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sfousi 06-16-2008 04:32 PM

how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
I'm sure people saw the Honda announcement of limited production of the FCX Clarity in the U.S. today. I was wondering what people thought of Fuel cell technology. Production is going to be severely limited for the next several years, given that there aren't fueling stations available. Also, Honda said they wouldn't be producing an electric car..

Indigo 06-16-2008 04:43 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
I just have a hard time believing FCVs will EVER make a significant impact. The fuel is basicallt natural gas stripped down to hydrogen; the technology is extremely expensive; the service life of a fuel cell stack is limited; there is no infrastructure for refueling.

I think progressively more efficient hybrids are the way things are going to be.

Squint 06-16-2008 05:15 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
Most experts are saying 30-50 years.

One problem is that making hydrogen is less efficient than simply using the electricity to power cars in the first place. Something like 85% vs 25%. The other problem is infrastructure which largely already exists for electric vehicles.

Plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles are the only realistic short term solution. All that's really missing are affordable high capacity batteries.

What the fuel cell now is doing is taking the place of those future batteries at the cost of efficiency and subject to the limitations of fuel station availability.

CJO2007CamryHyb 06-16-2008 06:09 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
I think it will be many years before Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make a REAL impact on the driving public. Nothing is going to happen for at least 5-10 years with production and development of fuel cell stations that you can fill up at. Transporting and storing the liquid hydrogen also will be expensive..........much more so than gas is, i imagine. Liquid Hydrogen is very cold!! I remember liquid oxygen is very cold(-200+), from my years in The Air Force.

Harold 06-16-2008 06:20 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
Do you really feel Honda and others are just playing around!!! Hello, H

Pravus Prime 06-16-2008 06:20 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
I'll take the risk of ridicule from the future and say it will never make a significant impact on the automotive world without some kind of miraculous revolutionary breakthrough that we can't even concieve of now.

There are far to many problems and limitations to Hydrogen powered automobiles compared to flex fuel and plug in hybrids to make it a truly competitive technology. Given that it takes about 20 years before any change trickles through the system to make a real impact, by the time Hydrogen technology is "ready" for major automotive use, if ever, battery and other alternative fuels will have surpassed it in ease of use and cost in perpetuity, just as it's by far, the most inefficient solution today.

Personally, Hydrogen cars belong in the same category as the Nuclear and Turbine cars, as evolutionary dead ends.

KenG 06-16-2008 06:39 PM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
There is an outside chance hydrogen fuel cells will have a market segment in 30 to 50 years. Fuel cells have the potential advantage of avoiding some of the losses in electric transmission, battery charging and discharging. The enabling technology is to create hydrogen by electrolysis much more efficiently than current processes. The best approach seems to be to run the electrolysis at very high temperatures and the only candidate now is purpose built, high temperature nuclear reactors. The infrastructure for this would take years and it's not clear it would have a big advantage over battery systems.

alteredsego 06-17-2008 07:29 AM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
Most of the articles I have read stated that the technology behind fuel cells should be ready for consumers by 2020. What you may see is something like diesel today, where some fuel stations will have a few dedicated pumps just for hydrogen refueling, and as the percentage of people using hydrogen increases, so will the number of pumps. I am sure that the cost of these upgrades will be subsidized by the government, car manufacturers, and hydrogen suppliers.

As far as EVs go, I too agree that electric power is the way of the future, but to what extent I am not sure. Of the three big names in EVs, GM, Nissan, and Toyota, 2 have alreayd announced plans for supplementing the electric range of their vehicles with standard ICEs. We all assume that the ICE will eventually go away, but that may not be for at least another couple of decades. Beyond the sheer cost of the batteries is their size, weight, and inconsistent output during certain ranges of their power curve. Add to that the charge time itself, which is usually listed as overnight, with the noted exception of phoenix motors, and you have a vehicle that is not viable for year round use on electric power.

I don’t believe hydrogen is really viable as a straight gasoline replacement, but it may be just the ticket for supplementing on board electrical systems. It fits the needs of the times after all; it is relatively plentiful, can be produced independently of foreign suppliers, it is inexpensive, it can be stored relatively easily, and it can be quickly replenished. What we may see is hydrogen used in a series hybrid design similar to that of the volt; to supplement the weaknesses of the battery, and in turn reduce the demands placed on the hydrogen powered portion of the system. A configuration like that would probably drastically reduce the time required to get hydrogen ready for the market; as the fuel cell range is the main issue facing engineers today.

