We've talked before [here, here and here, for instance] how battery-powered electric vehicles aren't dead yet, and may well win the race against fuel cells. I recently ran across some more grist for the mill on this topic--back in 2002 Alec Brooks, an expert in the world of EV's, gave a talk at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that more or less destroys fuel cells. Though I can't find an updated version of the talk, Brooks clearly thinks the conclusions still stand. EV World has transcripts of the 2002 talk reprinted in two parts, and it's worth looking at some of the numbers.
"it could be expected that a natural gas hybrid highlander would have an uncorrected combined fuel economy rating of about 42 mpg. Not nearly as good as the FCHV's [fuel cell hybrid vehicle's] 64 or is it? If the hydrogen is produced with natural gas, then expressing the FCHVs fuel economy based on natural gas consumed in making the hydrogen brings it back to the same 42 mpg. In round numbers, you need to start with 1.5 units of natural gas energy for every one unit of hydrogen energy stored in the high pressure tank on the vehicle. So there is no energy or CO2 benefit of the fuel cell version."
If you're comparing to battery-electric cars and getting your hydrogen by renewably-generated electricity, the comparison is even worse. Comparing a Ford Focus fuel-cell vehicle to a hypothetical fully-electric Prius (remove the engine & fuel tank, then add more batteries):
"If the Focus was refueled with hydrogen produced with electricity, it would take 240 kWh to produce the 4kg of hydrogen it needs to refuel. The Lithium Prius EV would need only 38 kWh for the same driving range. If the Prius EV were loaded down with more lithium batteries to equal the weight of the Focus FCV, it would have 400 miles range."
And these problems are even before you consider the price differentials, which are vast--3x at best, usually more like 10x, though I'm not up on the latest numbers here.
He also makes the point that battery-powered EV's are "the only kind of true ZEVs that have already made it to end users." This is important when clean-air legislation is considered. He urged that "The ZEV [zero-emission vehicle] mandate should not single out fuel cell vehicles for extra large credits and should not provide credit for fuel cell infrastructure. Fuel cell and battery ZEVs should be on equal footing. Let fuel cell vehicles sink or swim based on their merits..."
On the other hand, higher-profile green thinkers like Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute are very optimistic about hydrogen, especially in his last book Winning the Oil Endgame. So keep your eyes open.
One of the vast benefits of using a plug-in HEV that often gets overlooked is the infrastructure that is already in place to accomodate these vehicles.
Honestly, what makes more sense - central or distributed renewable power sources piping electricity via already existing infrastructure directly to homes across the nation.
Potentially renewable sources using electricity to split water into H2, which is then loaded onto transports and taken to local refilling stations, where it then must be pumped into cars, under high pressure?
While the near-term prospects of comparably powered and ranged EVs aren't captivating, neither are the prospects for similarly powered/ranged H2 vehicles. One has to wonder if this isn't another concession to the already powerful fossil fuel lobby, as much of the H2 reformation can be done from gas/fossil fuelstocks.
I agree wholeheartedly. However the biggest problem for future electric vehicles (or so I have been lead to beleive) is that lithium batteries are highly flammable in large volumes. If this hurdle can be overcome perhaps the electric vehicle can begin some kind of ascendancy.
I've been talking about hydrogen, and plans to build "premature infrastructure" for hydrogen, in various conversations. I do support research, for hydrogen and electric, but think plans to build a Hydrogen Highway on speculation is misguided.
One of the things that out of that was the memory of all the infrastructure built up to support the GM electric car. Consider the long list of charging stations built at public locations:
Just like the hydrogen plans of today, they were funded, built, press-released .... but then discarded.
Wasn't there some old comic strip (B.C.?) where the caveman hit a snake with his club ... until it was very very flat? I think the Hydrogen Highway is the snake, and we need to hit it some more.
Build infrastructure (if needed) when you have a product the market accepts. Not before.
Would it be possible that microbial (bacterial?) production of hydrogen could help us close the gap of energy efficiency?
Mikhail, the short answer is "sure" they could.
The long answer is that R&D is always a filtering process. Many ideas are tried, and some prove workable for the times. Some things, like flying cars and jet packs, are desireable but hard to make workable.
What's the success rate? I'd suspect it is low, that something like 1 out of 100 laboratory acheivements (even genuine "breakthroughs") are ultimately workable in product design.
