Why fuel cell cars don't work - part 1

Door mux op zaterdag 21 februari 2015 21:00 - Reacties (49)
Categorie: -, Views: 70.806

This is an extremely late article. Hydrogen fuel cells (HFC), especially in the context of personal vehicles, are and have been part of the yearly news cycle for more than 10 years now. Multiple car companies have attempted and only very recently has one sort of production car been announced. Meanwhile, electric cars have taken off like nobody's business, despite the big downsides the public (and car companies) think electric cars have compared to HFC cars. I have been involved in quite a few ways in the nuts and bolts of electric cars and fuel cells, so I pretend to know a thing or two about why this is.

Finished reading this part? Go on to part 2!. Also, Part 3 just went live.

This is an extremely long, in-depth blog series, so I'll start by giving you a summary. This summary will exist at the top of every part of this series. If you're interested in the technical details, please do read on and make sure to come back for the next parts.

First of all, HFC cars are perceived to be a good bridge between fossil fuels and full electric because:
  • You can still fill up like you do with a gasoline or diesel powered car
  • The mileage you can get out of hydrogen is perceived to be more adequate than what you get from batteries
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are thought not to wear out as quickly as batteries (or conversely, batteries are thought to wear out very quickly)
  • Hydrogen as a fuel is perceived to be a relatively small infrastructural change from gasoline and diesel
  • Hydrogen is perceived as a cleaner solution than gasoline, diesel or natural gas
In reality,
  • You cannot fill up like you do with gasoline or diesel. It is actually pretty ridiculous how hard it is to fill up a HFC powered car
  • You won't even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car
  • Fuel cells wear out crazy fast and are hard to regenerate
  • Hydrogen as a fuel is incredibly hard to make and distribute with acceptably low losses
Additionally,
  • Hydrogen fuel cells have bad theoretical and practical efficiency
  • Hydrogen storage is inefficient, energetically, volumetrically and with respect to weight
  • HFCs require a shit ton of supporting systems, making them much more complicated and prone to failure than combustion or electric engines
  • There is no infrastructure for distributing or even making hydrogen in large quantities. There won't be for at least 20 or 30 years, even if we start building it like crazy today.
  • Hydrogen is actually pretty hard to make. It has a horrible well-to-wheel efficiency as a result.
  • Easy ways to get large quantities of hydrogen are not 'cleaner' than gasoline.
  • Efficient HFCs have very slow response times, meaning you again need additional systems to store energy for accelerating
  • Even though a HFC-powered car is essentially an electric car, you get none of the benefits like filling it up with your own power source, using it as a smart grid buffer, regenerating energy during braking, etc.
  • Battery electric cars will always be better in every way given the speed of technological developments past, present and future
So now, on to the proper reasons and math. Even if you don't have much interest in electric or, well, any type of car, this is still good stuff. Today we will be looking at what a fuel cell car is and why people think they are cool.

Reasons why people like HFC cars

There are actually a bunch of reasons why people seem to historically like hydrogen fuel cell cars. There are a lot of differences pertaining to the age of the individuals asked, level of education and of course political leanings. But wait, first I'll talk a bit about myself.

Tinkering with the Forze II in Zaragoza

I've been involved in the first international hydrogen racing championship. Started in 2007, it was called Formula Zero with 'zero' pertaining to being zero-emission. I was in one of the teams, known as Formula Zero Team Delft ('Forze') and my main raison d'Ítre was designing and assembling electronics for the race kart. Yeah, they weren't actually full-fledged formula one cars; it was just small class racing karts. Top speed around 110-120km/h, 0-60 in about 3.5-4sec, nothing especially interesting about them from a racing perspective. But they were hydrogen powered, which was extremely cool back then and kind of still is - at least from a technical point of view. The Formula Zero championship eventually merged with Formula Student, so if you're interested in more info, take a look at their website. I am no longer involved with any of this - I've gone on to do my Master's thesis about power conversion in electric cars and I now have a couple of businesses that mostly do electronic system design for optimizing power conversion. In computers. Not quite the same anymore.

Nevertheless, I do have a lot of hands-on knowledge from my time at Formula Zero and I know what goes into building a hydrogen fuel cell powered car. I've done a lot of literature research and kept up with the technology. And: during all this time that hydrogen fuel cells have been in the news, I have never come across any kind of public article that properly explains WHY things are the way they are with these enigmatic machines. I've been meaning to write about it since at least 4 years, and thought I would have been beaten to the punch many times already. But no... so, here we go.

http://www.goodsense.nu/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/banner_h-racer_landscape.gif

Whoo! A hydrogen fuel cell car! (courtesy of goodsense.nu)

People don't like change
People don't like change. I don't actually believe that statement, but almost always the first reason that people give me when I ask them 'what do you like about the concept of a hydrogen fuel cell car?' is: well, I can just stop at a gas station and fill 'er up! No worries about having to wait for 6 hours for the stupid battery in an electric car to charge. People imagine it's basically the same as a gasoline-powered car. People imagine the same kind of filling stations with the big gas trucks distributing hydrogen to them.

http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/images/AirProducts/hydrogen-filling-station.jpg

The next reason people give is range, or the distance you can drive on a single tank. They imagine for various reasons - hydrogen being very light is an often heard one - that you an fit a bunch of hydrogen in there and just go for 500 miles on a tank. I'm of course deliberately saying 'they imagine' and not using any definite statements, because I'll tell you later why this is not (entirely) true. But it's true in the eyes of a lot of people!

Of course the obvious reason people like it is because it is much like a normal car *and* it is clean. It solves the CO2 problem without needing to ride a bike everywhere. Hydrogen can just be made from water, and when it reacts in a fuel cell it becomes water again, right? Absolutely no carbon emissions. This is much the same argument that is given for nuclear power plants.

When presented with the ecologically responsible alternatives, electric cars are closest to home. But batteries are of course horrible. Batteries are no good. I mean, look at phone batteries. They die all the time.

The funny thing is that basically all of these perceived advantages are... well, they are correct! Most of them at least - except for the cleanliness argument, although even that has some merit. The big problem here, though, is that technology isn't ready and probably more importantly: the environmental and financial cost of a switch to this kind of a situation is basically insurmountable.

The contrast here is that battery electric cars can be introduced en masse today, no problem. And they are much cleaner and better for the environment, both in the short and long run. The argument against hydrogen fuel cells is not that they can't be a good alternative to fossil fuel cars or that they 'just don't work', but that there are many technological and even fundamental physical problems (i.e. the laws of nature are against us) that need to be solved to get there. And you can prove that even if you get there, batteries will be better in every single way possible. This is the central theme of this blog series and what I will be trying to prove. So where to start?

Let's start with the fuel itself. What is hydrogen?

