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Earth Power Science

Home-Based Hydrogen Refueling Station 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the burning-down-the-house dept.
Sportsqs writes "One of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles has been the lack of an adequate hydrogen-refueling infrastructure. Beyond a handful of hydrogen stations, such as the one near Los Angeles International Airport, there just isn't anywhere to fill up. Step forward ITM Power, a UK company that has developed a hydrogen refueling station that could be installed at home, providing a ready-made solution for fuel-cell car owners."
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Home-Based Hydrogen Refueling Station

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  • Save for the fact... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:27PM (#24129037) Homepage Journal

    ...that hydrogen is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with, sounds like a smashing idea!

    Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start. Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid. (Which isn't a bad thing if we finally build more nuclear power plants!) As long as the safety concerns of generating hydrogen at home are worked out, I'm all for it.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:35PM (#24129103)

      ... that gasoline is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with.

      If I spilled 1 gallon of H2 vs 1 gallon of gasoline I'd be a whole lot less careful. The H2 would be gone in an outdoor setting (or with an open garage) in a matter of seconds.

      • But... (Score:2, Funny)

        by darklich14 (1308567)
        clearly, imagined fear is far more important than efficiency
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by corsec67 (627446)

          Yep, just look at the recent FISA bill that passed.

          Imagined fear is pretty good for eliminating our rights.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AKAImBatman (238306)

          clearly, imagined fear is far more important than efficiency

          You know the ironic part of this thread? I said I was in favor of having home hydrogen fueling stations. Yet clearly I'm a villain because I'm the only one who's NOT ignoring the very real safety issues presented by generating hydrogen in your garage. How evil of me! Being worried that the average Slashdotter doesn't blow himself to kingdom come by accident! :-/

          Several folks have mentioned propane tanks as an area where we currently use a highly e

          • by The_K4 (627653)
            "Nor does the local gas station." Actually the gas station does fill my tank from their big tank, I watch them do it. Why would I want to exchange my well cared for tank for one that the last person dropped?
        • Re:But... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Rei (128717) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:10PM (#24136509) Homepage

          The funny thing? The efficiency is atrocious and the fear quite legitimate.

          As for the fear: check out what NASA [nasa.gov] has to say about hydrogen. Some excerpts:

          Ignition:

          "Hydrogen-air mixtures can ignite with very low energy input, 1/10th that required igniting a gasoline-air mixture. For reference, an invisible spark or a static spark from a person can cause ignition."

          "Although the autoignition temperature of hydrogen is higher than those for most hydrocarbons, hydrogen's lower ignition energy makes the ignition of hydrogen-air mixtures more likely. The minimum energy for spark ignition at atmospheric pressure is about 0.02 millijoules."

          ----

          Mixtures:

          "The flammability limits based on the volume percent of hydrogen in air (at 14.7 psia) are 4.0 and 75.0. The flammability limits based on the volume percent of hydrogen in oxygen (at 14.7 psia) are 4.0 and 94.0."

          "Condensed and solidified atmospheric air, or trace air accumulated in manufacturing, contaminates liquid hydrogen, thereby forming an unstable mixture. This mixture may detonate with effects similar to those produced by trinitrotoluene (TNT) and other highly explosive materials"

          "Explosive limits of hydrogen in air are 18.3 to 59 percent by volume"

          "Flames in and around a collection of pipes or structures can create turbulence that causes a deflagration to evolve into a detonation, even in the absence of gross confinement."

          (For comparison: Deflagration limit of gasoline in air: 1.4-7.6%)

          Leaks:

          "Leakage, diffusion, and buoyancy: These hazards result from the difficulty in containing hydrogen. Hydrogen diffuses extensively, and when a liquid spill or large gas release occurs, a combustible mixture can form over a considerable distance from the spill location."

          "Hydrogen, in both the liquid and gaseous states, is particularly subject to leakage because of its low viscosity and low molecular weight (leakage is inversely proportional to viscosity). Because of its low viscosity alone, the leakage rate of liquid hydrogen is roughly 100 times that of JP-4 fuel, 50 times that of water, and 10 times that of liquid nitrogen."

