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2006-03-04 Science & Technology
GM: Hydrogen Cars on Market by 2010-2015
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Posted by lotp 2006-03-04 15:04|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [6463 views since 2007-05-07]  Top

#1 Well, most hydrogen used commercially these days is derived from natural gas.

If you wanted to use natural gas to run a car, turning it into hydrogen is probably a wasteful step.
Posted by Phil 2006-03-04 15:12||   2006-03-04 15:12|| Front Page Top

#2 True, but there are other ways to generate hydrogen that are likely to be used when it is commercially interesting.
Posted by lotp 2006-03-04 15:15||   2006-03-04 15:15|| Front Page Top

#3 Will someone explain to me why using hydrogen in an electric car with fuel cells is an amazingly wonderful idea but using that same hydrogen in an internal combustion engine isn't? I mean, we wouldn't have to wait 10 years for cars that burn hydrogen instead of gas. All the extra research and expense is try to and make the fuel cell thing work.
Posted by Iblis">Iblis  2006-03-04 15:40||   2006-03-04 15:40|| Front Page Top

#4 Don't know about you, but I don't want to be rear-ended in a car that is carrying hydrogen on board.
Posted by lotp 2006-03-04 16:06||   2006-03-04 16:06|| Front Page Top

#5 I agree that hydrogen is a pretty sucky alternative fuel. I think it just shows that GM is still 20 years behind the technology curve, in that hydrogen looked pretty reasonable in the 1980s.

However, there are just some killer alt fuel techs that have come out in the last few years.

A recent one that is simplicity itself just came out of MIT--run waste CO2 through an existing type of algae to make mostly biodiesel, also some ethanol, at about a tenth of the cost of conventional biodiesel made from crops. Every industry that makes waste CO2 could make serious money from what they now throw away. In the process, the algae consume about 60% of the waste CO2.

Then, instead of combusting your biodiesel, you use a fuel cell, which extracts a LOT more energy from it than with internal combustion.

Biodiesel gives you a lot more raw power than hydrogen, is safer to use, uses less space, and can be used in existing gas stations. Even the transition is easier, because there are already a bunch of diesel automobiles out there already.

The gas station doesn't care if you burn it or use it in a fuel cell, so there is no big market gap either waiting for cars that use it, or stations that provide it.

Serious win-win.
Posted by Anonymoose 2006-03-04 16:19||   2006-03-04 16:19|| Front Page Top

#6 Firstly, Hydrogen is essentially a way of storing energy. You cannot mine it, you have to make it in a manner that consumes energy. Regardless of form, it can be seen as a way of charging a battery.

Second, hydrogen is highly explosive so having it in fuel tanks is not a great idea. I believe most schemes for putting it in cars involve pushing it into a solid matrix of some sort to avoid this problem.

Third, when you hear "hydrogen car" think lots more nuke plants because that's how we would have to get the electricity needed to make hydrogen. Not that I'm against nuke plants. Even if Hydrogen takes a long time, we can use them to charge our pluggable hybrids.

Fourth, one issue I do not often see discussed about electric cars is what to do for a heater. Some combustion is helpful to use the waste heat for warming vehicle occupants, that's why I think pluggable hybrids are a good start.

The one legit concern about Hydrogen, besides economics which can change, is that it's really hard to seal hydrogen containers and pipes because the molecules are so tiny. Therefore lots of it will leak into the atmosphere. This is potentially a problem as we do not know what that would do to the atmospheric chemistry. Unlike "Global Warming" which is largely junk science, there is valid concern with Hydrogen as it's not naturally occuring.
Posted by JAB 2006-03-04 16:25||   2006-03-04 16:25|| Front Page Top

#7 Iblis,

The answer to your question is that fuel cells don't have the emissions issues associated with internal combustion engines. Unfortunately, arguments for fuel efficiency tend to get conflated with pollution standards with your typical environmentalist not usually understanding the difference.

Also, pure hydrogen is not explosive just to be technically correct. Once it mixes with oxygen up to the appropriate level, look out! However, one thing that hasn't been brought up is how corrosive hydrogen tends to be (very).


Not sure where you're getting your data, but the per molecule energy extract is far smaller in a fuel cell than in combustion. After all, when a molecule passes through the fuel cell membrane, it is stripping off an electron, whereas combustion is actually breaking apart the chemical binding.
Posted by Dreadnought 2006-03-04 17:07||   2006-03-04 17:07|| Front Page Top

#8 Remember the Hindenberg!

