Are hydrogen tanks superior to batteries?

Discussion in 'General' started by Martin Williams, Apr 3, 2018.

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  1. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    In answer to marcel_g I would point out that FCEVs ARE viable already. Two models are already available in your country, and are selling rather better than many plug-ins despite their high cost and the fact that your whole country has only 30 or 40 hydrogen filling stations.

    Germany - a far smaller country - has twice that number of filling stations and will have around 400 by 2023. I don't see infrastructure being a show stopper. Far less so than charging points because you need far less of them.

    I don't accept that efficiency is very important to the consumer. After all, almost 99 out of a hundred people prefer to buy ICEs which are the least efficient of the lot! Worse than batteries AND hydrogen! I suspect convenience is far more important, and batteries are certainly not that!

    As to the production of hydrogen, I suspect that given time it will all come from electrolysis, not methane. Why? Because it is a convenient way of putting excess renewable power to use. In order to get most of your electricity from - say - wind, you have to over-provide in terms of peak power. Basically, you get about 40% of whats on the nameplate so if you aim to get 50% of a years electricity from wind, you will have to install 50% more than you need. This means periods when you have far more power than you need, and the result is wind farms are often shut down in windy conditions. The electricity they provide could be usefully put to work in electrolysing tapwater.

    Moreover, if you are fortunate enough to live in a sunny climate and have a large roof space, you can produce the hydrogen yourself. Electrolysis is such a simple process it is perfectly feasible to have a home filling station. You need a high-pressure compressor and tank, but that in mass production is no great deal. The result is free power without the hassle of plugging in every night. You fill up when you need it, just like you do with an ICE.

    It is worth noting, too, that a very large number of people live in houses or apartments where it is not possible to 'home charge' their cars. Battery vehicles are a huge no-no for these folk.

    I think that EV enthusiasts have to accept that their enthusiasm is not shared by the general public. People, in general, have not and are not buying them, despite a wide range of models being available. I am pretty sure the reason is the battery. It is just too much hassle. Time perhaps to see hydrogen, not as an obstacle to the adoption of EVs but a route to it.
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  3. Cypress

    Cypress Active Member

    There is not yet a wide range of EV models available. It is still very narrow, but despite that EV sales continue to grow faster than overall auto sales. Issue is, people are generally ignorant that viable and affordable EVs even exist. Each person I’ve given rides to in my EV or let drive, are convinced EVs will be the future and have started shopping for an EV that suits them. Butts in seats sells.
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  4. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    Well, there are now 43 plug-ins to choose from. Sales are growing of course at about 25 to 30% a year, although this is mainly due to a small number of models. At that rate, in ten years EVs will have secured 10% of the market.

    Until the arrival of the Clarity FCV, the Mirai has been experiencing 150% annual growth. The Clarity seems to me to be a better buy for the money, but if the two of them continue at this rate, in ten years time they too will have secured about 10% of the market.

    The lack of hydrogen filling stations has been a big disincentive, but you need far fewer of them than you do charging points. A single hydrogen dispenser can easily support 10,000 hydrogen cars. I notice the USA has now increased its total by one from 40 to 41, by the way, and can therefore supply at least 400,000 hydrogen vehicles, so it's not such a big no-no as it was.

    Infrastructure costs are a problem for both battery and hydrogen cars. A hydrogen station with - say six - dispensers can easily cost $6 million. However, it can supply 60,000 cars. In other words, $100 a car. I don't know what the cost of a home charging point is - probably significantly more than $100 I expect - but even if we neglect the need for public charging point which will be even more expensive to install, the hydrogen infrastructure comes out as being cheaper to provide.
  5. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    164 cars per day? 27 cars per dispenser per day? I doubt it.

    50kW fast chargers are about $20,000 each. By you logic, that is 24 cars per day, and 8,760 cars per year = $2.28 per car.

    Home 240v chargers are about $600, and you can charge your car 365 times = $1.64 per charge. Unless you only have to fill your FCEV once a year?

    Hydrogen costs about $14 / kg, and a typical FCEV has 5kg on board = $70 per fillup.
    The typical US cost of electricity is about 13¢ / kWh Bolt EV cost about $7.60 to fully charge.

    The Honda Clarity FCEV has a 366 mile EPA range and has about a 5.4kg tank, so that's about 20.6¢ / mile.
    The Chevy Bolt EV has a 238 mile EPA range and has about 58kWh usable, so that's about 3.2¢ / mile.
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  6. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    Apologies. I slipped a decimal point! Bear with me. I will go through the figures again!