          ----

          It also covers how hydrogen likes to pool under roofs and overhangs, and that buildings containing hydrogen or hydrogen pipelines should have roofs designed to be blown away, as well as extreme caution on spark suppression. It also talks about how hydrogen can enter pipes and follow them to their destinations, and pool there.

          As for efficiency, the efficiency of a hydrogen economy is atrocious. Don't take my word for it; listen to peer review [sciencedirect.com]. Check out the convenient chart [sciencedirect.com]. Electric cars have three times the efficiency of hydrogen cars from a given power source. Even if your power is renewable, this tremendous efficiency difference can't be ignored. This means, for hydrogen, three times the land covered in solar cells, three times the dammed up rivers, three times the coastline covered in wind farms, and so on.

          Hydrogen is a complete waste of time. A fuel cell stack will weigh down and take up space in a typical vehicle as much as a modern li-ion battery stack, only give similar range, cost ten times as much, have less room for price improvement in fuel cell costs versus battery costs (platinum playing a big role in this), have a shorter lifespan (again, compared to modern automotive li-ions like phosphates, spinels, titanates, etc, not laptop batteries), more temperature sensitivity (yes, you read that right; modern li-ions are often good to -30 or less

      • by Sierran (155611) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:14AM (#24129399)

        The problem with this comparison is that at standard temperature and pressure, gasoline is much less dangerous. This is because neither hydrogen or gasoline will burn as a liquid; they will only burn as they vaporize and become gaseous. Now, gasoline does this quickly enough that you can, in fact, light a puddle of gasoline easily as it is vaporizing. Fully vaporized gasoline, though, is more of a low explosive than just a 'flammable substance.' Vaporized hydrogen (also mixed with oxygen) is just as bad if not worse.

        Now, let's run that experiment again. If you spill a gallon of liquid hydrogen in your garage, ambient temperature and pressure means it will almost immediately flash-evaporate into explosive gas. Try it yourself: stick two leads from a 9V battery into water in a jar and watch bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen arise from the two leads. Now place a flame over the top of the jar.

        No, on second thought, don't do that unless you're in a lab with a flame cabinet and are experienced with lab techniques. But still.

        So the issue to me is this: Which is easier to prevent from vaporizing into an explosive? Easy. Gasoline. Just put it in a vessel that's airtight at STP. Make it somewhat sturdy if it gets warm out, but even heavy plastic will work. Hydrogen? Much harder. It's going to be under pressure, or a liquid which is hard to keep cold/pressurized enough to keep it so.

        Now, if this system has some way of sequestering the hydrogen into a safe delivery and storage mechanism, that'd be one thing...but...heh.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sierran (155611)

          Also, I want to know what it does with the oxygen it's going to get. There's a reason that submariners call the oxygen generator (which basically does this, splits water) 'The Bomb.' I'm sure they have an answer, but raw oxygen ain't safer. I guess you could burn it with a pilot light, but, well, no that seems dangerous around this thing. Better have good venting.

          • by skelly33 (891182)
            You vent it to the atmosphere. I hear it's good for animals and stuff.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by R3d M3rcury (871886)

              One thing I've often been curious about.

              Our atmosphere is 21% Oxygen, 78% Nitrogen, and 1% "Other Gasses." If our cars were to start spitting out oxygen instead of CO2, what would this do the mix?

              I remember reading an article years ago talking about higher oxygen content in the atmosphere and it's effect on wildfires. So I wonder what might happen around, say, Los Angeles if all the cars that currently pump out CO2 started pumping out oxygen.

              Of course, I hear that breathe pure oxygen is a good cure for ha

              • by Pitr (33016) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @03:08AM (#24130611)

                They won't start spitting out Oxygen. The electrolosis that generates the hydrogen would create oxygen, but using the hydrogen will re-combine it with oxygen, turning it back to water.

                • finally someone that makes sense! people just don't understand the fact that you can't get something for free ;)
              • by wattrlz (1162603)
                Considering that the entire industrialized world's effect on the atmosphere is measured in tens of parts per million I don't think that cars spitting out oxygen should make anyone too nervous, unless they happen to like smoking in traffic.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by skelly33 (891182)
                  This would be done at the hydrogen generation station, not on the vehicle: Split O2 from H2, put the H2 in the tank, release the O2 to the sky. O2 mixes well with Nitrogen - we have life as we know it thanks to that. It will dissipate with the normal movement of air and not make a dangerous rapid oxidation cloud ready to blow at any second. Moreover, electrolysis is SLOW process - it would take all day for this to slowly release.