But that is not a reason to distain advances like microbial hydrogen, or algae diesel, or whatever ... because the more you try, the better your chance of coming up with a winner.
It's like the old joke: A guy prayed every day "Please God, let me win the lottery" ... after a few years God answered "Hey, meet me halfway .. at least buy a ticket!"
The primary problem with this analysis is that fuel cells are not nearly as far along the development curve as batteries are.
Thanks for posting this comprehensive discussion, Jeremy.
One key point gets short shrift, however: Note how little attention Alex Brooks gives to the source of the electricity for battery-powered vehicles. In his only mention of fossil-fueled generation to charge these electric cars, Brooks assumes the juice comes from a 7000 BTU/kwh combined-cycle gas-fired power station.
But at night, when these cars would be recharging at home, they'd be drawing on the utilities' baseline power. And across most of the U.S., baseload plants these days burn coal. not natural gas. This has serious implications for an electric vehicle's climate footprint.
At 27 to 34 kwh/100 miles (figures for the Toyota RAV that Brooks cites), that means these coal-fired "ZEVs" are actually accounting for 77 to 98 grams of carbon per mile traveled -- about the same, climatically speaking, as a 25- to 31-mpg gasoline-powered automobile.
In due course, forward-thinking employers will offer solar charging stations to recharge their staff's electric cars. But in the meantime, electric cars have serious carbon issues that cancel out the efficiency advantages over fuel cell vehicles that Brooks asserts.
Taking that comment about Employers providing solar panels to recharge vehicles a step further: It seems to me that providing ways for home owners to be able to produce the excess power they need for their vehicles isn't discussed. Could providing a solar panel/wind generator/stationary bike with a plug, as part of the vehicles purchase be plausible? Even if the car would have to be sold as a luxury vehicle, there seemingly would be an easy early infrastructure solution.
>However the biggest problem for future electric
> vehicles (or so I have been lead to beleive) is
> that lithium batteries are highly flammable in
> large volumes.
Not really a big problem. You also may have heard that hydrogen is flammable, and gasoline is _really_ flammable.
> But at night, when these cars would be
> recharging at home, they'd be drawing on the
> utilities' baseline power. And across most of
> the U.S., baseload plants these days burn coal.
> not natural gas.
He was trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison. He compares efficiency for both kinds of cars using natural gas as the power source, then compares efficiency for both kinds of cars using electricity as the power source. Presumably any electrically-driven H2 cracking would also happen at night from baseline (coal) power. If you decide your electricity comes from solar or wind instead, that's fine, but you should assume it for both to have a meaningful comparison.
When I'm feeling cynical (which is most of the time when I think about Washington D.C.) I tend to believe that the whole hydrogen-vehicle push was to accomplish these ends:
Li-ion batteries using lithium cobalt oxide are flammable (the oxide provides oxygen for a chemical reaction), but the newer LiFePO4 batteries by Valence Technology are not. They are somewhat heavier; we can deal with this, I think. And if we are willing to start small, we can begin with a trunk-full of lead-acid electric bicycle batteries for ~15 miles of electric range and upgrade as the price comes down. (Why a trunk-full? Because batteries are just dead weight on long trips, and we really want to be able to take them out when we're not going to be making good use of them!)
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that a plug-in hybrid can be powered by cogeneration; if you had a cogenerating furnace that supplied all the heat for your house, it would be able to supply enough electricity for much or all of your winter driving as well as your lights and whatnot. You may be able to get close to this using e.g. a natural-gas reforming fuel cell, pumping the hydrogen into the car and heating with the waste heat of the reformer, but it's much more expensive and complex and dangerous (who ever heard of an electricity leak exploding?) than the plug-in hybrid.
All of this sells out the national interest so that fossil-fuel companies do okay. (Well, coal would continue to do fine with plug-in hybrids - they would feed the IGCC plants which will fill the gaps between other electricity sources. But oil would suffer early and hard.) Lots of people in Washington have to know this, but none of them will admit it except maybe Roscoe Bartlett. If you wondered why I'm cynical...
Actauly there is a very sim-ple reason plug in cars wont come out all that soon en mass.