What is hydrogen and why is it so tantalizing?

http://cdn.zmescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/hydrogen.jpg

Hydrogen, the atom, is the smallest atom you can make in our universe. It's just one proton and one electron, nothing else. When you combine two hydrogen atoms together, you get H2 - hydrogen molecules, normally a gas at room temperature and pressure. Hydrogen is very light: a cubic meter of hydrogen only weighs 90 grams. As a comparison, air at sea level weighs about 1300 grams per cubic meter. At sea level, hydrogen is 14 times lighter than air. So, like a bubble of air in water, in nature hydrogen gas will rise up into the stratosphere if you don't keep it in a container. Yes, this is a problem but no, we're not at the part of the blog where I talk shit about hydrogen.

If you take a hydrogen molecule and combine it with one oxygen atom (from the oxygen molecule O2), and you add a little bit of activation energy, the oxygen and hydrogen combine to form a water molecule. This is called combustion. Well, actually this is a reduction-oxidation, or redox reaction. Redox reactions happen because one part of the equation, the hydrogen, kind of has excess electrons while the other part is - again kind of - missing electrons. When combining, the electrons around the atoms merge together. The fact that there is electrons involved means that if you can somehow separate those two reaction compounds (reagents) and redirect those electrons, you can get a little bit of electric current from the reaction. This is what fuel cells do - with untold gazillions of these reactions happening per second to get enough power that we can actually use it for something.

http://www.olympusmicro.com/primer/java/fuelcell/fuelcelljavafigure1.jpg


Normally, if you want to perform a chemical reaction, you have to supply all the reagents. In this case: you'd need a canister of hydrogen and a canister of oxygen. But... oxygen is already really plentiful in the air we breathe. The big advantage of hydrogen in a fuel cell is the fact that it uses oxygen from the air and thus only needs to supply the hydrogen. This is, by the way, exactly the same with fossil fuels. They also need oxygen to combust inside the engine, but you can just pull that from the air. A regular car would need a ginormous oxygen tank if the atmosphere didn't exist. And so would humans. We breathe air just like our superior mechanical masters.

About that, hydrogen is really light. For the reaction from hydrogen+oxygen->water, you need about 8 times as much weight (well, mass, but we're not doing science here) in oxygen as you need hydrogen, so it's a giant weight saving you do if you just get oxygen from the air. And because the reaction product is just plain old water, you can expel that into the environment with zero danger. But there is another part to this equation. This all sounds great, but how much energy do you actually get from hydrogen? How much do you need to carry around?

To give you some perspective: a liter of gasoline contains about 46MJ of energy. A lithium ion battery contains only about 0.7MJ per kg, or about 60 times as little. A kilogram of hydrogen? A whopping 146MJ/kg, more than three times as much as gasoline. Crazy. This is an awesome fuel. Hydrogen gives you, by far, the most energy out of any chemical energy source known to man - if you don't have to carry any oxidizer. The only 'better' energy sources use fundamentally different types of energy, e.g. nuclear fuel. This has all to do with the nuclear forces vs. electromagnetic forces, but I won't go into that here.

How do electric and fuel cell cars work?

A lot of people talking about fuel cell and even electric cars either assume that whoever is reading their arguments knows how these things work, or they themselves actually never looked at how they work. This is a big, big problem because you really need to know what is going on to understand the (dis)advantages of either drive system, as well as the routes towards optimization. I'll give a brief overview of both technologies from a systems perspective.

Electric cars
Let's start with electric cars. An electric car system looks like this:

Battery electric vehicle system overview

The most important and by far biggest component in an electric car is the battery; electric cars require much less energy to work in the same way as a gasoline powered car, but batteries store so much less energy per kg that this technical advantage is completely lost. To get what is considered adequate range, you need hundreds of pounds of battery to get there. With the energy consumption of modern electric cars hovering between 90-160Wh/km, an adequate battery is around 50kWh of usable capacity (or about the equivalent of 4.5L or just over 1 gallon of gasoline). If you would make the battery pack exactly 50kWh with the highest gravimetric (energy/mass) density batteries around, such a battery would weigh 200kg (450lbs), but in reality in order to extend the life of the battery pack the batteries are slightly oversized. Also, as the really high density battery chemistries are prone to fire and explosions and all that, car manufacturers like to use slightly less energy dense but overall much safer types of batteries, e.g. LiFePO4. This means that these batteries are usually in the range of 275-350kg.

Besides the battery, the biggest component(s) by weight is/are the motor(s). Current generation electric cars use still fairly heavy central motors with an actual axle to the wheels. Upcoming generations will use in-wheel or near-wheel motors that have almost no drive train associated with them: no transmission, no gearing at all, no weight lost to things that aren't necessary. This is one of the reasons electric cars can actually become lighter than traditional gasoline-powered cars; the chassis can be reduced because there are almost no driving forces on it anymore. Note though: this is an advantage of both battery and fuel cell electric cars!

The other two major components in an electric car are the motor controller and some kind of cooling system. Motor controllers, as the name implies, regulate the power going into the motors. The cooling system is necessary to keep the motor and controller, but mostly also the battery at a reasonable temperature. Batteries don't particlularly like high temperatures and as efficient as lithium chemistry batteries are, they still generate some heat when you discharge them rapidly. As a rule of thumb, the cooling system needs to remove about 1/10th of the rated power of the car in heat at 50 degrees C. For some perspective: a gasoline powered car needs to be able to remove about 2x the rated engine power at 95C. That's 20x as much energy, but at a higher temperature which means it's about 3x as easy to do. Do the math and you get a cooling system that should be about 1/6th the size of that of a regular car.

Emile's Motor Controller - or EMC for short
This is an image of a 2x125A 150V motor controller I once made for Formula Zero, but never finished the firmware for. Still an awesome piece of high performance electronics

However, altogether the weight of the motors, cooling system and motor drive are nowhere near the size of the battery. In some current production hybrids, these non-battery components are actually pretty heavy and large (Toyota Prius II: altogether about 110kg), but this is a transient phenomenon. In the future this will all go down to a couple tens of kg, if that.

There is a question mark in the block in the overview schematic, marked: 'charger/dcdc'. As it stands, most cars incorporate their battery charger into the car, sometimes combined with a dc/dc controller that regulates the voltage coming from the battery into the motors. This is because every car is different, and you cannot really design one type of charger (at least not at the moment) that can charge any car optimally. So charging stations - e.g. the ones in parking lots you see often these days - are not much more than a three-phase outlet, and the actual charging algorithm necessary to properly charge the battery is entirely inclusive to the car.

This may very well change in the (near) future with direct charging, where the charging outlets actually have the conversion built-in and all the car does is identify itself and tell the charger 'hey, can you give me 400V 200A DC?'. This saves on a lot of cost mostly, as well as a little bit of weight.

Fuel cell cars
Something a lot of people only barely realize is that fuel cell cars are just electric cars, but with a fuel cell and hydrogen tank instead of a battery. Well, almost. Fuel cell powered cars look a bit like this:

http://tweakers.net/ext/f/wdvwN6zRzVLqVSXseOFGhN2x/full.png

The standard parts - There's the motor, controller and cooling system much like an electric car. But as fuel cells (at least portable ones) are appreciably less efficient than batteries, they need to get rid of a lot more heat they produce. As a rule of thumb, a vehicle fuel cell just on its own is about 40% efficient*. So, you need about as much cooling as the rated power of the vehicle, maybe a bit more, at 60 degrees. Do the math and the cooling system should look about the same as a gasoline powered car.