                  O2 is only a problem when it is stored in volume. This can be done in limited
        • Try it yourself: stick two leads from a 9V battery into water in a jar and watch bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen arise from the two leads. Now place a flame over the top of the jar.

          No, on second thought, don't do that unless you're in a lab with a flame cabinet and are experienced with lab techniques. But still.

          I did this once, in 4th grade. A 9V won't make much of anything. If you didn't time it just right everything you made (At most a bell jar full) it was gone.

          And to the other reply, what do you plan on 'burning' with the O2?

          • by Sierran (155611)

            I just want to know what's being done with it. If this device is sitting outside, that's fine. If it's in an enclosed space, then building up O2 is dangerous. If it's inside and vented to outside, that still leaves potential hazards. My basic point is that mucking around with the storage of hydrogen and (potentially) oxygen can be much more dangerous than an electrical lead.

          • by Cutie Pi (588366)

            Platinum (or platinum coated) electrodes work better. And you need to add some salt to the water to get any reasonable reaction rate, since, despite many people's ideas about water, it is actually a pretty poor conductor of electricity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Mike Van Pelt (32582)
          One my high school did was to run a tube from the can making the stoichiometric mix of oxygen and hydrogen, and run it under some soapy water.

          Being very very sure that the tube was covered with plenty of water, light the bubbles with a burning splint.

          Bang! It sounded almost like a .22 rifle.

          As you can well imagine, this attracted law enforcement notice.

          • Argh... "One my high school" Chemistry teacher "did". Curse the typos that are invisible until the "Submit" button is pressed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306)

        Sierran already explained the situation fairly well, but I think it bears repeating. One of the primary advantages of gasoline is that it is an extremely safe fuel. Gasoline does NOT explode and is actually quite difficult to burn. It's only once you give gasoline time to evaporate that you have a problem. Fumes from gasoline are far more flammable and explosive than liquid gasoline. (I'm sure you can find some yahoo friend who can demonstrate the trick of putting a match out by dunking it in a barrel of ga

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Seriously, I'd like to know where you got your facts from.

          First off, gas isn't typically stored indoors, so I'm not sure why hydrogen would be.
          Second off, hydrogen dissipates by default, and gas fumes tend to collect in low areas.
          Third off, propane is not a liquid by default either, yet somehow that blows up a lot less often than gas does. Even though the propane tanks are frequently handled with a lot less care than gas tanks are.
          Fourth off, the hydrogen cylinders aren't going to rupture in a dangerous way

          • First off, gas isn't typically stored indoors, so I'm not sure why hydrogen would be.

            You mean, like a garage? Granted, most folks wouldn't have any gas in their garage other than in their car's tank. (Though they might have a container for their mower.) However, they might have one of these hydrogen fueling stations in their garage. Which is what has me concerned. I'm in no way concerned about hydrogen in general.

            In fact, hydrogen is very safe out in the open because of the fact that it blows upward so quic

            • by drsmithy (35869)

              In fact, hydrogen is very safe out in the open because of the fact that it blows upward so quickly. It's enclosed spaces that we need to worry about. Liiiiikkkeeee.... a hydrogen fueling station in your garage, perhaps?

              The solution here seems pretty simple. Put the business end of the fueling station outside the house (heck, way down in the back yard) and run a pipe into the garage.

              (Much like the way other on-site household gas supplies are implemented.)

              • by d3ac0n (715594)

                Except that the "Business End" of ANY Hydrogen refueling station is....

                The end of the pipe that you refuel from!

                Hydrogen as a fuel alternative to Gasoline is NEITHER as economical OR as safe as plain old gasoline. It just isn't. Maybe someday in the future, if we develop the technology further, but NOT anytime within AT LEAST 20 years.

                Face it; Right now the only semi-viable alternatives we have are biodiesel and electric. BOTH have serious problems of scale due to transportation and storage issues (biod

                • by vrmlguy (120854)

                  Two words: detached garage.

                  • Two words: detached garage.

                    Two more words: Not safe.