Just sort of came to mind ....
Posted by lotp 2006-03-04 17:24||   2006-03-04 17:24|| Front Page Top

Commercial H2 distributon by 2030.
Posted by Master of Obvious 2006-03-04 17:29||   2006-03-04 17:29|| Front Page Top

#10 The Hydrogen economy is pure fantasy. It will never happen.
Posted by phil_b">phil_b  2006-03-04 17:47||]">[]  2006-03-04 17:47|| Front Page Top

#11 Cars powered by hydrogen in fuel cells -- great stuff: Domestic energy, if you don't have to import LNG for natural gas to make the hydrogen. Low emissions, if you don't count the radioactive wastes associated with the nuke plants. Very efficient, if you don't count the inefficiencies in the hydrogen production. Say, that gives me a great idea -- maybe we could make hydrogen from ethanol!

/sarcasm off
Posted by Darrell 2006-03-04 18:02||   2006-03-04 18:02|| Front Page Top

#12 Dreadnought: Internal combustion is terribly wasteful, and efficiency varies considerably at different engine speeds and loads. Fuel cells with nanotech are pushing way beyond their previous efficiency of 40-60%, and their efficiency is straight line, independent of engine speed and load.

So practically speaking, fuel cells give you a reliable output probably better than internal combustion.
Posted by Anonymoose 2006-03-04 18:07||   2006-03-04 18:07|| Front Page Top

#13 I sometimes wonder if we could import something like 5-10% less oil just by switching all the motor vehicles that use otto cycle engines to diesel instead.
Posted by Phil 2006-03-04 19:50||   2006-03-04 19:50|| Front Page Top

#14 We could do that _today_ instead of ten years from now, at a lot less expense, but alternative energy schemes always seem to be about something that we "know" will be attractive ten years from now rather than the multitude of little steps we could do today.
Posted by Phil 2006-03-04 19:51||   2006-03-04 19:51|| Front Page Top

#15 Electricity. Batteries. Perhaps flywheels. Use what resources we have in abundance to generate it. Add in nuclear power. Already have the plants to generate it. Already have the distribution network. Just need battery advances (capacity, weight, lead enviro issues) to make it so.

Posted by .com 2006-03-04 19:57||   2006-03-04 19:57|| Front Page Top

#16 Moose,

More efficient, yes, given the upper limits of the Carnot cycle, but that's missing the point. The fuel cell process more efficiently translates the energy of that stripped electron, but that amount is much smaller than combustion. And power density is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for using the fuel cell for general auto use.
Posted by Dreadnought 2006-03-04 20:15||   2006-03-04 20:15|| Front Page Top

#17 JAB, any hydrogen emitted would combine with free oxygen to form water- ie H2+2(O2)=2H2O. In general, since in the long term our fuel will be more manufactured than extracted, we should be experimenting with as wide a range as possible of fuels and sources. Economies of scale may come out of a combination of processes.
Posted by Grunter 2006-03-04 20:38||   2006-03-04 20:38|| Front Page Top

#18 First of all, Hydrogen isn't all that dangerous, compared to gasoline.

Next, converting to diesel would save nearly zero barrels of oil. While you get more energy out of a gallon of diesel, you also can get fewer gallons of diesel than gasoline out of crude. That wasn't true 100 years ago, but now that refineries use "cracking" to turn heavy hydrocarbons into light ones, you can get more gasoline than diesel (and more of either than fuel oil).
Posted by Jackal">Jackal  2006-03-04 20:40||]">[]  2006-03-04 20:40|| Front Page Top

#19 Or even 2H2+O2=2H20.
Posted by Grunter 2006-03-04 20:47||   2006-03-04 20:47|| Front Page Top

#20 2H2+O2=2H20 / 3.1416 = Krptonite
Posted by Glaviling Chineger8530 2006-03-04 20:51||   2006-03-04 20:51|| Front Page Top

#21 Bah. What you earthlings needs is Illudium Q-36.
Posted by Marvin 2006-03-04 20:55||   2006-03-04 20:55|| Front Page Top

#22 Immodium? We already have that sh*t!
Posted by Frank G">Frank G  2006-03-04 22:24||   2006-03-04 22:24|| Front Page Top

#23 Dilithium crystals. We need a way to get dilithium crystals-----NOW.
Posted by Alaska Paul">Alaska Paul  2006-03-04 23:30||   2006-03-04 23:30|| Front Page Top

00:00 Skidmark
23:51 Rafael
23:30 Alaska Paul
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23:16 Alaska Paul
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23:09 Alaska Paul
22:54 Captain America
22:46 .com
22:40 Anonymoose
22:29 Lone Ranger
22:24 Frank G
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