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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A discussion with a relative who owns a small trucking company about this Nikola Motors (hopefully Nikola Tesla doesn't have a middle name for yet another company to exploit) hydrogen cell Big Rig that claims to have a 1200 mile range, led me to research the current tech in Hydrogen, which led me to the Toyota Marai (PDF)



Hopefully, I get some help here understanding the economics of using hydrogen as a fuel source. For the moment lets ignore the lack of hydrogen fuel refilling facilities. The Mirai gets about 311 miles to a "tank" of Hydrogen. It has a battery, a Hydrogen storage tank(s), an electric drive motor, and some mechanism to combine the stored hydrogen + airborne oxygen across a catalyst (The "Cell"? As in Hydrogen Cell technology?) to create electricity with a by product of water. The details I have found are not written in human language, but it seems hydrogen is denominated in kilograms (like gas is denominated in gallons). The vehicle can store about 5 kg of hydrogen, so 62 miles per kg of hydrogen.

My quest was to figure out how much electricity it takes to generate 1 kg of hydrogen using available methods. Piecing together varous sources, It takes about 45 kWh of electrical energy to convert 9 kg of water into 1 kg of H2 and 8 kg of O2 by means of commercially available electrolyzers. (Also of note, the wastewater from this process seems to be hazardous, but ignore that to for now.)

The price per kg at one of the rare hydrogen fillin' stations can be as low as $10/kg. Thus $50 for a fill up. Also of note is that a Hydrogen fill up is actually faster - time wise - than filling up with gasoline, and exponentially faster than waiting for a full charge.

But I wanted to see if I could economically and conveniently generate hydrogen at home, using Solar panels as a source of electricity. Exclude again, the current cost of a Hydrogen Generator that can make hydrogen faster than I could consume it under typical driving patterns is about $35,000.

My thinking is that 225kWh will produce 5kg of Hydrogen. And I would need a 3.5Kw dedicated Solar panel system to make one fill up's worth of Hydrogen (311 miles). Driving an average of 1200 miles/Month, I would need 3.85 fill ups or 19.25 kg/Month of generated Hydrogen. So 3.85 x 3.5 (Kw Solar panel system) = a dedicated 13.475Kw Solar panel system. (Which BTW is impossible for a homeowner in my State, as any system larger than 12Kw is considered a commercial system and not allowed on residential rooftops)

Ok. There's a ROI there... a loooong one, but an ROI.

With all that said, (and please correct any of may math);
A.) How does the Marai compare with the energy consumption of a Bolt per mile (or whatever metric)?
B.) Wouldn't a single Hydrogen Fillin' station need literally hundreds of acres of Solar panels, or multiple gigantic Wind Turbines, to produce 100% clean Hydrogen? Enough to fill up hundreds of Hydrogen cars per day?
C.) Is the only way a commercial company can sell Hydrogen at $10/kg is to use fossil fuel to generate it and fossil fuel to ship it, in order to make a reasonable profit today?
D.) At 62 miles of range per hydrogen kg for the Marai, is this a raw rate of 1.38 Kw per mile?
E.) ..and why did Toyota, one of the early trailblazers in battery powered EV's, decide to cast their lot with Hydrogen?

I thank you in advance for any insight into this.
 

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commercial scale hydrogen is made by cracking methane, doing it from water is too expensive energy wise - so most hydrogen on the market is virtually no different that burning the fuel source from which the hydrogen came from…

regardless of how you're making the hydrogen you use electricity to get the H2 isolated and compressed or liquified - there is loss in that process in that you'd be better off putting the electricity directly into a battery, rather than indirectly into storing hydrogen for later use…

even the Japanese auto manufacturing are starting to realize this and gradually moving to pure electric - also fuel cell cars have the chemical complexity of BEV's and the mechanical complexities of ICE's - all in one for maximum un-reliabiltiy…

Elon calls fuel-cells "fool-cell" and regardless of what you think of Tesla as a company - few people if anyone are willing to call Elon stupid

if you're focusing on zero-emission at tail pipe the ICE manufactures went with hydrogen because it's the only fuel source that is close to fossil fuels in energy density https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density - and it a familiar model with a familiar set of problems and solutions…BEV's are still kinda wimpy and you wouldn't for example take a BEV "off road" across the desert like people do with ICE's all the time and a set of jerry jugs full of fuel for the trip…

finally there is this - which documents what happens to 100 kWh of pure renewable electricity…from a pure how much electricity ends up moving the car - H2 is 19-23% efficient vs. BEV is 6x% efficient

I foresee Fuel Cell engines being deployed in low weight high energy capacity situations (planes), off road, high access requirements, self sufficient, but for urban metropolitan use BEV's should win because you don't need a lot of the advantages of high-density energy supplies.
 