Portable fuel cells are, at the moment at least, almost all Proton Exchange Membrane or PEM fuel cells. This is the type of fuel cell with the highest power-to-weight ratio. As far as I know, the current concept fuel cell cars all use PEM fuel cells at about 60 degrees C and close to 1 bar operating pressure. Now, here's where all that other stuff in the diagram comes in.

Pressure reduction and heat exchange in the hydrogen path - A kilogram of hydrogen takes up a couple cubic meters. In order to take some reasonable amount of fuel with you, you need to compress it down a *lot*. A couple hundred atmospheres of pressure is what you need to take the equivalent of a full tank of gas with you. But the fuel cell won't accept this directly; you need to reduce the pressure. And you can't just do that willy nilly. As you relieve a gas of its pressure, it cools down. If you would use a reduction valve to go directly from 200 to 1 bar, it will freeze to close to absolute zero, become brittle and shatter. This reduction is usually done in steps; first from 200 to about 25 bar, then to 5-10 bars and then to the final pressure. Other thermal and gas flow effects necessitate some additional pipework and in-between stages.

http://tweakers.net/ext/f/PgtHJBzsatxhbaB4frkFr1To/full.jpg
When doing static testing (i.e. without driving wind), just the normal fan wasn't enough to cool the fuel cell. So we... added some extra fans

Cooling system - PEM fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen either directly from the air or in solution with a proton exchange membrane in the middle. Using a catalyst, the hydrogen and oxygen bond to form water and give off an electron to conveniently placed electrodes in the fuel cell. I won't bother illustrating this here; wikipedia can help you with that. This process generates lots of heat and it's actually so much heat that it is not enough just to 'cool' the fuel cell by piping off the excess water that has been produced. You absolutely need additional cooling. This is done in one of three ways:
  1. by putting a closed loop water cooling system on the hydrogen side of the fuel cell,
  2. bydoing the same on the water side and
  3. by using a separate cooling system that uses heat exchangers to interface with the 'hot' parts of the fuel cell.
All of these have problems, and there is no 'best' solution, or a clear end solution for that matter. the issues are, in summary:
  • Cooling using the oxygen side of the circuit means you need a way of relieving pressure, as the water produced by the reaction ends up here.
  • Cooling using the oxygen side means the exhaust hydrogen scrubber needs to be in the cooling circuit, which complicates things a lot
  • Cooling the hydrogen side means you will lose a lot of hydrogen through the walls of your cooling system
  • Cooling using the hydrogen side means you cannot use steel and a lot of other materials that deteriorate under the influence of hydrogen (hydrogen embrittlement and other effects)
  • Cooling with a separate circulation increases weight a lot as you need to build heat exchangers into the stack
I've seen fuel cells with all three methods, and ones that combine everything: all reagents are put into solution and a heat exchanger extracts heat from the water into a separate system. Very small fuel cells are simpler still; they don't need nearly as much cooling and can just rely on the evacuated water to get rid of the heat.

I'm telling you all this because this is what the 'extra stuff' in the water cooling path represents. There is a lot to it! This is not a job for a standard radiator and water pump. And this is why the hydrogen, oxygen and cooling paths in fuel cells are a prime target for optimization.

Oxygen input - Air isn't perfectly 100% oxygen. Actually, it's mostly nitrogen, about 20% oxygen and a lot of trace elements as well as aerosolized liquids and solids. A hydrogen fuel cell will 'clog up' with crud, ranging from small particulate matter that physically blocks reaction surface area to certain molecules (nitrous oxides for instance) that over time 'poison' (make inactive) parts of the fuel cell stack. These unwanted parts of the air need to be scrubbed out, after which the remaining oxygen-rich mix needs to be compressed down and brought into solution so it can enter the oxygen side of the fuel cell.

This is one of the easier extra subsystems that fuel cell vehicles need to deal with. However, it is one of those parts that is still fairly expensive as current-tech scrubbers use consumable porous materials (e.g. Millipore reverse osmosis scrubbers) to do the job. This requires regular maintenance. Future tech, some of which is actually pretty far along in academia, allows for more or less lifetime guaranteed scrubbers, much like catalytic converters in Diesel cars.

The exhaust - PEM fuel cells still exhaust a little bit of hydrogen in their exhausts - partly because the reaction surfaces can't be made perfect and partly on purpose to make the reaction go a certain way. The fuel cell we used for the races exhausted about 15% of the ingoing hydrogen flow, which is a waste. This is why the hydrogen is purged/regenerated from the exhaust flow and put back into the system.

http://tweakers.net/ext/f/xM0p99013oUg1jxqnzq6Lb03/full.jpg
Those blue cylinders in the bottom-center of the image are very large ultracapacitors - our racing kart had 36 of these to keep up with peak demand.

Batteries and/or capacitors - And now to the next big disadvantage of fuel cells; they don't throttle well. Going from zero to full power, or even from 10% to full power requires the entire cell chemistry to rebalance, which is fundamentally limited by diffusion speeds. It takes in the order of seconds to throttle. In the meantime, either you have insufficient power to do what you want (and believe me, even 2 seconds is a very long time to wait before your car starts accelerating from traffic lights) or you have excess power coming from the fuel cell which can't go anywhere, so it needs to be thrown away.

This is why basically all fuel cell vehicles use either a small traction battery - larger than a normal starter battery but much smaller than an EV battery - or a bank of ultracapacitors like the Maxwell Boostcap. Both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, for our racing kart we chose ultracapacitors because regulations didn't allow for batteries at the time.

So that's the technical differences between battery electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles!

http://tweakers.net/ext/f/B6PtlxDNKEFZLhtqGR7urrxa/full.jpg
A great view from the side of Imperial College of London's entry in the Formula Zero championship; essentially, the drivers were sitting on top of a solid block of technology

* By the way, if you're ever interested in researching these numbers: don't believe what manufacturers tell you without checking the type of efficiency they mean. There's a big difference between theoretical energy content (what I talked about before, about 150MJ/kg), higher heating value, lower heating value and even some other ways of calculating fuel cell efficiency


Conclusions

Today we've looked at the absolute basics of hydrogen fuel cell cars; who am I to talk about this, why do people like them and what are they exactly, on a technical level?

I've put off publishing this for a long time, actually. This exact post has been sitting in a backwater of my NAS for about a year because I didn't like how it was so opinionated. Every sentence oozes my dislike of fuel cell technology in cars. This is not a good way of doing science. The reason I'm still publishing it now is because I think there is still a bit of a knowledge void on the internet to be plugged, and I just couldn't rewrite it in a well-structured manner without my opinions.

Secondly, it really is time to look at these things. Even Elon Musk of Tesla made some off-handed remarks about fuel cells being 'silly'. Well, why? EVs are taking off and people are genuinely wondering why there aren't any FCVs they can buy and own. Batteries aren't a particularly well-trusted technology.

Read about hydrogen production, storage and transportation in part 2..