    I was assuming 6 minutes for a fill. 10 an hour. Over a 12 hour day, that's 120 a day. As a hydrogen car can do 360 miles on a tank full, and assuming owners do the average of 40 miles a day, they can expect to visit every 9 days. Thus a single dispenser can serve the needs of a thousand cars, not ten thousand as I claimed. Six dispensers will supply the needs of 6,000 cars rather than 60,000. and 40 such filling stations will serve 240,000 hydrogen vehicles.

    Thus the $6 million dollars filling station will serve 6,000 cars, and the cost per car to provide it is $1,000 per car. I still have no idea what a home charging station costs - I imagine somewhere between $100 and $1,000?? - but I imagine almost every plugin will have one of these to take advantage of low-cost home charging. In addition, there will have to be numerous public charging points - including fast chargers as it it won't always be convenient or possible to use the home charger.

    I suspect, therefore, that the total cost of battery car infrastructure will still be comparable or higher than that of hydrogen cars.
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  8. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    Some current hydrogen filling stations are limited to 15 cars per day, due to the time it takes to compress hydrogen. They cost about $2 Million, so at $6 Million, you could fill 45 cars per day, not 120. So that is $2,666 per car.

    You are forgetting the production and transportation infrastructure - this is non-trivial.

    Home chargers are just $500-800. So, $6 Million buys at least 7,500 stations. And NO CHANGES are needed in the generation and transmission infrastructure.
  9. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    I think time limitations on dispensing are engineering problems which can be overcome. Possibly with the expenditure of more energy, but not posing any insuperable barriers. I see no real reason why it could not be done faster than you fill an ICE, but if you see a show stopper, then I'd be pleased to hear it.

    Production and transportation problems apply to EVs. Indeed were ALL cars to magically be transformed into battery vehicles, it would require between a 50% and 100% expansion in the electricity generation and transmission capabilities. Whether this is more or less than modifying refineries to hydrogen production in the short term and developing sun and wind powered electrolysis plants in the longer term, I have no idea.

    If the filling time for hydrogen cars is reduced sufficiently, home chargers become the more expensive option. I imagine that there will be considerable pressure (no pun intended) on people developing and deploying filling stations to get the time down to something comparable to that of an ICE simply in order to maximise profits. As there appear to be no particular obstacles other than the energy needed, I can see this happening quite quickly.

    I just found this, which seems to imply filling a FCV takes the same time as an ICE vehicle. It seems to be a government agency. I leave it to you to decide if that means it is reliable data.
  10. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    Oil extraction and oil refining use a huge amount of electricity - so, if all cars became electric, these large uses of electricity would offset some generation.

    We already have an electricity grid, and expanding it is not nearly as difficult as building a hydrogen infrastructure from scratch.
  11. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I breathlessly await a description of what kind of magic fool cell fanboys are going to propose to improve the pernicious hydrogen molecule. That is, pernicious in the context of being used asr a practical fuel for wheeled vehicles.

    Unless they can achieve that physically impossible task, hydrogen will forever remain ridiculously and almost absurdly impractical for widespread use as a fuel.

    * * * * *

    Let's list the properties of an ideal fuel:

    1. High energy per volume

    (H2 has very low energy per volume, which is why it has to be very highly compressed, requiring significant amounts of added energy -- making it significantly more expensive -- to be useful as a fuel for fool cell cars.)

    2. Liquid at a wide range of temperatures over which human beings are found to be living, from below freezing to over 120° F; and liquid at standard atmospheric pressure, so it can be easily stored and easily dispensed using cheap pumps and cheap mild steel tanks.

    (Obviously H2 is wildly far from that ideal. To store H2 as a liquid requires expensive, power-sucking cryogenic cooling. Storing H2 in a fool cell car's fuel tank requires pressurization to 10,000 PSI, which requires extra-strong tanks and seals. Even then, despite such seals, H2 tanks constantly leak.)

    4. Easily dispensed using cheap pumps into cheaply made fuel tanks in the vehicle.

    (Pressurizing and dispensing H2 requires special, expensive, energy-sucking, high pressure pumps. Storing the very high pressure H2 in the fool cell car requires expensive carbon-fiber fuel tanks, and again special seals... and again, it constantly leaks.)

    5. Easily moved using existing petroleum or natural gas pipelines.

    (H2 of course cannot be moved this way, since it has to be stored and maintained at high pressure after it's generated.)

    6. Stable when stored long-term.

    (Since H2 leaks past all seals, and will even leak slowly thru the solid walls of a tank -- it's that pernicious very tiny H2 molecule again -- long-term storage of H2 means significant loss of fuel, and loss of the energy used to produce it.)

