Can Hydrogen compete E-cars?
Hydrogen fuel cell cars appear to be making a comeback. But is this real? The comparison in question includes discussion of:
- the wider process behind producing hydrogen fuel
- the production itself
- the compression/storage
- the transportation of the fuel
- associated factors
The future is a bit cloudy for hydrogen fuel cells (HFC), as electric vehicles have developed quickly and taken significant market share. However, Honda still intends to offer the new Clarity by the end of the year, Toyota is currently selling the Mirai, and Chevy introduced a new HFC truck intended for military use.
Hydrogen is not an energy source
Many industry insiders say that H2 produces no emissions. Hydrogen is not an energy source. It’s an energy carrier. It’s a form of storage. You need primary energy sources like the sun, coal, natural gas, or uranium to generate the power needed to extract Hydrogen from a source material like natural gas or water. (Source: Tony Seba).
Assuming that at some point fuel-cells will be cheap and hydrogen production will reach critical mass, it will still be at least three times more expensive to power an HFCV car than an EV.
But not all HFC vehicles are made alike. You can use compressed or liquefied hydrogen. You can also use either internal combustion engine of fuel cells to power the car. The following chart shows that whatever choice of type of hydrogen and engine results in the electric vehicle going three to six times more miles for the same energy when compared to hydrogen-powered cars.
HFCV delivery infrastructure
To build an Infrastructure you need large factories/refineries, pipelines, trucks, storage facilities, compressors, hydrogen gas stations, and so on.
Electric vehicles, on the other hand, have a ready infrastructure: the power grid. Everyone who lives and works in advanced economies has access to electricity.
How clean is Hydrogen?
Still about 95% of hydrogen in the US is made from natural gas in large central plants, according to the Department of Energy. But there is an interesting business case in Europe going on.
During the summer 2016, the Dutch Energy Delta Institute published a study concluding that it could be financially attractive to produce hydrogen at unemployed oil platforms in the North Sea with wind energy that is extracted at sea nearby. (a simulated wind-and-gas-energy-conversion pilot project in the North Sea)
Water is an issue
If we use solar or wind power as the source of the electricity for hydrolysis then you could have ‘clean’ and technically ‘renewable’ HFC fuel. Technically because the world is already pumping water at non-sustainable, non-renewable rates and the massive amounts of water you’d need for hydrogen would just contribute to the world’s water crisis.
Powering EVs using solar and wind would use no water.
Hydrogen is also a battery
It’s likely that a HFC car also can be used as a battery. Just as the electric car can. That’s because you can make it in two ways: steam-methane reformation, which means that it is a fossil fuel, and the source for 95 percent of water or electrolysis of water, which makes it essentially a battery storing electric power.
Electric cars do not have significantly longer driving ranges and lower refuelling times than comparable HFC cars. But with your own electrical charging station in front of your house, it’s comfortable. And – if hybrid – the EV can also be used with an amount of petroleum.
In fact, when you look at the overall summary table, electricity performs not so much better on many criteria than HFC.
Now it is true that there are new technologies in the hydrogen pipeline, as Christine called “the philosophers stone for a new era- using catalysts. Eric Rogell tells us that some of that California Hydrogen is coming from garbage.
The infra is a big issue. But maybe, just as the Prius accelerated the electric infra, innovative ideas for the infrastructure will boost HFC vehicles in the near future.
Video Elon Musk about hydrogen cars
- Positive business case producing hydrogen on Oil Platforms North Sea
- Power-to-Gas Energy Storage is booming
- Is hydrogen the technology of the future?
- Siemens opens plant for green H-production
- Hydrogen Power, Pros & Cons
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