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Hydrogen Cars Will Never Be A Reality … Unless …

By Guest Blogger Dr. R. Paul Williamson

Hydrogen car advocates have been looking forward to the day when hydrogen vehicles of all kinds run up and down our highways emitting water vapor and threatening no one’s’ health, future, or environment. Like the proverbial donkey chasing the carrot on the stick, hydrogen cars continue to always be another five years into the future, then another five years…and so on.

I started to ask myself why, if hydrogen is more safe and environmentally friendly than fossil fuels and the technology for the cars, refueling stations, fuel cells and electric vehicles has been proven then why are we not achieving our H2 car goal? Of course abundant and cheap fossil fuels play a big role in this conundrum, but when I stepped back and looked at the whole energy picture, the problem is that we have no long-term, logical, defined energy plan in the United States. Only an energy fool would say we know where we are and where we are going. If we have no plan, then how can we implement the key elements within the plan?

After five years of research and contemplation I wrote a book “Winning the Energy Wars, A Sustainable Energy Plan for America’s Future”. The premise of the book is that we need a sequential, domestic strategic energy plan that transitions us from our reliance on finite energy resources to an energy abundant future based on sustainable infinite energy resources. When a sustainable energy plan is put in place, all of the background static that grabs national headlines (and little results) will be put to rest and the emergence of sustainable energy resources will be realized.

Is it desirable to move to a sustainable future immediately? Absolutely! Is it realistic? No way?

In “Winning the Energy Wars” I lay out a plan that systematically manages our finite energy resources to ensure that future generations will have these almost miracle substances for the future. Then I identify transitional resources that will help fill the gap between the present and the future. And finally, I ramp up the expansion of infinite energy resources demanded by the hydrogen car industry. This plan, however, cannot be accomplished without some major shifts in the way we are now “managing” our energy future. The Department of Energy must be decommissioned; a new vision and results oriented Governors Sustainable Energy Council (GSEC) will be created and located out of Washington, DC; new, defined outcome and ROI oriented National Laboratories reorganization will be implemented; all piecemeal and duplicate energy funding will be consolidated into the GSEC; and additional funding streams will be created to underwrite private/public energy production goals.

Not only will the USA-Sustainable Energy Plan provide the vision and direction we so sorely need, it will give business — specifically the hydrogen car business — a predictable trajectory on which to launch a hydrogen car future that is sustainable, viable, and profitable. The sooner the hydrogen car sector gets behind the establishment of a domestic Sustainable Energy Plan, the sooner we will see the ICE replaced by the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

About the Author

Dr. R. Paul WilliamsonDr. R. Paul Williamson’s transportation background includes work in automotive dealerships, motorcycle manufacturing, hydrogen refueling station installations, H2 powered-maglev monorail system development, statewide H2 economy planning, national first responders H2 safety training, and H2 and electric vehicle conversations.

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11 comments

  1. R. Paul Williamson

    “Winning the Energy Wars” concentrates on the US because I believe we need to come up with a sustainable energy plan first in the US before we look to solve or concern ourselves with any other country. That said, my anecdotal information about Germany is that they are in the process of moving off coal and nuclear and are in the process of country-wide expansion of wind and solar as well as the roll-out of a hydrogen refueling station infrastructure by 2015.

  2. admin

    First, many thanks for writing this guest blog. Second, Do you see Germany as having a sequential, domestic strategic energy plan with regard to hydrogen cars and infrastructure?

  3. admin

    Do you see hydrogen fuel cell cars and battery electric cars as competitors or complimentary technology going forward?

