Toyota vs. Tesla – can hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles compete with EVs?

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Toyota is hoping to take a leaf from the Tesla playbook, and encourage an ecosystem of fuel cell suppliers and hydrogen fueling stations. But is this just the fossil fuel economy repackaged?

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The world has been abuzz about the recent Toyota (NYSE: TM) announcement that the company opened up licensing of its 5,680 HFCV patents (although only until 2020.) By taking a page from the Tesla playbook, Toyota  is hoping to encourage an ecosystem of fuel cell suppliers and hydrogen fueling stations.


Is this the last hurrah of a dead-end technology? Or will it re-invigorate the HFCV market which has gone nowhere for decades? Does the Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle (HFCV) Matter anymore?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has called the HFCV ‘bullshit’. “Hydrogen is suitable for rockets but not for cars,” said Mr Musk. (Video, starting min 29:20.)

But Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America says that his company is betting big on hydrogen fuel cell cars. Does the Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle (HFCV) have a chance against the Electric Vehicle (EV)?

I don’t even mention Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles in my book “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”! There are multiple reasons for that. Let’s look at the facts, starting with the basics.

1) Hydrogen is not an energy source.

Many industry insiders talk about hydrogen as if it were an energy source. For instance, they might compare it with, say, petroleum products like gasoline and diesel, and 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.

2) Electric Vehicles are at least three times more energy efficient than Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

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. This figure from fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains how wasteful an HFCV is compared to electric vehicles. (Source:


But not all hydrogen 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. (Source: BetterPlace)


3) You need to build a multi-trillion dollar hydrogen delivery infrastructure.

To build a so-called “Hydrogen Economy” you need to build a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure with large factories/refineries, pipelines, trucks, storage facilities, compressors, hydrogen gas stations, and so on. If you haven’t noticed, this mirrors the existing oil & gas infrastructure. (Source:


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. Yes, our grid is aging and we need to upgrade it, but it works today. Some readers may remember that the Internet started with the plain old telephone system. It wasn’t fast but it worked. Then we upgraded it to get the fast pipes that we have today. We also built a brand new wireless infrastructure that required no pipes at all.

Distributed Solar PV and EV Charging Station. Copyright @2014 by Tony Seba
Distributed Solar PV and EV Charging Station. Copyright @2014 by Tony Seba

The electric vehicle equivalent of the wireless power infrastructure is distributed solar.

The multi-trillion dollar hydrogen infrastructure would have to be built from scratch.

4) Hydrogen is Not Clean.

About 95% of hydrogen in the US is made from natural gas in large central plants, according to the Department of Energy. It’s a method called natural gas reforming.

Hydrogen Methane Steam Reforming Process – Source HYFleet:CUTE – Global-Hydrogen-Bus-Platform

As I wrote in Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation:
Methane (the main component of natural gas) is 72 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (when measured over twenty years). Natural gas leaks throughout the supply chain. It leaks when it is lifted from the ground, when it is stored, and when it is transported in hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, three trillion cubic feet of methane leak annually. That figure represents about 3.2 percent of global production. This methane leakage is the global warming equivalent of half the coal plants in the United States.

Today, hydrogen is basically a repackaged fossil fuel – a fossil product line extension, if you will. If you like natural gas and fracking you should love hydrogen.

5) Hydrogen is not ‘Renewable’!

Hydrogen is classified as ‘renewable’ when it’s extracted from water by means of hydrolysis. This method involves applying high voltage electricity to split water into Oxygen and Hydrogen. When you apply conventional electricity to do the hydrolysis you still have to burn coal, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, and so on, so you still have dirty hydrogen.

We need to pause to consider the water-energy-food nexus. Conventional energy is thirsty. In my books Clean Disruption and Solar Trillions I write at length about the obscene amounts of freshwater that coal, natural gas and biofuels consume. By adding Hydrogen to that list we would have yet another way for energy to dry up our planet.

A well-to-wheels analysis by University of Texas Professors Carey W. King and Michael E. Weber found that a HFCV would need to withdraw 13 gallons of water per mile driven. The same study concludes that a gasoline car would need withdrawals of needs 0.63 gal H2O/mile and a diesel car would need 0.46 gal H2O/mile. That is, gasoline petroleum-based transportation is 20 to 28 times more water efficient than hydrogen.

If we use solar or wind power as the source of the electricity for hydrolysis then you could have ‘clean’ and technically ‘renewable’ Hydrogen. I say ‘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. A 2015 World Economic Forum report ranks water crises as top global risk, up from number three the previous year.

Powering EVs using solar and wind would use no water, according to Prof King and Weber. Plus EVs are at least three times more energy efficient than Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles.

6) Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles can’t compete with Electric Vehicles.

It makes sense for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for the hydrogen car because hydrogen is essentially a product line extension for them. In other words, the “Hydrogen Economy” is the “Fossil Fuel Economy” with a green sheen.

The HFCV is a substitute technology. If successful, hydrogen would just substitute the fossil fuel infrastructure with a mirror hydrogen infrastructure.

Former DOE Secretary Steven Chu said: “We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10, 15, or 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?’ The answer was no,”

It’s obvious why I don’t even mention HFCV in my book “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”! Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles are neither clean nor disruptive. At best, a hydrogen economy would still be a massively wasteful economy that would at best use three to six times more energy than an electric vehicle and solar/wind infrastructure and many times more water than even gasoline uses. There are many good reasons why hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are stuck in reverse while electric vehicles are on hyper-drive.

By 2030, 100% of cars will be electric and they will be 100% powered by solar and wind. (Watch my AltCars keynote here)

It’s time to move on from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Source: TonySeba. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Charles 4 years ago

    Excellent article – great rebuttal to the false claims of hydrogen being the future! It is an inefficient dead end technology.

    • suthnsun 4 years ago

      and what us Toyota thinking? I’ve never been able to work it out..

      • onesecond 4 years ago

        Well, they are in bed with companies that want to sell expensive hydrogen. Vested interests, what else.

        • suthnsun 4 years ago

          AFAIK Toyota is a vehicle manufacturer and little else, so one would think proposing a route that makes your core product very difficult and expensive is extremely foolish but I don’t know about the politics of Japanese corporate relationships.

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            I think of the FCV as an EV with a complex and heavy range extender that uses an intractible fuel, so haven’t been able to determine a rational motovation for the Fool cell mania that seemingly has overtaken these Japanese car makers.

            I got to the complex product position precisely because they are a car maker and make their money from unit sales, so a more expensive unit is to their advantage, as well as maintaining dependent customers in their parts and service departments**. The FCV is proving to be very expensive to develop, which will limit the number of possible competitors.

            EVs, on the other hand, are more efficient, mechanically a lot simpler and have minimal maintenance requirements — mostly wiper blades and tyres.

            **Some years back, my local Toyota parts department had these sales awards on the wall “$1M parts”, “$2M parts” etc. It always made me laugh and cringe at the same time. They suddenly disappeared when the penny finally dropped with the dealership management.

        • Miles Harding 4 years ago

          Got it!
          The car company stays relevant through a complex product, Shell stays relevant, Halibutron (and others) get rich delivering the Hydrogen infrastruture and the consumer pays for it all through the public purse and their own hip pockets.

      • nakedChimp 4 years ago

        Toyota&Co only have your best in their mind – your money.
        They try to arrange it for you to live and breath in a rent-enabling-cage where they get the rent.
        The more options you get, the more freedom, the less happy they are with you.

      • Julian Cox 4 years ago

        The Japanese government is lured by the possibility of dredging methane hydrates in Japan’s costal waters as a route to energy independence. Methane Hydrates is literally wet methane and the ideal way to process that would be steam methane reforming (SMR) the world’s most carbon intensive refinery process – vastly exceeding the emissions related to gasoline. As Tony has pointed out methane leakage in the US has the green house gas equivalence of half of the nations coal fired power stations (even with official methane leakage numbers that are collated from grossly underreported industry figures and not independent research). If Japan goes ahead and dredges offshore methane hydrates for a ‘hydrogen economy’ the methane leakage alone WILL be an environmental end-game for humanity and SMR will exacerbate the issue.

        What Toyota is aiming for is a terminal event in mankind’s collective struggle to bring emissions under control for the sake of profits in a way that make’s the despicable conduct of VW look like a lame effort by comparison. It is also done in pursuit of a misperception of Japan’s national self-interest. Japan’s 2020 Olympics is reportedly going to become a Japanese propaganda piece to promote this appalling travesty. Never forget that this is the same government that lobbies AGAINST efforts to ban the slaughter of whales and has even gone as far as to turn a blind eye to putting the products of ‘scientific’ harpooning on meal tables in Tokyo in an effort to evade agreements on environmental protection. This is a culture that views the environment with utter contempt.

        To promote a hydrogen ‘clean energy future’ is global genocide by way of fraud. Hydrogen is not something to be dismissed lightly, it is literally one of the biggest existential threats to mankind that we face and more so because of its propensity to mislead. Even in California there is both political support and taxpayer funding diverted from genuine clean energy solutions to the promotion of hydrogen as a clean energy solution. That is how dangerous hydrogen is.

        • suthnsun 4 years ago

          I have a dim view of human frailty but long ago dismissed the notion that we would be insane enough to attempt methane hydrate harvesting. The fact that you are viewing it as an underlying motivation is very disturbing .

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Explain why Japanese car companies are going the H2 route otherwise. Importing hydrogen makes no sense. Japan has ample solar, wind and geothermal resources to power EVs.

          • Julian Cox 4 years ago

            Thankfully they also have battery expertise that is being put to good use.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Japanese wind, eh, Bob Wallace?
            I see that you are still beating that horse.

            Everyone, Bob Wallace has been touting and cheering the Japanese wind energy revolution for about three years now. It never existed and is nowhere on the horizon. And he just can’t give it up, apparently.

            And here, he insists that importing hydrogen makes no sense. I have an idea. Instead of assuming that Japanese people make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons, why not just look at what they do and try to figure out why?

            If your presumptions lead you consistently to incorrect conclusions, and if your worldview leads you to believe that leading professionals are consistently wrong, consider that your presumptions and worldview are flawed.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            It has been estimated that Japan has the potential for 144 GW for onshore wind and 608 GW of offshore wind capacity.[4] – Wiki

            2012 electricity usage in Japan was 851 TWh (Japan) to 1,003 TWh (EIA). 1,003 annual TW is 2.75 TWh per day or 2,748 GWh per day.

            286 GW (nameplate) wind turbines running at 40% CF would produce 2,748 GWh per day.

            2,747.95GWh6,87040% CF286GW nameplate.

            That’s potential. Far, far more than needed.

            Here’s present.

            August 3, 2015
            “FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Engineers in Japan have installed the world’s largest floating wind turbine, a towering 344-foot structure that is billed as being able to withstand 65-foot waves and even tsunamis.

            The 7 megawatt turbine was fastened to the seabed last week by four 20-ton anchors about 12 miles off the Fukushima coast.

            Its installation was delayed four times because of consecutive typhoons in the region. But one of its chief engineers, Katsunobu Shimizu, told NBC News that the turbine — which is about the same height as London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral — would be able to withstand even the most extreme conditions.

            “These turbines and anchors are designed to withstand 65-foot waves,” Shimizu said during a sea tour of the turbine given from a boat off the coast. “Also, here we can get 32-foot-tall tsunamis. That’s why the chains are deliberately slackened.”


          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Here are some more updates on Japan’s offshore wind industry –

            Hitachi will add a production line at its facility in east Japan to manufacture nacelles for its 5MW offshore turbine.

            Hitachi has completed the construction of its 5MW downwind offshore turbine at a coastal site near Kashima city in central Japan.

            The Japanese government has identified four areas it will look at with the possibility of developing up to 1.45GW of wind projects.

            A ten-company consortium headed by Hitachi Zosen Corporation (Hitz) has received the go ahead to explore the possibility of an offshore project off the coast of Niigata prefecture in Japan.

            Japanese conglomerate Marubeni has been awarded the licenses to develop two offshore projects totalling 145MW off the north west coast of Japan.

            The first project to use Siemens’ 3MW turbine, the 18MW Eurus Akitako project that has one turbine located 100-metres offshore, has come online.

            The Japanese government has announced plans to spend JPY 7.9 billion ($67.8 million) on offshore technologies this year, according to reports in the Japanese press.


          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            One of the things you learned at CleanTechnica is to hold close to every press release and treat it like truth. And if nothing ever comes of it, well it must have happened, right?

            These are teeny tiny projects and early tentative plans that hopeful people would cling to. But I see elsewhere on this page that you are encouraging other people to be as objective and realistic as you are.

            You need to follow your own advice.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            More estimates Bob? And projects that will never be done Bob?

            When that one turbine was installed, I thought of you.

            One turbine, Bob. Did you think of me and how that one turbine proves your point about Japan’s wind revolution you have waited all these years for? I am delighted that you have used it to keep your dreams alive. Stay gold.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Here’s your claim, Rockne –

            “Everyone, Bob Wallace has been touting and cheering the Japanese wind energy revolution for about three years now. It never existed and is nowhere on the horizon.”

            Exists. Horizon cleared.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Bob. Have you ever even visited Japan? I really doubt it. All the press releases in the world are not going to convince me that some wind revolution is in the offing here.

            One pylon and a few contracts do not an Iowa make.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Rockne, you have a choice. You can either search out facts,then base your opinions and posts on facts or you can continue pulling stuff out of your neither regions and flinging it on the page.

            Looking at the number and quality of your comments on this page in the recent past I am led to believe that you might be suffering from a serious case of intellectual digestion disruption leading to extensive typing diarrhea.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Well, Bob, you “believe” many things that aren’t true, so I guess I will just throw this on the pile.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Rockne, if you believe any of the statements I’ve posted are not factually correct then please furnish me the correct facts.

            Please use only publicly verifiable facts. Not opinions.

          • Andrew Woodroffe 4 years ago

            From no lesser authority than Windpower Monthly ($60/issue), we know that Japan installed net 119MW of new wind plant to bring the accumulated total to 2,739 MW onshore and 50MW offshore. Not that impressive for the 4th biggest economy and one so dependent on importation of energy. However, according to the Japan Wind Power Association there is a pipeline of 6.5 GW over 98 projects awaiting approval.

            What really is impressive, and indeed could be considered revolutionary there, is PV. Ten years ago, the Japs led the world in installations and manufacturers, then the Germans passed them, then the Spanish, the Americans and, finally, the Chinese. However, it appears they are now back. From the September issue of Photon International, they installed just under 10GW of PV, last year. Only the Chinese put in more. In 2013 it was 6.9GW, dramatically up from 1.7GW in 2012. In just 2 years, they have installed nearly 17GW of PV – total end of 2014 was 23.3GW. That is the thing about PV, today, it can be installed at an incredible rate.

            As for governments making silly decisions, check out Hinkley C in the UK. UnF$%^&*(believable.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            I see others here have provided at least some evidence to support their view. Please back up your claims.

          • Julian Cox 4 years ago

            If you look at the mandate and membership of H2USA you can see that it is all about the lure of shale fracking as a cheap feedstock for hydrogen. The problem we have is that government policies are unduly influenced by existing industry as opposed to existing voters whose interests do not coincide. California has actually joined H2USA and its Hydrogen roadmap is being managed, literally devised and managed, by the California Fuel Cell Partnership – a lobby group whose membership is almost exclusively Toyota plus the Natural Gas industry. In fact the number one awardee of Californian infrastructure grants (First Element Fuels Inc) has as its co-President Dr Tim Brown, the Author of the California Hydrogen Roadmap for the CaFCP and was self-awarded those grants, and obtained a loan from Toyota. What have they done with the money? 19 H2 gas stations ($1.45 Million each) in partnership with Air Products Inc – a SMR refinery for GOD’s SAKE.

          • jeffhre 4 years ago

            It is a much faster start for plug-ins than it was for hybrids. One more reason Toyota wants FCEVs to work well, so badly. It gives them a chance to dominate in green cars again – if they pushed for battery EV’s they would immediately trail the field. I wrote that yesterday seems appropriate here – combined with a cheap local source of frozen wet methane and government support from METI, CARB, the Denmark Energy Plan 2020, and the Baden-Wuerttemberg state Environment Ministry – bada bing bada boom, done deal.