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source for hydrogen production…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_production

"Currently the dominant technology for direct production is steam reforming from hydrocarbons."

funny thing that the major process for making H2 for transportation use would be based on the same "fuel" source as the current methods of high-density fuel sources - this approach would leave the same core global businesses in the same position making fuel for transportation use...

oh and the complexity for H2 based vehicles is mechanically equivalent to ICE's - so while the emissions are way batter at the tail pipe (don't get me started on the actual emissions where the H2 is made) a hydrogen based vehicle has about the same amount of maintenance costs as an equivalent ICE

so from their perspective it's perfect:

1. same model - dump a few hundred kWh worth of power into a "tank" - drive for week - leveraging a centuries worth of infrastructure (gas stations converted to H2)
2. it's mechanically similar to an ICE - leveraging a centuries worth of R&D and infrastructure - and leaving you with the same very profitable revenue stream of keeping these mechanically complex systems operating - remember dealers make most of their money on the service, not the sale of the car - BEV are a huge threat to this model with some estimating as high as 85% revenue loss for a BEV vs. ICE car…
3. we still get to keep our energy monopolies world wide and dependance on non-renewable forms of power - but very profitable
4. but there is no pesky emissions at the tail pipe passing most municipalities clamor for lower/zero emissions from vehicles - so we're good
 

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"There are four main sources for the commercial production of hydrogen: natural gas, oil, coal, and electrolysis; which account for 48%, 30% 18% and 4% of the world’s hydrogen production respectively.[5] Fossil fuels are the dominant source of industrial hydrogen.[6] Hydrogen can be generated from natural gas with approximately 80% efficiency,[citation needed] or from other hydrocarbons to a varying degree of efficiency. Specifically, bulk hydrogen is usually produced by the steam reforming of methane or natural gas.[7] The production of hydrogen from natural gas is the cheapest source of hydrogen currently. This process consists of heating the gas in the presence of steam and a nickel catalyst. The resulting exothermic reaction breaks up the methane molecules and forms carbon monoxide CO and hydrogen H2. The carbon monoxide gas can then be passed with steam over iron oxide or other oxides and undergo a water gas shift reaction. This last reaction produces even more H2. The downside to this process is that its major byproducts are CO, CO2 and other greenhouse gases.[5] Depending on the quality of the feedstock (natural gas, rich gases, naphtha, etc.), one ton of hydrogen produced will also produce 9 to 12 tons of CO2.[8]"

translation - you'd be better off burning the methane you started with…
 

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This is a very interesting subject.

Hydrogen is, obviously, a gas at normal conditions. To carry enough for a car to run for hundreds of miles, it has to be very highly compressed (something like 5,000 psi or more), which is kind of scary, especially bearing in mind that hydrogen is combustible, when mixed with air in virtually any ratio. Money-wise it's scary, too, as new infrastructure will have to be developed for distribution, storage and transfer of highly pressurized H2. And even at 5,000 psi it still has low energy density, something like 1/5 of that of gasoline by volume.

I was kind of hoping that the methanol fuel cell would be perfected into a practical, everyday device. The CH3OH is already a liquid under normal conditions, with decent fuel density (1/2 of that of gasoline by volume). Methanol is fairly safe, unless you drink it. I would guess the existing fuel infrastructure can be (in principle) used to dispense it.

So, I am picturing myself a 200-mi/charge battery-only EV with a comparatively small methanol fuel cell plant (let's say to produce 20 kWh) as a range extender, with every other gas station selling methanol as they do now E85 ... sweet :)
 

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Hydrogen is a pure Japanese thing. It's not going to happen, nobody else cares, but the Japanese are still flogging that horse and will no doubt continue. Doing cost calcuations (energy cost, carbon cost) is ultimately impossible, as it depends on how much you include. And also, you don't have perfect information. Given that Hydrogen is probably worse from an energy/carbon standpoint than most.

The interesting question is why do the Japanese continue to research hydrogen cars? I spent years in Japan and have a feeling for this, I see a couple of possible reasons.One, the Japanese have to be different. There's some kind of cultural memory they have about being special and unique they tend to trail blaze their own unique approach. The second more likely reason is that for the most part Japanese live in apartments which have a single 30 amp service. For the ones who have houses, the house typically has a single hundred volt circuit, though you can get 200 V (two 100 legs out of phase) also. Further considering the Japanese electricity is predominantly nuclear in origin, and their relationship with nuclear fission might give a hint.

So frankly I don't think their grid or their infrastructure can handle mass scale electric car charging, hence the hydrogen.
 

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Hydrogen is a pure Japanese thing. So frankly I don't think their grid or their infrastructure can handle mass scale electric car charging, hence the hydrogen.
From what I remember, one of the considerations to support the idea of hydrogen was that many powerplants during off-peak hours have spare generation capacity, which can be used to hydrolyze water into H2 and O2 relatively cheaply (especially non-fossil fuel plants).

But yes, I do marvel why many Japanese companies (until now) have all but ignored EV's. In highly urbanized, compact and environmentally-minded Japan, one would think, EV's would thrive ...
 