In order to recharge a typical car one would need at least a 220 volt 60 amp circuit. That would with all effiecentcies and all likely result in a 10-11 kw hour per hour charge rate. Thus most likely cars would need if fully running on batteries.. around 4 hours to charge... In the garage while the people sleep.... accident city waiting to happen.
Now problem 1... try and get a 220 volt 60 amp circuit...
Problem 2 Try to power said circuit for 4 hours and see how hot it gets.
Problem 3 realize again that this will happen at NIGHT as everyone is asleep...
Problem 4 Realize half the world is stupider then a brick and the rest are questionable.
Problem 5 This was an underperforming small car.. now think what you will need for an electric suv..... much less a minivan or a pickup truck...
Now you have a huge amount of explosive lithium a massive heat source alot of time and stupid users and its night in a garage poorly maintained and filthy as heck.. and what do you get? Fireball future!
Half the world cant operate a hairdryer without mayhem and destruction and you expect them to handle recharging a car? Day after day year after year....
I don't have a dog in the EV-vs-fuel cell fight, Jeremy. You're right that Alec Brooks
> was trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
> He compares efficiency for both kinds of cars using
> natural gas as the power source, then compares
> efficiency for both kinds of cars using electricity as the
> power source.
which is an interesting point about the efficiency of each kind of vehicle.
But at the risk of raining on the worldchanging parade, systems thinking demands that we think beyond the frame and ask ourselves about the impact of each technology in the real world. Right now, if hydrogen comes from the reformation of natural gas and base load electricity (at the margin) comes from coal, then the EV is responsible for as much or more carbon per km as the fuel-cell vehicle.
So the next question is how much less carbon-intensive would baseload electricity have to be in order for EVs to be a step in the right direction? How much less impactful in other ways - mercury emissions, generation of long-lived radioactive waste, etc.? And how do we get there?
These debates are the kind I imagine they had in 1905 about which kinds of trains we were going to have in the future, all the while ignoring the car.
Seth, I see your point, and it's a valid one.
...Though as Joseph pointed out, we're in speculation-land here as to what the H2 source will be. Maybe it'll be electricity at off-peak times, just like battery-cars would use; maybe it'll be natural gas reformation. No one's doing much of either yet, so it's hard to say what'll happen.)
I don't want to come off like a staunch pro-battery-anti-fuel-cell person, I just think there's _tons_ of hype about fuel cells, to the point where people have forgotten about an existing technology that's been on the market already, which is not obviously inferior to the promised hypothetical technology. I think we shouldn't forget it, we should pursue all the avenues we can.
Toshiba just announced some new batteries which have a real shot at putting batteries well ahead of fuel cells. Still lacking some key information like total life cycle but the basic story is Lithium Ion with the ability to be recharged to 80% in a minute and able to retain 99% of it max capacity after 1000 cycles. Perhaps its vaporware or perhaps not. I have a link to the original story in an old blog I did.
wintermane, your condemnation of the plug-in hybrid is as weak on logic as it is faulty in its facts. Example:
Actauly there is a very sim-ple reason plug in cars wont come out all that soon en mass.250 Wh/mile * 20 miles = 5 kWh.
In order to recharge a typical car one would need at least a 220 volt 60 amp circuit.
In other words, a hardware store 14-gauge extension cord could charge TWO such cars at the overnight rate at the same time.
Thus most likely cars would need if fully running on batteries.. around 4 hours to charge... In the garage while the people sleep.... accident city waiting to happen.Whence do you get the assumption that an extension cord is suddenly dangerous if it's plugged into a car instead of a coffee maker? Oh, right, you made it up.
Now problem 1... try and get a 220 volt 60 amp circuit...220 V 30 A (or more) is not atypical for an electric stove or dryer. I put in a subpanel in a house once and powered it by re-using a 220 circuit for some long-gone appliance; I think I had to downgrade the fuses to 30 A, so the original fuses were bigger.
Problem 2 Try to power said circuit for 4 hours and see how hot it gets.Do people's electric dryer circuits have problems when they start them and walk away? If so, the electrician is going to lose his license.
Problem 3 realize again that this will happen at NIGHT as everyone is asleep...Realize that electricity is well-understood and we have standard procedures for doing this cheaply, safely and repeatably; they're called the National Electrical Code.