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            I have long thought this as well, but the other side has tempted me via global warming:
            Is it worse to allow the methane to escape directly or to burn it to the less greenhouse intensive CO2?

          • Michael DeAbreu 4 years ago

            Good question. Methane has a 12 year lifetime in the atmosphere whereas CO2 is 200 years and acidifies the oceans.

        • Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

          The main of RES capacities are far from the cities and towns: wind, solar, hydro. Hydrogen technologies will make it possible to use this resource, including nuclear and thermonuclear future. I repeat: the hydrogen car is not the enemy of the car battery. Confirmation: Japan will purchase hydrogen in the north-east of Russia. There are no people but lots of energy: wind, hydro. It is an alternative to methane hydrates. What is worse for Japan to produce hydrogen from renewable sources or energy from gas hydrates?

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Victor, you need to ask yourself why Japan would want to spend very much to drive with hydrogen since Japan can make all the electricity they would want from their own resources.

            Russia would have to build 2x to 3x as many wind turbines as would Japan. Russia would have to build electrolysis plants to produce the H2 and then liquify it for shipping. Then Russia would have to get it to Japan where it would need to be distributed around the country.

            Cost per mile to drive with Russian H2 =

            2x to 3x as much electricity input
            + Hydrogen production/liquefaction plants
            + Shipping costs
            + Distribution costs
            + Profits for the Russians.

            Cost per mile to drive with Japanese electricity =

            1x electricity

            Someone would have to really, really be in love with H2 in order to justify spending that much extra to drive a mile.

        • jeffhre 4 years ago

          Wet (frozen) methane, safely sequestered as long as the oceans don’t heat up too much (cascading vicious cycle?).

        • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

          You exaggerate. Steam reformation of methane is not the world’s “most carbon-intensive” anything. It’s a reasonably efficient way of putting all the carbon emissions from combustion of methane up front, while yielding a chemically pure and carbon-free energy hydrogen stream which still bears most of the energy in the input methane.

          Since the CO₂ stream is also chemically pure, it’s an excellent process to use if you’re intending to attempt carbon dioxide capture and storage.

          You aren’t going to emit more carbon than was in the methane in the first place, so you can’t talk of it as more carbon-intensive than any other process involving emitting the carbon in methane, whether that’s generating electricity with it, roasting vegetables with it or using it to fuel a bus engine.

          What matters is whether it’s more efficient to burn the methane directly, or whether hydrogen does better what you’re trying to achieve.

          In the case of automobiles, hydrogen fuel cells are probably not a net win if the hydrogen is to be sourced entirely from methane. However it can also be sourced from clean electricity and from biomass, so hydrogen vehicles are more about making energy fungible (enabling a transition away from liquid petroleum derivatives to other energy sources) than they are about efficiency per se.

          Battery-electric cars would certainly seem to be a better way to go about this, but batteries are unsuitable for long duty cycles (seasonal energy storage) so it’s not so completely one-sided a comparison as the headline article and most people engaged in the discussion seem to think.

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            CH4 reforming…
            While losing half the energy in the process.

            I think TT Abott suggested putting all the CO2 in fizzy soft drinks. Perhaps we should add CCA to his list of benefactors.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Where did you read “losing half the energy”? Steam reformation of methane has a thermal efficiency CH₄ → H₂ in excess of 66%, up to 80% depending on the specific technique, and as part of a larger industrial process (such as oil refining, which is where most steam reformation is done) its “waste heat” is more a valuable co-product than something that needs to be discarded, so the effective efficiency of methane consumption (H₂ plus heat) can be even better.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Forget reforming methane. The planet cannot tolerate us continuing to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            We’re doing this *now*. It’s efficient *now*. We’re not talking about some hypothetical emissions-free future (in this subthread), we’re talking about today’s industrial chemistry.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Jonathan, what do you not understand about global warming?

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Why assume I don’t understand? A billion people used petroleum products for personal transportation today. Three billion used electricity produced with fossil fuels. We need to stop doing those things, but we aren’t about to stop doing them all at once, overnight.

            I comment on threads like this not out of some contrarian impulse but merely to correct factual errors and nonsensical statements like “steam methane reforming (SMR) [is] the world’s most carbon intensive refinery process – vastly exceeding the emissions related to gasoline” — which is erroneous not least because SMR is *part* of the everyday process of producing gasoline from petroleum. Some 80% of world hydrogen production is in petroleum refineries, for use in refineries, for desulfurisation of sour crudes and for hydrocracking of heavy crude fractions to make lighter products. (Most of the rest is used in the manufacture of nitrogen fertilisers, which are another necessary part of the everyday way we live and feed ourselves).

            I’ve allowed myself to be distracted from that simple purpose of sorting fact from poor comprehension into this tit-for-tat with you, but it wasn’t your error that caused me to weigh in in the first place.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            If you are not pushing H2 FCEVs, fine.

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            Half may be a bit mush, but possibly not when the pipe to pipe performance is considered.
            The real problem is that methane reforming is a furphy. It is already common to make use of CH4 directly in heaters, engines and turbines without turning it into hydrogen.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Well yeah — but steam reforming is also already common, so let’s not get carried away making up numbers about it when it’s well-understood.

          • Ian 4 years ago

            Jonathan, you seem to now your beans when it comes to hydrogen production by reforming various fossil fuels, but you are buying Japanese whale meat supporting this gaseous industry. Julian seems to be talking about the surreptitious use of hydrogen fuel cells( likened to whale research) to massively exploit hydrated methane, up to now, safely ensconced in the bottom of the ocean. The little cetovores will be very efficient at converting methane to hydrogen, no doubt, but it will be methane all the same. We already have way to much burning of all sorts of carboniforous fuels, as you point out oil, gas and coal, and now these whale-hunters want to use up what little air we have left. Why do you think people are so desperate to switch to next to useless battery cars, utility bashing solar and Abbott’s view- spoiling windmills. It’s so our children can breath without choking and walk outside without baking to death!

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            I don’t support the industry, I just reject inaccurate characterisations of well-understood industrial processes.

            The racial slurs and hyperbole regarding wind, solar and battery-electric vehicles do you no favours. It’s not remotely clear which phrases are meant to be ironic.

          • Julian Cox 4 years ago

            Jonathan, FYI you made an error in stating or strongly implying that the carbon intensity of Hydrogen production is limited to the carbon content of the methate feedstock. You are forgetting wellhead carbon emissions, the heat energy of the SMR furnace and the energy for compression. The feedstock carbon is less than 50% of just these – and then if you include something for transporting either the methane to the SMR or the hydrogen to the tank and GHG equivalence of non-CO2 gasses especially CH4 leakage from wellhead to SMR then the Hydrogen production carbon intensity is genuinely the worst oranges to oranges when compared to anything else in the fossil fuel spectrum on a GHG emissions per unit of energy basis. Really this is not an overstatement or any kind of inaccuracy and that is just fracking as a methane source. One of the most “respected” I.E. Egregious hydrogen promoters Dr C.E. (Sandy) Thomas puts CO2e per Kg H2 at 16.58Kg per Kg WTW. This has the energy content of 1 US gal gasoline that is 11.132Kg CO2e per gal (US DOE / NREL / EPA) and 11.3Kg by his figures. Coal has bad GHG emissions as well as nasty particulates and toxins but on GHGs alone it cannot compete with hydrogen for GHG intensity – neither can anthracite or peat. Hydrogen is the absolute worst bar none. 3% of total global emissions or 10% if transport emissions for only 50 million metric tons.

            Japan has its sights set on Methane Hydrates – at gross and acknowledged risk of producing megaton if not gigaton methane plumes from undersea landslides of unstable sediments that teter at the edge of continental shelves.

            Something to think about. Nothing to be taken lightly.

          • Carl Raymond S 4 years ago

            I watched a video of yours today on Cleantechnica, and was impressed by your insights. Specifically, the reasons why ICEV manufacturers simply could not promote the EV as a better vehicle, and the looming problem with ICEV leases should EVs become highly sought after and thus devalue other used cars – a ‘small’ GFC.

            I have learned a lot about clean tech by throwing ideas at this forum and reading the feedback from others. Something I read recently was that Germany intends to use power2gas for seasonal storage, which led to the idea of using p2g for other purposes, such as heating, gas peaker plants (a grid ‘gap-filler’), long haul trucking (using CNG in turbine hybrid trucks such as the Nikola).

            I have two questions on my mind:
            1) Will there come a day when solar is so cheap and widespread that energy between the hours of 9am and 3pm is essentially free. If this is the case, then hydrogen and CNG can only be discounted for reasons other than inefficiency. If we project into the future and take free (occasional) energy as a given, is methane as bad as hydrogen? If hydrogen were produced from water and (surplus solar) energy, then immediately methanated, is that a virtuous process?
            2) When those leases reach maturity and the goods are worth less than the residual, will that hurt the leaseholders, car companies, or finance companies?

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Let me cut in and address #1.

            It will always be cheaper to drive with electricity than with hydrogen.

            Let’s assume solar falls to 2c/kWh. There’s some cost for getting it to the hydrogen plant. There won’t be enough “surplus” electricity to run a massive fuel industry. It’s highly likely that any less expensive electricity is going to get sucked up opportunistic loads (EVs and storage).

            EVs and hydrogen plants would pay about the same per kWh delivered.

            Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are much less efficient, from solar panel/wind turbine to wheels spinning on the road. They need 2x to 3x more electricity per mile. (Chart below) If it costs 3 cents per mile to drive an EV the electricity for a FCEV will cost 6 to 9 cents per mile.

            Then there has to be a hydrogen ‘factory’ that splits water and compresses the hydrogen. And the hydrogen has to be stored and distributed. There’s buildings, equipment, labor, vehicles, storage tanks, pumps, …. All that has to be paid for. Add it to the 6 to 9 cents.


          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I think I can field #2 as well. (I just watched the video and found that part interesting.)

            Leaseholders won’t get burned. They sign a contract going in that tells them their total costs. At the end of the lease they hand the vehicle back to the leasing company.

            The leasing company will get burned. They wrote the lease with the expectation that the vehicle will have an approximate value on the used vehicle market when they get it back. If they were expecting $25k but find no one wants to buy the vehicle and it’s actually worth $45 at the crusher they’re going to be out $24,955.

            The company that financed the leasing company may get burned. If the leasing company can’t cover the $24,955 loss then they can’t pay back their lenders.

            We may get a very clear signal that the end is nigh for gasmobiles if it becomes difficult to find new cars to lease. If the banks look out three years or so and see the possibility of leasing company bankruptcies then they might not be willing to finance further business.

          • Carl Raymond S 4 years ago

            Thanks. Burnt before the fire even starts. Tough world.

          • Carl Raymond S 4 years ago

            Thanks, I had overlooked that workplace/day charging will bid up the price of midday solar from zero to ‘something’.
            What I’m trying to work out is whether the Nikola Truck can be branded ‘sustainable’. It needs CNG, and that currently means fracking. I quite like the Nikola Truck – it’s way better than what we have today, but perhaps it can be 100% RE.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Methane hydrates exist, but there’s no commercial exploitation of them today and little likelihood of there being any significant exploitation of them in future. Heavily subsidised pilot projects maybe, but clathrate mining is as mythological and as assured of success as is “clean coal”.

            There are already better ways of doing things: wind, solar, hydro and nuclear electricity are cheaper, more profitable and more ecologically sustainable than any fossil-fuelled variant on the “hydrogen economy” concept could ever hope to be.

            I also think it vanishingly unlikely that an industry will ever emerge that simply does steam reformation of methane, independent of any other energy-intensive industrial process, in order to produce compressed hydrogen exclusively for commodity sale. Compressed hydrogen as a product just isn’t that valuable or useful compared with electricity, diesel, gasoline, other liquid fuels like methanol, nor even methane itself.

            I’ll reiterate the point I made here months ago that steam reformation of methane is almost entirely done as an integrated step either in the refining of sour crude petroleum or in the manufacture of fertilisers. Process heat is required for most of these steps, frequently sourced from what would otherwise be low-value byproducts or “waste” heat.

            I think it’s would be pettifogging to try to apportion the energy consumption and greenhouse emissions of the petroleum or fertiliser industry among individual steps in a complex integrated process which in practice recirculates feedstocks and energy quite efficiently. Inefficiencies in the petrochemical supply chain tend to be much worse at the consumption end or in higher-margin “production”, than in the capital-intensive and low-margin refining business.

            I fully acknowledge upstream fugitive greenhouse gas emissions in the extraction of natural gas and indeed any fossil fuel. They vary greatly depending on the particular upstream source — very low for large “conventional” gas fields in places like Qatar, Iran and Russia, and for associated gas in “conventional” oil fields; significantly higher for fracked shale wells.

        • Jim Young 4 years ago

          Enlightening, but I do wonder what the range of methods of producing hydrogen is in terms of cost and negative impacts.

          I would certainly be against cost trumping overall impact, as it seems from what you have “revealed.”

          Is it in any way realistic to produce usable amounts of it as shown at

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            From your link –

            “the electrolyzer splits it off into hydrogen and oxygen, and this line here feeds it down to that tank,”

            There’s a very large energy loss going from electricity to hydrogen and then back to electricity. Over half the energy is lost compared to about 10% with batteries.

            “This one is different because it’s cheaper, at least relatively, about a $180,000 total investment for the homeowner”

            He’s getting the function of a few thousand dollars of batteries in terms of 2-3 day storage. He’s greatly overbuilt his solar array to cover the H2 inefficiency.

            Add a wire running to a wind farm and some hydro facilities and he would need nothing over a 2-3 battery bank to store most of the electricity he needs. He could get the deep backup from the grid for a few bucks a month.

            Let’s say that he needed a $40k investment. That might be high. $140,000 invested at 5% would produce $583 a month.

            There’s a Mirai sitting out front in the picture. Almost the cost of a Tesla S70. Not much more range. Harder to find a place to fill it up if one wanders away from home. Takes 2x to 3x as many solar panels to power it.

            I’d say that this guy is demonstrating that it can be done. But that does not mean that it’s the smart thing to do

    • Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

      Imagine an 40-ton dump truck on batteries;-)

      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        You know, battery capacity is growing fairly rapidly. Right now it’s not clear that we could build a very functional battery powered 40-ton dump truck that ran on batteries.

        But we can build a 9-ton garbage truck that runs on batteries.

        And a 30-ton yard tractor.

        And a 125 mile range 25-ton electric tractor.

        So, as you can see, we’re making progress.

        • Adam Parris 4 years ago

          Good news Bob, the BMW group in Germany have a 40 ton truck that can travel 100kms.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Well that’s not too bad, only 20% of the human poulation will starve waiting.

        • Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

          Thank you, very impressive this progress. It is interesting how many batteries weigh 40 ton Truck trailer for 300 km or more.

        • Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

          Thank you, very impressive this progress. It is interesting how many batteries weigh 40 ton Truck trailer for 300 km or more. 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Batteries are almost certainly going to improve. Will store more energy in the same volume and at the same weight. The batteries used in the Tesla EV are about 250 Wh/kg. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that he sees a clear route to batteries with 400 Wh/kg by 2020. That might be good enough for a usable 20 ton dump truck. Over time we might get to 40.

            Or we could make a 40 ton dump truck right now if we used battery swapping.

            I calculated out that we could power an American 18-wheeler with about 5 Tesla S battery packs. Swap out used batteries for recharged ones every 200 miles or so.

            Those big 40-ton dumpsters aren’t going very far. Nor are they going very fast. We could put a few big battery packs in them and swap out the batteries from time to time.

            They’d love the instant torque of electric motors.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Or from Adam’s link –

            “An electric truck has been officially deployed in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, in a partnership between German automobile manufacturer BMW and automotive service provider Scherm. Together, the two companies have put the first 40-ton electric vehicle on public roads.

            The truck, designed and built by Dutch truck manufacturer Terberg, will be charged exclusively using energy from renewable sources. It takes 3 to 4 hours to charge completely, and can travel up to 100 kilometres on a full charge, which will allow it to work for a full day on a single charge.”

          • Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

            I’m on the side of the platform for electric machinery, including vehicles. I am against the opposition of hydrogen technologies – purely an electric. I power engineer and not a car salesman. But in the city is advantageous pure electrical machinery, I agree with that.

      • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

        You don’t need batteries. You use tram cables. (300 tonnes, not 40)

    • Adam Parris 4 years ago

      I think you guys will like our Australian competition to speed up the development of EVs. Check us out at

    • Michael G 4 years ago

      Seba’s claim about water usage is misleading to the point of being fraudulent. I checked his source for water usage of FCVs. The huge amount Seba mentions assumes steam generated electricity for electrolysis. You could say the same for steam-generated electricity to charge batteries. The article he cites notes that if PV or wind is used to generate the electricity, water consumption is less than 10% of the amount Seba cites.

      Item 2.6, on Page 7868 of

  2. Adam Parris 4 years ago

    Great Article Tony, we at agree that Hydrogen is not the future.

    Anyone interested in helping us launch our $14 million competition electrifying the transport industry come contribute to our forum. We are located in Canberra!

    • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

      Good luck – my “year 2100” plan has been in Canberra since April 2015, and it deals with solar fuels as future mass export for Australia(to the north). I believe even Professor Garnaut has jumped in on the “band wagon” recently-check it out for yourself.Power to gas is another to industrialise our natural gas pipeline network on the way. NBN communication to integrate Australia(K Rudd and I). However goodluck with

  3. Peter Campbell 4 years ago

    Whenever I do a show and tell event on electric vehicles there is always someone who insists that hydrogen vehicles are the future. That person is always male and at least 70 years old.

    • Bob Fearn 4 years ago

      That is what Mechanics Illustrated told them.
      Tragically that magazine is no longer available.

      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        They reread their old copies and weep.

        (I’m at least 70 year old. I remember some of the dreams of yesteryear. Cheap nuclear energy, for one. ;o)

        • jeffhre 4 years ago

          I remember reading those articles, loved it. So much grist for the mill. Advice to others waiting with baited breath for the H2 economy – get over it. I have.

    • Jim Young 4 years ago

      I’m not quite 70 but do hope the hydrogen production does start coming from the less efficient but cleaner conversion of water as enough excess solar power becomes a bit more realistic than the Popular Mechanics type.


      I think I understand Elon Musk’s potential market reality views, seeing methods with a far better chance of incrementally moving to cleaner solutions.

      Some of his Solar City sales people were surprised to learn of 7,000 HFC fork lifts being fielded (with advantages in a much smaller footprint in warehouse space required). Looking at the large solar arrays on Walmart facility roofs, I have to believe they see the benefits (even if they don’t want homeowner’s systems competing, or going too much off grid), and wonder if they will use them for local hydrogen separation, to be used in HFC forklifts, etc.

      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        They could be running those 7,000 forklifts with half to a third as many panels. Batteries are going to continue to improve. I suspect HFC forklifts will be an evolutionary dead branch.

        • Jim Young 4 years ago

          I’m certainly not as into the finer details, but I was intrigued by the possibilities and early uses like the HFC packs that were better than existing batteries to power medical equipment on Med Evac flights from Iraq to Germany.

          I also have in the back of my mind, some potential advantage in using what water can be produced as it provides power, not much, but perhaps useful for some applications.

          Who knows, I recall the Swedes and German people using “wood gas” set ups to power farm equipment and cars when they couldn’t get reliable other fuel supplies, and the somewhat similar technology used in the “Quadrafire” stove my daughter’s family uses.

          Anything that improves long term backwoods self-reliance or shorter term emergency self reliance seems worthwhile, even if the optimal cost/efficiency is not reached.

          • Mark 4 years ago

            The water has to be used up to produce the hydrogen first of course. I imagine it would be more efficient to pipe the water in a pipeline next to the hydrogen, but I suppose the electroysis could use non-potable water, and potable water could be captured at point of use.

  4. Dean Laslett 4 years ago

    It would be also good to see a comparison of the range of a fully fueled HFCV versus an EV (which will also depend on a fuel cell and battery energy density comparison, not just km/kWh), and refuel time versus recharge time. The point about water use is really good: to be considered at all, the hydrogen should come from seawater (which might mean an extra desalination step and more energy use – although CETO wave machines can produce both). However there is a lot of renewable energy out there, so maybe the final comparison will come down to cost, ease of use (range/recharge time etc), and the surface area required for the sustainable source energy system rather than purely energy efficiency (although that will have a large bearing on it). Batteries also have an energy leakage rate, that could be compared to any hydrogen energy leakage rate.

    • Charles 4 years ago

      From memory they are capable of 600km, but the variation of hydrogen (compression state or something like that) which is used by the Mirai is only 300km. There is only one refuelling station in Australia, in Macquarie Park in Sydney. If you live more than (as an example) 15km away from it, like most Sydney residents, then you’ve just blown 10% of your range on your return trip to refuel.
      And of course you can’t drive more than half the remaining capacity, since you need to get back again, so you’re limited to half of whatever range you have left.
      This doesn’t take into account the fact that the hydrogen station is owned by Hyundai and I’m not sure if Mirai’s are actually allowed there.

      • Dean Laslett 4 years ago

        Yes, a Tesla already almost matches that 300km figure? so no range advantage to Mirai. Yes, they will have to retrofit existing petrol stations with a hydrogen bowser. I wonder what the cost of that would be compared to putting a solar panel on the roof of the station, a battery storage system, and providing EV charging points. EV’s also have the advantage of a direct two-way V2G capability. Seems like HFCVs will need a lot of improvement to compete with EVs

        • Coley 4 years ago

          What puzzles most people is, given the clear( and rapidly improving) advantages, of EVs is why are they even bothering?

          • nakedChimp 4 years ago

            Who, the likes of Toyota?
            Simple – rent seeking. Keep the Joe’s and Joanna’s in your ecosystem and cash in on the rent forever.

            To bad batteries got good enough so fast – thanks to laptops, mobile phones, battery driven power tools and radio-controlled model-craft.
            They didn’t expect that angle at all..

          • Charles 4 years ago

            It’s strange though. They were the leader with the Prius, you would expect that to lead along the BEV path. Disappointing that they are going backwards.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Toyota also had the EV RAV4 which many people loved.

            Some think it’s because Toyota got involved with NiMH batteries and missed the lithium-ion train. Personally I finding it very puzzling. But we’ve see very large, dominant companies crash and burn because they stubbornly stuck to the wrong path.

            Remember how Wang Systems owned corporate desktops for word processing? (Pres. Wang – ‘people would never want computers on their desks’.)

            And most are aware of Kodak being the inventors of digital photography and then being killed by their own invention when they did not take it seriously enough.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Or how about when Tesla saw that AC, not DC was the way forward despite all of Edison’s infrastructure? THAT Tesla was wise enough to see that DC was good for short distances, like a modern Tesla vehicle, but not good for long distances. I think the irony is delicious.

            You see. It cuts both ways. And the truth is that Apple Computer has brought us back to the era of thin clients and idiot users tapping into network apps and network databases. Turns out Wang was right.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            “Toyota also had the EV RAV4 which many people loved”

            Yeah. They loved them so much that they stayed away in droves. Toyota could not sell them. Jointly developed with Tesla. Toyota learned from the experience, Tesla… not so much.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I don’t know much about the first generation RAV4 EV so I went to Wiki –

            “Toyota then actually sold or leased 328 RAV4 EVs to the general public in 2003, at which time the program was terminated despite waiting lists of prospective customers.”

            “More RAV4-EVs were sold than had been planned for manufacture through standard assembly line techniques. Toyota filled every order despite the fact that the last few dozen vehicles had to be assembled from spare parts due to a shortfall of production components (a significantly more expensive way of building a vehicle).”

            “Whether or not Toyota wanted to continue production, it was unlikely to be able to do so because the EV-95 battery was no longer available. Chevron had inherited control of the worldwide patent rights for the NiMH EV-95 battery when it merged with Texaco, which had purchased them from General Motors. Chevron’s unit won a US$30,000,000settlement from Toyota and Panasonic, and the production line for the large NiMH batteries was closed down and dismantled.”

            Second generation –

            “The RAV4 EV was sold only in California, and sales began in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange Countyand San Diego. Production was limited to 2,600 during three years.[4][5][23] The RAV4 EV was available to individual consumers and fleet customers.[24] Due to the capacity of its battery pack the RAV4 EV qualified for the maximum US$7,500federal tax credit and also was eligible for aUS$2,500 rebate in California.[25] A total of 192 units were sold during 2012 and 1,096 during 2013.[7] A total of 2,489 units were sold in the U.S. through April 2015.[7][8][9] The production run ended in September 2014.[6]”


            There’s no indication as to what happened with the other 111 RAV4 EVs.

            I’m just not seeing a basis for your claim that “They loved them so much that they stayed away in droves. Toyota could not sell them.” Toyota had a waiting list for their first generation and Toyota limited second generation sales to only California.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Not strange, more potential with FCVs, and that was the reason.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            A reasonable person would then consider: What does Toyota know that I don’t know?

            A less reasonable person would be disappointed that Toyota is just not as smart as the average RenewEconomy message poster.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Research how many battery failures there were since 2008, and that’s why their staying with lithium ion.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Stephen, one cannot just make up numbers.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            A couple of possible reasons.

            A Japanese government and/or company that is not concerned about climate change. Japan has large amounts of methane hydrate just off their shores. Pulling that carbon-ice up and burning it would help make Japan energy self sufficient.

            Corporate inertia. Once set into motion the FCEV division of Toyota and a couple other manufacturers continue in motion until an outside force stops them. Toyota, the corporation, is soured on EVs and is probably not losing any significant percentage of their total revenue on FCEVs so they are doing nothing to stop them. They might have agreed with the people running that division that they would allow FCEVs to have a good trial on the market and see if buyers were interested.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Yes let us see if buyers are interested, after all the buyers represent the real force that will dicatate.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I think all of us are comfortable with that solution, Stephen.

            Some of us are taking an objective look at the facts and predicting that FCEVs are very unlikely to be taken up by buyers.

            FCEVs. More expensive to purchase. More expensive to drive. No supporting infrastructure. No important advantages over EVs.

            Quicker fueling on infrequent very long trips is offset by the need to go to fuel stations during the rest of the year. FCEVs eat up more driver’s time than EVs over the year.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Bob, do you really want to try to convince people that you are an objective observer?

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I try Rockne. I present facts and I provide links to those facts when it seems appropriate/needed.

            If one makes their argument based on facts and forms their opinions based on fact that means that they are being objective.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Yes. You keep trying. And if you were doing a perfect job, the bias of your “facts and links” would still sink you.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Hang in there Stephen. You are absolutely right about the market deciding this matter.
            Toyota has identified recharging as a problem with EVs. The New York Times has run articles on difficulties and conflicts people have with charging their vehicles, and although one would think that free charging services would be GREAT for EVs, what people are finding is that they are creating chaos.

            The truth is that, today, Japan has more rechargers than gas stations. People there like EVs. But time is money. People who value time and value money don’t want to wait around all the time recharging their vehicles. This is the hydrogen vehicle killer app.

            Japan has been there and done that with EVs. It is moving on, and some North Americans will be reluctant to follow.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Of course! Inept conniving government and inept conniving Toyota.
            And those are the explanations Bob gives as “possible” reasons. Assuming that he is not holding back with others that are more plausible, we can then assume that these are the MOST LIKELY explanations Bob has for FCVs.

            Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bob Wallace, Japan expert. And not only is he wrong on both counts, but he is not curious enough to come up with any other possible reasons, or perhaps the officially offered explanations, which he rejects in favor of his home-cooked, half-baked, reality.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            Stop abusing people and instead argue with evidence. You’d win more respect.

          • Dean Laslett 4 years ago

            It might be worth researching a dual fuel cell/electrolyser system with 2 tanks, 1 for H2, one for H2O (which would act like a battery). Then the vehicle could also have 2 way V2G. In the rare instance of needing a really quick recharge – go to service station and fill up on hydrogen (while reclaiming water – which is then re-split by the service station solar PV system)

    • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

      Exactly and your on the path. Electrolysis hydrogen is always raised when BEVs are mentioned. NO we use solar fuels now and can take carbon dioxide out of the air and make methanol and other derivities.(some people need to do more research).Hydrogen is one solar fuel which is being directly made from sunlight, and biologically and from natural gas and……… BEVs do not make their own fuel, they “suck the blood” out of the grid, a grid that was never designed for them. The rate of electrical / energy transfer is critical, that’s why a transport technology is defined as a 3-5 minute refill.The reality of buyers is will dictate. The US market is the toughest-“Musk” is a dirty smell, he should go to Mars.

      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        ” NO we use solar fuels now and can take carbon dioxide out of the air and make methanol and other derivities.(some people need to do more research).Hydrogen is one solar fuel which is being directly made from sunlight, and biologically and from natural gas and”

        OK, so the new rule is “we suspend reality”. Got it.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            The reality is, The CSIRO backed Ceramic fuel cells, & never delivered their promised 30kW unit in year 2003, then went over to The UK /EU stock markets with a 1-2kW unit, & took another twelve(12) years, and in year 2015 Ceramic Fuel Cells(CFCL) went into voluntary liquidation-big FU and AU$200m loss. They were very “hard headed”, but were told about the hydrogen fuel cell late in the 1990’s-I still keep all my e-mails-I hope they know that. I was right they were wrong, that puts in the No. 1 position in this country. Now solar fuels are talked abount in Canberra for Australia’s future. As I formed Solar Hydrogen Research P/L in 1996-artificial photosynthesis, I am now No.1 in this area as well. I note Professor Garnaut is not backing the idea. Well thank you Professor Garnaut.My “Year 2100 Plan” has been in Canberra since April 2015; have you noticed the words “new” and “innovation” on TV of late? My reality is going to be delivered, so any BEVs,BZEs whatsoever, including the CSIRO, will have plenty of opportunities to meet me in Canberra next year.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I think I understand you now, Stephen.

            You take good care of yourself. Try to listen to your family and friends.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            You are right Stephen. Don’t sweat it. Bob and his crew go from site to site selling their battery future.

            Might as well tell you. Any time you think that the world needs a future with battery vehicles everywhere, it will be accurate if it includes messed up grids, recharging hassles and conflicts, endless battery refurbishing and recycling. Lithium shortages. Resource wars.

            Toyota has widely reported its plans for many years, but people like Bob just ignore the statements and make up their own reasons for what Toyota does. Toyota made its Prius, which is actually a package of many technologies designed to work seamlessly with the existing infrastructure. It is inexpensive, profitable, useful, and dependable. Anybody can use it. Anybody can afford it.

            Toyota rejects the idea that the new infrastructure is the electrical grid. You can probably figure out why. It also rejects the use of bulky, heavy, expensive batteries. Hydrogen is a little bit of a stretch, but not by too much, and the benefits are worth it in the long run.

            In the end, the Mirai will be popular, clean, cheap, and profitable. And just for contrast, the Tesla never has been, and never will be. The market will decide, and frankly, it already has, we just have not seen the results yet. It will be clear in three years.

            I recommend that you take names of all the naysayers so you can gloat profusely.

          • Coley 4 years ago

            Just hope you ain’t a betting person;)

  5. Jacob 4 years ago

    The only viable thing might be to have a hydrogen fuel cell to recharge the battery in your EV if you are doing a massive road trip through the outback.

    Or have a specialist 4WD powered by fuel cells just for such ultra long road trips through the middle of nowhere.

    • Charles 4 years ago

      Through the middle of nowhere? Like.. places that don’t have hydrogen refuelling stations?

      If you were driving through the outback in an EV you could take a couple of solar panels .. at least you *could* get back home again (even if very, very slowly).

      • Jacob 4 years ago

        Right. Or just carry an extra battery that holds 200kWh of charge.

        Another reason to increase battery density.

        • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

          Maybe we just might be better going nuclear battery, that would solve a lot of the energy density problems.

    • nakedChimp 4 years ago

      H2 doesn’t have the energy density..
      Better take some >20% solar panels with you and hope for a lot of sun or take some biofuel driven generator.. either case is not really advisable at the moment though as the power needed to move a common 4×4 through the outback is a tad bit more than 0.3kWh/km.. I’d guess at least 0.6kWh/km, probably more towards 1kWh/km, unless we’re talking Suzuki Vitara here.

      Alone delivering enough energy for a 60-80L fridge will take the better part of 2x Sunpower 320W panels + 5kWh LiFePO4 cells (so at least the campsite is genny noise&smell free).