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As long as we can keep government from meddling, the market will decide which technology is best for us. No need to calculate efficiencies, or create detailed arguments for and against. No need for name calling. Just put the two techs out there for sale and see how it goes. One will prevail and the other will die as long as there is no silly government intervention giving advantage one way or another.

I think the market is already deciding.

I suspect the Japanese government is behind Toyota and Honda's continued pursuit of this technology. At one time GM was at the forefront of fuel cells and they have basically shelved it. Why? Hyundai is just hedging their bets and trying to play both technologies just in case.

The only way there would ever be mass adoption of fuel cell cars would massive government intervention to subsidize the conversion of gas stations to hydrogen stations across the land and likely a subsidy on the fuel itself. Then there is the transportation network to get the hydrogen from the refineries (let's not fool ourselves, this is where nearly all the hydrogen will always come from) to the fueling stations. That's a whole other investment.

There is only one company in the world that I can think of that has such a charismatic and captivating CEO that the company is able to inspire investors, consumers and governments to throw money their way with little hope of a short term ROI. Heck, maybe not even a long term ROI. That company is Tesla and it is the only company I can think of that could pull off building out a hydrogen economy and Elon has not chosen that path.

The fact is, the car companies aren't going to build out the Hydrogen fueling stations and the government and oil companies have already done pretty much the most they can do without being taken to task by the tax payers and the shareholders. The consumer has little incentive to buy, or lease a car that is limited in the scope of operations and dependent on single source fuel. Therefore the consumer that requires, or is obsessed with fast refueling times is going to choose the ICE powered car and those that want to drive electric are going to choose the BEV that can be charged at home. IMO, eventually battery technology will make the hydrogen fuel cell a moot point.

In the next ten years I predict that the ICE will continue to be the predominant power plant for our cars and trucks, but the BEV will start seriously eroding that dominance. I also predict that the hydrogen fuel cell cars will fold up shop and disappear. The ten years after that, is where the ICE will lose it's dominance in the marketplace.
 

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I think the market is already deciding.
The market for consumer-owned vehicles has been decided in favour of battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen simply can't compete with two huge advantages of electric power:

(a) the ability to charge at home, which means that early adopters can buy and operate EVs without a public charging infrastructure, and

(b) the much cheaper cost of rolling out that public infrastructure.

There may be some niche commercial markets for hydrogen-electric transport, but for consumer vehicles the war has already been won.
 

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The next HUGE niche for BEVs is the fleet market. Consider if every phone, cable, police, fire, ambulance, electric utility, gas company, campus police, hotel, airport shuttle, church, plumber, electrician, exterminator, heating and cooling, lawn care, etc. company desired/decided to make all their fleet vehicles BEVs! If the employee drives it home - give 'em a home EVSE. If they leave the vehicle at work, install the 6 to 66 EVSEs it takes to keep the EVs charged. Some vehicle types (ambulances) are used throughout the day, but not {usually} for 16/24 hours. Plug it in whenever it is in the station and have 200 miles ready for the next run!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
so from their perspective it's perfect:

1. same model - dump a few hundred kWh worth of power into a "tank" - drive for week - leveraging a centuries worth of infrastructure (gas stations converted to H2)
2. it's mechanically similar to an ICE - leveraging a centuries worth of R&D and infrastructure - and leaving you with the same very profitable revenue stream of keeping these mechanically complex systems operating - remember dealers make most of their money on the service, not the sale of the car - BEV are a huge threat to this model with some estimating as high as 85% revenue loss for a BEV vs. ICE car…
3. we still get to keep our energy monopolies world wide and dependance on non-renewable forms of power - but very profitable
4. but there is no pesky emissions at the tail pipe passing most municipalities clamor for lower/zero emissions from vehicles - so we're good
Evidently I spoke too soon about it being just Asian based auto manufactures remaining in bed with BigOil under the disguise of clean energy powered vehicles:

GM will release at least 20 all-electric cars by 2023 - Both battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Perhaps GM has found a way to circumvent the laws of physics? Specifically The first law of thermodynamics; conservation of energy? Where GM can use less energy, to create more energy?

The good news is that GM plans to have 20, count 'um, twenty "all electric" cars on the market in 6 years. The bad news is I guess a diesel locomotive now counts as an "all electric" vehicle?
 

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Boy, the press sure is getting sloppy. This is like the Volvo announcement that everyone started reporting as "all Volvos will be all electric" when the actual wording was that all NEW models would be "electrifIED" (i.e., hybrids as well as BEVs).

The GM announcement as reported by that article says two things: "20 new all electric cars" AND they also mentioned a SEPARATE truck chassis using hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen fuel cells are pretty much a dead end technology for passenger cars, but they may still make sense for trucks because of the much more limited need to roll out a refuelling infrastructure.
 

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Electric is that much more of a clearer option when we look at what's happening around the world to make us more dependent on pure electric power. When you have all that money in private and public building up infrastructure its easy to see what will become the new normal.
 
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