Problem 4 Realize half the world is stupider then a brick and the rest are questionable.Realize that we've got at least 50 years of experience building electrical stuff so that even idiots can use it without hurting themselves.
On the other hand, we still have no defense against ill-informed objections except facts and logic. Facts and logic always win in the end, but they often take an embarrassing and uncomfortable amount of time to finally convince people to discard their stupid, paranoid or religious objections.
Um you do know your "car" took 8 hours to charge up so it could drive 10 miles then back with a motor about the power of a weedwacker dont you?
Poeple are greatly underestimating how much energy we are realy dealing with here. From what I have read we are talking about more power then everything else in your home combined. Alot more. And circuits that deal in that level of power are rather dangerous to be around.
I think the real thing to get hopped-up about right now is the proposed "diesel" tax credit. I've been watching it with concern. I'm concerned that it will go to anyone with a "diesel" regardless of size or efficiency.
I kid you not, this thing might credit buyers of the original Hummer Turbo Diesel Wagon (still on sale) with a fuel economy of 15 mpg.
Why would they do something like that? Because a "hybrid" credit would go to the Japanese, and a "diesel" credit would help Detroit, of course.
Hell, an "efficient diesel" credit would just help Volkswagen (and their 45 mpg TDIs), and I can't picture this government doing that.
So anyway, if you don't want big old (diesel) SUVs getting a NEW credit, rattle some trees.
All im saying is if your thinking about going full electric please make sure you get your entire electric system inspected. There are tons of poorly installed wiring and marginal wiring out there and the last thing I wana read on this site is about one of you going foom in the night.
Not just your house wiring but also the wires to the pole. I know a neighbor where I used to live they installed an industrial electric motor to grind up trees and halfway through the first day thier utility pole caught fire and the closest transformer blew up spewing pcbs all over the place. They were lucky tho as while everything was being inspected it turned out had that not happened the wires to the motor wich ran through the house had melted most of thier insulation and would have burned the place down. Turned out in the wall they were half the code gauge required and only at the boxes were they full spec.
wintermane, who didn't check his facts, blathered:
Poeple are greatly underestimating how much energy we are realy dealing with here. From what I have read we are talking about more power then [sic] everything else in your home combined.Measured energy consumption (from the grid) of the GO-HEV Prius using lead-acid batteries is 262 WH/mile in all-electric mode. This works out to 5.24 kWh/day to run a 20-mile commute on electricity alone. If you recharge the batteries at a constant rate from 10 PM to 6 AM, it would require 655 watts.
The average energy consumption of a typical US home is on the order of a kilowatt. Not only is the charging load not greater than everything else in the home, it's less than the average of everything else even when it's concentrated into 8 hours of the day. High-end CPUs, graphics cards and CRTs are power-hungry devices, and 400 W power supplies are not uncommon; the car charger might even be out-powered by some people's gaming computers!
Um you do know your "car" took 8 hours to charge up so it could drive 10 miles then back with a motor about the power of a weedwacker dont you?I don't know that, because it's flat wrong; to be specific, it's bull. Whoever said it first pulled it out of his butt; anyone repeating it is a credulous fool, perhaps well-meaning but not doing anyone any favors.
The average energy consumption of a typical US home is on the order of a kilowatt.
The average hourly consumption of electricity for US households (as of 2003) is 1.31 kWh.
According to the article, "The Lithium Prius EV would need only 38 kWh for the same driving range. If the Prius EV were loaded down with more lithium batteries to equal the weight of the Focus FCV, it would have 400 miles range."
It's not realistic to assume short daily driving distances and nightly recharges for all users. So, you'd probably want to see what the load would be for a full recharge, which over an 8 hour period, would be 4.75 kW/hour in this scenario.
That comes out to 40 amps on 120 V or 22 amps on 220 V.
As for relative energy consumption in real world data, I think what Winterman is referring to is the fact that residential electricity consumption in the U.S. comes out to about 4.3 Quads (quadrillion BTUs) per year, whereas household gasoline consumption is roughly 14.7 Quads per year. So, currently our vehicles consume about 3.4 times the energy of the electricity our homes use.
Even if all household vehicles averaged the same as the EPA estimate for a Prius (55 MPG), household gasoline consumption would still exceed electricity consumption by a little over 1 Quad per year.