                    Any enclosed space is a potential hazard. They need to either design this pump so that leakage is near impossible, OR people need to keep the "business end" outside of their garages. And the only way to enforce that is to require by code that the companies who install these things to install them in an outdoor environment.

                    • "Not Safe" is not a rebuttal. NOTHING is safe when mishandled.

                      Right now, there is a flammable gas being pumped into my basement. Not only that, I know for a fact that a flame is burning just inches away from the gas line. It is so dangerous, that when I installed my new dangerous gas burning device, the government gave me a tax credit...

                      Now, perhaps you could help explain why this generation system couldn't use similar precautions?

                    • Right now, there is a flammable gas being pumped into my basement.

                      Correct. Flammable gases that are directly introduced to a pilot where they are immediately burned before they can escape. Prior to the advent of auto-shutoff valves, things could get quite dangerous if the pilot went out.

                      Even today, you are told to evacuate your house IMMEDIATELY if you smell gas, because natural gas is extremely dangerous. That smell is a safety feature that is added by the gas company to prevent accidental deaths. More tha

                • by drsmithy (35869)

                  Except that the "Business End" of ANY Hydrogen refueling station is....
                  The end of the pipe that you refuel from!

                  A properly designed set of valves and receptacles would solve the problem of "leaks".

                  • A properly designed set of valves and receptacles would solve the problem of "leaks".

                    You do know that hydrogen leaks out of nearly any container, right? Hydrogen is SMALL. It manages to pass straight through just about any material. That's one of the reasons why it's so hard to transport.

                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      You do know that hydrogen leaks out of nearly any container, right?

                      Yes. Which is why if you engineer for a slightly lesser seal somewhere on the *outside* of a building, you won't have much worry about Hydrogen (in any meaningful quantities) leaking out on the *inside*.

        • Gasoline does NOT explode and is actually quite difficult to burn. It's only once you give gasoline time to evaporate that you have a problem. Fumes from gasoline are far more flammable and explosive than liquid gasoline.

          True, but hydrogen is so light that it dissipates as fast, if not faster, than it evaporates. Have you seen the video of the Hindenburg? A ~200,000 cubic meter balloon filled with hydrogen, and where was the explosion? There wasn't one.
          The shell burned due to flammable paint, the diesel fuel burned due to being, well, diesel. But the massive quantity of hydrogen dissipated before it could explode.

          Furthermore, hydrogen for vehicular use is usually kept in a highly compressed form. The fueling equipment will somehow need to pressurize your car's fuel tank with the hydrogen in a safe and economical fashion. That's nowhere near as easy as it is with gasoline, where we simply pump a liquid. This makes the hydrogen pump that much more dangerous to work with. (Being in a home environment, one of my first concerns is children playing with the equipment when their parents aren't watching.)

          Simple. As long as the stationary refueling tank has a higher pressure than the tank in your car, no pump i

          • by Rei (128717)

            [quote]True, but hydrogen is so light that it dissipates as fast, if not faster, than it evaporates.[/quote]

            Hydrogen is flammable in almost any mixture with air. It also pools quite readily under overhangs of any sort. It also likes to undergo deflagration to detonation transitions, and only requires a tenth the ignition energy as gasoline to ignite. This is why NASA recommends buildings where hydrogen will be stored or used have roofs designed to be blown off them.

            [quote]A ~200,000 cubic meter balloon f

      • by vtcodger (957785)
        ***If I spilled 1 gallon of H2 vs 1 gallon of gasoline I'd be a whole lot less careful. The H2 would be gone in an outdoor setting (or with an open garage) in a matter of seconds.***

        Hydrogen in a garage is going to behave very much like natural gas (but without the mercaptans that give gas its odor). At least short term. It's going to rise and concentrate under the roof. Except that the range of explosive concentrations looks to be much broader for Hydrogen than for Natural Gas. Going to lose a few

    • You already pipe methane into your house and haul around ~100kg of gasoline everywhere you go. You're worried about . . . . what exactly?

      • by donaldm (919619)

        You already pipe methane into your house and haul around ~100kg of gasoline everywhere you go. You're worried about . . . . what exactly?