Volgende: Why fuel cell cars don't work - part 2 02-'15 Why fuel cell cars don't work - part 2
Volgende: Supermarkten follow-up: uitgaven 2014 02-'15 Supermarkten follow-up: uitgaven 2014

Reacties


Door Tweakers user Archeon, zaterdag 21 februari 2015 23:42

Very informative! Thanks for the great read and I'm looking forward to part 2!

Door Tweakers user GemengdeDrop, zaterdag 21 februari 2015 23:51

I must say i kind of agree on this.

But at the same time, i also once was a strong believer in 'hydrogen' stuff. But it made only sense at the time, if you don't know anything about the issues involved. Thanks for your informed opinion.

Also, lets be honest: batteries were really crap not so long ago. I mean seriously, compared to a full tank of gasoline, nothing beats that. Nowadays we see electric cars on the rise, but apart from the political changes that made that possible, i guess a major factor was also cheap availability of some-what-reliable batteries with a large energy density. Or, to phrase it differently: you need a car to be able to make at least a daily commute to work and back again, and then some more for comfort.

I wouldn't say that liquid fuel distribution is inefficient. But in IT, a common joke is "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.". Something similar goes for energy. I don't really think our electricity grid is ready for electric cars yet, but our way of getting liquid fuel around seems to work mostly. Carbohydrates are great from a technological point of view: lots of C's and H'es which can combine with oxygen, all packed in fairly stable molecules.

But i do so very much love the idea , the concept of an electric car. I mean, potentially, they should give you great handling and comfort. You can do all sorts of neat tricks with per-wheel drive which you cannot even do in an true 4x4 - and yet it need not be very costly in terms of weight (a combustion engine and drive system from a 4x4 weighs a lot).

It's just this darned battery again. I'm not confident that these things are economical yet. I mean, i know they are not because the only sort-of-reasonable car is the Tesla, and that you can only get if your company pays for it - and it isn't as practical as a run-off-the-mill consumer station-car. And yet, you can sort of smell the progress happening right here, right now. We do begin to see cars that can do 100 km commute, and can go above 120 kph whilest doing it. It's just beyond the horizon i feel.

Might we go about this some other way? I really like the idea of converting energy (usually electricity) into liquid fuel. First you make alcohols, then you can further process these into heavyer molecules if need be. I much doubt that it would be energy efficient, but then at least you would have a technique which is as quick and easy as ordinary gasoline (well, sort of, we know how to do it) and yet is independent of the shape or form of the harvested energy (which is potentially environmentally clean).

what'd'ya think?

Door Tweakers user gravit0n_, zondag 22 februari 2015 01:41

Even though a HFC-powered car is essentially an electric car, you get none of the benefits like filling it up with your own power source, using it as a smart grid buffer, regenerating energy during braking, etc.
The Forze V has some sort of regenerative breaking: http://www.formulazero.tu...ut/forze-5#specifications

Also the documentation on the Forze website about HFC-cars provides a much more positive story: http://www.formulazero.tudelft.nl/hydrogen-electric

Some interesting notes from it:
  • Many European countries are investing into a hydrogen filling station network to accomodate these cars. Germany is a perfect example, this country aims for 50 hydrogen fuel station in 2015.
  • The efficiency of the fuel conversion is about two to three times higher than a conventional combustion engine.
  • Hydrogen tanks can be refilled within minutes, like a conventional combustion car, whereas batteries currently need hours for the process of recharging.
Who is wrong now? At least some countries see a future in the HFC-cars and the efficiency seems impressive. Also in contrary to your post they are saying refilling can be done quickly. Since neither you or the website provides any sources, the power of both writings is a bit modest tough.

[Reactie gewijzigd op zondag 22 februari 2015 02:04]


Door Tweakers user Patrick_P, zondag 22 februari 2015 01:48

Great and very informative article! I'm looking forward to the next edition elaborating about hydrogen.

You mention the Honda FCX Clarity in the beginning of your article. This car is from 2008. I'm just looking at the (manufacturer) specs of the Toyota Mirai:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Mirai
http://www.toyota-global....hnology/fuelcell_vehicle/
http://www.toyota-global....ile/fuel_cell_hybrid.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSxPkyZOU7E
- Range 650 km (realistic range around 500 km according some reviews)
- A refueling time of about three minutes (only with the newest generation hydrogen stations)
- Tanks holds maximum 5kg of hydrogen (depending on hydrogen station, needs 70Mpa)
- In California and Japan the car can be ordered for delivery this year (Q3/Q4)
- US list prize $57500

I'm not here to advocate buying this car but given the technical challenges you have highlighted the engineers at Toyota seem to have done a remarkable job. They smartly apply their hybrid expertise to overcome the slow throttle response and win back braking energy. Next to this the car is positioned as a mobile power station able to power several houses. Interesting for people who want to be totally independent from the grid. Is the technology in this car in your eyes a breakthrough?

In the light of transitioning from fossil fuels to an electrified world, hydrogen could be one of the better options as an energy carrier. How do you see the future of batteries versus fuel cells? Looking at the energy density, durability, practicality, cost and environment? I understand you feel a bit sorry for highlighting the complexity and physical challenges around fuel cells, putting things in perspective might help to overcome that.

In the future we might have an abundance of electricity from sun, wind, or even fusion. Besides the generation the storage is the key factor limiting progress. A highly interesting topic.

Door Tweakers user mux, zondag 22 februari 2015 09:09

All Forze karts and cars have had regenerative braking, the energy is dumped into the ultracapacitors. FCX Clarity also has regenerative braking into its energy buffer. However, this is only a very, very small buffer; not usable for regen braking on an incline for instance.
Who is wrong now? At least some countries see a future in the HFC-cars and the efficiency seems impressive. Also in contrary to your post they are saying refilling can be done quickly. Since neither you or the website provides any sources, the power of both writings is a bit modest tough.
I will elaborate on the complexities of refilling and filling stations in the next post because this is an oft-misunderstood subject. The only way to safely and quickly refill is to do this robotically. There is no reasonable way to quickly fill up in the same way as you do now with an ICE powered car. My aim is to be comprehensive in this blog series and go into the exact technical details.
Patrick_P schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 01:48:
You mention the Honda FCX Clarity in the beginning of your article. This car is from 2008. I'm just looking at the (manufacturer) specs of the Toyota Mirai:
OK, I mentioned this article was late? I have been writing on and off on this article since 2012! Back then, the only FCV you could drive in yourself was the FCX Clarity, and it was ONLY on lease. The Mirai was still a concept car back then, and it's not 'really' out yet, so I kept it out of the this blog post for now.
Is the technology in this car in your eyes a breakthrough?
Nope. It is still a hydrogen FCV so it is fundamentally broken from the get go. It still has all the downsides that I have explained and will explain in future posts.
In the light of transitioning from fossil fuels to an electrified world, hydrogen could be one of the better options as an energy carrier. How do you see the future of batteries versus fuel cells? Looking at the energy density, durability, practicality, cost and environment? I understand you feel a bit sorry for highlighting the complexity and physical challenges around fuel cells, putting things in perspective might help to overcome that.
We're going into spoiler territory here, but no: I don't just 'believe' but know for sure that hydrogen will be one of the worst energy carriers for the future. There are better alternatives, even if you don't want to go into battery storage. I will touch on this and provide solutions/better fuel cell options in the last post in this series.
GemengdeDrop schreef op zaterdag 21 februari 2015 @ 23:51:
Also, lets be honest: batteries were really crap not so long ago.
This is a very big public image problem with batteries. Even though people keep saying battery technology isn't progressing quickly enough, it has been progressing at breakneck pace in the past decade or so. It's similar to people's convictions about solar panels: with prices dropping 30-40% a year, any ideas you had about this based on information from 5 years ago are outdated by now.
I mean seriously, compared to a full tank of gasoline, nothing beats that.
And this will never change. Batteries are a fundamentally different kind of energy storage. It's like comparing the weight of nuclear fuel and gasoline; it's uncomparable, there are orders of magnitude difference.
I wouldn't say that liquid fuel distribution is inefficient. But in IT, a common joke is "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.". Something similar goes for energy. I don't really think our electricity grid is ready for electric cars yet, but our way of getting liquid fuel around seems to work mostly. Carbohydrates are great from a technological point of view: lots of C's and H'es which can combine with oxygen, all packed in fairly stable molecules.
Almost this exact paragraph is in my next blog....
Might we go about this some other way? I really like the idea of converting energy (usually electricity) into liquid fuel. First you make alcohols, then you can further process these into heavyer molecules if need be. I much doubt that it would be energy efficient (...)
It actually... is pretty efficient. More efficient than using hydrogen. But again: spoilers!