    7. Made from a material for which Mother Nature provides most of the energy, so the manufacturer doesn't have to pay for the energy contained in the fuel.

    (H2 made by reforming natural gas has this property... which is why 95% of commercially produced H2 is made that way. Contrariwise, fool cell fanboys always talk about using renewable "green" hydrogen, made from water by using electrolysis, which means the H2 produce or the H2 fueling station has to pay for all the energy contained in the fuel, by using electricity to power the electrolysis. This of course makes the H2 fuel significantly more expensive.)

    8. Non-polluting when burned in the vehicle.

    * * * * *

    Looking over the list, we see that gasoline and diesel match all the required conditions for an ideal fuel except for the last. That's why they are the two most widely used fuels.

    Sadly for fool cell fanboys and others promoting the "hydrogen economy" hoax, H2 fits only one of the 8 needed properties. That's never going to change, since it's a result of the basic physical properties of the pernicious hydrogen molecule. In all ways but one, H2 is pretty much the worst possible choice for a fuel! Yet somehow, fool cell fanboys keep trying to convince us that H2 is the fuel of the future. o_O :eek: :confused: :rolleyes:

    * * * * *

    Last I looked, H2 fueling stations in California could handle -- optimistically, assuming everything is going right, which it certainly doesn't on some days* -- the newer stations either serve ~24 fool cell cars for a construction cost of $2 million, or serve ~36 fool cell cars per day with a construction cost of $3 million. So the rule of thumb is $1 per dozen cars.

    *Which is why we so often see reports of someone trying to fill his fool cell car discovering, upon arrival at one of the very few H2 fueling stations, that there's a "CLOSED" sign, because the station is out of order, or out of fuel, or both.

    If we assume every fool cell car gets filled once per week, that means for each million dollars used to build H2 fueling stations, you can support 84 cars. So that comes to about $11,900 per fool cell car just for the cost of constructing the H2 fueling stations!

    This is one of the many barriers to widespread use of fool cell cars. Of course, fool cell fanboys want to handwave away such costs -- and also the high maintenance costs for such stations, by airily assuming future costs will be reduced substantially. Sadly for their wishful thinking, you can't simply handwave away the high cost of the needed high-pressure pumps, nor the problem with needing special, expensive seals, nor the problem with H2 embrittling metals, which means any metal pumps or pipes used to carry H2 at the station would have to be replace every decade or so.

    We've been over this before. Our resident die-hard fool cell fanboy, Martin Williams, keeps predicting that somehow they'll be able to make high-pressure pumps cheaply, and keeps insisting this isn't really a problem. I'm sure the aerospace industry would love to know what magic will be used to accomplish that! The high expense of high-pressure turbopumps is a major factor in why building large rockets is so expensive.

    Believing that somehow, large complex pumps which need tight tolerances, special seals, and high power, can be substantially reduced in price, so they could be little more expensive than the simple, inexpensive pumps used at petrol stations, is just one example of the many ways in which one would have to practice wholesale wishful thinking to believe in the "hydrogen economy" hoax, and be a true fool cell fanboy!

    Related: "Why High Pressure Means High Maintenance"
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
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  13. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

  14. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    Well, most refineries of any size have their own power stations running on waste. Overall, they are pretty efficient. I understand 95% of the thermal energy contained in crude oil emerges as energy contained in product - petrol, diesel or other fuels. Hardly surprising really. Energy = profit and the oil companies will not throw it away lightly.

    The electricity grids in the US (there are more than one) are already creaking. Power failures are far from infrequent I'm told. Good luck with doubling it! In the UK a period of no sun or wind in midwinter could put us pretty close to the same thing, although we are seeing a steady decrease in demand - year on year - thanks to more efficient use of power.

    I don't think anyone will be awfully keen to double capacity to support battery cars, though, if there is an alternative. Fortunately there is!
  15. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    The electricity grid exists.

    Hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure does not.
  16. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    To add to the list of extremely difficult challenges for hydrogen posted above:

    As produced now, it is much higher carbon than electricity, and higher carbon than gasoline - it is steam reformed from natural gas. Natural gas is fracked, which is as much carbon as coal, when leakage is included. Steam reforming requires super-heated steam to split methane.

    Hydrogen is extremely reactive, and extremely explosive.

    Compressing it to transport via diesel truck is very energy intensive. Hydrogen pipelines are not feasible.

    If hydrogen is gotten by electrolysis, it takes over 3X as much energy as it contains. In other words, you use 3X the electricity just to get the hydrogen.