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      It should soon be the case that one could pack more energy in batteries than in H2 tanks. Hydrogen is incredibly non-dense in terms of volume.

      Might be interesting to calculate the volume of hydrogen and fuel cell stack in a 300 mile range Mirai and the volume for the batteries in a 300 mile range Tesla.

      The only way to pack more energy into a hydrogen tank is to increase pressure. Increasing pressure makes H2 even less affordable. Battery capacity continues to rise.

      • Julian Cox 4 years ago

        One of the other delusions promoted about hydrogen is to focus on the fuel cell stack and possibly the tank while overlooking the balance of system required to replace a battery.

        Radiators (huge ones). There is no exhaust pipe to expel waste heat.

        DC to DC converter. Fuel Cells don’t produce sufficient voltage to match an acceptable EV power train without adding unmanageable cost and bulk in the form of a bigger stack, in practical terms they need to be up-converted.

        Power Integration Module. Fuel cells cannot produce enough power for acceleration. A powerful fuel cell would require unmanageable bulk and expense and still would have no inherent regenerative braking functionality. To integrate with a battery system that can handle regenerative braking (the only source of efficiency in an FCV) a Power Integration Module is required to route current in and out of the various parts of a complex system between motor / generator, battery and fuel cell.

        A battery. As mentioned before, insufficient power, no regenerative braking without it.

        Hydrogen tanks. While these are acknowledged to exist, rarely is it highlighted how ridiculous these are. 87.5Kg of tank required to contain 5 Kg of Hydrogen – and these tanks are huge resulting in poor vehicle architecture – loss of trunk space for example.

        Crash structures. An underbody impact on an FCV will be extremely problematic for occupants. While the tanks may survive the Fuel Cell and its hydrogen-hardened supply lines will not unless it is heavily shielded. So far Toyota have lobbied to excuse themselves from NHTSA inspection and even if they were to be forced to comply an underbody impact is not a standard NHTSA test. If they behave responsibly then the underbody of the 4700b Mirai should be built like a minesweeper, if not, their first casualties will be martyrs and heroes to a very good cause.

        As a side note on the subject of safety, the Mirai apparently cannot function if it must comply to electrical safety standards that are required of BEVs and P/HEVs, Toyota has sought an NHTSA exemption for the Mirai on account of this shortcoming.

        Bottom line, a Fuel Cell System is extremely heavy, expensive, complex and inherently dangerous when compared with simply taking the existing battery required for its operation (and that delivers it only benefit of regenerative braking) and extending that battery to permit the removal of all of the above.

        To the specific point about energy density. 5Kg of hydrogen contains approximately 165KWh of heat energy of which approximately 60% is available to feed the BEV components of the system for a net battery equivalence of 99KWh. To get to energy density in KWh/Kg, instead of just dividing that 99KWh by the weight of the tanks or the tanks and the fuel cell, ALL of the above MUST be included in the calculation otherwise we would be discussing a non-functioning system. A Mirai equivalent vehicle like a low-power Camry weighs about 3200lbs (1454Kg), take out the engine and transmission for a net 1000 Kg. The Mirai curb weight 1,850 kg (4,078.6 lb) gives a pretty good estimate of that fuel cell system at 850Kg.

        So we would have 99KWh / 850Kg = 116 Wh/Kg. Which explains precisely why the Mirai performs like a BYD E6 and not like a Tesla Model S. (Tesla’s existing battery is at 260Wh/Kg and is slated on current plans to hit 380 Wh/Kg in the coming four years).

        Here is all that junk in the frunk and trunk:

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          A couple points.

          The huge air intakes mean that FCEVs will not be very aerodynamic. They are basically rolling air scoops with lots of internal turbulence eating up energy.

          The Tesla S received very high side impact scores because the battery pack in the car’s floor provides large resistance to crumpling.

          • Julian Cox 4 years ago

            FCVs are not a product, they are a tool of deception to divide public debate and mire energy policies in confusion. At that they have been relative successful. I think that the Tesla Model 3 will put a stop to it and expose hydrogen for the obvious nonsense that it is.

            I would like to see it go further than that, and for people to recognise that Hydrogen production (in the chemical industry, forget about transportation) is a major problem that needs to be regulated and exposed for the astonishing pollution associated with it.

            NREL figures demonstrate clearly that Hydrogen production is currently responsible for a figure equating to 10% of all global vehicle emissions even without any FCVs to make matters considerably worse. To have this confused with ‘clean energy’ is criminal and MUST stop.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Let the people decide, what’s the insecurity about? Got a bit of competition and you all become insecure. BEVs will not and never dictate to the consumer. Let us see what happens.

          • Charles 4 years ago

            The people already have decided, which is why there are thousands of EVs registered across Australia. However there is still a lot of work to do – EVs still have a big battle against petrol and hydrogen only serves to act as a distraction. It is being pushed by those who want to maintain their current control over the fuel distribution system. They fear the thought of people being able to generate their own vehicle fuel or buy it from any retailer they want.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            You better tell Professor Garnaut that, as he supports some big plans ahead.


          • Coley 4 years ago

            Don’t worry, they have and it’s all EVs, that’s why hydrogen hasn’t really got a future, people can see the futures in the wire, not the pipe;)

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            Admirable sentiments. I am reasonably confident that not only will FCVs succeed, but that certain battery car companies will have great difficulty meeting their goals. It will lead to scandal and huge setbacks for EVs. High-end EVs will be associated with political wrangling, financial gambling, and investor fraud.

            There are many many people who are so wedded to EVs, and specifically to Tesla, that they have become zealots. You know what I am talking about.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            I and most here are enthusiastic about the prospects for EV’s and sceptical/pessimistic that FCV’s will ever cut the mustard.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            My “year 2100 plan” has been in Canberra since April.Notice a bit of chit chat lately about “innovation”, “solar fuels”,and so on.mmm-

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Elon Musk already knows he is advertising his battery technology, as solar PV is set to be cheaper than carbon before year 2025.He wants a Tesla is every house in the US.BEVs do not make their own fuel, they “steal it” from a power grid not designed for cars, and paid for over decades by taxpayers. “A cheap and dirty shot” -let BEVs make their own fuel, and not bludge off the rest of the car owners that pay top dollar for their fuel.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            If we were to drive FCEVs and not use methane as the fuel then we would end up “stealing” 2x to 3x as much electricity from the grid.

            It sounds like you don’t really understand FCEVs and hydrogen very well.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            To the contrary my friend, I am the one that stated in Australia,
            that FCVs would become commercial, and I am correct. Your CSIRO cronies F.U.badly, and they know it. Solar fuels make hydrogen directly, you do no know that . So wait 3 hours for next sandwich, as you have no idea what you are taliking about. This not sun gazing nor religion based philosophical do nothing bable.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Stephen, what company is marketing solar made hydrogen?

            What is the cost of that hydrogen?

          • Coley 4 years ago

            It’s babble,not bable,,
            And you should know.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            Absolute balderdash!

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            There is no way a grid could handle a Tesla at every household. This is a dirty secret of the large-capacity BEVs. I doubt most Australian grids, such as they are, are better prepared to have thousands of supercharging Teslas plugged in at 6 pm some summer day.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “There is no way a grid could handle a Tesla at every household.”

            That’s true Rockne. I’m not sure what conditions are like in AU but in the US the grid could handle 70% of all US cars being EVs right now as long as they charge after midnight.

            And over 50% of all US drivers have a place to plug in where they park, right now.

            There are essentially no places to refill H2 FCEVs in the US. (We have enough capacity for a couple hundred FCEVs and about 260 million registered cars.)

            Let’s see, which would be easiest and cheapest?

            Building capacity to charge the ‘other 30%’ or building enough to charge H2 FCEVs which use up to three times as much electricity per mile?

            Installing outlets for about 45% of US cars or building electrolysis plants, tanker trucks and filling stations for 100% of all US cars?

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            You are whistling in the graveyard. It is obvious that you want to believe. But you do protest too much. And you protest more in direct proportion to your uncertainty about your position.

            Think man. What don’t you know? You argue as though you are the smartest person in the world and everyone else must be an idiot. But you know that can’t be true, right? So what is wrong? What you are not understanding is a fundamental truth about yourself.

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            The grid doesn’t have to!

            Mostly, those Teslas will have only been driven 40-odd km during the day’s commute and school bus run and will have consumed less than 10kwh, so can readily be charged slowly and from the house battery (previous tesla battery).

            Most EVs (compacts, scooters, ebikes), are likely to be a lot smaller than a Tesla, so the problem will be less still.

        • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

          By year 2020/2025 FCVs will be cost effective, and hydrogen storage is set to increase significantly. FCVs may well do over 1000kls per tank. The “techno. bable” has been done many times before, so perhaps explain it to Toyota,Honda, and Hyundai one more time, as most of these car makers now have commercial FCVs.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            What is the route to making FCEVs cost effective?

            Toyota has stated that production needs to rise to 100,000 per year for FCEV purchase price to reach that of ICEVs. Assuming Toyota correct, who will purchase the hundreds of thousands of high priced FCEVs that will need to be sold in order to build the market to 100k per year?

            Not only who will pay the extra purchase price but will also pay the higher ‘per mile’ operating cost?

            Remember, FCEVs offer no benefits over a ICEV and, in fact, would be far less attractive to the ordinary purchaser due to the inability of fueling stations compared to gas stations.

            People won’t buy FCEVs in order to help fight climate change. They would be driving mainly on methane. And even if hydrogen from electrolysis, they would be unnecessarily using more renewable energy, extending the life and use of fossil fuel plants.

            What is the technology that leads to more compact hydrogen storage? Higher tank pressure?

            That just means more energy loss during compression and more difficulty preventing hydrogen leaks.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            Compression energy is logarithmic, so not that much more from 350 bar to 700bar.Lower pressure hydrogen storage is heavily researched and the US DOE have set targets over time.
            The target for FCVs is serval million between years 2020 and 2025. Gasoline cars will still dominate well beyond year 2030, as OPEC laugh at us all. Quantum changes can happen but will need to happen to stop OPEC’s prediction.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            The higher the tank pressure the more energy it takes to shove more into the tank. It’s an energy loser.

            “Gasoline cars will still dominate well beyond year 2030, as OPEC laugh at us all”

            You aren’t aware what is happening with EVs?

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            I never said it was an energy gainer.Okay BEVs have not had exotic battery failures since 2008. Electrons are smaller than atoms/ions, so that’s why their energy density is going “nuclear”. Batteries do not catch fire. Former secretary of Energy Chen of the US said”4 miracles to make hydrogen cars a commercial reality, when 3 make a saint”; he was also a former noble laureate-hydrogen cars are not commercial.You not wearing a hat..You do not know anybody from the CSIRO at Ryde(bunch of dummies with flash cars). Targeted lithium ion battery technology for transport, between Tesla and Panasonic I am aware of.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Stephen, that comment is, well, ….

            You might want to read over what you wrote.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            I am confident most of us will be driving FCV’s by 2020/25 just as I am confident fusion power will be commercially viable by then.

      • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

        “Increasing pressure makes H2 even less affordable.”

        This is a nutty statement. It does not make the gas more or less affordable at all, first of all. Secondly, if you want to make the point that the SYSTEM that is used is more expensive, do so for all of the fuels, and think about including the efficiency of an internal combustion engine vs. a fuel cell while you are at it.

        Furthermore, all of these seem to be combustion, except for batteries. Are we burning hydrogen here? Are you seriously trying to deceive people by showing hydrogen combustion instead for fuel cell use?

    • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

      “The only viable thing ”
      Hello hubris! So let me get this straight. Unless you have a battery, you can’t get rid of range anxiety. And that is the only viable thing to be done! Wow. So many experts on one page. Who to believe?

  6. JeffJL 4 years ago

    Good to see a reply to the multiple HFCV articles in the past few days.

  7. nakedChimp 4 years ago

    HFCV are nothing else than low range BEVs with a permanent fuel cell range extender built in.
    As the FC is of bad conversion efficiency and low power, no wonder BEVs will be better.
    It’s really simple.

    • RobS 4 years ago

      This is what they never acknowledge, there is NO SUCH THING as a pure FCV, fuel cells simply can’t vary their power output enough to supply a vehicle’s power demands, what FCVs really are are EVs with a fuel cell trickle charging the batteries. They have all the cost and complexity of an EV and then add on a fuel cell which no one has so far been able to produce for less than the entire cost of a high end car and a hydrogen storage system with massive storage losses and safety concerns. it’s just a non starter.

  8. Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

    You all go buy a BEV, and then wait in line to get recharged; no, you will all charge at home so there will be power outages. Then investers will swarm to build the new grid infrastructure and renewable power plants. The authorities will just sit back and watch the outages every day and night, as millions of BEVs suck for power. On the other hand FCVs can be refueled in 3-5 minutes, which defines them as real transport technology, so BEVs are not a tranport technology.BEVs will never move the 100s of millions of heavy freight vehicles and agricultural machinery ;fuel cells do that now.”Move on from fuel cells” to what battery technologies that have failed and your not told about, and lithium ion batteries are now limiting. The smart phone/computer developed cause the electron is so tiny, batteries store ions being charged atoms, and atoms are way way bigger than electrons. Sorry there will a mix of technologies including small turbo-diesel. natural gas, BEVs, hybrids, biofuels, FCVs, and gas powered cars. The change over will take several decades anyway.

    • Charles 4 years ago


      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        Thanks. That explains his comment.

      • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

        Wow. So you mean someone posting here actually knows what he is talking about?
        How refreshing.
        I guess all the rest of you from CleanTechnica should probably come clean and post your credentials as unprofessional hack comment authors and Tesla investors.

        • Charles 4 years ago

          No, I mean someone posting here has a vested interest in pushing an inferior solution.

      • Coley 4 years ago

        So,strictly non partisan;)

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Oh, Stephan, don’t be silly.

      EVs will need to charge only a few hours a day. About 3 hours for the average EV. That means that EVs can serve as dispatchable loads, dropping out when supply is stressed.

      • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

        Do you wait 3 hours for anything? No I would think not!

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          “Three hour” charging is ‘slow charging. It’s the sort of thing that happens when one plugs in when the arrive at home or work. Then, over the next 8 to 12+ hours EVs get charged. No one is “waiting”. They are working or sleeping.

          On a long trip the Tesla S can charge up 170 miles in 20 minutes. Starting with a 250+ charge on board and recharging with 50 miles of range left, one 20 minute charge allows for another 170 miles to take the driver to 370 miles. Another 170 mile, 20 minute charge would take them to 520 miles.

          That time will drop as Tesla upsizes their chargers. (In the works.)

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            So who pays for all that free electricity? And if Tesla has to borrow just for operating costs to build its unprofitable cars, and if it can’t even pay for the gigafactory by itself… one is left to wonder…

            what priority are they assigning to upsizing their chargers?

            When Tesla breaks down, I wonder how CleanTechnica is going to spin that. It has been in Tesla’s pocket for so long, I don’t know how they are going to eat enough crow. I just hope Tesla’s slide doesn’t take down the whole sector like Solyndra did.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            The cost of Supercharger electricity and the cost of the Superchargers is built into the purchase price of Tesla cars. If you’ll recall some cars (S60s?) were offered without Supercharger access but owners were given the option of buying in later.

            Tesla, as I told you earlier, makes a very high profit off each car it manufacturers. Few car companies have a higher gross profit margin, Porsche is the only one I know about.

            Tesla Motors, the company, shows a loss on it’s bottom line as does any company that is aggressively growing. Borrowing money to expand production. Don’t confuse profit/loss from manufacturing activities with investing for future profit costs.

            “I wonder how CleanTechnica is going to spin that. It has been in Tesla’s pocket for so long,”

            That is

            1) Incorrect.

            2) Libelous.

            3) Childish.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            It is not libelous. The editorial policy of CleanTechnica is patently skewed and biased, and it always has been. It quashes dissent.

            Be objective Bob. Admit it.

            Anyway, you say that the cost of electricity is put into the price of its cars? If that were true, it would be an unfunded liability. Are you telling me that Tesla has huge unfunded liabilities they are not recording on their balance sheet?

            Now in a case like this, a site like CleanTechnica would investigate your claim fairly and tell readers what it finds. Will it? I wonder if it can prove me wrong and investigate your claim that Tesla is cooking its balance sheet.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Rockne, let me give you some information about US law.