Door Tweakers user GrooV, zondag 22 februari 2015 10:47

Are hydrogen cars more dangerous than current LPG cars? I always think the hydrogen "danger" is a bit hyped.

On the other hand I don't believe in phev's besides Tesla's, but how is that ever going to get in A or B class cars? They are still losing $8k per $60k car! And how are we going to power them all? You think our power grid can handle millions of cars charging everyday ?

Door Tweakers user Derby, zondag 22 februari 2015 12:33

Good piece Mux.

But could you please change the liter in to kg (The density of gasoline ranges from 0.71–0.77 kg/L (719.7 kg/m3) wikipedia) for the sake of comparison

"a liter of gasoline contains about 46MJ of energy. A lithium ion battery contains only about 0.7MJ per kg, or about 60 times as little. A kilogram of hydrogen? A whopping 146MJ/kg"

I also don't believe hydrogen is ever gonna make it as a replacement for fossil fuel powered vehicles.

- People don't like LPG because of the possibility of explosion and the old story about losing power when LPG is used. But as LPG is a liquid it needs energy to vaporize and only then it can burn. When hydrogen leaks it is instantly ready to burn. Hydrogen is therefore much more dangerous.
- Only one car reporter needs to drop the name "Hindenburg" and no hydrogen car will be sold.
- The Honda Clarity uses a tank that stores the hydrogen at 350 bar. Experiments are ongoing with tanks that can hold 700 bar. How much energy is it gonna take.to get the fuel up to that pressure.
- Hydrogen is so small that it will escape out of every container you put it in. How much fun will it be when you want to start the car and notice that there is no fuel left.

I think the future is in fermentation of biomass and refining (gas-to-liquids) that up to the hydrocarbons we need for products that no use crude oil as a base.

Door Tweakers user vanaalten, zondag 22 februari 2015 12:35

Just in case you count the amount of replies as motivation for a follow-up article:
thanks, very interesting! Never realized the complexitity of a fuel cell engine. :X

Door Tweakers user mux, zondag 22 februari 2015 16:33

GrooV schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 10:47:
Are hydrogen cars more dangerous than current LPG cars? I always think the hydrogen "danger" is a bit hyped.

On the other hand I don't believe in phev's besides Tesla's, but how is that ever going to get in A or B class cars? They are still losing $8k per $60k car! And how are we going to power them all? You think our power grid can handle millions of cars charging everyday ?
There are two dangers:
  • Obviously, anywhere where you have a lot of energy in a small space, you have risk of explosion. Every energy carrier - be it batteries, hydrogen (under pressure), regular gasoline or LPG - has this problem.
  • A unique problem with hydrogen is that its flame is completely invisible and burns with relatively low intensity. Small flames can erupt and persist for minutes before being detected. Flames have no smell or other human-perceptible signs besides visual.
The combination of high pressure (which is in itself a safety issue, although not insurmountable), high energy density and invisible flame makes hydrogen one of the more dangerous fuels to work with. With proper engineering this problem doesn't need to be a big deal, but it does mean that it's essentially suicide to try to make humans do fill-ups, for instance. But I'm getting ahead of myself, this is all in future blogs!

Door Tweakers user H!GHGuY, zondag 22 februari 2015 17:39

I've always been wondering why they don't just use hydrogen in a combustion engine. We all remember the chemistry labs where the professor first did electrolysis, followed by holding a flame over the produced hydrogen.

Given this idea, I've always found fuel cells silly and trying to do it backwards. How much tuning would you need to a normal petrol or LPG-powered car to let it drive on hydrogen?
Is it even feasible (does it provide enough power)?

[Reactie gewijzigd op zondag 22 februari 2015 17:50]


Door Tweakers user mux, zondag 22 februari 2015 18:22

Good point, i'll try to touch on that as well.

Door Tweakers user Jape, zondag 22 februari 2015 20:34

Great article, it represents what I've been telling also on birthdays etc. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

I was wondering about the ability to transform heat back into electricity. I know that BMW was working on a device which converted the heat from the exhaust into electricity that could either be stored in the batteries or be used for the radio, airconditioning etc (it was still in an ICE car).
I know that this principle can work, but is it efficient? And does the weight of it rule out the benefits? For Fuel cell cars this could help to cover for the losses due to inefficiency of the fuel cell.

Door Tweakers user mux, zondag 22 februari 2015 20:36

I'll go into thermodynamic cycle efficiency in the next blog post.

Door vijayarai, zondag 22 februari 2015 21:59

Hello:

I loved the article and I'm not even technical however I wonder:

1. whether you're super confident that Honda and Toyota have not solved any problems that you knew in 2012???

2. that these FCV are dead on arrival? and

3. tens of billions of dollar spent on R&D is not going to create a viable product and can we say that these manufacturers are just creating hype and fooling and lying to people?? (sorry for my rude language but need to know honestly whether this is true that they're selling dreams and nothing else)???

Door Ope, zondag 22 februari 2015 22:07

Hi,

What did you study at university?

I would like to learn how to build electric cars as a hobby. Where would you recommend i learn this stuff? Books to buy, courses to take, etc. I already program professionally in Ruby and Python.

Thanks

Door Jim Hillhouse, zondag 22 februari 2015 23:47

You write about that battery powered cars are much cleaner and better fit the environment. But you don't spend any time expanding on that point. Since both processes are electrically intensive, I'm curious about the reasons for that position.

Thanks.

