Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

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Thread: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

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    Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM
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    August 1, 2011
    by Blake Z. Rong


    GM’s CEO Dan Akerson believes that the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle won’t be feasible until at least 2020. Let’s hope GM calls the right prediction this time.

    “We’re looking at hydrogen fuel cells, which have no carbon emissions, zero,” said Akerson. “The car is still too expensive and probably won’t be practical until the 2020-plus period, I don’t know. And then there’s the issue of infrastructure.”

    This hasn’t been the first time GM’s pulled a Nostradamus on fuel cell vehicles: back in 2002, it claimed that hundreds of thousands of them would be on the road by 2010. By 2006, GM lowered that vague number to 1,000. Last year came and went, and it missed that goal.

    GM cited high cost and a lack of hydrogen fueling stations for fudging the thousand-car goal. But it hasn’t stopped speculating on the next generation of fuel cell vehicles that it could build: the car will use half the expensive precious metals, be half the size, and 220 pounds lighter than current fuel cell vehicles, it said in 2009. That same year it said that by 2015 the fuel cell vehicle will be “commercialized,” and by 2022 it will be cost-competitive.

    “They’re very expensive now,” said Akerson, “but we’ve, just in the last two years, reduced the price of that technology by $100,000.”

    Full article at link.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Given my experiences with the Fuel Cell Equinox, it's not an issue of whether the vehicle can work in everyday circumstances, it's simply a cost and infrastructure thing. And by infrastructure, I don't just mean there aren't enough pumps. It's that the pumps are not reliable and sometimes freaking scary.

    So this delay isn't because FCEVs don't work, it's that they don't work at a price that people can afford AND the distribution system is just not materializing.

    Is Honda still leasing the FCX Clarity for $600/month in California? If so, that's a steal.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    ...where are the Hindenbergs when you need them?
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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Too bad. I'm sure in 2020 we will read, "GM CEO says hydrogen still no good until at least 2030"
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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Lutz covered this in his book. He is not a fuel cell fan...for a number of very practical reasons.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by 70AARCUDA View Post
    ...where are the Hindenbergs when you need them?
    Let us not forget that the Hindeberg burned up because its aluminum powder skin coating ignited.

    To the topic at hand--I will not criticize Dan Akerson's assessment. Make no mistake--I am anxious to see fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road. I believe that they have a longer faster upside than either pure electrics or hybrids.

    I do, however, have two major concerns:
    • Honda is currently leasing its FCX Clarity FCEV in Southern California to selected customers. I have been repeatedly frustrated by offshore manufacturer's getting credit for technology that American manufacturers pioneered with superior implementations. I would hate for GM to delay its commercial release of FCEVs until the technology was firmly entrenched in the public mind as a Japanese innovation.
    • It appears that the hydrogen required for FCEVs is envisioned as being produced from hydrocarbons. If this is the case, then the oil companies will continue to have a major role to play in satisfying our transportation needs. From where I sit, to produce hydrogen we need water and a source of electricity. Virtually every fueling station on Earth already has water and electricity. All they need is an electrolysis station and storage facilities. I would love for someone to explain to me why reforming hydrocarbons is a better source of hydrogen than electrolysis of water.

    Obviously, there are issues related to customer delivery. However, I can also remember when diesel fuel was available only at truck stops. Now, almost every fuel station carries diesel. Customer demand drove the infrastructure. In a similar way, I believe that fuel stations with reliable equipment will be available as the customer demand for hydrogen grows.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by MisterMe View Post
    Let us not forget that the Hindeberg burned up because its aluminum powder skin coating ignited.

    To the topic at hand--I will not criticize Dan Akerson's assessment. Make no mistake--I am anxious to see fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road. I believe that they have a longer faster upside than either pure electrics or hybrids.

    I do, however, have two major concerns:
    • Honda is currently leasing its FCX Clarity FCEV in Southern California to selected customers. I have been repeatedly frustrated by offshore manufacturer's getting credit for technology that American manufacturers pioneered with superior implementations. I would hate for GM to delay its commercial release of FCEVs until the technology was firmly entrenched in the public mind as a Japanese innovation.
    • It appears that the hydrogen required for FCEVs is envisioned as being produced from hydrocarbons. If this is the case, then the oil companies will continue to have a major role to play in satisfying our transportation needs. From where I sit, to produce hydrogen we need water and a source of electricity. Virtually every fueling station on Earth already has water and electricity. All they need is an electrolysis station and storage facilities. I would love for someone to explain to me why reforming hydrocarbons is a better source of hydrogen than electrolysis of water.