I am not overly optimistic about hydrogen, but obviously Honda sees something in it, and I for one have learned to trust their foresight in matters like this. After all they are the company that initially introduced the hybrids that we know and love today. (And as much as I am jealous of Toyota owners for being able to run in a strictly EV mode, and for their planetary drive system, I tend to think that IMA is more practical than that the SDS; as it is redundant, less complicated, less expensive to produce, and offers almost the same results in real world performance.)

I am also keenly aware of the fact that none of the “hydrogen killing” vehicles being cited are in production, or even close to finished in their respective design centers. Another possible issue is that we don't know hoe the buying market will react to them. I might remind you that the production of the much talked about EV1 was considered a huge financial failure and marketing blunder on GM’s part; as the vehicle was so costly to produce, and the demand for it was so underwhelming. (This of course was prior to the release of “Who Killed the Electric Car”, and it is propaganda like message.) EVs may hit the market and sell like crazy, or people may look at their high costs and elect to go with cheaper, well tested, hybrid systems.

After all If electric cars end up costing $10,000 more than their hybrid counterparts they will not really offer any savings to the consumer. According to calcars the cost for traveling a mile in an electric vehicle is roughly 3 cents when electricity is 9 cents per a Kwh. For a hybrid owner traveling that same mile, averaging a lowly 40mpg with gas at $4.00, costs 10 cents a mile. Now assuming that you drive 15000 miles per a year, and you average gas to be $6.00 a gallon or 15 cents a mile, and further assuming that electricity stays at 9 cents per a Kwh, over a five year period, the average length of ownership for a car in the US, you would save $11,500; or just about the price separating the two vehicles after you include the extra taxes and financing charges. Of course that is also the best case scenario that EV owners can hope for. Realistically newer hybrids will get better gas mileage, electricity costs should rise somewhat over that same period of time, and purely electric vehicles are leaning closer to $20,000 more; prior to government subsidies. Combine that with the fact that the FCX clarity gets 74mpg, or essentially 5.4 cents per a mile, offers similar real world efficiency (70% compared to 80%) to electric motors, and would receive government subsidies similar to those offered to EV owners, and hydrogen becomes more viable. Eventually costs on batteries will drop, but by then hydrogen will be more readily available on the market, and more importantly less expensive for people to own and operate. Given that the bulk of our electricity is generated by coal powered facilities, hydrogen would also be more environmentally friendly. I am not saying that things will go that way, but it is just something to consider before proclaiming hydrogen as a useless technology.

jdenenberg 06-17-2008 08:26 AM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?

Originally Posted by alteredsego (Post 177066)
Most of the articles I have read stated that the technology behind fuel cells should be ready for consumers by 2020.

Don 't count on it. All of the existing fuel cell reactors are based on platinum catalysts and are unrealistically expensive. They also have not managed to get a long life out of them to date (at least the platinum is recyclable). At least there is a chance for EV batteries to come down in price (Lithium is an inexpensive raw material and Nickel is also recyclable) and for those who use photo voltaic energy to charge their EVs, EVs become very green and reasonably priced in use.

Besides, I keep my cars running at least ten years (and more than 200k miles), not 5 and I see little reason for an EV not lasting 20 years (with perhaps a mid-life battery replacement).


alteredsego 06-17-2008 09:41 AM

Re: how long before fuel cell cars make an impact?
I tend to keep my vehicles longer as well, my last one was 11 years old when I decided to go with my hybrid, but I am not representative of the market as whole. In the United States people on average change cars every 5 years. Also the Clarity uses lithium-ion batteries, in fact it is the first production car to do so. I know that platinum is expensive and susceptible to poisioning, but because of changes in design they have been able to decrese the size of the PEFC, and therefore reduce the cost. Like anything these things take time to come down in cost. (I will be honest I was confused on this one. I did not realize that the FCX Clarity was a series hybrid powered electric vehicle when I started writing this. I feel a bit foolish now, minus the fact that I unwittingly described the exact system that Honda is using to power its new vehicle.) By the time the Volt gets here (if it is on time), or a comparable Prius arrives, Honda will have had 2-4 years of having a lithium-ion powered EV on the roads; giving them more time to work on improvements, and reduce costs.

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