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July 25, 2007



"Hydrogen-powered cars could provide a crucial component in energy plans for the future, because their only waste product is water vapor, and hydrogen fuel is essentially unlimited."

This dogma has been around for decades, cleverly omitting essential facts. Bulk hydrogen is currently produced through steam reforming of natural gas, so there certainly are several other emissions than just water vapor. The fact that they call hydrogen a "fuel" is just horrible. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it's not found unbound on the earth. Electrolysing water is far too expensive for bulk hydrogen generation.

You'd be better off environmentally and economically by burning the natural gas in a high efficiency gas power plant and use the generated electricity to power an EV.

The Copenhagen Post is not getting any kudos for this.


Bah... more hydrogen mumbo-jumbo... Well, eventually they'll have to step down in favour of all electric vehicles anyway. Too bad for the purchasers...

Jim Holm

Hey, what about www.Windhunter.org ?

kit p

Surplus renewable energy can be used to make hydrogen and has been used to make ammonia for fertilizer. When you have a surplus of something cheap, the efficiency of the process is not really important.

There is a long list of reasons why hydrogen is a poor transportation fuel. Fuel cells powered from stored hydrogen could be used for distributed co-generation at hotels and hospitals.


@ Kit p

Surplus renewable energy could be stored in batteries, however. And I don't think the costs would be higher than using hydrogen.


Kit P:

"Surplus renewable energy can be used to make hydrogen and has been used to make ammonia for fertilizer."

Reference please. What company is using renewable energy to split water to make ammonia?


You can use surplus green energy to make methanol instead of hydrogen (using atmospheric or waste CO2 for the carbon content), vastly easier to store, vastly easier to transport, vastly safer to use, vastly cheaper for infrastructure and methanol can be produced for $0.50 per gallon. And while waiting for Direct Methanol fuel cells to be economical, it can be burned virtually pollution free at > 43% efficiency in converted port injected diesel engines.


agreed, H2 is over rated. we should stop wasting money on it. H2 is only a storage medium (and a terrible one at that) and not an energy source. There are better choices. I think the only reason why it's popular is because conceptually it is easy.


I would say the reason H2 is popular is because it is being heavily promoted and financed by Oil Interests, and in turn by their surrogates in Big Auto & Government.

Oil Interests are pushing H2 because:
a) It is so difficult, expensive & impractical to impliment (including the fool cell), that they can happily expect to continue selling us their noxious, terrorist funding, overpriced, polluting oil products for many decades to come,
b) It gives them a green image (called Hydrogen Greenwashing), so they can deflect criticism about their toxic products and they can continue to force them upon the world through nefarious deeds, and
c) It dries up and misdirects funds that would otherwise go to legitimate practical research into things like Batteries, HEV's, BEV's, high efficient engines for series HEV's and practical alternate fuels like methanol and
d) It is such a difficult & expensive fuel to produce and distribute, and Oil companies expect to control the H2 production & distribution infrastructure (even though it is largely financed by the public), that they can still skim high profits from fuel vs the zero profits from EV's or the tiny profits from cheap & easy methanol.

Note even to dispense H2 will require a very expensive nozzle with a computer hookup to the vehicle fuel tank and a complex government certified distribution point - no fill-ups with a jerry can from a 45 gal drum in your backyard here.

Question: Why are oil companies promoting the fuel cell?
Answer: So they will have fuel to sell.

kit p

If I recall correctly it was Norway that produced ammonia with excess electricity from hydroelectric many years ago before they discovered large amounts of natural gas.


"[..]before they discovered large amounts of natural gas"


Great points, ycsts. "Fool Cell" is good nomenclature. "hydrogen mumbo-jumbo" is also quite accurate, Fabio.

PEM FC: Pathetic Experimental Mumbo-jumbo Fool Cell. That's it.

Automakers must be kept on a tight leash, otherwise they'll stray.
Perhaps governments should cut all funding for hydrogen. Put it in advanced batteries/ultracaps R&D instead?


Granted that hydrogen isnt free energy but rather a method of storage that can be ghg free provided - its made using renewable energy rather than steam reforming of natural gas..

some of the issues of hydrogen are storage
transportation and safety can be avoided
with the aluminum to hydrogen process - that Jerry Woodall at Purdue University devised..
hydrogen from aluminum
I dont know what the efficiency would be compared to say battery electric - but strictly speaking you would reduce the recharging time - if you could just use aluminum-gallium pellets..