        Try turning on (please don't) your house gas and after a short time light a match then if you survive try the same thing with opening a can of petrol in a closed garage and lighting a match. The petrol explosion while spectacular will not look anywhere as good as the methane or natural gas one. If you somehow survive this try the same experiment with hydrogen. The resulting explosion will be very spectacular it will most likely get your neighbours involved as well :-)

        On a scale of 1 to 10 diesel fumes (if

    • Nuclear is less cost-effective than wind, especially when one takes into account total life cycle costs and interest on capital costs.

      The MIT study is best, but I can't find it right now. This will have to do:
      http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/6/13/11021/6597 [grist.org]

      • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowskyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @12:30AM (#24129517) Homepage Journal

        Nuclear is less cost-effective than wind, especially when one takes into account total life cycle costs and interest on capital costs.

        Get rid of all the stupid lawsuits, and the capital costs drop to 1/10th of that. All the utilities are basing their costs on the limerick experience, which just kept getting sued and halted over and over again by the fruitcakes until it cost too much. So its really like smashing someone's car in, and then saying, you can't drive because the windshield's broken.

        • It's not just law suits, you know. Consider that the "total life cycle" is a tad longer than for most human endeavours. It really is about safe long-term storage.

          Do you think that something like this comes cheap?
          http://www.physics.uci.edu/~silverma/benford.html [uci.edu]

        • Get rid of all the stupid lawsuits, and the capital costs drop to 1/10th of that. [Citation needed]

          The cost of lawsuits is part of insurance and bond costs. And it's true that insurance companies won't get near the nuclear industry, for good reason. However, it is not reflected in capital costs. The reason capital costs are so high is because that's what it takes to build a "safe" reactor.

          We don't have an infinite supply of uranium, or even close. And breeder reactors, while they postpone the endgame, do no

        • by bill_kress (99356)

          I ask this every time I see a post like yours. I virtually never get a reply...

          Can you tell me what motivates you to feel so strongly about nuclear energy?

          I understand the arguments and I'm somewhat torn myself, but the potential savings are pretty minimal. Even if it did save bunches of money, the power companies wouldn't charge you less.

          And the potential for really really high costs exists (however minor you might feel it is, it's probably a bigger chance than winning the lottery).

          So what is the persona

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Wind power can't be used for base power production. Whereas nuclear can.

        Wind is a great choice, but it will never be the dominant choice, it's just way to inconsistent to be used that way. The investment in batteries and storage is unlikely ever to be low enough to justify the cost.

        Nuclear power is cheap, effective and reliable, the arguments to the contrary are usually based upon old knowledge by people that have never studied the technology.

        In most cases the fuel rods can be recycled for further use. Any

    • by EdIII (1114411) *

      ...that hydrogen is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with, sounds like a smashing idea!

      I would never use it in a million years. Way to dangerous. Quite simply put, the risk is not worth the reward.

      Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start. Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid. (Which isn't a bad thing if we finally build more nuclear power plants!) As long as

      • ....makes the whole idea wishful thinking...

        Even with the best of intentions, basically ALL alternative energy sources are wishful thinking at present. I don't say that means we shouldn't think about them, and work toward implementing them, but we cannot forget about keeping ourselves going in the meantime until the years of research, investment, and construction that go into completely cycling our power supply come about. We cannot afford to sit around twiddling our thumbs saying 'the age of fossil fuels is dead because we have some better ideas.

    • by smartin (942)

      "Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid.

      This is exactly right, for most people energy takes two useable forms.
      1) The Grid
      2) Fuel

      In order to get our dependence off oil, we need to first concentrate on the grid. It is an efficient distribution mechanism that can be fed from many different points in many different ways. We need to drive the cost of feeding the grid down by expanding ren

      • by Rei (128717)

        Hydrogen on the other hand is extremely clean to produce from the grid (assuming that the grid is fed in a clean fashion) and extremely clean to dispose of, the planet handles it automatically.

        By destroying ozone.

        Didn't realize that, did you? Free hydrogen is a potent destroyer of ozone because it readily migrates into the upper atmosphere. And if you want to talk about clean, EVs are about three times more efficient than hydrogen vehicles, so if you go hydrogen instead of electric, you're talking about p

    • by jonnythan (79727)

      Methane is pretty flammable, explosive, and dangerous to work with, but I have a big pipe of it coming right into my apartment!