            “Defamation is an area of law that provides a civil remedy when someone’s words end up causing harm to your reputation or your livelihood. Libel is a written or published defamatory statement, while slander is defamation that is spoken by the defendant.”

            You have clearly engaged in an act of libelous nature unless you can furnish proof that CT is funded by Tesla.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            I never said they were funded by Tesla. I think their editors are woefully biased to painting Tesla in the best light possible at every turn. And I have never seen them claim otherwise in a disclaimer. I often see disclaimers on sites where writers and columnists disclose their investments in companies they write about. I have never seen one on CT. Do they have such disclaimers? Should they?

            I know Tesla gives press conferences that are gala affairs with champagne and pretty people and lots of B list Hollywood types. They do that to influence opinion. Are you going to tell me that nobody from that website ever attended such an event? No site tours? No free test drives? No meet and greet? Swag perhaps.

            One does not need to receive traceable funds to be “in the pocket” of someone else. And it certainly is not against the law.

            And please let me add that I can post my opinions and tell people truthfully that no company has buttered my bread to do so. Last time I checked, CT displays paid advertising, no?

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            OK, now you’re walking your charge back. That’s good.

            Does the editor of CT admire Tesla? Yes. Am I a Tesla fan? Hell yes.

            Why is that? Simply because Tesla is doing more than any other car company to get us off oil and help limit extreme climate change. I’m also a fan of Nissan/Renault. And I want to become a fan of GM, waiting to see if they bring the Bolt.

            The editor of CT, Zach, owns some Tesla stock and discloses it in his pieces. BTW, he did not purchase stock in the company until well after he had become a fan.

            The site receives no funding from Tesla.

            I don’t recall anyone attending any of the Tesla release parties. One of our commenters did attend the ModX release and made a comment or two about it.

            Zach, perhaps others, have taken test drives. The test drives open to all journalists and from what I can tell no different than what you and I can take by going by one of their showrooms.

            Meet and greet? I think Zach took a factory tour once, not so sure about that.

            Swag? Tesla spends $0 on advertising. The only sway I’ve seen is someone took a picture at their ticket to one of the events.

            CT displays paid ads. The majority, I think, is the Google produced stuff. In addition there are clearly label solar ads.

            Again, Tesla spends $0 on advertising. Anywhere. Anytime. Check their financial statements. They are public.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Yes, you can get banned for suggesting that Tesla’s are fireprone. That was before the 4th case, late last year.
            Telsa’s have the worst fire record of an EV.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            That is absolutely not true.

            No one has ever been banned for being critical of Tesla.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            It was me. When I said that I could prove the Model S was fireprone, you banned me, Bob. Seems I was right, as there was another fire.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            That’s a very simplified version of what happened, Robert.

            I just went back and reviewed your comments from eight months ago. I got tired of you continuing to claim Tesla was “fire prone” based on three fires. Two caused by battery pack punctures, a problem which seems to have been prevented with the addition to a shield added to the bottom of the vehicle.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Cars are subject to physical damage. Road debris is no excuse, but serves to show that local mechanical damage can start a fire. The fires propogated within each module, and then to others. Claims to have solved the propogation problem, are patently false. Anyone can see the effect.

            There have now four battery fires, and one not said to be related to the battery.
            Tesla’s public response was to say that ICE’s are a greater fire risk, but compared all vehicles on the road with the Model S.
            ‘All vehicles’, includes cars that are unroadworthy and aged, and it’s invalid to compare the cars, by the number on the road.

            The correct measure is to compare the average distance travelled. When that was done, the Model S, was statistically

            indistinguishable from the remainder.

            When cars less than 5 years old are compared, the Tesla loses. My reply is now longer, now I have to say.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            At the time of your writing there was one Tesla fire aside from the ones caused by road debris punctures.

            One fire does not make a car fire prone.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Three propogated battery fires. Two from debris, one in Mexico as a result of hitting a tree. January this year in Norway, when on charger. That’s four, isn’t it?
            I went to lengths to explain why the first three were not exusable, and where there were design flaws in the modules, Bob. It was dishonest of Telsa to make comparisons based on the number of vehicles on the road.
            It is obvious that distance travelled is a factor. Older cars have higher accumulated mileage, and wear and tear too.
            Uncertainty in the data ( because of Tesla’s low aggregate mileage) meant that the Model S was statistically indistinguishable from the remainder at the time. Telsa don’t have any statiticians?
            Compare on mileage, cars less than 5 years old, and things don’t looks so good for the Model S. Then parse to cars in the same price bracket, and Tesla are a far greater risk. Then for completeness, EV’s only….

            Cell fires are not preventable, and certainly not where NCA is concerned. The use of high density cells, means acceptance of a higher risk. When in a car, physical damage can occur, and a heavy base plate will not prevent all possible means.
            Fires can start, cell puncture or not.

            When those risks are accepted, mittigation is the only option. But, in all four cases, fires spread from one cell to the other, and then from one module to the other. Tesla’s claim to a (patented) solution for fire propogation is false, and their public reponse to the fires was misleading.
            You don’t see the connection between that marvellous laptop cell and the risk, I expect? High density, large capacity, leads to range and power, but attracts fire risk, and demands very high charging rates, so that the promise of the first two may be met. In terms of safety, propogated fires are the lowest common denominator.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            So what you were attempting to say is that if fires are started in Tesla battery packs the fire can move from cell to cell?

            That is different from stating that Teslas are fire prone.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            In terms of fire risk, the Model S is more of a risk than the equivalent ICE, and more so than any EV. That means they are comparitively fire prone.

            As I said, cell fires are not preventable, and neither is puncture. There is no real limit to cell damage when in a car.

            If, as a result of physical damage or overcharging, one cell is vents or catches fire, that is about as best as can be done.

            But, propogation to other cells, is a result of that single cell damage. One ignites another, and spreads, after the intial damage, Bob.

            One cell results in a few sparks and smoke, propogation destroys the car.
            And don’t forget the deception. Tesla’s public denial was a hand-waving appeal to ‘common sense’ rather than fact. Another example came from comparing the calorific value of cell and gasoline. Gasoline is higher per unit, but the total heat depends on how much is burned. Pity they did not mention how many cells were burned, eh? It does not matter how many times the fire could have roasted the occupant, in comparison to how much that did.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “the Model S is more of a risk than the equivalent ICE”

            Do you really believe that, Robert?

            Have you ever been in an ICEV wreck where one of the involved vehicles caught on fire? I have.

            What I’ve read about Tesla battery fires was that they spread slowly, giving the drivers ample time to get far away from the vehicle. ICEVs with a ruptured gas tank go WHOOSH!!!

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Your preference for fact, seems to have veered towards my personal beliefs, Bob. I have none, I gave them up for Lent.
            It is a fact that mileage must be taken into account. There was no supportable means by which Tesla could have claimed even equity with an ICEV, because of the limited total mileage of the Model S. To claim otherwise was deception.

            But, when compared with contemporary vehicles and EV’s, the Tesla is more likely to catch fire.

            ICEV fires?, no, but I could equally ask you if you have been in a bush fire, but that would add nothing to my argument concerning Tesla’s vehicle.

            I have, however, seen many cell fires, because they are started when testing for safety. Fire propogation in Tesla’s pack, is no better than can be found in the cheapest of cell stacks, because Telsa have no means of prevention.

            Even the ‘firewalls’ between modules fail. They would, because heat is transferred by the highly conductive flanking metal support, allowing for the fire to spread, AFTER the intial ignition.
            There is no means of preventing propogation that does not completely negate the point of using high capacity, volatile cells. For example, added heat absorbent phase-change materials, weighs 3 times that of the cell. It’s not so cheap, nor commercially attractive, but lower density cells having inate resitance to combustion, is the better solution.

            Telsa’s preventative patent, employed or not, is a warmed-over version of a patent by Union Carbide (1984), as applied to galvanic cells and not Lithium-ion.

            From the data presented in Telsa’s patent, the temperature profile of the ignitor cell says the test was conducted in open air, while the target cells are spaced apart by an unspecified distance. Even then, it does not certainly work. Enclosure in a confined space, is the problem to be solved.

            Slowly? Not at all. The videos say it all. In the Mexican crash, there is a fire ball that indicates rapid spread, and evolved, evaporated electrolyte.

            Moreover, the occupant may be unconcious. Again, the total calorific value is of interest, and not that of one cell. Burned alive once, is enough for most people. Anyway, ICE’s can burn, but they don’t always result in a conflagration. Other materials in both cars can be ignited by any source, too. Cell fires are unique to EV’s, and on that score, Tesla have the worst record. It has not escaped my notice that you have evaded justifiying Tesla’s public excuse.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Robert, you called Tesla vehicles “fire prone” based on one single fire after the battery shield was installed.

            One is a small number.

            Are there cell chemistries which are safer than what Tesla uses? Perhaps. Do they meet the capacity, cycle life, and cost needs of Tesla? I can’t answer that.

            How well have other EV/PHEV battery packs resisted fire? I recall a Volt pack burning. And a BYD pack partially burning. Know of any other data? —

            After typing that I took a look at Wiki to see what they have. Apparently there have been problems with several different makes of EVs.


          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            No, 3 fires. You will find I mentioned them all. Since, there has been a fourth fire when on a charger.
            The rouges gallery is;
            2 by debris
            1 by collision
            1 while charging this year.
            2 other fires. One related to the charger, and another unknown.
            I discounted the last two at the time, because the focus was on
            the battery pack.

            There are certainly ‘safer’ chemistries, but they don’t offer the same energy density. Some manufacturers don’t take the low hanging fruit, and then applaud themselves for it, but develop better alternatives. The Leaf and BMW have new cells.
            The leaf has sold 200,000. One fire not known to be associated with the battery. BMW, 45,000, none.

            To choose high capacity NCA over the alternatives in order to gain range, power output, and to impress the natives, is to accept the associated risk; rather than to do nothing, and hope things won’t go wrong. Then when they did, Tesla evaded by means of circumlocution and PR. But, few noticed, which is what they also hoped for. Nothing covers for that evasion.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            No, Robert.

            When you made the comment Teslas had been modified to eliminate the battery pack puncture problem. If that problem was successfully eliminated then it would not be accurate to claim that Teslas are fire prone. You might have been a bit accurate had you claimed Teslas were fire prone, in very unique situations.

            The recent fire while charging had not occurred. You cannot use that to support the claim you made.

            As of this date we do not know the cause of that fire. Did the driver toss a lit cigar out the window and have it blow into the back seat? Did the battery protection system fail? Was there an electrical short in the rear section of the car? Was the driver carrying his/her child’s science fair project in the trunk and a chemical spill started a fire? Was the driver in a financial bind and torched the car? Was there a different cause?
            Until we know what caused the fire we can’t count that fire “against” Tesla.
            What was on the table when you claimed that Teslas were fire prone was a single fire where a Tesla burned after a high speed crash. I don’t think anyone argues that Tesla batteries can’t burn. But calling Teslas fire prone because a car caught on fire following a high speed seems to me to be some pretty weak tea.

            BTW, remember the Tesla that was ripped in two in a high speed crash but the batteries did not catch on fire?

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Puncture or not, a fire started. A punctured cell, let alone in the supporting plate, does not lead to propagation, unless the remaining cells are susceptible. Single cell ‘events’, as they are called, are distinct from propagation.
            Cars can expect all sorts of damage. Protection is all but impossible. The solution is to have a pack that does not support fire propagation.

            I have said that the fourth fire occured later. Fire that consumes a vehicle when charging, is a flatout failure of BMS, firewalls, propagation measures and thermal shut down. Arson? A child’s toy?

            But, it was connected to a super charger at the time. Police are looking for a suspect; male, caucasion, South African.

            By the way, the Leaf has been set alight, and blown about in a Tsunami. Battery did not catch fire. It is inherently resistant to fire.

            Oh, ripped in two. I guess that is another feature.

            Once again, I mentioned all three fires, and why there were not simply unfortunate, but the result of poor battery design. It seems you would only have me count the one fire you think you can explain away, Bob.

            You know, like talking of the calorific value of cell and gasoline, as if the ratio alone mattered. Musk is said to be a smart man, so that excuse was pure mendacity.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            ” It seems you would only have me count the one fire you think you can explain away, Bob.”

            Robert, I’ll try once more.

            1) Early Teslas had a weakness. Road debris could puncture the battery pack and set it on fire. That problem has apparently been fixed so Teslas at the time of your writing were not susceptible to catching fire in that manner.

            2) There was a single fire resulting from a high speed crash at the time of your writing. No one, as far as I know, has made the claim that Tesla batteries would not burn if ignited.

            The one fire with post-battery shield batteries was not a case of a running, charging or parked Tesla catching on fire. It was due to a major crash.

            I see no basis for claiming that the Tesla Model S is “fire prone” given that there were no incidents of Teslas catching on fire while running, charging or parked.

            In my book a fire prone car would be one that caught fire in conditions other than a major collision.

            Now let’s look at some crashed Teslas. Here are three fairly significant crashes in which the car did not catch fire.




            Especially in the last two crashes the battery packs much have been damaged, yet they did not burn.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “I have said that the fourth fire occured later. Fire that consumes a vehicle when charging, is a flatout failure of BMS, firewalls, propagation measures and thermal shut down. Arson? A child’s toy?

            But, it was connected to a super charger at the time. Police are looking for a suspect; male, caucasion, South African.”

            As of a few days ago the Supercharger was ruled out as the fire started inside the car. But the cause has not been identified. But you blame it on a “flatout failure of BMS, etc.”

            I think you consider yourself an objective person. Yet you seem comfortable to jump from unexplained fire to a fault of the Tesla. That’s not what objective people do, Robert.

            (I’m just assuming your South African bit was simply a failed attempt at humor…..)

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            1) The reinforced floor covers for design faults that still remain, but public display of those ‘improvements’ may assuage the concerns of a public and press, unaccustomed to critical thinking.
            As a ‘man of the people’, Musk knows of those foibles, so made false comparisons concerning vehicle numbers, and the calorific value of gasoline. He did fail to mention that in an accident, or when on a charger, fires in EV’s can be produced by specific electrical faults, not found in ICEV’s.
            Car accidents are unpredictable, so improved floor protection does nothing about the remainder. Damage must be anticipated, and measures take to avoid the consequences.

            2) Tesla claimed to have an effective patent preventing inter-cell fire propagation; evidence says they don’t.
            When that failure was obvious, Tesla fell back on claiming that inter-module firewalls prevented module to module fires. Also false. Additional modules ignited AFTER the intial fire, as a result of fire heating adjacent modules. There is a signature to that. A sudden plume, as a result of pre-heated electrolyte.

            3) Cells do not always ignite when crushed or penetrated, but certainly can. If the battery had effective means of preventing fires spreading, then one would expect to see cases where a fire started but self-extinguished. Yet, in each case where there was a fire, it spread. Fires don’t always start in ICEV’s either. Although Tesla’s public comparisons of ICE and gasoline were deceptive, also keep in mind that airlines ignore objections that a Lithium-ion hoverboard may be less dangerous than something else that may bring down the plane. Does it matter if Lithium-ion flashlights are less of a hazard than whale-oil lamps? One expects the later technology to improve upon the former. In the case of EV’s, Tesla have by far the worst record.

            4) In an accident, internal electrical shorts may occur. Protection internal to the cell has been removed, to be replaced by external means. Those means are not effective, and extremely limited in comparison to what many other manufactures of even stationary batteries do.

            a) Tesla’s cells don’t have the usual internal protection, because those means are at odds with the high current demand that rapid acceleration produces. Tesla need rapid acceleration.
            b) Fully-protecting 7000+ cells is costly and impractical. Preventing propagation in energy dense packs is all but impossible. Tesla need high energy density.
            c) Tesla boast the cheapest battery packs, but that leads to cheap protection, as much as to cheap cells. Tesla need cheap batteries.
            They are the reasons for the fires, Bob.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            Comments appear to get stuck, and another of your replies is not now present.
            But, you are missing the point, Bob. ‘Fire resistant’ materials may be classed as those which can’t be ignited, and those which will burn, but extinguish when the source of ignition is removed. Explosive materials may burn rapidly.
            Tesla’s show they may be ignited, and in all cases continue to burn. The example on the charger, and the accident in Mexico, demonstrate fires of the explosive kind.

