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Hydrogen Cars Versus Electric Vehicles

Jeff has sent in his thoughts concerning hydrogen cars versus electric vehicles and makes some good points.

Jeff: I’m an advocate of a clean energy near future as it sound you are. I’m interested in your thoughts on hydrogen-powered vehicles vs. simpler battery-electrics. It seems to me that battery electrics with latest generation batteries plus a quick-charge infrastructure would be more practical than overcoming the hydrogen hurdles.

It seems that a good use of hydrogen would be as the “batteries” to store excess generation of solar and wind plants to help match generation and demand. In other words, wind and solar would feed the grid but also create hydrogen through electrolysis when production outstripped demand. Then when demand outstripped production, fuel cells would be used to feed the grid. This would also be a way to in-effect transport electricity. Your thoughts?

HydroKevin: The standard that the Department of Energy (DOE) is looking for in hydrogen cars is that they have a range of 300 miles and can refuel in 5 minutes. This assures that in these two important areas that hydrogen cars can compete with gasoline-powered vehicles.

I would think the standard for electric cars must be the same, that they have a range of 300 miles and recharge in 5 minutes. The current vehicles from Tesla, Phoenix Motors, Zap and others don’t meet both of these criteria. Of course, in the future, they could and at this point will become very competitive if this happens.

In addition, if this happens, then powering the grid from renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave and tidal energy and storing the excess energy has hydrogen will also be paramount to insure that electric cars aren’t being powered by dirty coal-fired power plants, defeating some of the reasons for going to clean burning vehicles. This is a scenario that many electric vehicle advocates have been envisioning and a reasonable direction the country could go if the technology falls into place.

But, I think another reasonable direction the country could go is to combine the best of both technologies and develop plug-in electric hybrid hydrogen cars. GM and Ford have both built prototypes of this kind of vehicle. Let’s also not forget that the future hydrogen refueling infrastructure may looking nothing like the current gasoline refueling infrastructure.

There may not be centralized production, storage and distribution of hydrogen like there is gasoline. In the future, hydrogen may be produced in a decentralized manner, on demand as needed right at the local refueling stations or at other facilities close by.

The future is wide open for these kinds of emerging technologies and that is why this field is so interesting right now to so many.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. FYI – The main reason hyrogen cars are being pushed by big car companies is the influence from gas comapnies. Poeple can recharge electric cars at home hence no more need for gas companies. Hydrogen cars need fuel stations that can hold hydrogen in liquid form. Gas companies will then convert gas stations to another money making machine for themselves.

  2. Recharging electric cars at home is poor and inefficient solution. Where do you recharge your vehicle if you are away from home/trip? What about the cost of energy? What about the environment?Energy comes from ..power plants, which as of right now most of them here in the USA are using coal. What about the batteries? Car batteries contain lithium. Lithium, like all alkali metals is highly reactive. Mines that extract lithium are found all over the world and some of the largest of in Canada. However, the environmetal impact is devastating. Some of the nearby regions have no life or any kind. Do some research on the web and you’ll be shock. I don’t know if hydrogen is the permanent solution, but I tell you electric cars are NOT.

  3. admin

    Electric cars are also not a good solution for areas prone to power outages. Who wants to be stuck at home, in the dark with a car that won’t move?

  4. Well… as far as influence from gas companies goes, I hear your point, and that is most likely why the electric car was “killed”. I am not sure though about the car companies being driven by gas companies although there is some truth in that as well is unfortunately not so cut and dry.

    With the latest trends in ever-rising gasoline prices (now at almost $5 per Gal), there is also a serious risk for car sales to drastically drop unless something “new” happens. Drivers will tend to hold on longer to the car they currently own. In the first place the cost of fuel rapidly drains the finances one could plan to put towards purchasing a new vehicle. Furthermore in times where the cost of fossil fuels seem to rise at rates that before one would have never imagine to be possible in the US, if a driver is thinking about getting a new vehicle it will surely take into consideration (more than ever in the past) the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

    So if the cost per mile will not become more affordable, it would definitely be less appealing for people to drive around since the impact of fuel for transportation will become much more noticeable causing each driver to become a much more cost-conscious driver and resorting to new transportation alternatives (car pooling, public transportation, etc)

    Simply put a Hummer with an average 14 Mi/Gal efficiency will no longer be an attractive when we’ll start pay $10/Gal 🙂 (BTW I personally can’t stand those abominations)

    Is True that most of the electric plants in US are running on coal, but there is a large amount of electricity being produced also by fossil fuels (thermoelectric) and nuclear plants… so an electric car could be powered by plugging it into that garage wall plug. But it sounds that no matter which power plant that electricity comes from, the electric car would be still (indirectly) polluting.