    Then you have to compress it (see above).

    The fuel cell itself is relatively inefficient - about 50% or so? Fuel cells are expensive to make, and they don't last very long - about 75,000 miles, last I heard. You would have to replace the most expensive component of the car much sooner than you would want to.

    Fuel cell cars have a battery, and an electric motor - they are electric cars, for all intents and purposes. Except, they generate electricity as they go, to charge the small battery. FCEV are about HALF as efficient as a battery EV - because the fuel cell and compressors they have in the car.

    So roughly speaking, FCEV's are SIX TIMES LESS EFFICIENT than battery EV's.

    But wait, there's more! FCEV's produce almost as much heat as gasoline cars - and they are much more INTOLERANT to heat. So, they require LOTS of cooling.

    More cooling = big radiators (check out the Toyota Mirai) and big radiators = higher aerodynamic drag.

    But wait - there's EVEN MORE! Hydrogen is stored in the car at 10,000PSI. Even storing air at 10,000PSI would be dangerous, but storing hydrogen at 10,000PSI is extremely dangerous. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule, and is extremely reactive with materials. It requires a very strong protective structure to keep the tanks from being ruptured in a crash. Hydrogen is far more volatile than gasoline.

    Hydrogen is EXPENSIVE.
    At $14 / kilogram, they cost about 21¢ / mile.
    A 25MPG car with $2.50 gallon gasoline costs 10¢ / mile.
    A typical EV with the US average cost of electricity (13¢ / kWh) costs about 3.7¢ / mile.


    Fool cells, indeed!
  17. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    Well, taking your criticisms roughly in order, The fact that the electricity exists doesn't help you much in doubling its capacity. Thet means a massive construction program, new high capacity transmission lines and new power stations. The hydrogen infrastructure is limited to modifications to existing refineries in the short term, filling stations, and some new high-pressure road tankers. I believe the latter would be less expensive. In time, the refinery equipment would again be modified to electrolysis as the proportion of renewable energy increases.

    Battery enthusiasts keep complaining about efficiency. I can see why. In a battery car energy is limited and it takes ages to recharge, so you have to utilise everything as well as possible. That isn't a concern for hydrogen cars or ICE powered cars where refilling takes a few minutes and you have plenty whenever you need it. I don't believe drivers give two hoots about efficiency. They have happily driven cars with efficiencies that are truly appalling. I once accompanied a friend driving his newly acquired 4x4 on the motorway and it was doing about 4 miles per gallon at 70 mph.

    This seems not to be an isolated case. Fuel for cars is what economists call an 'inelastic' commodity. The amount sold remains constant over a wide range of prices. This is another way of saying that efficiency is not the primary concern of the driving population.

    Poor overall efficiency doesn't necessarily mean high cost either. Starting from tap water, the cost of producing hydrogen is down to the capital cost of the equipment to produce it, and the cost of the energy. The equipment is simple and well understood. and the energy - if you go to wind and solar for it - is essentially free. Moreover, it is quite feasible to make it at home. A number of companies have designed home electrolysis equipment which operates from a solar roof. These use solar energy to produce compress and stockpile hydrogen so the owner can fill his car at his convenience. Again, the cost of this is down to the cost of the equipment used to produce it. The availability of this sort of thing means the eventual cost of hydrogen will be limited. If it gets too expensive at the pump, home production will rise. In any case, I don't believe anyone spending many thousands of pounds or dollars on a Tesla or a Mirai cares much about saving a few pennies on fuel or electricity.

    The long litany of problems in handling hydrogen dredged up here seems to me to have been largely solved. Germany has somewhere between fifty and a hundred filling stations already and will have 400 by 2023. Even in the USA, you have 40 or so. These stations seem to work. They supply customers with hydrogen on a routine basis, so it would appear that satisfactory solutions have been found to all these problems. In particular, high-pressure fuel tanks have been developed that will withstand crashes adequately, and the result of a sudden rupture is not a catastrophic explosion but a release of extremely light gas which rises and dissipates very rapidly. As a boat owner, I am very aware of the dangers of natural gas or fumes from petrol collecting in a boat. Leaking hydrogen would be far less hazardous there for instance.

    The bottom line is that hydrogen cars and refilling stations exist and work, and as far as the owners are concerned they have the advantages of electric cars without the hassle of a battery. Whether they catch on is something we shall have to wait to see, but it is becoming apparent than battery cars are not popular.
  18. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Active Member

    We have roughly 120,000 gasoline filling stations. Each services on average say, 100 cars / day. To replace those with hydrogen filling stations, we would have to build about 333,333 new $3 Million dollar stations.