            I did not say the fires occur in 100% of all accidents, so the pictures in your link say nothing about that other cases.

            The Norwegian fire fighters could not find any cause, so ruling out obvious examples of arson or external ignition. You said the charger had been ruled out as the cause, leaving the car as the suspect. Tesla would now have to show that the car was not the cause, hence the double entendre regarding the suspect. The car and battery were both destroyed, and that is a failure of all means of fire prevention and containment.

          • Peter Voight 4 years ago

            It was me.
            I said;
            “I can certainly show that the Tesla’s cars are fire-prone”
            You wrote;
            Robert, I think you’ve now lied your way to the exit.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Yes, the editorial policy of CT is skewed. CT publishes articles on clean technology and renewable energy. CT does not publish articles on the most absorbent disposable diaper or best tasting beer nuts.

            Is dissent squashed? Sure, if it’s nutjob stuff. CT makes no room for climate change deniers, for example.

            Are comments taken down because they have a different opinion than one expressed by the site? No. (You’ve put up many, many opinions that wouldn’t still be there if your claim was correct.)

            Does Tesla have a huge unfunded liability on its balance sheet?

            I don’t think so. My guesstimation is that Tesla needs about one Supercharger per 100 cars sold. That’s based on an estimate that no more than 5% of all cars sold will be driving ~500 miles on any given day which would mean that about five drivers would want to recharge at lunch time (11AM to 2PM).

            Average cost per charge bay is (IIRC) $18k. Prepaid charger access from 100 EVs would be $200k. That leaves $182,000 for maintenance and purchase of electricity. Once the SC system is built out then invest the extra money in solar/wind farms.

        • Charles 4 years ago

          When you recharge your mobile phone, do you plug it in and then sit there staring at it until it is fully charged?
          Or do you just plug it in before you go to bed, knowing that it will be full by the morning?

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            No I change the fuel cartridge on my iPhone 6, and go for another week.


          • Charles 4 years ago

            That sounds awfully inconvenient when there are already electricity outlets available in pretty much every building in the country.

          • Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

            You got that 180 the wrong way. I am telling you what Apple itself is doing, as they already have three(3) fuel cell patents on the quiet. You can’t pay $1000 bucks for a smart phone and have to charge it every second day. They plan to have smart phones do much more in the future(in the field), so the power must stay on, as any down time will cost lots.

          • Coley 4 years ago

            So that’s apples ‘secret plan’ a car powered by a hydrogen powered I phone, brilliant idea;)

          • Buckus69 4 years ago

            I like to stare at mine. I don’t know what you guys are doing, but you’re doing it wrong! /s

        • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

          The higher someone’s income, the higher the cost of plugging in and waiting. No doubt about it.

          I am looking forward to watching the Tesla supercar owners waiting in line behind the Tesla el-cheapo owners at recharging stations. Green democracy will be pushed to the limit.

        • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

          I have been using a battery electric car since 2009. I don’t care and it doesn’t matter how long it takes charging to full overnight. From an ordinary 10A power point I get a useful amount of top up in an hour for a local trip if I happen to return home, usually with a fair bit of charge remaining anyway, and then plan to go out again a little later. It just isn’t a big deal. The cordless phone analogy is entirely appropriate. I have no idea how long it takes to fully charge my cordless phone from fully depleted. It is not relevant to how it is used.

      • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

        Meanwhile Queensland is using a gigawatt, or soon will be, just to liquify natural gas for export.

  9. Stephen V. Zorbas 4 years ago

    How about you do a show and tell on heavy frieght battery powered trucks?

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      I’m going to use US 18-wheelers because I’m not familiar with AU heavy haulers.

      One could easily build a 18 wheel tractor that would drive 200 miles on 4-5 Tesla battery packs.

      A driver could pull into a battery exchange bay ever 3 hours or so and have the batteries exchanged in less than five minutes. Probably quite a bit less than five minutes. US drivers are required to stop, at least briefly, every few hours. Get some fresh batteries, pee, grab a donut, bet back on the road.


    • Zsolt Zsoldos 4 years ago

      How about using electric trains for long range cargo. They have been the most economical and well tested solution for the past 100 years…

      • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

        And that is why Japan uses them. And for a long time now.
        And yet here we are, assuming that the Japanese don’t know how to manage electric transportation. Enjoy your folly, everyone!

        • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

          And you please enjoy your biased echo chamber.

    • Julian Cox 4 years ago

      I have written to Tesla with a design for first and last mile and hill climb assist and regenerative descent that would function on a single Model S battery pack coupled to the driveshaft of a standard Class 8 truck. It will pay for itself in a single year of diesel savings and for new tractors it will permit the installation of half-sized engines. Hydrogen is a dangerous delusion and seeing it finally stamped out by the unveiling of low cost long range luxury BEVs next year cannot come soon enough.

  10. Ian 4 years ago

    As I see it the future of transportation energy supply is hydrogen fuel cells, carbon capture and storage and liberal amounts of fairy dust.

    • Coley 4 years ago

      Like +10

  11. James Hilden-Minton 4 years ago

    So while a BEV needs only about 3 kW of PV solar for lifetime of energy, a HFCV would need 9 to 11 kW. No matter how cheap solar gets, hydrogen will always be more costly.

    It is doubtful that Japan has sufficient land to power its economy with domestic solar, wind and other renewables. Producing hydrogen in Japan only makes matters worse. Hydrogen only makes sense for Japan as an import fuel. Why manufacture anything in Japan if it will require imported hydrogen? It makes more sense to manufacture in Australia exploiting it’s solar resources and shipping finished goods to Japan than to export solar fuels to manufacturers in Japan to ship finished goods to Austalia.

    The fossil fuel economy was all about transporting energy to economic centers. The solar economy is about locating economic activity wherever the sun shines. Japan is at a distinct industrial disadvantage as the solar economy displaces the fossil economy. Japan needs the hydrogen economy more than any other country, but it will not be as economical as the solar economy.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Between onshore, offshore, solar and geothermal Japan has plenty of energy.

      Japan seems to have a government that does not understand renewable energy.

      • James Hilden-Minton 4 years ago

        I hope you’re right. Has the government mapped its renewable resources to quantify this? If they can go 100% domestic renewable, why in the world would they want to import hydrogen? It just does not make any economic sense.

        Austalia had better wise up before committing resources to export hydrogen to Japan because once Japan figures out the economics of domestic renewables, they won’t import any hydrogen from Australia.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          The data’s been collected. If the government doesn’t know the data then it’s because the government does not want to know.

          Look at the government AU had a few days ago. They operated on anti-data.

          Governments often do not put citizens first, or at least don’t put all citizens first. They tend to cater those citizens who most help them keep their jobs. Look at how the US Congress.

    • Miles Harding 4 years ago

      I would have said less than 3kW. In typical Aussie conditions with an efficient EV (12kwh/100km), the daily drive distance varies between about 35km winter and 70 km summer per kw of solar panels. If that EV were a bike, the drive range would be more like 400-800 km per day!

      Worse than land area, Japan’s economy’s in such rotten shape that it seems unlikely that it could afford this sort of expensive fuel**. Something will break and it’s likely to be the Japan Central Bank.
      Perhaps, Japan’s future isn’t what the economists are telling us.

      ** This is a warning to us all.
      Estimates of the required EROI of energy sources needed to sustain a technological society seem to be in the 10 to 20 range. Wind power looks to be at the high end or a bit higher and Solar at the bottom of the range, but improving.
      The question is: What happens if we adpot the H2 economy which has the effect of dividing the EROI of the primary energy supply by at least two?

      • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

        “Estimates of the required EROI of energy sources needed to sustain a technological society seem to be in the 10 to 20 range.”

        “Energy return on investment (EROI) is the ratio of the energy delivered by a process to the energy used directly and indirectly in that process.”

        That’s fossil fuel stuff. Since wind and solar are essentially unlimited all that we really need is for the EROI to be positive (we get more energy out of the wind/solar farm than it took to build it) and that the electricity we get is affordable.

        EROI/EROEI is important when one is dealing with finite and dwindling sources of energy. With renewables cost is the important metric.

        • Miles Harding 4 years ago

          The reason EROI is important with renewables is because of the relatively high cost of obtaining energy with them.
          A significant part of the operating life is spent recouping the energy needed to make them in the first place. This energy repayment is a direct analog of the energy expended in searcing for and producing oil or gas based energy.

          My argment here is that by introducing an inefficient energy transport system, which Hydrogen is, the overall EROI of the energy system is also reduced. Assuming a H2 component efficiency of 40%, this would reduce the EROI to between 4 and 8 for solar and wind respectively, making the continued success of complex society dubious by this measure.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “The reason EROI is important with renewables is because of the relatively high cost of obtaining energy with them.”

            But the cost is low. Onshore wind in the US is now < $0.04/kWh, unsubsidized, and falling. PV solar in the US is now about $0.06/kWh, unsubsidized, and expected to fall to $0.02 to $0.04/kWh depending on the amount of sunshine in the area where installed.

            "A significant part of the operating life is spent recouping the energy needed to make them in the first place."

            Wind turbines return their embedded energy in 3 to 8 months, depending on wind resources where installed. With a 30 year life that makes the ERoEI 45 to 120.

            Silicon PV panels take less than 2 years to return their embedded energy. We simply don't know how long they will last, we have panels now close to 40 years old that are performing at over 95% of new. Assume for sake of argument a 30 year lifespan. That would mean an ERoEI greater than 15.

            I don't agree with your use of ERoEI. What you are doing is talking about the inefficiency of hydrogen as a storage medium. No argument there. But that doesn't change the ERoEI of wind and solar. Those are inputs.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Lovely ERoEI conversation.

            There are quite a few problems with ERoEI calculations and with notions like there being some minimum threshold ERoEI to sustain a society.

            The first and perhaps least obvious is that people, businesses and nations don’t make energy decisions based on gross energy returns, but on time-discounted money returns. A quick return is more profitable than a slow one. A shale oil well which provides 90% of its lifetime energy return in the first two years after it is drilled and fracked, is a better investment prospect for a capitalist investor than a solar farm which has similar up-front energy inputs, will over a forty-year lifetime produce five times as much energy, but requires twice as much money up front to buy and install capital equipment and to secure the use of the land.

            The problem with the notion of a societal ERoEI threshold is that such a threshold is just the reciprocal of the fraction of the economy (in energy terms, not GDP, but a rough assertion of equivalence between money and energy is perhaps acceptable in such an analysis) which is deemed to be part of the energy industry. In monetary terms, energy expenditure is about 5% of the world economy today. But why on earth wouldn’t an advanced economy be sustainable where 20% or even 50% of economic activity was devoted to the getting of energy, so long as the energy industry paid for the sophistication required to keep it going with a large enough surplus? An economy twice the size of today’s would have the same size non-energy-related surplus as we do now, if its energy industry was 52.5% of GDP. That’s an ERoEI less than two!

            The biggest problem is with the “indirect” inputs to an energy process. Some very low ERoEI estimates (eg. a widely quoted paper heavily critical of solar PV power in Spain) try to rope in all sorts of non-energy financial inputs like land rents and administration costs and worker wages, converting them to an energy equivalent figure and calling that an energy cost. That’s nonsensical — yes, these are real costs, and we knew very well already that the financial cost of Spain’s first subsidised solar PV boom was well in excess of the cost of equivalent energy from better established sources, but they were not energy costs. Reductio ad absurdum, you could have pulled in all the economic activity of the entire global economy as “indirect” costs of its ability to sustain an energy industry, thus incorporating all energy consumption as inputs to energy production, and announcing a global ERoEI of unity. The only sane boundary to draw for the energy input of a facility is direct *energy* input to its manufacture, installation and operation. That’s still fuzzy — do you count workers’ travel to and from work? — but you most certainly do not count workers’ gross energy consumption at home or on holiday, nor energy equivalents of their tax payments, their retirement savings or their student loans.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            The Spanish paper – link? Same economist who blamed job losses when the Spanish real estate/financing bubble burst on solar?

            What I’m more familiar with is the Weißbach et al. paper in which they set out to prove that we must turn to nuclear.

            They reach their conclusions by using data from less efficient older model wind turbines and solar panels rather than the models in use when the paper was written.

            Then they calculated the energy input for a grid run on solar or on wind and compared that to the energy that goes into a coal or nuclear plant, not the complete grid.


          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            I deliberately avoided linking because it’s famous enough already for something so very wrong-headed. I’m referring to the collaboration of Charles Hall (originator of the EROEI concept) with Spanish engineer and environmentalist Pedro Prieto.

            I’m familiar with Weissbach as well. Some sneaky and perhaps motivated omissions there.

      • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

        As it happens, the 1.8kW PV system I have on my roof, just by chance, produces about the same as we use for all our local driving in EVs. Has done since 2009.

  12. johan 4 years ago

    The first figure is messed up. We all know EVs are somewhere around 250 Wh/km which means about 4 km per 1 kWh.

    I can’t for the life of me understand how that chart came about. He claims it’s from Better Place. Maybe their miscalculations (off by 1.5 orders of magnitude) was the reason they went bankrupt? 🙂

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      The first chart? It’s not from Better Place but from an article on PhysOrg.

      It’s pretty old now, in need of an update.

      The chart claims a 10% transmission loss. The current transmission/distribution loss in the US is 6%. The hydrogen side is not getting charged for transmission losses.

      I believe fuel cells are more efficient now.

      I’d like to see a new, updated version.

      Do you have a data source for your claim of 250 Wh/km? It that number an average use for all commonly sold EV and normal driving?

      • johan 4 years ago

        The EPA ranges vs. battery sizes for commonøy sold EVs like Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF and WV e-Golf gives a number of around 200-250 Wh/km.

        The chart claims 66 km of range for 1 kWh. That would mean a Model S with 85kWh battery could go 5600 km per charge 🙂

        This dorsn’t change the fact that hydrogen FCVs are stupid, a waste of engineering talent and environmentally a joke. They can never get anywhere near the efficiency of a battery EV.

        • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

          From the wall, so counting any charging losses, I get about 240Wh/km from my home converted car with a little bit less efficient DC motor, no regenerative braking and going through some losses via the original gearbox. I get about 160Wh/km from my Mitsubishi iMiEV with slightly more efficient AC motor, regenerative braking, simpler transmission and probably more efficient battery with a little less series resistance.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Fantastic numbers. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

    It is not clear to whom “on was salted” hydrogen cars? They are still “babe in a cradle.” It would be better fought stinky diesels 🙂 Hydrogen technology is the brother of battery sister, both of them electric. Sister early is worried

  14. Victor Popolitov 4 years ago

    The problem of nuclear energy safety. Power transmission lines are forced to build close to the people. Hydrogen cuts the “Gordeev knot” as a sword of Alexander.

    • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

      Yes. Exactly. This is a huge benefit of the hydrogen economy that the Mirai is designed to support. At its heart, a battery vehicle is wedded to a grid. And the strain on that grid is directly proportional to the capacity of the battery.

      That is why I think that EVs are pretty well adapted to urban environments. Tweaking them and exaggerating their features might be good marketing, but it distracts people from their practical value.

  15. Miles Harding 4 years ago

    Missing from Prof King’s video is the fact that FCVs are also BEVs. A fuel cell stack that will fit in a passenger car is cabable of little more than sustaining the vehicle at highway speeds, so a battery at least as big as a Prius is needed to allow acceleration and braking recovery, probably significantly bigger so the car doesn’t run out of go on the first long hill.

    Perhaps Toyota can save the day with a plug-in FCV? 🙂

    • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

      When I was shopping, I had just assumed that the Mirai was a plug in vehicle, for various reasons. But it isn’t. I figured out why.

      If you think about it, you can probably figure it out too. I think that one decision speaks volumes about Toyota’s vision and priorities.

      • Miles Harding 4 years ago

        Yes, indeed!
        I suspect that when* Toyota announces their “plug-in fcv” it will invite questions that will make them feel as uncomfortable as Wolfswagon does these days.

        * a bit presumptious, but given the FCV is being pursued at all, it is only a matter of time before the problem of out of order hydrogen filling stations make it a necessity. Hmmm…
        It’ll be a tangled web and immensely entertaining for EV owners.

  16. Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

    So the columnist is right and Toyota is wrong. Hmm. I wonder if that is the safe bet.