  4. R. Paul Williamson

    If we all agree that moving from internal combustion engines (70-80% inefficient) to a sustainable future, I believe that all options need to be put into a plan that moves us to sustainable future — including hydrogen and electic. As you know, hydrogen vehicles are simply electric vehicles run by electricity produced by a fuel cell. When I converted my pickup to run on electricity (batteries), I saw it as a first step with the next step being to remove the batteries and replace them with a cylinder and a fuel cell. If I could secure a FC, I would do that tomorrow. I see no way in creation that we can even dream of making a dent in the 250 million vehicle population with only battery power. I have not seen anything that would prove to me that we have the requisite domestic resources, technology, national security, infrastructure, workforce or anything else that would make battery vehicles sustainably possible. My contention in my book is that we need to put a national step by step plan together that sequentially moves us from the ICE, to perhaps compressed natural gas (establishes fueling infrastructure), to much improved battery support technology to satellite solar power development to efficient hydrogen generation and distribution (public & home) to hydrogen transportation. The order and elements might change, but if we have a salient national energy plan and we know where we are going we might be surprised that we reach our destination.

  5. The Plan has already been written by Jeremy Rifkin and it consists of 5 pillars…it just needs people to wake up and see what’s obvious. It needs people to change their 20th century thinking and see through the fossil fuel industries vested interests and propaganda. Out with the old and embrace the 21st century new is what I say.

    This guy has the plan and Hydrogen IS PILLAR 3.

    Part 1
    part 2
    part 3

  6. True as can be I am since 1969 hoping for this to happen continue success to all who know this is the way to go.

  7. Michael Robinson

    I watched the videos, I admittedly would rather hear a technical discussion of what technologies are available and what is needed to commercialize them quickly.

    Solar Collectors seem to be improving and costing less, but they are still dependent on silicon. We need to pursue other avenues beyond PV because
    PV is still too expensive and there are materials issues. Silver is very expensive where apparently most solar panels use it as a conductor. I made a solar panel, but that was problematic and expensive where that panel failed far too quickly. I want to buy a commercial panel to replace it, but for me the $500+ is too much.

    I would like to see the federal government incentive the decomminssioning or cleaning up of fossil fuel based power plants. Clean coal is where you extract the hydrogen and run it through a fuel cell sequestering the carbon. This would be a great interim strategy as we transition from fossil fuels to renewably produced hydrogen. I would also like to see the federal government give up on fuel efficiency altogether as pushing for higher fuel efficiency is delaying the transition to hydrogen fuel cell based transport.
    Energy spent trying to scratch marginal efficiency improvements through hybridization is energy wasted. Worse, federal money is going to hybrid development instead of hydrogen fuel cell development. This is unfortunte and the result is that the chicken and egg problem keeps hydrogen fuel cell transport out of reach. Private companies can’t take the necessary risks that the federal government could make more palatable.

    Obama needs to go. He has repeatedly attempted to defund hydrogen research and commercialization efforts. We know where he stands on energy, he doesn’t have a realistic approach. Battery technology has improved, but not enough to replace the internal combustion car/truck/SUV with a battery electric one.

    I am concerned, while renewable energy is desirable, we are still not able
    to even scratch the surface collecting it. Solar collectors still cost too much. They require rare and expensive materials that have to be mined. Even if the grid becomes smart and we distribute power across it more efficiently to overcome the intermittent nature of renewable energy, getting to 100% renewable energy is probably not feasible. Nuclear has a role to play, for
    100 years at least using current technology, we can replace coal with nuclear.
    You still have to mine uranium, but at least if you manage the waste properly you aren’t pouring heavy metals and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    If fusion can turn nuclear waste into something more manageable, nuclear is starting to look more palatable.

    Cars need to use hydogen and fuel cells, but ships also need to change. Ships pollute more than cars/trucks/and SUVs as they use bunker oil.

    Nuclear powered ships could fill up on hydrogen and deliver it to the mainland.
    Modify oil derricks to collect hydrogen?

    Production is a major problem for hydrogen long before storage becomes an issue. Hydrogen is the most basic and probably the most abundant element in the universe, but it is very difficult to get a hold of it.

  8. I don’t really believe that Obama (or any other politician) is at the root of the problem. Nor do I believe they have the solution.

    Dan Akerson says that fuel cells will not be practical/competitive until 2020+. That is only 8 years away, which is a blink of an eye.

    Currently, the amount of platinum loading in a fuel cell means there is not enough platinum and platinum production available to replace all of the world’s vehicles. That will take a few years.