    Total cost JUST FOR THE FILLING STATIONS = $1,000,000,000,000
    If we built TEN PER DAY EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR = more than 91 YEARS to build them all.
    If we go by your German example of 300 built in 5 years - it would take 5,555 YEARS TO BUILD THEM!

    Who will wait 90 years after buying a car to be able to fill it? Conversely, who will wait 90 years to build a car for someone to buy, after the filling station is built?

    Efficiency matters! We would have to build SIX TIMES more solar panels and wind turbines to make enough hydrogen vs just using the electricity in the car directly.

  19. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    I have shown that a single hydrogen dispenser can serve 1,000 cars given a 5 minute filling time and a 12 hour day. A $3 million filling station with 6 dispensers can therefore supply 6,000 cars. In a year, the number of visits would be 6,000 x 365 = 2190000. Call it 2 million. If the owner of the filling station can make $1.50 profit on each visit, he will repay the loan in a year. I imagine commercial operators will do this sort of sum too and start investing in them as profit making enterprises.

    Once it takes off this sort of thing grows exponentially The enormous cost (which I might dispute but won't) will come from private investors so it is sort of irrelevant. The cost to consumers is - as shown - small. Your estimate of ten a day for a country of your size seems rather small I suspect it will be higher than that, but even ten a day means 120,000 will be built in 32 years, not 91. The German building program is government funded and intended as a 'pump-priming' exercise. The expectation is that private investment will see the opportunities and build stations too. The actual number built will likely be rather higher. The idea of the H2 Mobility program is to provide a minimal number of sttions so those choosing hydrogen cars will have a filling station within reasonable range.

    Nobody will wait even 32 years for a car. But there will be no need to. You do not have to wait in California even now. A single filling station allows 6,000 more buyers to invest in a hydrogen car, and the bigger the demand for them the faster they will grow. The assumption that the building rate will stick at 10 a day for 32 years makes no sense.

    As regards having to build more windmills and solar panels, have you seen the growth rate of these things? They have completely displaced investment in any other form of power generation and even relatively newly built gas generation plant is being largely mothballed in Europe. The fact that they are intermittent is in a way an advantage to hydrogen production, because it means that you have to build a lot more than you need. That means a lot of unusable energy at times, and this can be usefully diverted into hydrogen production. The nice thing about hydrogen is that you can stockpile it in a tank. Electricity is a lot more tricky to store, and trying to charge your car directly from your roof means you will have to leave it plugged in during the day. This is not very convenient.

    Hopefully, I've answered all your questions despite most being statements and not actually questions at all.
  20. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    March 2018 sales:
         Group      |  Sales | %Group|%total
    Total Hybrid    |   28518|  44.0%| 01.7%
    Total BEV       |   14480|  22.4%| 00.9%
    Total PHEV      |   10882|  16.8%| 00.7%
    Total Diesel    |   10688|  16.5%| 00.6%
    Total Fuel Cell |     204|  00.3%| 00.0%
    Total Efficient |   64772| 100.0%| 03.9%
    Total Auto Sales| 1646888|       |
    Flying off the lot no less.

    Bob Wilson
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  21. Martin Williams

    Martin Williams Active Member

    Over what period, Bob? Is this not a little out of date now?

    FCVs are being sold at several hundred a month in the USA now. There are over 4,000 of them on the roads there.

    My point was, however, was not about market dominance, but rather that these things seem to exist despite all the reasons exhibited by other posters why this is impossible! Given that the number of filling stations is miniscule, and exist only in one state, I think 4,000 plus sold so far, and a very healthy growth rate is quite a good indication of their ultimate popularity.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  22. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    For those of us playing "EV-Haters Bingo", :p :D Martin just used #2 from the classic "The EV-Hater's Guide to Hating Electric Cars":

    Plugging them in will crash the grid. Forget that most electric car charging will occur during off-peak times. And forget that the EV charger on the Nissan LEAF draws a modest 3.3 kilowatts. Just for fun, make the grid-crashing claim while your 4.4-kilowatt clothes dryer is running.
    That list was made in 2011, but fool cell fanboys are still using the same tired arguments! :rolleyes:
  23. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    You just contradicted yourself, Mr. Fool Cell fanboy. If "several hundred a month" were being sold, then there would be far more than just a bit over 4000 on the roads here!

    It's fun watching fool cell fanboys try to justify their claims. They even have to resort to warping and twisting basic math to support their claims! o_O :eek: :confused: :rolleyes:

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