    • aka, check out some of the reports on electric cars. They have over and over shown that the grid can handle electric cars because the underlying belief is that nearly all of the energy pull will be at night. IOW, the power plants AND grid could handle converting transportation to electrical or even hydrogen. Though converting to hydrogen is the absolute worse thing that we could do. FAR TOOOO INEFFICIENT. It is even less efficient than using lead acid batteries.
    • by Applekid (993327)

      Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start.

      Why bother having common people make their own fuel? It's a little too far beyond the tipping point, IMHO. Might as well have existing gas stations retrofitted to generate hydrogen on-site taking advantage of the economy of scale to generate it efficiently overseen by trained individuals. A lot of the safety issues either go away or get mitigated.

  • With something like this, any normal fueling station can become a Hydrogen vendor without having to arrange a supply of hydrogen.

    It might not be the cheapest way to make and sell the stuff on every corner, but it may be the most feasible.

    • by skelly33 (891182)
      not really - the advantage of a home fueling system is you distribute the production capacity around a greater number of nodes so that each node only has to produce a comparatively small volume. A "station" cannot produce a small volume and do good business; electrolysis is extremely energy intensive and to make any reasonable dent in offsetting rising demand, you'd need to be pretty well situated near a substantial power supply.
      • by aliquis (678370)

        Sorry for getting of topic but I just have to ask when you say that electrolysis is extremely energy intensive.

        I've seen all those bullshit "omg run your car on water"-apparatus on youtube as, uhm, bullshit, since obviously to use electrolysis to convert the water into hydrogen and oxygen and then burn it in your regular combustion engine won't have an efficiency over 100% and therefor it fails.

        But I haven't wanted to say that I'm 100% sure the engine as such can't run more efficient due to the added oxygen

        • by skelly33 (891182)
          It's plausible that burning hydrogen in an internal combustion may achieve similar efficiency to gasoline, but I want to say it's lower because it burns much hotter. It would take extra steps to handle the additional waste heat - that there is additional waste heat implies that there is energy efficiency lost to that heat.

          Hydrogen would better serve us through fuel cell technology for electric power.
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @11:42PM (#24129147)
    One of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles has been the lack of an adequate hydrogen-refueling infrastructure.

    What hype. Gee, they can make hydrogen from water and electricity. This is news? It's important to note that this home system claims to be able to give a hydrogen power car a 25 mile ability to travel. Which works out to a maximum destination of half that without a way to refuel until you get home. Also worth noting is that another tiny little barrier to a hydrogen powered car is that the current fuel cells used in hydrogen cars drives the price of the car to over $1,000,000 US per car (Ownership of the few existing prototypes is being retained by the auto companies because they can't realistically sell them.) Sure, the companies say that they hope to drive the price down to $40,000, but they don't ever seem to give any data to explains how they came up with that number.

    While it would be interesting if the hope of making cost effective fuel cells became reality (it might not), it certainly seems more desirable, more practical and safer to not got through the hydrogen separation process in the first place. If the effort expended on fuel cell development were instead focused on battery, super capacitor and other electricity storage technology, a car could likely be recharged with electricity at home rather than being refueled with hydrogen. The range would be much greater (heck, it's already much greater than the 25 mile total travel capacity stated in the article), and a number of other problems would be avoided as well, including the problem of storing that hydrogen (it tends to leak out of anything and you don't want thick walled compressed gas tanks burning up range with their weight), and it is extremely dangerous in gas form in an accident.

    And I say this completely expecting some eco-geek will mod me down because they didn't think through the hydrogen issue and think it's a good thing.

    • by pla (258480)
      Sure, the companies say that they hope to drive the price down to $40,000, but they don't ever seem to give any data to explains how they came up with that number.

      They don't really need to explain it.

      That spoooky high number comes from the fact that they've made a few hundred prototypes by hand, and factored the engineering costs into it. It has nothing to do with the actual cost of parts or mass-production, which should realistically not come out all that much higher than any other mass-produced car.
  • home electrolysis is a horrible idea, unless its a renewable or maybe nuclear source the electricity is coming from

    • by Dunbal (464142)

      I agree. There is an incredible lack of thought among people who propose hydrogen gas from electrolysis, or even just electricity, as an energy source for cars. They fail to take into account the sheer amount of energy we derive from fossil fuels.