    And the cost and efficiency of 10,000 psi hydrogen storage is still far from optimal.

    But the real game changer IMHO will be Steam electrolysis and/or the SI process using nuclear heat. And that won’t be economical until 2030.

    So I suspect that fuel cells and hydrogen storage will be ready before vast supplies of carbon free hydrogen are ready.

  9. Michael C. Robinson

    Why does Obama get a pass despite his record on energy and religious freedom of conscience threatened by his health care law?
    I’ll leave the latter alone and focus on the former here.

    By taxing the so called rich at a higher rate, those who take in more than $250k are evidently rich, Obama is going to get the economy going???
    Never mind that he isn’t taking a look at expenses these wealthy people
    take on to say commercialize hydrogen transport, something the federal government has not gotten behind seriously enough yet. Obama wants to redistribute wealth, something that has never characterized America. The danger is, you weaken the private sector by deincentivising getting wealthy.
    Another danger, people start looking to the federal government to solve all of their problems because of the high taxes. People are making less money to avoid paying high taxes and at the same time Obama micro manages by say promoting batteries over hydrogen fuel cells for example.

    How can private companies establish hydrogen based transport as a viable alternative to: bio fuels, gasoline, and diesel? Can they do this without loans and possibly more from the federal government? Can these companies do this without federal pressure to phase out gasoline and diesel? There is enough technology now that if the federal government said off of fossil fuels in 10 years and backed those words up with appropriate investment, this could happen.

    Obama saved GM and generally the auto industry as a whole, but he pushed the version of the Volt that doesn’t use a hydrogen based range extender. GM used to mean general motors but I think a more appropriate name these days is government motors. Talk about a missed opportunity for the federal government.

    There is still talk in the American southwest of building coal but not clean coal plants. I think Obama has been for expanded use of coal.

    The administration seems to be anti nuclear even though nuclear is cleaner than coal and the safety record for light water reactors world wide is reasonable. For 100 years, nuclear using current technology is viable.
    That is assuming that nuclear technology doesn’t progress much. That is
    more than enough time to make a breakthrough in renewable green energy production where it looks like breakthroughs are being made right now.

    Dave, if what the federal government does doesn’t matter when it comes to hydrogen and fuel cells, why do private companies say it does? Are we militarily engaged in foreign countries because we need oil or are we really fighting terrorism? One way to fight terrorism is to achieve energy independence and export that to other nations.

    Energy indepence is a matter of national security and going forward, our country cannot come out of the recession without energy independence.
    I’ve heard that we are cycling based on the price of Oil so that every five
    years or so we are in the same dismal position. Maybe this person is
    wrong, or maybe he’s on to something. If he is correct, energy independence by increasing green hydrogen production and commercializing the hydrogen fuel cell will break this cycle. If he’s wrong, we need to get off of fossil fuel based transport anyways for environmental reasons.

  10. R. Paul Williamson

    Some very good discussion. From what I could find during my research for my Winning the Energy Wars book, there has been no administration, group, individual or agency that has put together a viable plan to transition us from our reliance on finite to infinite energy resrouces and a sustainable future. The best chance we have is to move energy planning, management and our future out of the hands of those who have demonstrated an inability to have any viable, far-reaching energy vision or sustainable energy plan and create a new the Governors National Sustainable Energy Council to make the Sustainable Energy Plan for America’s Future a reality.

  11. Back in the 1980’s,you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about Rifkin attacking Biotechnology.He filed numerous lawsuits against it.His main objection was that scientists and biotech companies were rushing to
    use this technology without all the facts.He raised concerns and issues and warned of unforeseen consequences.
    But now,with his Third Industrial Revolution,Rfikin’s doing the exact opposite.He’s getting people all riled up and
    excited and anxious to jump on the Third Industrial Revolution bandwagon and make the switch to renewable
    energy.The problem here is that Rifkin’s not raising concerns and issues with renewable energy like he did with
    Biotechnology.He’s not questioning the cost and safety of hyrdrogen storage and the reliability of solar panels and wind generators and their impact on both society and the enviorment.

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