Hope that helps to give some context to the relationship between household electricity and household transportation energy consumption.
This is what we should be building right now. In my opinion Ford and GM will go bankrupt before they even begin to catch on.
For about the past year I have offered anyone who would listen the following info: None of the American automobile companies have even responded. I have had some positive response from several educational institutions but - as far as I know - none have done any experimental work to verify my claims.
Here is what I have been proposing:
In one scale or another everyone of these systems have been proven.
Like to produce a vehicle that can burn rubber on takeoff on all four wheels and get 90+ mpg?
What I would like to see the automakers working on would have:
A turbocharged, two cylinder opposed, 2-cycle, air-cooled diesel directly
driving a generator. (It would not be running most of the time.) A 111 volt Lithium-Ion Polymer battery pack. Nothing but wires going from the controller to every wheel, except for the necessary additional friction
brakes (of course). An added advantage of this would be the ability to recharge from the electrical grid while at home, saving even more on fuel.
Each wheel, depending on the feedback to the controller from wheel speed sensors would drive with just the right power depending on the accelerator position. You would get recharging from deceleration just as you do in today's hybrids. You would also use this feedback to stop the wheel from skidding.
Each wheel would have a stationary stator and a series of fixed magnets closely adjacent all around the inside of the wheel. In a sense it would operate each wheel in a very similar fashion that the mag-lev trains use,
except the motion would be circular, of course. Something very different about this type of motor is that the stators are fixed to the axles and the magnets are driven around them. This gives a significant increase in
mechanical advantage. That's like turning an ordinary electric motor inside out.
There would be no need for ordinary electric motor brushes. In fact, many electric motors operating today are brushless.
Such motors already exist in the model airplane field and their efficiently
is amazing - approaching 90%. I've got a couple and doubt that I would ever buy any other type.
It's possible to hang the model on the prop right out in front of you and
accelerate straight up, like a rocket, with this type motor
In the vehicle the motor/generator would not turn on to recharge the
batteries until they needed it. There are already experimental Lithium-Ion
driven cars that can get in excess of 200 miles before they have to be
recharged by plugging them in. You would top off your batteries overnight by plugging them in. Some cutting edge research by Toshiba - employing nano-technology - indicates that recharging can be done so fast that you could top off while eating lunch.
Lithium -Ion battery technology is so new that I doubt that very many
automotive engineers have even heard of them, much less thought to use them in this manner. Their energy density exceeds that of any other form of rechargeable energy storage.
The Lithium Ion battery is the most efficient battery available right now. So is the outer rotor electric motor the most efficient motor.
Build an Automobile right and it will weight less and have simpler, easier to repair/replace modules.
Lets see what we can eliminate while improving performance and efficiency.
Transmission - None
Ignition system - None
Liquid cooling - None
Valves and valve train - None
Use bio-oil/fuels for both fuel and lubrication.
Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know in the Transportation business.
I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid last summer. I enjoy it more than any vehicle I've ever owned. I will Never buy another vehicle that isn't a Hybrid and doesn't get at least 50 mpg.
As far as I can tell, Detroit isn't even thinking the same way I and the vast majority of it's potential customers are.
William Lucas Jones
490 Mauldin Rd.
Sautee, GA 30571-3159
Bingo. But then thats also a small car the average car will eat more and we still have to deal with all electric suvs;/
But the main reason for hydrogen is the travel season. Going 2000 miles in an electric car as aposed to a hydrogen fuel cell car.... gee I dont need to be mesmero to predict that outcome...
Joseph Willemssen wrote:
It's not realistic to assume short daily driving distances and nightly recharges for all users. So, you'd probably want to see what the load would be for a full recharge, which over an 8 hour period, would be 4.75 kW/hour in this scenario.I note several things wrong, mis-stated or unstated regarding those figures:
NB: There is no such thing as kilowatts per hour, you mean kW. A watt is a unit of power, a watt-hour is a unit of energy equal to 3600 Joules; we use watt-hours and kilowatt-hours because they are less cumbersome in some contexts.
Ignorance is curable, stupidity is forever.
Going 2000 miles in an electric car as aposed to a hydrogen fuel cell car....Now imagine people making reservations for alcohol fuel on their summer travel route, as well as their campgrounds. Imagine people cancelling plans and selling their fuel reservations so they can enjoy a different vacation closer to home... or taking advantage of an unexpected glut to take a trip somewhere out of the way.