Regarding efficiency, there are some nasty thermodynamic losses which Carnot be overcome, err, cannot be overcome.

Electrolysers will always have endothermic losses, they cannot be more than ~83% efficient. Hydrogen fuel cells are basically electrolysers in reverse; therefore it can be argued that the thermodynamic limit is also ~83%, but maybe that’s incorrect. Then there's storage, the most efficient relatively low compression storage might be 95% efficient.

So the overall efficiency of an autonomous hydrogen generation thingy will never ever get better than ~65%.

If history is any lesson, thermodynamic limits never get reached. In the real world, you'll have to deal with pumps, auxiliary system losses etc.

Regarding aluminium, you'll have to regenerate the aluminium oxide.

From your article:

"Now, the major aluminium companies, the factories, take the aluminium oxide that they dig out of the ground, pass electricity through it to get it back to aluminium. You have to do that to get the fuel back again."

So basically they're just shifting the electrolyser. The problem is that electrolysing aluminium oxide is even less efficient than electrolysing hydrogen oxide (sometimes better known as “water”). That's because aluminium electrolysis must be done at high temperatures, and that means heat losses. It's possible to do it at lower temperatures with certain additives, but the efficiency will still not be better than water electrolysis. So for the overall efficiency, it won't help to avoid that 5% storage loss.

Advanced batteries/ultra caps are already more efficient than hydrogen FC systems will ever get.


more on aluminum to hydrogen

theres a bit more discussion of efficiency here.. Granted that Woodall concedes the cost of recycling aluminum oxide needs to be reduced to be competitive.

but if it is done at remote locations - with wind or nuclear power - its less costly because there is no need to build a distribution grid..

(although presumably you need to transport the pellets.)
Im not necessarily an advocate but seems to me you get around some of the storage and transportation issues of hydrogen..


"Using pure hydrogen, fuel cell systems run at an overall efficiency of 75 percent, compared to 40 percent using hydrogen extracted from fossil fuels and with 25 percent for internal combustion engines"

The fuel cell is just one link in a chain of inefficiencies. There are no hydrogen energy systems with an overall efficiency of 75% on our planet.

"We call this the aluminium-enabling hydrogen economy," Woodall said. "It's a simple matter to convert ordinary internal combustion engines to run on hydrogen. All you have to do is replace the gasoline fuel injector with a hydrogen injector."

Great, let's shackle ourselves to ICEV's some more. Let's take perfectly good renewable electricity, use it to create aluminium from aluminium oxide at currently less than 50% efficiency. Let's oxidize that aluminium to free up the hydrogen, burning it in a 25% efficient ICE, leaving us with a pathetic 12.5% overall efficiency and I'm being easy on the numbers here, plus leaving out pellet transportation losses.

"The concept could eliminate major hurdles related to developing a hydrogen economy"

That doesn't matter as a hydrogen economy has one dragon that cannot be slain: inefficiency.

Physical energy storage is what we must be aiming for. Based on storing thermal energy, kinetic energy, maybe ultimately just straight electrons. Since that’s what we’re going to be using eventually, and having no energy conversion steps is just fantastic.


Its crazy how the hydrogen meme has captured the fancy of a large number of minds. This would be a good study of socio-cognitive-memetic-dissonance, if there ever was one.

The convolved involvement of big-fuel, big-motor, big-government, big-university, and public idealism is so apparent.

If only BEV could receive 10% of the attention that hydrogen gets routinely ...

Kit P

Fuel cells are getting attention because because BEV have proven to be impractical. Will combining the practical features of ICE with impractical BEV make PHEV practical?

We do research to answer these questions.

Capturing a large number of minds is not crazy. Just tell the same compelling lie over and over. What is crazy is when the BEV get mad at the FCEV for stealing their lie.

The funny part of all this if you like irony, is the timing. FCEVs were the daring of Al Gore crowd until Bush discussed them in the state of the union.

Allie Petabelli

The only interesting work being done in solar is these guys: http://www.hydrogensolar.com/index.html and their green hydrogen concept. I'm just not sure if it would be out PVs and decent batteries.

Run your car on water

Hey theregood to know someones trying to develop this technology I often wonder why it wasnt done earlier Hydrogen powered car

Prime Hydrogen Generators

So where's the hoopla. With gas prices on their way up again, this should have been bigger in the news.


Thanks for sharing this very useful information I will be definatly be back soon. Keep Up the Good Work!

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