Door eggestad, maandag 23 februari 2015 00:09

Have you doen any work with using methanol instead of H2 as fuel? simplifies storage and distribution, but I'm wondering about any other drawback other than low energy/mass.

Door Jessica, maandag 23 februari 2015 00:45

Thank you for explaining all this so clearly. I look forward to hearing the rest.
I have had some contact with fuel cell cars as a technical writer, so I appreciate the more detailed explanation of all the hurdles.
Please don't worry about being unscientifically one-sided. You did a good job of explaining the facts that run contrary to your view, in other words, you did not "cherry-pick".
Trust your readers to put use own intelligence as we read you.

Door Jessica, maandag 23 februari 2015 00:51

Trust your readers to put use own intelligence as we read you.
->
Trust your readers to use our own intelligence as we read you.

Wow, I can't even figure out how I managed to mistype that one that way.

By the way, perhaps it is me, but it takes me many attempts to satisfy your filter. I think it is because some of the letters are the same for uppercase and lowercase.

Door Gene, maandag 23 februari 2015 01:51

In your next articles, please discuss the merits of a direct conversion fuel cell in a vehicle. That would allow a hydrogen/electric vehicle without a huge battery, and without a huge H2 tank. The fuel could be as simple as powered carbon. My hunch is that direct conversion is no where near ready for commercial release... but what if it was? what would it take?

Door Tom, maandag 23 februari 2015 03:53

There's a third significant danger specific to hydrogen gas. Gas escaping through a hole causes friction, and hydrogen's autoignition temperature is so low that hydrogen gas escaping through a pinhole will ignite itself, without needing a spark or other external source.

I've heard of workers in hydrogen plants walking around with broomsticks in front of them. A small leak could create an invisible flame (see danger #2), and you don't want to walk into that.

Again, it's not an insurmountable problem with enough engineering (and enough extra mass), but it does make hydrogen gas a lot more difficult than other alternative energy sources for cars, like chemical batteries, biodiesel, or even CNG.

Door Henry Brown, maandag 23 februari 2015 05:31

Can a hydrogen fuel cell be compared to Ecat? They both use hydrogen.

http://coldfusionnow.org/...-energy-than-it-consumes/

Will leakage of hydrogen doom them both?

Door Tweakers user mux, maandag 23 februari 2015 08:54

Jim Hillhouse schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 23:47:
You write about that battery powered cars are much cleaner and better fit the environment. But you don't spend any time expanding on that point. Since both processes are electrically intensive, I'm curious about the reasons for that position.

Thanks.
Absolutely, this will be addressed in a future part. This is just part 1, as I've drafted the rest there will be at least 3 parts, probably 4.
vijayarai schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 21:59:
1. whether you're super confident that Honda and Toyota have not solved any problems that you knew in 2012???
Because most reasons for FCV unviability are fundamental to hydrogen fuel cell technology and hydrogen in general. I.e. there is no possible technical solution for them; it's the laws of nature working against this.
(...) whether this is true that they're selling dreams and nothing else)???
Oh no, they're not necessarily selling dreams. They're just selling an inferior technology that will be superseded or already has been superseded by competing technologies. It's like plasma television; there are some very niche applications where it has advantages, but in almost every other respect it's fundamentally unviable and there is no technical solution that can bring it back.
eggestad schreef op maandag 23 februari 2015 @ 00:09:
Have you doen any work with using methanol instead of H2 as fuel? simplifies storage and distribution, but I'm wondering about any other drawback other than low energy/mass.
Spoilers! I'll discuss this in the last post in the series (whichever number that may carry)
Gene schreef op maandag 23 februari 2015 @ 01:51:
In your next articles, please discuss the merits of a direct conversion fuel cell in a vehicle.
Good point, I haven't drafted anything about that yet.
Henry Brown schreef op maandag 23 februari 2015 @ 05:31:
Can a hydrogen fuel cell be compared to Ecat? They both use hydrogen.

http://coldfusionnow.org/...-energy-than-it-consumes/

Will leakage of hydrogen doom them both?
This honestly just looks like the millionth free energy hokey pokey to me. It's not related to FCVs in any case.

Door Mark R, maandag 23 februari 2015 12:11

No, because despite all the technical limitations, hydrogen fuel cells actually work.

The ECat is a machine which claims to do nuclear fusion but is actually a scam. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Energy_Catalyzer

Door Tweakers user etwintje, maandag 23 februari 2015 12:53

From what I recently heard (can't find a source atm) Toyota is stopping with batteries and is aiming for hydrogen cars in the future. I do agree with you on most parts, but if there is one car maker able to change the game it will be Toyota.
I've once driven with a hydrogen bus, and went to a hydrogen fuel station(Arnhem, The Netherlands) with it. At the fuel station hydrogen was made out of natural gas, producing CO2. I've always been wondering what the CO2 emission of this process is compared to a natural gas vehicle, I guess the efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell is higher than a natural gas ICE so CO2 emission will be a bit lower, but the main thing you do is moving the emission location..
About the use of hydrogen in an ICE, at the HAN in Arnhem they have a Subaru Impreza running on Hydrogen, but after a couple years of engineering and testing it still doesn't work properly, although it might work if an engine is designed to run on hydrogen, but it will have a low efficiency.
My point of view: there will be a couple different fuels and other energy sources used in vehicles in the future. I think trucks will be using LNG, cars will use electricity (batteries). Maybe hydrogen will be used for vehicles driving long distances, but there is a lot to do before we can make that work (infrastructure, vehicles with a normal price, etc).

Door Tweakers user fotografie999, maandag 23 februari 2015 15:32

Thanks you so much for sharing! Very informative!

Door Julian Cox, maandag 23 februari 2015 21:39

Great piece!

I think your readers may find this discussion on 'energy refined' interesting and informative:

http://www.energyrefined....-fuel-cell-vehicle-myths/

Looking forwards to part 2.

Julian

Door Tweakers user henkbas, dinsdag 24 februari 2015 09:56

Very interesting to read, I'd heard of fuel cells ofcourse but I always thought we would use hydrogen like we use LPG in a traditionel combustion engine. As the energy content of hydrogen is so high, why can't it be used as a combustable like that?

Door Tweakers user mavamal, dinsdag 24 februari 2015 11:02

A great piece, very informative and easy to read even for someone who barely made it past 5 HAVO chemistry. You say you've put off posting it because you think your opinion shines through too much, but I don't think that's much of a problem at all. In fact, it makes your point clearer imho!

Door Tweakers user mux, dinsdag 24 februari 2015 11:36

mavamal schreef op dinsdag 24 februari 2015 @ 11:02:
A great piece, very informative and easy to read even for someone who barely made it past 5 HAVO chemistry. You say you've put off posting it because you think your opinion shines through too much, but I don't think that's much of a problem at all. In fact, it makes your point clearer imho!
This is actually a bit of a philosophical issue. One of the background issues with opinion pieces vs. 'objective' articles is that there really is no such thing as an objective article. Journalism in particular pretends to be the objective truth, but everybody knows that in reality they are rarely even close to the truth.

