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GM isn't the only one ready for a lot of hydrogen fuel cell cars. Daimler chairman Dieter "Dr. Z" Zetsche believes that the technology for fuel cell vehicles is here today and that vehicles using the hydrogen-for-energy system will be available in five to eight years time. Zetsche also believes that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will compare favorably with their competition, which we assume means other alternative powertrains like full-electrics and hybrids. One reason he cites as a fuel cell benefit over electric cars is range, suggesting that hydrogen electrics could travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen. One unanswered question, though, is how far will pure electrics be able to go on a single charge in five to eight years time. Still, by refilling a hydrogen tank, the driver gets another 300 miles while it will likely take another full charge for the electric car. Zetsche recognizes that a potential problem area exists regarding the infrastructure that a hydrogen fueling system would require. We remain intrigued by the technology, but recognize that major advancements must be made before jumping on the fuel cell bandwagon. We also believe that other extended-range electric vehicle technologies will allow for many of the same benefits as hydrogen fuel cells.
[Source: Just-Auto (sub. req'd.)]


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  • 20 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh, and to debunk "Dr. Z". Let's compare his fuel cell vehicle with a range-extended-by-extra-batteries variant of an Aptera (since I'm most familiar with the Aptera). Let's say the extra weight lowers the energy efficiency from the normal 80Wh/mi to 90Wh/mi. Let's see how the comparison goes.

      300 miles at 90Wh/mi = 27kWh

      1) You can buy 27kWh worth of lithium ion batteries for cheaper than you can buy enough fuel cells to run your hydrogen car at any acceptable performance level. 27kWh of lithium phosphates today will run you around $27k, but will be half that in a year or two. For $27k, you'd be lucky to be able to afford just the platinum in your fuel cells.

      2) At 200Wh/l or so for lithium phosphate batteries (even better for laptop batteries), at 90Wh/mi, you could fit them in under 5 cubic feet of space (an extra 3 cubic feet of space; cut the quite roomy 16 cubic foot trunk down to 13, and there's your space).

      3) At 110Wh/kg or so for lithium phosphate (again, less for laptop batteries), they'd weigh about 500 lbs. That's a little over 300 pounds heavier than the normal Aptera batteries, so you boost the vehicle weight from ~1500lbs to ~1800lbs. Let's say 1850 to support the extra weight. And the problem is?

      4) With modern li-ion batteries, an EV, too, is just "fuel and go", so long as you have fast charge infrastructure. 10 minute charges have no technological barrier; AC propulsion already makes a 18lb 150 kW onboard charger, which in ten minutes could fill a 27kWh battery pack. Fast charging infrastructure, I might add, is a *lot* easier and cheaper to build than hydrogen infrastructure. But even better, *you don't need it* with EVs except for on long trips. You're already bootstrapped with just a normal 120V/15A. Heck, you can already go long distances without particularly long charging waits thanks to 50A RV outlets.

      Of course, I don't think I need to reiterate the laundry list of problems with hydrogen, including the essentially physically insurmountable one of overall systems energy efficiency. Or, more appropriately, lack of any semblance of energy efficiency. Or, to be more explicit, "it's worse than even gasoline". And is fundamentally pricier, and ozone-destroying, and a pain to handle, and explosive in almost any fuel-air mixture, and releases water vapor that can freeze to components, and on and on and on.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Again, here is a CEO that is clueless about all the problems of H2, his researchers keep telling him "It'll be ready soon, just one more little problem to solve..."

      Compared to plug-ins, H2 is more expensive to buy, less efficient, and runs on a far more expensive fuel. Those disadvantages will still be a problem 6 years from now. The advantages Dr. Z mentions - 300 mile range and quick refills - are no problem for plug-in hybrids, and battery EVs are gaining on both speed of recharge and range as batteries are improved. By 2014, we could see over 300 mile battery ranges, under 10 minute chargers and/or quick swap battery packs.