    Just kidding. I don’t wonder at all. With the reservations that hydrogen vehicles are not going to be competitive in every world market, and that EVs present a lot of benefits when they are not engineered to be hot rods, I have to say that Toyota is right. It has rejected battery vehicles as a commercially retrograde product while promoting a vehicle type that is extremely flexible.

    Time is going to show that Toyota is right. Pretty soon now, people are going to figure out several things that will bring many observers to greater insight on the matter.

    1. Hydrogen can be produced in many ways, from many resources, many of which are being wasted or will be wasted. Just for instance, Texas wastes 17% of its wind-generated electricity. Could say, a third of that be used to produce hydrogen for vehicles at a very low cost? Even a tenth would be enough for all the cars in Texas, if they were hydrogen cars.

    2. The grid cannot handle 10,000 EVs with 50 kWh batteries supercharging when their owners come home and plug in at 6 pm. And if it could, it could not handle 20,000. Tesla sells about 50,000 a year, and wants to boost that to 200,000 and beyond. In contrast, hydrogen can be produced using off peak power. No need for a blown grid, scheduled recharging, or grid storage.

    3. Hydrogen cars are already cheaper than high-end battery cars, with better range. They can be filled up quickly and economically. They can be produced and sold profitably.

    Toyota has figured it out. The world will catch up eventually.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      1. Please show your math for 1.7% of all wind electricity producing enough H2 to power all Texas cars. That is some numbers that I really want to see.

      That ‘wasted’ electricity? It would drive EVs about three times further than it could drive FCEVs.

      2. The US grid is ready to charge 170,000,000 EVs right now. That’s assuming that their drivers plug them in when they get home but the timers in the EVs start the charging after midnight.

      ” hydrogen can be produced using off peak power”

      And EVs can be charged off peak power. Three miles to one.

      3. Toyota is selling their ‘plain Jane’ Mirai for less than Tesla is selling their EV luxury car. Rumor is that Toyota is taking a very large loss on each Mirai sells while Tesla has one of the highest gross profit margins in the vehicle manufacturing industry.

      • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

        17%. That was 17%. Go find it yourself. They reported it.

        Lawrence Livermore shows how much electricity is wasted every year in the US. It is about half. It is pretty common knowledge.

        If you believe what you wrote about Tesla, you should probably sink your life savings into their company. They are bleeding cash. If Tesla were a profitable company, they would not be reliant on subsidies. I know you are not an accountant Bob.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          17% is old data, Rockne.

          ” Data in the report show that in Texas, curtailment has been slashed from 17% in 2009 to 0.5% in 2014. This occurred despite the backdrop of increased wind generation in Texas. It was due in large part to bringing added transmission online.”

          The US wastes about half its primary energy via inefficient thermal plants and internal combustion engines. The graph is below.

          There is a difference between electricity waste and curtailment. The US ‘wastes” about 6% of produced electricity during transmission and distribution. Many generators are curtailed simply because during parts of the day/year we don’t need the power they could produce. Coal plants are curtailed over 40% of the time, natural gas plants are curtailed over 70% of the time.

          I’ve dealt with your incorrect statement about Tesla’s financial picture in another comment.

          • Rockne O'Bannon 4 years ago

            If you used that electricity instead of wasting it and “curtailing” it, you would not need batteries and you would not need a rebuilt grid or crowded superchargers.

            That is what you are missing. You are already assuming that unnecessary adjuncts of a battery economy are justified and that anything else would be wasteful.

            Hey, if you think Tesla is ok, great. Do you have new variable rate loans for 500 million? Loans. Not subordinated bonds. Loans. And if you don’t pay them, will you sell some stock? Are you diluting your stock just to keep producing vehicles that purportedly lose 4000 dollars in cash per unit?

            What would happen to your whole outlook on green issues if this one company failed? It would be a healthy thing for you to do to think about that and assess your biases. People like you need Tesla just to sleep at night. Fuel cell vehicles must scare you to death.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “If you used that electricity instead of wasting it and “curtailing” it, you would not need batteries and you would not need a rebuilt grid or crowded superchargers.”

            Grids are built so that they can meet peak demand. Peak demand is rare so lots of capacity sits unused for extensive periods. We have gas peakers that run only a few afternoons a year.

            Storage in the past has been expensive. It’s generally been cheaper to build generation capacity and use it periodically than to build storage.

            Future grids will use a lot more storage and probably a lot less curtailment. Between storage and load-shifting we’ll grab all the fuel-free electricity we can rather than passing it by.

            Have you grasped the concept that hydrogen extracted from water is a storage medium? Hydrogen obtained via electrolysis is a very inefficient “battery”. H2 is a terribly poor way to store energy.

            I do not understand your Tesla/loan question.

            If Tesla failed it probably wouldn’t set back EVs much at this point. GM is apparently releasing a 200+ mile range EV for around $35k in a few months. Volvo has announced that they will electrify all their fleet by 2019. VW (wounded as they are) has stated that electricity is clearly the future for personal transportation. Nissan/Renault continue to improve their EVs. BMW is stepped into EV at a serious level. Multiple Chinese manufacturers are building EVs for the Chinese markets. The list goes on….

            I don’t lose any sleep over FCEVs. I just wonder why some people are so strongly backing FCEVs when the math for them simply does not work.

          • Barri Mundee 4 years ago

            Many startup companies burn cash as they ramp up production, refine their processes and amortise costs.
            In time costs come down as production is increased-assuming the product is attractive to the intended market.

            Extended cash burn is built into the business plan but with access to loans the company can tolerate that for a limited time.

            Failures happen, as they do in any startup or disruptive technology.
            Whether Tesla thrives or fails EV’s are the future, at least for passenger vehicles, that much is clear.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            If you owe the bank ten thousand dollars, you have a problem.

            If you owe the bank ten million dollars, the bank has a problem.

    • Charles 4 years ago

      Of course, Toyota could never get it wrong. Big companies like Toyota, Kodak or Atari don’t make those sorts of mistakes.

    • Coley 4 years ago

      Flexible? Just where is your nearest hydrogen pump?

  17. anderlan 4 years ago

    Impose a heavy penalty on mined fuel per its carbon content. Only then will we easily know what’s the least carbon intensive. Then the hydrogen fools can bet on that and I can bet on the other and when the fools ask for a government bailout because they bet wrong, I will tell them to suck it.

  18. JimGord 4 years ago

    Hydrogen: Betamax 2.0

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Not exactly. Betamax was apparently a superior solution, just got pushed aside by something good enough.

      Now we’re watching an inferior solution trying to shove its way past a superior solution.

  19. JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

    That figure in the first chart up top for 20% energy loss in the mere transportation and “transfer” of gaseous hydrogen is just made up. Energy losses in transportation of today’s commonly-used gaseous fuels are minuscule by comparison — 0.25% of throughput per 100km for natural gas pipelines, still only (very approximately, my back-of-envelope) around 10% per 100km for the worst-case scenario of trucking compressed gas bottles cross-country and returning the empties for refill. Hydrogen, being able to be manufactured at any location from water and any carbon-bearing fuel (or water and electricity) should never have to be transported significant distances anyway, except in the fuel tanks of long-haul vehicles using it.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      If you manufacture the H2 close to distribution/filling stations then you need to add in electricity losses for transmission and distribution which run about 6% in the US. Add in your 10% for trucking from plant to filling stations and 20% isn’t too far off.

      • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

        But you wouldn’t do both. The vast majority of hydrogen today is manufactured from natural gas feedstock at oil refineries and fertiliser plants for immediate use on-site. It’s made at the point of use. Since that’s low-cost, industrial-scale production, it makes sense today to truck it out to the handful of filling stations which provide it — but it’s not made from electrolysis and doesn’t incur electricity transmission losses.

        If electrolysis of hydrogen for automotive use were to become commonplace, it would be done on-site at the filling station. It wouldn’t incur trucking losses.

        But I don’t expect the main purpose of hydrogen ever to be for direct use in automobiles, nor does anyone except maybe Toyota for some reason. It’s manufactured today mainly from fossil fuels for use in chemical processing including fossil fuel refining, and the major emerging purpose for water electrolysis is to absorb excess generation from renewable energy. Electric cars are in competition with *both* applications!

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          We cannot afford to get our H2 from methane. Unless we capture and store the carbon. And that would not be cheap.

          I’m dubious when it comes to locating hydrogen plants at gas stations. Those places are staffed by high school dropouts. A hydrogen plant without a trained technician in attendance is something which would need to be well proven before it would be permitted.

          I don’t expect to see H2 FCEVs to gain a foothold, either. The fuel is simply too expensive.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            You may as well say we can’t afford to get our electricity from methane either. We can and do get vast quantities of both electricity and hydrogen from methane. That’s a fact. Methane is already widely available as a biofuel as well as a fossil fuel. It is also starting to become available as a synthetic fuel thanks to power-to-gas. It will be the very last fossil energy carrier we give up, and when we do give up fossil methane, we’ll still be using renewable methane.

            I’m with you on carbon capture and storage. Any price incentive for emissions reduction which would make CO₂ capture and storage attractive, would also be more than enough to incentivise a wholesale switch away from fossil energy sources altogether.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            We can’t afford to get our electricity from methane.

            Methane/natural gas is a stepping stone (I’m tired of bridge) off coal. NG is a decent fill-in for wind and solar while we develop less expensive storage. Storage is already starting to replace NG on the grid.

            The methane we can capture from landfills, sewage systems, etc. is likely to be needed for niche applications where we have yet to find an electricity solution.

            Electricity to liquid fuel is likely to be so expensive that it would be used only in niche-niche applications. We’d turn to it when there was no bio-methane available.

  20. JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

    The word for using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen is “electrolysis”. Hydrolysis is something else altogether — it means using water to split a chemical bond, and usually refers to what happens when you dissolve an ionic solid (like salt) in water.

  21. JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

    The efficiencies for hydrogen vehicles in the second chart take the primary energy supply to be electricity, and assume that hydrogen has been generated by electrolysis of water. But electricity is no more an energy source than hydrogen is. It must be generated from another primary energy source. Most electricity today is generated by burning carbon-bearing fuels, both fossil fuels and biofuel. Hydrogen can be manufactured directly from water and these carbon-bearing fuels, incurring less energy loss than the generation of electricity. So long as fossil fuels and/or biofuels are in the energy mix, going via electricity to generate hydrogen will be less efficient than steam reformation of the fuel.

    On the other hand, When there’s no carbon-bearing fuel involved as primary energy source, but rather off-peak electricity can be had for an extremely low price (indeed, wholesale spot electricity prices can and do go negative in many markets), electrolysis becomes a competitive means to produce fuel. Not energetically competitive, perhaps, but economically competitive due to arbitrage.

    Overbuilt intermittent electricity infrastructure in temperate climes will produce large seasonal excesses in spring and summer while still having a winter deficit. Buying rechargeable batteries for an annual cycle would be prohibitive in capital costs, so a large body of research is directed towards energy storage using means other than batteries, with lower capital costs per unit of energy stored. One of the leading concepts for this is power-to-gas, which involves large scale electrolysis of water using excess electrical power.

    Low-cost electrolytic hydrogen from clean electricity is therefore a likely prospect. It may well make economic sense to sell some of that for direct use as vehicle fuel rather than storing it all for use in the stationary energy system in winter time.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Yes, we can reform methane to get hydrogen. But that does not solve our carbon problem.

      There’s not enough off-peak or surplus or almost free or whatever you want to call it electricity to run the sort of electrolysis operations we would need to power a fleet of FCEVs. There is some capital cost to electrolysis/compression/storage plants. It would probably not make economic sense to run them only at night when less expensive electricity is available.

      EVs will need to charge, on average, about 3 hours out of every 24. Cars spend about 90% of their time parked. EVs are optimally positioned to grab any lower priced electricity.

      Hydrogen is not easy to store. It has a very low energy to volume ration and is hard to contain. Storing H2 from March to July in large quantities does not sound reasonable.

      • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

        The difficulty of storing and transporting hydrogen is greatly exaggerated. There’s no good reason it couldn’t be stored indefinitely. However power-to-gas proponents also favour the idea of converting it to methane via the Sabatier reaction — at which point it becomes indistinguishable from natural gas. Not only has “nature” already safely stored vast quantities of the stuff for millions of years underground, industry has also built a tremendous infrastructure for its transportation and storage.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          You’re starting with hydrogen which is multiple times the cost of electricity and making it even more expensive by converting it to methane.
          “Could do” – “Likely to do”

          Different things.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            “Are already doing” is more to the point. Renewable methane is already commonplace (and cheap) in the form of biogas, and several power-to-gas plants producing methane from electrolysis + Sabatier methanation already exist. I understand your position that appropriate amounts of excess electricity for the P2G industry to see enormous growth aren’t available now and your reasons for not expecting them to increase greatly in the near future (we’ve had the conversation before after all), but the fact that the industry exists at all demonstrates that not everyone concurs with your analysis.

            I’m on the fence. I think it would be a bit boring if all our energy storage were to be done with batteries.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            “Renewable methane is already commonplace (and cheap) in the form of biogas, and several power-to-gas plants producing methane from electrolysis + Sabatier methanation already exist.”

            Volume and cost? Volume in terms of fueling all cars and light trucks on the road. Cost per mile to drive with ‘power to gas”.

            Lots of stuff gets started on long-shot capital and grant money. Then fizzles when it has to compete in the marketplace.

            ” I think it would be a bit boring if all our energy storage were to be done with batteries.”

            I dream of that sort of boredom.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            Well it obviously won’t come to driving all cars and light trucks on the road — electricity is the better option. Doesn’t mean that hydrogen is completely dead in the water.

            The only compelling application for power to gas is seasonal energy storage, where actual batteries can’t compete on cost. If you’re going to insist that we can’t afford to burn methane for power, you have to accept that we need to build enough renewable generation to cover winter needs somehow. That includes occasional periods of still, overcast conditions lasting a week or more.

            As and when fossil fuels become anathema, the transport applications which today can’t physically go without them — namely aviation, shipping and long-distance rail and road haulage — may adopt some synthetic fuel — which is just as likely to be liquid alkanes or methanol (for convenience and density) as gaseous hydrogen or methane. Or maybe even they will go electric, what do I know.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            ” Doesn’t mean that hydrogen is completely dead in the water.”

            I suppose that depends on how one defines “completely dead”. Is a >0% but <1% share alive? ;o)

            " we need to build enough renewable generation to cover winter needs somehow"

            Wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, biostuff. And transmission lines to where the Sun shines. The Western grid already has HVDC lines which take PNW hydro power to SoCal. They can carry SW solar power to the PNW. The renewable grid is likely to make much larger use of transmission to move power from where it is available to where it is needed.

            Rail. Electrify it like much of the rest of the world does.

            Aviation. I'm giving the Hyperloop a 50:50 chance of working. If it does then flying would be needed only for the shortest distance hops across oceans and to remote islands. Think of an Anchorage to Seoul air hop between Hyperloop terminals.

            A bit longer shot, there's talk of battery powered flight once batteries get to 400 Wh/kg. Even before then we might be able to use hybrid planes, using fuel for takeoffs and then cruising on battery power.

            Road haulage. Battery swapping.

            Ocean shipping. That might take some sort of biofuel or synfuel.

    • newnodm 4 years ago

      I think it is primarily the Miari that pisses people off. By the time it makes economic sense to make hydrogen in large quantities from electrolysis, the transition to battery for personal transportation will be long over.

      The capital expenditure made in electrolysis is for equipment only used for a portion of the year, assuming an overbuild of wind and solar that produces periodically almost free electricity. Large amounts of almost free electricity stimulates many competitors to hydrogen, some of which we are not currently aware.

  22. Jim Seko 4 years ago

    Thank you Tony Seba for a concise explanation of how fuel cell vehicles are a ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine

  23. Jim Seko 4 years ago

    Toyota engineers have access to the information in this article. I don’t understand why they are making this huge mistake.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      That’s a question that many of us have.

      I can see only two possible answers:

      1) Toyota has invented some incredible H2 generating machine that makes it cheaper to drive a mile with H2 than with electricity. That would likely have to be some device that circumvents the laws of physics.

      Or –

      2) Some people at Toyota are making a stupid, stupid mistake.

      Can anyone think of a #3?