    So far it’s indisputable that the “safest” and most affordable production of electricity comes from nuclear plants, although personally, with the single exception of hydroelectric may be, I don’t see any of the conventional methods (thermoelectric, coal, nuclear) of production of electrical power as clean or safe or low impact.

  5. Not to mention the relative efficiencies involved will always favour an electric car. You still need to get electricity and water to make the hydrogen (yes there are other sources, but this is the most common way to produce it); to have electricity you need power plants. The efficiency to electrolysing water to produce hydrogen, then burning hydrogen (or using hydrogen in a fuel cell) for useful mechanical work is much less than the efficiency of charging a battery and then drawing from it to run an electric vehicle. So our choices are drastically increasing the electrical grid generation… or drastically increasing the electrical grid generation; the difference between the two is that you’ll need more grid generation for hydrogen production than electric charging, so it goes without saying that electric will be the car of the future in my mind. This also makes the argument about coal redundant; it is going to have embedded emissions from power generation regardless of whether it is hydrogen or electric.

    The most interesting thing about hydrogen is that you can create the stuff on site (if the hydrogen filling station has connection to the water supply and the electricity supply), so the petrol companies will become the Walmarts of energy so to speak. If we go electric… well perhaps we won’t need them since you can charge wherever. The main drawback is the amount of current you can draw from the grid. Say you have a 3kW charging system in your garage, you probably couldn’t run your toaster or anything else while that thing is on otherwise you’ll melt your incoming power lines :D. The whole transition will require a serious upgrade of the transmission grids all the way into suburbia.

    And the funniest thing about this. We are worried about peak oil and peak gas, but since we are considering changing over to electric and/or hydrogen there are some intellectuals pointing out the real threat now will be peak lithium and peak platinum. Platinum alone is hellishly expensive so any hydrogen car is going to cost an arm and a leg.

  6. The most common way to produce hydrogen is the reforming of natural gas,although it is also done with electrolisys.There are peak and off peak hours of electrical usage.For instance nuclear , wind power or solar must meet these peaks and is used as it is made it cannot be stored unlike hydro where we just shut off turbine and the water builds up behind the dam.Hydrogen can be produced during these off peak hours that energy would ordinarily go to waste and then fed back into the grid during peak hours,thus making our electrical grid more efficient..Kind of like a big battery.There are also multitude of resources that we can convert to hydrogen even our garbage.Platinum is now old school.

  7. Also most fuel cell cars will have a plug in option for commuting…. hydrogen will be used for longer trips where waiting several hours for recharging would be impractical.One might not ever have to refuel a fuel cell car unless leaving town same as an electric vehicle except better.There are just to many benefits to argue with.If people would just study the technology there would be no naysayers

  8. Accidentally pressed submit before finished message.
    Success Charging is one/if not the only electric vehicle charging station deployment company providing the charge stations at no cost to the commercial customer. Not waiting for tax incentives,no geographic requirements,and also actually paying a percentage of the electrical bill back to the site owner just for letting success charging put a charge station on their site… cost to install whatsoever. We pay for upgrading the electric if necessary,the electrical wiring, all electric Billing associated with charging. They are paying to put in a separate meter and all. This is one time when you could say it sounds too good to be true but it’s not. The largest obstacle we are experiencing is just that. And the fact that the contract is not your standard 40 pages. Success Charging,owned and operated out of Israel, believes in the future of Electric Vehicle technology and wants to be the standard others are measured. It’s like having the ability to have unvested in building and owning the Internet. Lastly,SC is operating over 20countries and se

    Has a long term goal to be able to provide the car owner one network of charging stations from one end of the USA to other and when traveling say to Europe you are still using the same provider/network,where you can use the cell phone application to see where,reserve spot,and view convenience e.g. hotels,restaurants, etc. in one place. I’m trying to figure out why I would not install our ev stations? Glad to be a Business Development Manager for a company like this.I encourage you to comment on this message,publish it on your site,and give out my email. I encourage anyone’s comments. Thank you for reading this message. Please add my email to your information distribution list. I need all I can get as this industry changes on a weekly basis.

  9. I think that electric car are wack

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