So I decided to give up on any kind of veil of objectivity and just make it clear that:
- I have in-depth knowledge about the subject
- I am not in the field anymore
- I do not believe the technology works as a general replacement for fossil
- but I still really like the bits&pieces and it's a very exciting field to work in

This way, people are not going to take my word for granted, they are (or at least should be) inherently invited to try to poke holes and find ways around the problems I'm stating, thus engaging them in the actual discussion instead of for instance trying to attack me as a person or focus on the writing style. At least, this is what I'm striving for.

This is kind of the same effect as people who purposely say wrong things on the internet. The engagement that follows such comments is often much more interesting than somebody stating facts or pandering to a known crowd.

Door Tweakers user Sjoerdfoto, donderdag 26 februari 2015 22:19

etwintje schreef op maandag 23 februari 2015 @ 12:53:
From what I recently heard (can't find a source atm) Toyota is stopping with batteries and is aiming for hydrogen cars in the future. I do agree with you on most parts, but if there is one car maker able to change the game it will be Toyota.
I've once driven with a hydrogen bus, and went to a hydrogen fuel station(Arnhem, The Netherlands) with it. At the fuel station hydrogen was made out of natural gas, producing CO2. I've always been wondering what the CO2 emission of this process is compared to a natural gas vehicle, I guess the efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell is higher than a natural gas ICE so CO2 emission will be a bit lower, but the main thing you do is moving the emission location..
About the use of hydrogen in an ICE, at the HAN in Arnhem they have a Subaru Impreza running on Hydrogen, but after a couple years of engineering and testing it still doesn't work properly, although it might work if an engine is designed to run on hydrogen, but it will have a low efficiency.
My point of view: there will be a couple different fuels and other energy sources used in vehicles in the future. I think trucks will be using LNG, cars will use electricity (batteries). Maybe hydrogen will be used for vehicles driving long distances, but there is a lot to do before we can make that work (infrastructure, vehicles with a normal price, etc).
Dear Etwintje,

VERY interesting to read this.

I am part of the Subaru team which u mentioned. Its indeed a student project.
What we see as the future is nůt the gaining of electicity out of an hydrogen cell / fuel cell, but directly inject hydrogen into the combustion chamber.

Specially about this project:
It started in 2007, where there was a man, and his dream was to drive a green rally. So, he bought a real rally monster (2,5L Subaru Impreza) and handed it over to our school. Make me one, he said.
Since then, several teams worked on it as their (half)year project, or as their graduate project. It required lots and lots of engineering to get hydrogen in there. First, you'll have to store it (2 tanks of 250 bar in the trunk), and then you'll have to inject it (Prins Autogas from Eindhoven has installed 8 injectors (2 per cilinder)). Get it running! no..it's not that easy.
Currently we're working on the backfires. Hydrogen burns much easier than fuel, so when the intake valve of the combustion chamber opens, the hot air from the combustion chamber and some residue of the previous combustion exhaust gasses will immediatelly burn up the hydrogen. So we can't run higher than 4000 rpm right now. above that, we're having backfire issues.
Where the last group came, are all the sources of backfire (and some other small problems) and some tips on how to solve it. First we'll have to get it running in GT-Power and Mathlab simulations.

Then on the other hand, there is the RDW. They have been nice to us, until 31 dec. 2014. Before then, we were able to do the hydrogen transition 'just like gas'.
I.E. For the conversion to LPG, there are lots of rules and standards. Also when conversing tp CNG. But nůt for hydrogen. So we were going just like BMW's Hydrogen 7-serie, and it would be all fine. But they said it wasn't allowed anymore since 31 dec 2014. So we had to take it all out.
We can actually drive on our own terrain and on the RDW test track in Lelystad with it, but it'll have to work first :-)

Maybe i'll start a blog of it (in dutch please :D) here on tweakers for the progress. let me know if there is interest.
Our goal is to have a dragrace on hydrogen by summer!

Door Tweakers user mux, donderdag 26 februari 2015 22:34

There can never be enough car blogs!

Door okpail, vrijdag 27 februari 2015 00:43

You could look into Clayton Christensen storyline on disruptive innovation: e.g. http://youtu.be/rpkoCZ4vBSI.
He states that a new technology should be cheaper, less complex and for the customer easier to use and acces previously unreachable customer markets in order to out compete eventually the older technology.
It is rather easy to see that an electric car is far less complex to build, uses fewer parts, needs far less maintenance and has great potential to improve on energy efficiency. And most importantly: is far easier to use, automate and recycle.
This cannot be said about fuel cell cars. As the author stated, with all the systems involved it is even more complex that a regular car. It is like even more prone to break downs as regular cars and cannot be made to be reused in far poorer countries because of lower labour cost because the quality of replacement components needed are very advanced and need precise fabrication.

Door Tweakers user trm0001, dinsdag 10 maart 2015 14:38

@okpail:

As far as I can remember electric cars are even older then internal combustion types.
So in your opinion its rather older then newer technology.

The part where it gets interesting are the relatively new HC battery types.
The electric motor and the electric car are over a 100 years old.

Since HFC is imho still in an experimental state and therfore not comercially ready at all, electric cars have taken momentum, hence: the Tesla succes.

Maybe after many many years HFC can be commercially ready but by then electric cars will have taken a very big market share in personal transportation.

[Reactie gewijzigd op dinsdag 10 maart 2015 14:42]


Door matthewk, dinsdag 10 maart 2015 22:51

You should also make a series why electric cars have no future, at least in their current form which is not sustainable in any way and still very pollutive. I think both systems have a future, just not in their current form. In london, and many more english cities, you will find fuell cell taxis and busses. Even lorries. But it is a well known fact that in its current form, it has too many downsides from a commercial and logistical point of view.

Door Tweakers user mux, woensdag 11 maart 2015 10:01

matthewk schreef op dinsdag 10 maart 2015 @ 22:51:
You should also make a series why electric cars have no future, at least in their current form which is not sustainable in any way and still very pollutive. I think both systems have a future, just not in their current form. In london, and many more english cities, you will find fuell cell taxis and busses. Even lorries. But it is a well known fact that in its current form, it has too many downsides from a commercial and logistical point of view.
On the contrary, electric cars in their current form are pretty good, at least they're better than pretty much every ICE-driven car. The concept of cars as a whole isn't very sustainable and will probably change (in the very near future), but as far as cars go, we don't have anything better than BEVs at the moment.

Door Andijviesoep, donderdag 12 maart 2015 00:01

Thanks a lot for this article, very informative. I'm a chemist myself and spent a fair amount of time on the processes taking place concerning the actual reaction (hydrogen oxidation) and catalyst. Never saw a lot of information concerning the more practical aspects of application.

One thing for all readers to keep in mind: this article focuses only on fuel cell CARS. That is, direct application of fuel cells in automotive vehicles. The pratical limitations and problems described to not necessarily apply to hydrogen as a fuel source in general, such as for fuel cells used in stationary applications outside of cars.

