on things.

  9. John, you’ve hit the nail on the head as to whether or not there will be a regional aspect to the production of hydrogen. If hydrogen can be producted cheaply by electrolyzing water renewably or even overnight when grid rates are low, then this would smooth out regional variation. If many different must be used to produce hydrogen locally then this would introduce the regional fluxuations you talk about. Right now the answer is anyone’s guess as to which way the technology will lead us.

  10. Electrolysis is a very easy process. I plan to use this as my positive and mass-produce a “Hydrogen Home” kit. At worst it won’t sell and I can have my own Hydrogen pump’s. To me, it’s the only way to go. You don’t sacrifice power, technology is fairly the same, and you can make it pretty much any-where you go. Who knows, maybe I’ll be the new guy with “Big Oil” XD

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