      BTW, Mike, the plug-in Prius conversions have a 45 mph electric only speed limit, but the Toyota plug-in Prius prototypes raised that to 60 mph, and the production version could reach even higher.
      • 7 Years Ago
      There is a LOT of action right now with electrics, Tesla, Fisker, Chevy Volt, Lightning GT, iMiEV, R4E, Aptera, to name just a few.

      So, if you're a company putting many millions of dollars, some your own, some state provided, into hydrogen, you might feel a bit apprehensive, maybe even a touch of panic. So what do you do? Of course, press releases, lots and lots of them! That will do until you actually have product to sell, right?
      • 7 Years Ago
      5-8 years?? We've been told for ages its just a few years out. I don't see the point. By this point Renault and Project Better Place will have rolled out electric cars and the supporting infrastructure on a mass scale.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If they want to go H2, let's make the infrastructure easy. How big are the tanks? Prefilled H2 canisters are the answer. Go to the station, pop out the depleted tank and pop in a charged one & go. That's the same concept that will work with standardized batteries, too. Pull into the battery station, pop out the depleted battery pack, pop in a charged one, pay the battery station a fee, and drive off. Why think it's too hard or impossible? It's easy, baby. Use your noggin. Think outside the box. It's stupid to have charging stations all over, taking time to charge a battery, and it's stupid to create new 'gas' stations (H2) that can handle H2. It'll cost billions. Canisters like in your Coleman camp stove. It'll work.
      I'll have mine switched out at Wal-Mart or Costco.
      See ya. P.S. The canister does not have to be
      huge if it's a hybrid. The Electric motor drives
      the wheels, and an H2 powered genset recharges
      the battery on-the-fly. That makes the tank
      much smaller.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "In Past News, Edison Light Works chair Dr. Thomas "Wizard of Menlo Park" Edison believes that the technology for long-distance DC power transmission is here today and that cities using the DC-for-transmission system will be equipped in five to eight years time. Edison also believes that long range DC power transmission will compare favorably with its competition, which we assume means other alternative means of power transmission like Tesla's "alternating current" (AC). One reason he cites as a DC over AC is cost effectiveness, suggesting that DC could power devices 300 miles away with cost-effective technology today. One unanswered question, though, is how cheaply AC will be able to transmit in five to eight years time. Still, by using DC, the customer gets to run their DC devices directly, while with AC they would have to convert it first. Edison recognizes that a potential problem area exists regarding the efficiency and voltage conversion problems that a DC transmission system would require. We remain intrigued by the technology, but recognize that major advancements must be made before jumping on the DC bandwagon. We also believe that AC transmission technologies will allow for many of the same benefits as DC."
      • 7 Years Ago
      Do not, under any circumstances, listen to anything this guy says.
      • 7 Years Ago
      we need to DECENTRALIZE fuel! Hydrogen just keeps the control/power with the fuel companies.

      Anyone can generate their own electricity.
      • 6 Years Ago
      (P.S. -- I have to agree; electric transportation
      is much smarter. H2, now that it's easier to
      produce from breakthrough electrolysis methods,
      should be used in power plants only, generating
      electricity for my EV. Leave the coal in the ground.) Even better, NASA should leave Mars and embark on something much more practical; bringing solar collectors to space, either in orbit, or on the lunar surface. Research 'Lunar Solar Power' and
      'Satellite Solar Power'.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Third,
      Range, if Toyota's next version of the Prius will really allow up to 45 mph in Electric Only Range, then the secondary source of power becomes virtually unimportant, as most people will be able to drive in pure Electric mode Most of the Time. Meaning, the need for Hydrogen diminishes to nill.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Is this infrastructure coming out of his pocket or the tax payers. It'd better be Exxon's bill.

      I've already got the infrastructure for an electric vehicle: the PLUG.

      • 7 Years Ago
      And we just found the problem the real problem with Chrysler; it wasn't them after all...
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