      • newnodm 4 years ago

        A Japanese national decision that hasn’t been “undecided” yet. Toyota may have been a major driver of the original hydrogen policy decision, and made specific commitments. These commitments were perhaps part of what lured companies like Hyundai into hydrogen vehicles.

        Even if most senior managers at Toyota want to stop pushing MIrai, they probably need consensus within and outside Toyota. Since not pushing EV works well for Prius sales, there is no rush.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          That’s one I’ve played with. But it says very bad things about Japanese decision makers.

          Japan has very large amounts of methane hydrates off their shores. If one cared not about the damage caused by pulling a lot of carbon out of sequestration and dumping it into the atmosphere then Japan could be energy independent and drive around using hydrogen.

          That would make Japan’s leaders a lot like Abbott, Harper and a few others, wouldn’t it?

  24. newnodm 4 years ago

    The future possibility of hydrogen use is probably not as dire as presented above, but proponents need huge amounts of almost free solar/wind for their logic to work. There probably are not huge amounts of almost free future solar/wind with stimulating extensive battery use. Batteries in large use probably solves the personal transportation problem : EV dominate.

    But solar derived hydrogen may be the best home heating solution, and arrive as a “second wave” renewable available for transportation. Maybe it will be superior to batteries for larger vehicles, including ships.

    Having a high energy density renewable liquid fuel in the future world would be very useful. Maybe high psi hydrogen can provide most of that benefit.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Where is this magic almost free solar/wind of which hydrogen and synfuel advocates dream?

      The US has about 60,000,000 cars. If each drives an average of 35 miles a day it would take between 1,260,000,000 kWh and 1,890,000,000 kWh of almost free solar/wind electricity daily to power FCEVs. That’s 1,260 GWh to 1,890 GWh – daily.

      Hydrogen and synfuel advocates need to base their cost estimates on the industrial or wholesale price of electricity. Wholesale if the H2/fuel plants install their own wind and solar farms, industrial if they purchase from the grid.

      You can’t run a power plant from the coal that falls off rail cars during shipping. Even if someone picked it up and brought it to you for free.

      • newnodm 4 years ago

        As Jonathan has pointed out below, the seasonal problem of renewable energy has not been solved. Until that happens, hydrogen is not dead as a storage medium.
        But as I said above, hydrogen seems as good as dead for personal transportation.
        But I do favor doing research in a lot of areas, including hydrogen and advanced fission.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          I think the seasonal problem is greatly oversold by those who want to find a role for hydrogen. What is the seasonal problem? In certain regions demand is higher in winter and/or summer than spring and fall.

          How have we dealt with this in the past, with the FF gird?

          We build capacity for the peak and don’t use some of that capacity during times of lower demand. In the US the capacity factor for gas plants is below 30% and the CF for coal is below 60%. We’re curtailing a lot of NG and coal.

          So what do we do in a RE grid age? We build enough solar and wind to meet peak demand and curtail when we don’t need it.

          Cost? Probably, almost certainly, cheaper to install wind turbines and use them 50%/75% of the time than to convert electricity to hydrogen, store hydrogen, convert hydrogen back into electricity. (Don’t forget the high inefficiency.)

          If wind costs 3c/kWh (where it’s heading) then wind used 50% of the time would cost 6c/kWh. Just to create a kWh of e->H2-e electricity would take 6c to 9c worth of electricity input plus the infrastructure/storage costs.

          I’m getting ready to more than double the number of panels I use. Prices have dropped so low that I can add 1.5 kW to my current 1.2 kW and drastically cut my generator use. I have no use for more power during the sunny parts of the year, but it looks like overbuilding for the summer and using my generator less in the winter should give me a <10 year payback for the extra panels.

          • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

            You know, I think you’re saying exactly what I’ve been saying, Bob, just with the opposite slant 🙂

            If you overbuild low-carbon, low-marginal-cost capacity like solar and wind so that seasonal deficits are met, then you will have vast overcapacity for the other seasons. You’ll need to curtail for many more than just a few hours each year. That’s potentially an awful lot of energy free for the taking at those times. Potentially even better than free: negative spot prices are a reality today and are likely to occur more often in a grid overwhelmingly dominated by intermittent generation sources than they do now — unless reliable, large-scale dispatchable-load applications are adopted which can put a floor under the price. Any very low positive number would do: they would absolutely not be paying 6-9c.

            Electrolysis and fuel synthesis isn’t the only possible means of soaking up all that juicy cheap electric energy, but it is one that’s actually in development, with obvious applications in displacing non-electric fossil fuel uses.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            It’s potentially a lot of low cost (not free) electricity.

            Now take that ~2c/kWh electricity, turn it into H2, store the H2 for months, then tell us whether it would make more sense to make and store H2 or just add more generation during the higher use times of year.

            Remember, somewhere between 2x and 3x electricity needed per mile when driving a H2 FCEV compared to an EV. Add in infrastructure cost, including storage costs.

            Negative prices will disappear as coal and nuclear plants go away. Right now they don’t want to turn off so they pay wind (later solar as well) to turn off.

            Wind and solar farms will not pay other wind and solar farms to turn off. The ones that can sell at the lowest price, including an adequate profit, will stay on. The others will shut down.

            EVs are likely to establish the floor price. They will be the lowest price buyer as they can be the most dispatchable. Someone driving a 200 mile range EV and is comfortable with having a minimum of 100 miles available when they leave for work is going to able to sit there waiting for a really good price to charge the other 100 miles.

  25. Hurray Harry 4 years ago

    Nearly all true. But the picture-story is frankly silly.
    H2 from surplus wind power is cheap. Ditto solar arrays. There is an imperative to reduce carbon emission. What I’m saying is that if electricity costs were zero, the inefficiency of converting e’ to H2 & back to e’, to drive a vehicle wouldn’t matter.
    Whatever you might wish, batteries can’t be charged fast without wrecking them, and never will be. So if I want to drive 300 miles, I have to go slowly.

    IMO, hydrogen Fool Cells will find their place, though it won’t be simple Cost-Now; it will need some sort of subsidy. But that happens all the time.

    And people conveniently forget the cost of building their alternatives in these posts, here. Like folk who talk about eco-friendly rail, with endless steel, concrete, etc.

    Away from cars, I could argue in detail that hydrogen could supplant Jet-A1 as a fuel (5 X less payload) in big planes, burning directly. The airport could generate the electricity to create it. Even Elon (whom I admire but not slavishly) might agree.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      “Whatever you might wish, batteries can’t be charged fast without wrecking them, and never will be. So if I want to drive 300 miles, I have to go slowly.”

      Seeing that the Tesla 85D has a 300 mile range at 65 miles per hour already “never” has been reached.

      Battery capacity will almost certainly increase. Nissan has just announced a “new” battery that will allow them to start selling a 200 mile range EV in 2017. Musk has said that he sees a clear route to EVs with 400 mile ranges by 2020.

      Batteries are already being charged fast without wrecking them. 80% in 30 minutes and that is likely to improve. Toshiba has a battery that can be charged much faster.

      “And people conveniently forget the cost of building their alternatives in these posts, here.”

      Er, costs are discussed all the time.

      ” talk about eco-friendly rail, with endless steel, concrete, etc.”

      Most of the energy inputs are electricity. Wind and solar give us eco-friendly electricity. There are a couple of lower CO2 concrete solutions in development.

      “Away from cars, I could argue in detail that hydrogen could supplant Jet-A1 as a fuel (5 X less payload) in big planes, burning directly.”

      You could argue that. But you’d need to figure how to store enough hydrogen in a plane to make it practical. Hydrogen is very low energy in terms of volume.

      • Hurray Harry 4 years ago

        I am not knocking Tesla – not at all. I think its great.
        But “300 mile range at 65 miles per hour” is not on-road driving. If I want to get from a real point to 300 miles away reliably, as a colleague did, the car was running out of puff.

        “almost certainly” No comment.

        “80% in 30 minutes and that is likely to improve” – no doubt, but it will be a small increment; the usual time exponential.

        Another colleague who work on batteries for Lockheed Martin (they use huge degrees of power to keep a gun level while driving over rough terrain) was less sanguine than you about batteries – stressing there is a lot of misunderstanding. Now I don’t quite understand what he was explaining – different assemblies – and of course Musk will have the best, no argument, but I choose to believe that there will be a problem with real long distance travel with batteries. OK double capacity or something, but thats not ideal.

        As for costs, yes they are discussed but up to a point. The ITM plant in Rotherham, England has limited capacity but it runs 40% of the time generating H2 from wind. The car fills up in 3 minutes and drives 160 miles to London and back. It runs out of fuel, doesn’t slow down like a battery running flat. But, I accept at this stage, paying for the whole thing puts the H2 at a high price. However, its there and (IMO) it will survive and grow because it is carbon neutral.

        And H2 is compressed only, but 800 bar is well established. The weight advantage is enormous. The volume increase is not impractical in a big aircraft. And its actually safer than kerosine.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          I expect it will be possible to drive non-stop 350 miles with batteries before there will be a 350 mile range FCEV available. The Tesla S85 and Toyota Mirai both have ~300 mile highway ranges.

          Remember, it would take only 5-10 minutes of charging the Tesla to take you 300 miles with range to spare when you arrived.

          Charging time will improve as soon as Tesla starts installing their next version of the Supercharger.

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about in terms of long distance driving with EVs. Someone just drove coast to coast in the US in 57 hours, 48 minutes. 2,995-miles from California to New York.

          Can you tell us the volume aircraft now allocate to fuel and how much space it would take for an equal range using H2?

          Do you understand the relative costs of driving with electricity and hydrogen?

          • Hurray Harry 4 years ago

            Q. “Someone just drove coast to coast in the US in 57 hours, 48 minutes. 2,995-miles from California to New York.”

            A. Recharge included? 50 mph average and
            through cities. Amazing.

            Q “Can you tell us the volume aircraft now allocate to fuel and how much space it would take for an equal range using H2?”

            A. You are correct. At (my) 800 bar, it would take up too much space, 50 times, at least. Liquid H2 would be about 7 times lighter and use the same space. (This might happen. Elon is happy to try to take folk to Mars with it) It would give almost as much power per kg.

            Q “Do you understand the relative costs of driving with electricity and hydrogen?”

            A. Yes. I have previously argued elsewhere that it is a fantastic pocket cost because – if you convert (say solar) electricity to H2 to electricity for the car wheels, the net exchange is about 15% efficient, pretty hopeless. I do not know what the thermodynamic limit on Fool Cells is, but as you say for batteries, “there may be improvements to come” I don’t know.
            OTH, London has set up three H2 pumps (nb, these use very little space, not a garage forecourt which is needed for the delivery bowsers to turn. This is a cost) and within the huge costs of running, say, the subway system, a tank of fuel for a fleet car costing an appalling $500 (lets say) is buried: and zero emission. In France, short haul commuter trains are being built with H2/electric fuel.

            Obviously, costs will fall. How far, I have no idea but a fuel cell will last a good 25 years, can be re-used, can be used to supplement your battery driven car (see Renault Kangoo Range Extender).

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Here’s the cross-country story –


            Energy per kg is excellent with H2. Much better than gasoline, diesel and kero. Volume is the killer. (Graphic below)

            “London has set up three H2 pumps”

            How much space do the H2 storage tanks take and how many car refills do they hold? If you look at the volume comparison below if the H2 was stored at the compression level that cars will use the storage tanks would be 10x that of gasoline. Unfortunately the graphic doesn’t include liquid hydrogen.

            The costs of hydrogen might fall, but I’ve seen no one plot the route. It will take 2x to 3x as much electricity per mile to drive with hydrogen than to drive an EV. That’s just the physics of splitting water and compressing hydrogen. Then there’s the cost of infrastructure. You need an electrolysis plant, a compressor, storage tanks, (perhaps) delivery trucks, dispensing pumps. All this has a cost.

            ” a fuel cell will last a good 25 years, can be re-used”

            I don’t know how long fuel cells will last or how likely they can be reused. That said, I’ve included no car costs in my numbers, only fuel costs.

            eta: Jeez – how did I miss seeing “cooled liquid hydrogen” on the graph. Store H2 in liquid form at the filling station and the tanks would need to be almost four times as large as gasoline tanks.

            (I could be off on the 10x, 4x if FCEVs are more efficient than ICEVs. Might need a size adjustment.)

          • Hurray Harry 4 years ago

            The Rotherham set up is not small in the foto but the footprint actually needed is small. I can’t quote footprint in mm^2 but it really is quite small. It gets lost in Shell forecourt. Forecourt Volume. Obviously, for small numbers of cars, not a lot &
            you don’t need three sorts of gasoline and one of diesel. (Shell have set up two or three. Toyota is subsidising the H2. I’m not saying that is good or bad).

            People always quote the compressor cost. The fuel cell compresses up to
            800 bar (thats where that figure came from, if I’m right. I think I am)
            but 300 bar is used on site.

            One of the key bits is use of surplus electricity for the Fool Cell to split off H2. If you are sitting near a hydro-electric dam, no contest: but if you have a wind farm, you get a load of XS electricity whether you like it or not. At present, this is sometimes converted into H2 (by fuel cell) and dumped into the gas grid. You have paid for the wind farm, like it or not. How much do you get selling it as gas? Not much. Instead that (in my argument) goes to the H2 for road use. At first, you do need to truck it, if its from a distant wind farm. But the experimental one in Rotherham uses an on-site wind turbine.

            I’m not suggesting using liquid H2 on a forecourt but it seems to make sense for big aircraft.

            (Going back to Elon Musk, I wondered, me being a complete outsider, how
            it would go: Lotus Elite, electric motor, battery – ??? But what
            impressed me was seeing a man trying to find if he could reduce the
            friction in the drive gears. I knew then that he was exploring important
            details. But I don’t have to agree with everything he says. eg Going to
            Mars seems stupid because – I am a physiologist – adapting to half
            gravity is bad news. I mean fluid balance, not the osteoporosis. You could do the Arthur C Clarke stuff better and
            have a huge slowly rotating wheel to live in. Never mind the asteroids)

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            This persistent idea of H2 from unneeded/free/surplus wind energy has a couple of flaws.

            First, EVs will probably buy it. EVs will likely become dispatchable loads which will soak up any lower priced supply.

            Second, there would never be enough unneeded output from wind farms to generate hydrogen for millions of FCEVs. The electricity needs of a hydrogen transportation would be very much larger than EVs.

          • Hurray Harry 4 years ago

            Well, we will have to wait. I am sure pure EV will be OK. But I also think there will be FCEV. On aircraft, I find of “course, its been done” A H2 tank would save a lot of weight but be 4 X as big as kero for the same range. At my hypothetical 800 bar, it would be twice the volume, so I think that might be a future – lot of gain with the weight saving.
            Subject: Re: Comment on Toyota vs. Tesla – can hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles compete with EVs?

          • Hurray Harry 4 years ago

            We shall see. I like the idea of a fuel tank that doesn’t “slow down”.
            I have no doubt about the coming of EV.

            On aircraft, of course “its been done”. But not very seriously because of the cheapness of Kerose of Jet A1.
            My 800 bar H2 would need twice the capacity. I think that is feasible in a future big plane, given the weight saving. Esp as it is the full load take off & climb that is so fuel hungry.

  26. orko138 4 years ago

    Probably best to shed you holdings of Toyota stock if you have them.

  27. PrMaine 4 years ago

    The Keynote video makes a comparison of PV with all of the fossil fuels (and very briefly with atomic) and concludes that everything will be PV in around 20 years. But the one comparison that was missing seemed to be wind. Will PV replace all of the wind turbines that are going up around the world?

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Highly, extremely, unlikely. Wind and solar should both end up being close in cost and both cheap. In the US we’re looking at onshore wind ending up about 3 cents per kWh. Solar from 2 cents to 4 cents, depending on local solar conditions.

      Making a 24/365 solar grid would take a lot of storage. Unless storage was free it will make sense to use solar when the Sun is shining, wind when the wind is blowing, and use stored solar/wind to fill in the gaps (along with hydro and biogas/mass).

      Since the wind blows a lot more hours (85% of the time in good regions) I would guess that we’ll use more wind than solar. We might boost our solar use because the Sun shines during many of the hours that we use the most electricity. Here’s my current guesstimation – 45% wind, 35% solar, 20% hydro, geothermal, tidal, and biogas/mass.

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