Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Why Hydrogen Fuel Cells Will Fail

First, if you haven’t seen “Who Killed the Electric Car” yet, go watch it. Even if they don’t agree with the assertions made by either side, it’s a good educational flick about what electric cars are (and aren’t), and how they’re part of automotive history.

The current energy solution to our dependence on oil is Hydrogen — or so they say. Just look at the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle that the current administration is promoting. Its only byproduct: pure water.

Ironically, the whole “Hydrogen Fuel Cell” (HFC) Vehicle concept is bunk.

A Hydrogen Fuel Cell is VERY inefficient until it’s “heated up” (much like a traditional gas ICE). Not only that, it’s VERY inefficient outside a relatively narrow “RPM window” (for lack of a better phrase).

The ideal solution for HFC is to have an HFC that runs at a consistent output level and charges a battery pack. The battery pack then powers an electric engine and turns the wheels — THAT would be more efficient (even taking in the inefficiencies of power conversion and storage).

Don’t even ask about how much energy is WASTED producing Hydrogen to begin with. Trust me, you don’t wanna know. (More important may be that you aren’t being told that aspect, so we’ll save that for another article.)

So, with hydrogen being so inefficient to produce, HFCs being so inefficient to use, and the complete lack of a hydrogen “filling station” infrastructure, why even consider hydrogen as a solution at all?

Wouldn’t a better solution be to have a PURE electric vehicle with a large enough electric motor/generator to drive the car at “highway speeds,” and a large enough battery pack to accommodate the average daily commute, AND allow you to plug it in to the grid to recharge, BUT offer an e85/gasoline or diesel/bio-diesel engine which runs at an optimal RPM to supply charge to the batteries (and be completely disconnected from the drive train)?

You’d have the ICE there “just in case” or for long hauls, but typically you’d just be running of the charge obtained from the grid.


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2 Responses

  1. Mobius says:

    It’s always handy if you do some research before writing and posting such rubbish. Hydrogen IS the future, providing that George Bussard’s proven Nuclear Fusion program is NOT picked up by a backer. Here’s why;

    If Fusion is a “go” (And the ITER reactor being built in Cadarache in France will never lead to anything except a bunch of Ph.D. papers.) then there won’t be a hydrogen economy, simply because power will be so cheap; batteries will rule.

    However, if visionaries do NOT pick up Fusion then Hydrogen is assured.

    You are entirely incorrect about the efficency of producing hydrogen – simply because we won’t crack water with electricity to produce it. That truly would be unbelievably stupid, and no one has suggested this as a method of powering the hydrogen economy. (Well, not suggested by anyone with more than 60IQ points anyway.)

    No, Hydrogen will be cracked by bacteria, at a pace which is quite sufficient to produce H “locally”. This means no need to transport the stuff, and no centralised control over production nor distribution, which is extremely problematic.

    This will be a huge leap forward for human culture; the destruction of centralsied control over energy.

    The scientists are working flat out to modify the bacteria which produce hydrogen as excreta, to improve their efficiency. Most likely they will crach H directly from the same crops being used to produce bio-fuel right now, but at a much higher energy output than burning the hyrocarbon.

    Honestly, your rant is uninformed, and unthoughtful – you’ve added nothing to the subject whatsoever, except untruths and conjecture.

    You can’t honestly believe that a human knowledgebase which is generating as much information every 5 years as was produced in the entire 20th century isn’t going to crack these, and many other “awful problems”, can you? That would simply be naive.

  2. Joe says:

    It’s also handy to read a post before responding to it… 😉

    The article wasn’t about Hydrogen in general, but about Hydrogen Fuel Cells, particularly when applied to vehicle technology.

    Present “hydrogen extraction” methods (whether from water or natural gas) is simply not energy efficient. It takes a great amount of energy (which has to be produced somewhere, right?) to split elements into more basic forms.

    Hydrogen “cracking” bacteria sounds like a great idea! Do you have any sources that you can cite for my readers and I to look into the near-term viability of this concept? I’m honestly intrigued!

    Being a bit of a “recreational conspiracy theorist” I feel there will most likely be a large push-back by the energy conglomerates that will restrict or reduce the likelihood of a decentralized (hence “reduced control”) energy ideal. It’s certainly romantic though.

    Yes, I believe that human knowledge and understanding will continue to increase. I’d certainly hope so.

    My post, rather than a rant, was designed to illustrate that we have the current technology and capacity to implement a class of vehicles that runs entirely via an electric motor powered by batteries. The batteries can then be charged either via the grid (plug-in) and/or via some other supplemental engine (to charge the batteries, not drive the tires directly).

    Furthermore, my post was designed to illustrate that Hydrogen Fuel Cells operate best at specific energy outputs, but are very inefficient outside that range, therefore, should we endevour to put an HFC into a vehicle it should be run at its optimum power output — charging the batteries that power the motor that drives the vehicle.

    Thank you for the stimulating discussion! It’s one of the best I’ve had in a while, and I do look forward to you providing me with some links so I can do additional research!

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