    Obviously, there are issues related to customer delivery. However, I can also remember when diesel fuel was available only at truck stops. Now, almost every fuel station carries diesel. Customer demand drove the infrastructure. In a similar way, I believe that fuel stations with reliable equipment will be available as the customer demand for hydrogen grows.
    Having done numerous electrolysis experiments in school (I was a Physical Science teacher), I wonder at what amount of electricity (and water) is needed to produce an acceptable amount of Hydrogen fuel? Add to that the safety factor of handling said fuel, although I am reasonably sure that they have addressed that problem; I hope.
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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by Buick61 View Post
    Given my experiences with the Fuel Cell Equinox, it's not an issue of whether the vehicle can work in everyday circumstances, it's simply a cost and infrastructure thing. And by infrastructure, I don't just mean there aren't enough pumps. It's that the pumps are not reliable and sometimes freaking scary.

    So this delay isn't because FCEVs don't work, it's that they don't work at a price that people can afford AND the distribution system is just not materializing.

    Is Honda still leasing the FCX Clarity for $600/month in California? If so, that's a steal.
    As far as the pumps being unreliable... you have keep in mind, they are the very first ever built for automotive application. They'll improve. Infrustructure will be the biggest problem for FCEV's in the continental US. But they could sell a whole lotta fuel cell cars in Hawaii with just a few pumps. High population density, captive audience.

    Cost of the vehicle is the main problem. But note that Akerson didn't say that there would not be a sellable vehicle until at least 2020. He said they wouldn't be practical... as in they will be more expensive when they are for sale ~2015. That's the year Honda, Toyota and GM is gunning to have sellable vehicles for those early adopters.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by Buick61 View Post
    Given my experiences with the Fuel Cell Equinox, it's not an issue of whether the vehicle can work in everyday circumstances, it's simply a cost and infrastructure thing. And by infrastructure, I don't just mean there aren't enough pumps. It's that the pumps are not reliable and sometimes freaking scary.

    So this delay isn't because FCEVs don't work, it's that they don't work at a price that people can afford AND the distribution system is just not materializing.

    Is Honda still leasing the FCX Clarity for $600/month in California? If so, that's a steal.
    It will ultimately take a fairly substantial Government effort to bring Hydrogen on line in any substantial way. The ideal would be some type of Goverment/Corporate partnership with tax incentives for Hydrogen Auto manufacturers and the refueling infrastucture as well as consumers to adopt the new technology.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Hydrogen faces other serious headwinds besides the already formidable ones of cost and infrastructure. One is that as battery tech improves, it's increasingly difficult to justify storing the energy as hydrogen. For example, it's not hard to imagine the Gen-II Volt going 60+ miles on a 2-3 hour charge, fuel economy in the 45-50MPG range on gasoline alone, and still of course have unlimited range with no change in infrastructure at all. And it's not just the Volt, but a whole raft of EVs and EREVs slated to appear by the end of the decade that may deflate any case for a big move to hydrogen.

    Further, even if a fuel cell car can be brought down to cost "Volt money", just wait until the "long tailpipe" crowd starts picking apart the costs to produce and distribute hydrogen, and going down the laundry list of materials used to produce the fuel cell. These same people never cared about a hair on a miner's head, and certainly never turn a critical eye toward the hazards and pollution of the oil and refining industries, but suddenly they're gravely concerned about lithium mining now that the EV is starting to gain a little traction. Isn't that an amazing, and quite specific reversal of conscience?