Sound like any travel services you've heard of?
Most problems have solutions if you're willing to think a bit.
"Also note that, while disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not..."
It's also a good prescription to be taken seriously.
I propose that any poster who insults the intelligence of the readers here by posing blatant nonsense be banned.
In the mean time, posters should restrain themselves by checking their facts and knowing their science. If they are forced to learn something in the course of the effort, that is just tough; some things result in personal growth and there is nothing you can do about it.
"There is no such thing as kilowatts per hour, you mean kW."
No, I meant kilowatts per hour. If I had a 10 100 watt lightbulbs on for an hour, I'd be using 1 kilowatt per hour or a kilowatt-hour.
Semantics aside, the point about relative consumption of residential electricity and household transportation energy still stands, as does the assumption that people won't drive 20 miles per day and recharge their cars every night.
I merely interjected for the sake of clarification of several points, but you can't seem to control your compulsion to gratuitously insult people on this website, even though everyone else seems to be able to control themselves and treat each other with respect.
This will be the last time I address you.
Kilowatt (kW): One thousand watts.
Watt (W): The unit of electrical power equal to one ampere under a pressure of one volt. A Watt is equal to 1/746 horsepower.
Kilowatthour (kWh): A measure of electricity defined as a unit of work or energy, measured as 1 kilowatt (1,000 watts) of power expended for 1 hour. One kWh is equivalent to 3,412 Btu.
Ah I se we were talking about one thing and you decided to get all grumpy and talk about something completely different that we dont actauly care about...
Oks back to what we were talking about...
I expect fuel cell cars will win over all battery cars for at least 50 years until at some point they upgrade most of the electric system in this country. I just dont see the system we have now being modified to handle that kind of strain but I do see the fuel industry and gas stations being able to modify for hydrogen alchohol bio and yes even still gasoline selling within the next 10-20 years.
I expect at first you will simply see a single hydrogen fueling section in one or two stations per city. Later every station will have a single pump station for it.
It frankly wont be much different then the different grades of gas we pick now tho I do expect the hardware involved will be a smidge more... interesting.
I expect in 40-50 years many new homes will come with the provision of automatic car recharging and refueling. But then I also expect in 40-50 years all the natural gas pipes will carry hydrogen instead.
You have to be really irony-challenged to post a reference which refutes your claim and not even put a smiley in your post. On the other hand, someone who doesn't know the difference between multiplication and division probably has more than one mental blind spot.
wintermane: Actual power output from US vehicles is roughly 180 gigawatts average, calculated from fuel consumption. Total generation capacity of the generators on the US grid was roughly five times that. Actual vehicle power use is very spiky, but if you are smoothing out the demand on the grid using batteries and charging them during the off-peak hours the grid already has more than enough capacity during most parts of the year.
When it doesn't, hybrid cars can always burn fuel instead of running on their batteries.
The infrastructure required to deliver the power for electrics or GO-HEVs is already built and installed. We can use some improvements in grid management and demand scheduling, but those are small potatoes compared to the cost of rights of way, wires and transformers. All that remains is to do it.
E-P, please cut back on your caffeine intake. :)
There's a lot of data being thrown about here, as well as a lot of opinion. It's not unusual for the two to be mixed.
Please refrain from insults -- all of you -- or else I'm gonna have to start getting ban-happy.
And you do not want to see me ban-happy.
Just a note ... grismill posted a link to the new Senate Energy Committee drafts. It looks like the 2006 allocation for hydrogen is about $495,000,000 and it just goes up in future years.
Let's see... if Daimler-Chrysler was building the commercialized version of the ESX3 today, $495 million would pay the $3500/vehicle premium for about 140,000 of them.
And they'd start saving fuel immediately.
Congress and the Bush administration do not seem to want the problem solved.
I wonder what the best explanation for they "hydrogen fiction" really is ...
- it could be that "continuing funding" is easier than thinking
- it could be that non-technical types are sold on hydrogen by smooth lobbiests
- it could be that, like many non-engineers, they think that time and money always yields the "breakthroughs" they want
- it could be a cynical misdirection to protect Detroit
... I really dont' know