      Each gallon of gasoline provides at combustion around 125 x 10^6 Joules of energy. If you travel at 60mph and get 25 miles per gallon on average, that means that in one second you will have consumed 60 mph = .02 miles/second / 25 mpg = consumption of .0008 gallons

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by markov_chain (202465)

        Do you have ANY idea how much electricity your vehicle needs to store to be able to provide a sustained power output of 100kW (assuming electrical engine efficiencies are close to those of internal combustion engines)?

        They are not, modern electric motors are around 93% efficient. Factor of close to 5 better.

        You want to add millions of CARS that need millions of Watts EACH?

        Megawatts of power for EACH car? :)

        There is NO substitute for crude oil. NONE. It is IMPOSSIBLE, no matter how many "nuclear" power plants you want to build.

        Depends by what you mean by "substitute."

        But frankly once the oil is gone, our "free ride" is over. Oil companies aren't "stalling" at trying to find an alternative energy source. THERE ISN'T ONE.

        In general I agree with your assessment of the quality of oil, but I don't share the pessimistic sentiment. I think the world will adapt; vehicles will be downsized, commutes will shorten, alternative sources will be used.

  • My solution (Score:2, Funny)

    by Zosden (1303873)
    hire mexicans to push our cars. They have to be cheaper than gas.
  • Synthetic propane (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:01AM (#24133293) Homepage

    If we're going to use a gas as chemical energy storage, we should consider propane rather than hydrogen. Hydrogen is a bit of a problem for large scale use. It makes metals brittle by infiltrating their structure. It can diffuse through the walls of most gas cylinders. It has to be stored adsorbed (poor capacity) or under high pressure (danger of explosion, heavy cylinder).

    In contrast, propane is easily liquified, relatively thin walled cylinders can store it safely, and it's fairly simple to convert a gasoline or diesel powered car to use it (disconnect fuel injectors, add regulator into air intake). We already have infrastructure to distribute propane. Many people are already familiar with it's safe use for grills, portable heaters, and RVs. Its safety track record is decades long. When it burns, it produces a visible flame.

    Because it is already in use for RVs, grills, forklifts, and some trucks, it's much more readily available. If I needed 100 pounds of gaseous fuel today, I know exactly where to go to get propane (and I can get google maps of locations in any state. If I need hydrogen, I'm sol. Existing gas stations can afford to adapt to propane fairly easily, starting by getting an above-ground tank and signing up for regular delivery. Some gas stations have already done this for grills and RVs so it must be at least somewhat profitable for them to do so. If demand rises, more will find it profitable. In rural areas, many homes already have their own propane tank and regular delivery by truck. Practically any natural gas powered device can be converted to propane just by replacing the metering orifice and regulator. The needed part is readily cheaply available for most gas powered devices already. The conversion can be accomplished by nearly anyone using only pliers.

    It burns cleanly, and if it was synthesized from carbon and hydrogen, it is carbon neutral.

    Propane fuel cells already exist if/when needed for fuel cell electric vehicles. They are already in use in Alaska [sciencedaily.com].

    I really wonder if the "hydrogen economy" isn't more of an attempt to maintain the status quo while appearing to do something useful by insisting on a solution that requires multiple breakthroughs on several fronts and a brand new infrastructure just to get started rather than choosing one that requires only incremental improvements on proven technology and existing infrastructure.

    • (Sorry, couldn't resist).

      You have some interesting point - it does seem like it would be easier, short term, to switch to propane. Do you have any links to info on propane synthesis? What's involved in the process? As the main article for this discussion points out, creating hydrogen gas is something that can be done fairly simply, as long as you have access to electricity and water. People could have home-based fueling systems next to their house, and a hydrogen 'gas-station' never ne

      • by sjames (1099)

        You are correct that synthetic propane is not without problems of it's own, it's just that for every problem it does have, hydrogen has at least 3 more. Some of those are rather serious safety problems. For example, I would really hate to be rear ended if I had a few tanks pressurized to 300 bar with an explosive gas in the back! When such a tank is punctured, it will actually fly (rocket propelled) through the air with enough force to punch through a cinder block wall (as seen on Mythbusters when they arra

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