    Which brings us to the biggest problem hydrogen faces, just like EVs are seeing already, and that's aggressive opposition from the big money of oil, and "conservatives" that take a dim view of anything that resembles a green initiative or for that matter ANY effort to protect species or environments where there's money to be made by not doing so. Which truly confounds me as to why anyone actively seeks to steer us all toward extinction in the interests of greed, but there it is.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    #1 2025 54-5 MPG CAFE will make "normal" cars Extinct so ANY comparos to them is NOT valid and I could see small volume H2 Generators from Nat gas being installed @ costumers facilities AND H2 + VOLTEC are COMPLEMENTARY TECH as the GENERATOR could be a fuel stack / H2 ICE engine / TURBINE ETC and "long tailpipe" types will get less traction if OIL runs short or GET expensive because of CHINA buying it all up to supply there ECONOMY

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by Buick61 View Post
    Given my experiences with the Fuel Cell Equinox, it's not an issue of whether the vehicle can work in everyday circumstances, it's simply a cost and infrastructure thing. And by infrastructure, I don't just mean there aren't enough pumps. It's that the pumps are not reliable and sometimes freaking scary.

    So this delay isn't because FCEVs don't work, it's that they don't work at a price that people can afford AND the distribution system is just not materializing.

    Is Honda still leasing the FCX Clarity for $600/month in California? If so, that's a steal.
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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Fuel cells make sense in spacecraft where weight and space constraints exist, but aren't a viable product for vehicles. There's going to have to be huge breakthroughs in many different areas for hydrogen to become very much more than a publicity stunt to appear green.

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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Tongue-in-cheek simile': think of the Hindenberg as infrastructure solution, a floating "fillup-station" for H2-fuel cell cars that comes ('flys') to you!

    And, of course, there'd have to be the LARGE obligatory safety sign painted on its side: "NO SMOKING!" (ha,ha)
    Last edited by 70AARCUDA; 08-02-2011 at 05:21 PM.
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    Re: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Still Not Practical Says GM

    Quote Originally Posted by Railfan View Post
    Having done numerous electrolysis experiments in school (I was a Physical Science teacher), I wonder at what amount of electricity (and water) is needed to produce an acceptable amount of Hydrogen fuel? Add to that the safety factor of handling said fuel, although I am reasonably sure that they have addressed that problem; I hope.
    The efficiency of fuel cells is determined by the conversion efficiency of electricity to hydrogen and the conversion efficiency of hydrogen and oxygen into water and mechanical. We can expect the efficiency on both ends to be about 80%, giving a total efficiency of 64%. The Honda FCX Clarity comes in around 60%. As a practical matter, you can expect a conversion efficiency of 60%-70%. This is far superior to the conversion of gasoline to mechanical energy in an ICE.

    As a physical science teacher, you should know that every gallon of gasoline burned yields a gallon of water as one of the combustion products. This water is produced by oxidation of the hydrogen in the hydrocarbon molecules. It produces less energy, but is much more efficient when used in a fuel cell. What gets lost, however, is that hydrogen can also be used in ICEs. With only minor modifications, engines designed for propane or natural gas can burn hydrogen. BMW ran a test fleet of hydrogen-fueled V8-motivated 7-Series sedans around the Washington, DC area. However, the consensus is that fuel cells are the way to go for hydrogen power.

    Overall, the water requirements for each fuel cell should be comparable to the volume of gasoline/diesel consumed by each ICE in the current fleet. I don't see the required electricity as a big issue. Photovoltaic cells, anyone?

    I see FCEVs as much more pleasant to live with than battery-powered electrics. The GM Equinox FCEV and the Honda FCX Clarity are not the glorified golf carts that we see in the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. Generally the range of FCEVs come in around 240 miles to start with improvements to follow. This is far superior to even the expected 60+ mile range of the Gen II Volt batteries.

    Quote Originally Posted by 70AARCUDA View Post
    Tongue-in-cheek simile': think of the Hindenberg as infrastruction solution, a floating "fillup-station" for H2-fuel cell cars that comes ('flys') to you!

    And, of course, there'd have to be the LARGE obligatory safety sign painted on its side: "NO SMOKING!" (ha,ha)
    It is fairly well acknowledged today that the Hindenberg was not destroyed in a hydrogen fire. The fire was caused by the ignition of the aluminum powder used to cover the airship's skin. Do not forget that gasoline--the fuel that powers most vehicles today--is incredibly explosive. You must certainly do not smoke while fueling-up with gasoline.
    Last edited by MisterMe; 08-02-2011 at 04:13 PM.

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