Door Tweakers user sharkwouter, woensdag 08 april 2015 15:09

gravit0n_ schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 01:41:

Some interesting notes from it:
  • Many European countries are investing into a hydrogen filling station network to accomodate these cars. Germany is a perfect example, this country aims for 50 hydrogen fuel station in 2015.
  • The efficiency of the fuel conversion is about two to three times higher than a conventional combustion engine.
  • Hydrogen tanks can be refilled within minutes, like a conventional combustion car, whereas batteries currently need hours for the process of recharging.
You are forgetting that replacing a battery can be faster than filling up a tank with liquid or gas, though.

Door Tweakers user elleP, woensdag 22 juli 2015 08:52

  • Hydrogen tanks can be refilled within minutes, like a conventional combustion car, whereas batteries currently need hours for the process of recharging.
Batteries don't need hours to charge. Most electric cars can charge from 0% to 80% in half an hour, and there are experimental batteries you can fully charge in minutes.

In fact, there is a commercial business, fastned, that is currently building a network of 201 electric fast chargers in the Netherlands. Which, in contrast to 50 chargers in Germany, will be a full coverage of the Netherlands in mid 2015.

Door Tweakers user mux, maandag 31 augustus 2015 12:06

... And this month, fastNED has finally completed their last fast-charging station, ensuring full coverage even for relatively low-range vehicles :)

Door xvi, woensdag 16 december 2015 09:34

H!GHGuY schreef op zondag 22 februari 2015 @ 17:39:
I've always been wondering why they don't just use hydrogen in a combustion engine. We all remember the chemistry labs where the professor first did electrolysis, followed by holding a flame over the produced hydrogen.

Given this idea, I've always found fuel cells silly and trying to do it backwards. How much tuning would you need to a normal petrol or LPG-powered car to let it drive on hydrogen?
Is it even feasible (does it provide enough power)?
You mean something like this
http://phys.org/news/2009...tegy-hydrogen-engine.html ?

or like this:
http://phys.org/news/2014...e-changer-future-car.html
A small amount of hydrogen mixed with ammonia is sufficient to provide combustion in a conventional car engine. While our process is not yet optimised, we estimate that an ammonia decomposition reactor no bigger than a 2-litre bottle will provide enough hydrogen to run a mid-range family car.

Door Tweakers user mux, woensdag 16 december 2015 09:41

The problem that hydrogen in combustion engines (and even worse: ammonia) will always have is the insurmountable cycle efficiency problem. The problem that these scientists are trying to solve is how to reduce greenhouse emissions, specifically CO2 alone, no matter the cost. I don't think that's a reasonable approach to the problem. If you reduce greenhouse emissions, but require more than twice the initial energy input, you're just not doing it better, you're brute forcing the problem. And especially considering we have better solutions already (like hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric cars), I don't see how a rational society could invest in something like that.

But who knows - if total transportation energy goes down enough in the future, the efficiency issue doesn't need to be a problem.

Door Robert, zondag 05 juni 2016 02:29

I've started reading this article a few times but get stuck at "You won't even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car".

The Mirai has a 312 EPA range. Perhaps an editing is in order?

Door Tweakers user _V_, zaterdag 11 juni 2016 15:11

Robert schreef op zondag 05 juni 2016 @ 02:29:
I've started reading this article a few times but get stuck at "You won't even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car".

The Mirai has a 312 EPA range. Perhaps an editing is in order?
I suggest you skip the TL;DR summary at the top of the posts. The actual posts are well worth the read even if it's not 100% up to date. Mirai was announced in time for part 4, so maybe Mirai has better tanks (I don't know). Apparently Mirai has to deal with lower pressure filling stations, which limits its range that way.

Door Tweakers user mux, zaterdag 11 juni 2016 16:24

It was still surprisingly current even up to earlier this year, but yeah; Mirai is now the first car that properly broke the 100mi barrier with 700 bar tanks.

I'm not going to update this particular blog series (mainly because I don't like editing things in post; this is how it was intended to be published and I want to keep it that way even if it's obviously wrong now) but I will definitely do a follow-up when the time is right.

Door crpt, maandag 13 juni 2016 21:34

Hi Thank you for this very interesting article.
Some 15 years ago, maybe a bit more I was involved in the only, by then, hydrogen project that happened in 5 cities in Europe. Sponsored by EU precisely to study the viability of this solution. I was involved in the project, construction of the distribution unit, not on the vehicles itself but I still recall a few curiosities. BTW it was 3 city bus not passenger cars.
Probably the most impressive, the stupidly high pressures to maintain it all in liquid stage in the tanks and initial phases. Honestly it was damn scary.
Along my carrier made projects involving natural gas, GPL, gasoline, diesel, all aviation fuels, querosene. Basically all fuels we still use nowadays. But this one beat them all in terms of leaving the people involved quite nervous. Can't describe how many times some people took a second and third look to some manometers because couldn't believe the scale they where showing. LOL
>2000 bar read on a manometer that you KNOW it's certified, working properly, etc. Makes you shit your pants. ;-)
Curiously after the experiment the results where very frustrating. Weight, complexity, "danger", distribution and overall maintenance of the vehicles set it totally off. Maybe in the meantime things improved but my believe in the system was frankly diminished afterwards.
I can tell the bus drivers that where specially trained for those bus had the most complains, in fact several tried to change schedules with the colleagues... maintenance engineers spoke the same. Quite disappointing.
In parallel occurred experiments with natural gas and GPL and amazingly this where considered excellent results running along with diesel. Cleaner, less emissions, more pep on the engines, less maintenance headaches.
Ok got a bit carried away. Sorry keep up the good writing. ;-)
Carlos

Door crpt, maandag 13 juni 2016 21:42

Sorry just realized I wrote GPL, in English should be LPG...
Back to reality nowadays I live in Norway where electric cars sell amazingly well mostly due to a lot of incentives and a lot of money. But where people still go to the grocery shop or supermarket and leave the engine running for whatever time they are shopping. Or leave all the lights in the house, inside and out turned on day or night, Summer or Winter. It's crazy! :9 :9 :9

Door Tweakers user mux, maandag 13 juni 2016 22:20

Sounds a lot like the fuel cell project I was very briefly interested in during my early teens and which sparked my interest to join Formula Zero back in 2007/8. I remember the hydrogen boom very well; it really was a short moment of really intense research, interest and pretty widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells all around. You can see that in HFC company valuations around the time; e.g. Hydrogenics (the main supplier of fuel cells for our kart team and a few buses here as well). Look at the graph: here (click on 'max' for the time span).

Door greenfuture, donderdag 30 juni 2016 22:24

This post is chock full of lies

The fact is that there are commercial cars available TODAY (Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell) that travel over 300 miles and refuel in three to five minutes

There are 20 commercial retail stations available TODAY in California that take credit cards from Joe public and sell hydrogen to refuel vehicles

There is an SAE J2601 fueling standard that is use TODAY that these hydrogen stations all meet and have been evaluated using that fuel these commerical fuel cell cars in three to five minutes

Truth is, you are NOT an expert on these cars. You worked on fuel cell go karts in a university lab. You do not have the experience to speak on the industry and are spreading lies.

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