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Click above and scroll down to watch the video

Here's a challenge that it would be nice for all of us to try.

Hydrogen vehicle advocate Greg Blencoe is still smarting from the DOE funding cut for hydrogen vehicle research dollars. He wants President Obama to know these 25 things about H2 cars, and has now thought of a way for Energy Secretary Steven Chu to learn more about the realities of driving these types of cars as well. His idea was to challenge Chu to:
drive the Toyota FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and the Nissan Cube battery-only vehicle each for one month and see if he still wants to eliminate the DOE hydrogen vehicle research program.
Blencoe thinks that the longer range of the FCHV (500 miles) compared to the Cube (100 miles) makes the hydrogen car the clear winner. Also, Chu conveniently works not too far away from a hydrogen fueling center. Toyota believes it could bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to dealerships in 2015; one reason Chu cited for the funding cut was how long it would take for hydrogen vehicles to come to market. Watch Blencoe's video after the jump.

Now, leaving aside questions of vehicle cost and style and lack of infrastructure, wouldn't you like to take this challenge? Which do you think you'd like more: refueling with hydrogen or plugging in? cruising on batteries or emitting water vapor out the tailpipe?



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 57 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why do we need one or the other. Are not both technologies needed for different people and businesses? Why the fight with funding...should not funding go into both areas?

      1. EV's are good for local trips. If one needs to go from LA to Vegas and return the same day, one would HAVE to spend the night to refuel. Hills and mountains have proven to be a real challenge for EV's. I live at a ski resort and could never have an EV to get around these mountians and cold snowy days. EV's seem to be best in warm climates and big cities.

      2. Fuel cells are better for longer trips. If one needs to go from LA to Vegas and return the same day, one does NOT need to spend the night to refuel. Seems the technology is better for rural people and those living in mountainous areas. Still Diesel or Diesel/Hybrid might be the best for these people (like me).
        • 5 Months Ago
        Standard battery spec calls out for -30°C performance. How you get the battery performance (electrolyte, heating mat...etc.) is not the automakers problem, but it is the battery manufacturer's. This is not a hypothetical requirement, cars are tested in the field and batteries are validated under such conditions.
        • 5 Months Ago
        "Why do we need one or the other. Are not both technologies needed for different people and businesses? Why the fight with funding...should not funding go into both areas?"

        EV advocate would love to have asked that in the last 2 decades..oh wait, they did...and it's not until now that our government listen to the people instead of the corporations and lobbyists.

        1. Tesla were tested in cold subfreezing conditions. All future EVs will as well.

        2. EV with swappable battery does not have to fuel up overnight (Better Place) - 1min 13 sec in fact. EV with latest generation battery will only need 30min or less time (bathroom and lunch breaks) for the next 100-200 miles.

        Also for your #2 comment...you've hit the nail on the head about Diesel/Hybrids are much much better off than FCV. Let's keep our ICE vehicles a bit longer while EV transistion. Stop wasting time, money, resources on FCV.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I said and i repeat to cease any subsidies to incompetants like hydrogen proponents, battery proponents, phev proponents, oil drilling subsidies proponents, green algae farming and fuels proponents, windmills proponents, walking proponents, bicycles proponents, car sharing proponents, human genome studies proponents, etc. All these proponents wants to experiment the skin and bones of jewish peoples.

      I said and i repeat to put one green car on sale near where i live for earning cash money( canadian ).
      • 6 Years Ago
      unless, of course you want to go shopping with the family, drive more than a few hundred miles in a day, or carry bikes/skis/surfboards or nything of the like. The the roadster is only as useful as a lotus elise...oh, wait a sec...
        • 5 Months Ago
        "unless, of course you want to go shopping with the family, drive more than a few hundred miles in a day, or carry bikes/skis/surfboards or nything of the like."

        Can't do any of that in a hydrogen car, because for most people, there is no hydrogen fueling station within 1000 miles. Without fueling infrastructure, your FCV is a very expensive lawn ornament.

        Try a REV3EV instead.
        • 5 Months Ago
        "unless, of course you want to go shopping with the family, drive more than a few hundred miles in a day, or carry bikes/skis/surfboards or nything of the like."
      • 6 Years Ago
      The stupidity of arguing against hydrogen usage because of lack of infrastructure is completely retarded. It's like saying we should never have gone to petroleum because we didn't have fueling stations 100 years ago. Which genius back then was saying the same thing as some of the geniuses who frequent this blog?

      Of course, these same geniuses are now reaping the rewards of all the efforts, gambles, and risks people took before them and are now using all the technologies they always seem to slam all the time.

      Hypocrites doing what they do best.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Noz, there is one big difference between the rise of Gasoline Motoring and the proposed "Hydrogen Hiway". The early days of motoring were entirely self-funded, the government didn't sponsor any automotive research or petroleum development, none of the gas stations we now enjoy were funded by the government. The "Hydrogen Hiway", on the other hand, is mostly funded by government grants, corporations have put very little of their own money into it.

        The real hypocracy is the H2 lobby wanting government largesse to pay all the expenses, while they reap all the profits.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is it possible that there is room for both technologies in our future?

      It seems early to rule out either given the rate of technological advancement we see everywhere. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

      The bigger question may be "Does anyone really see the other's point of view and really understand it? Or is this just an exercise of testosterone?"

      • 6 Years Ago
      A somewhat more valid comparison would be to compare the Toyota FCV with the Toyota RAV4 EV. Both made by the same manufacturer, both are SUVs with plenty of room.

      Of course, there are a lot more charging locations than there are H2 refueling stations, and the RAV4EV would be about 10 years old, but still, I suspect it would give that newfangled overpriced hype-mobile a spirited challenge.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yep.... aside from the fact they use 4x the energy, have no where to fil, cost a million dollars each to build and are filled with a gas at 6000 psi that is highly exlosive when mixed with ordinary air and is notoriously hard to keep contained... fuel cell cars are great......... LOL

      This idiot backed the wrong horse!
      • 6 Years Ago
      For the price of 1 FCX (in excess of $1MM), you could buy more than 30-40 electric Cubes (at the projected price for Nissan's new electric car). Even if the rest of the FCX was free, raw material cost of the platinum in its fuel cell is ~half a million dollars, so there is limited room for the cost to come down...

      So, if you had 36 electric Cubes placed 100 miles apart and swapped vehicles at every stop, it would be a more accurate comparison for range. The FCX has a range of 210 miles, which means that the 36 Cubes would provide a far greater range, regardless of how you spaced them.

      Add in that it takes around the same time to charge the battery to 80% at a high-current charger as it does to fill the hydrogen tank at a filling station. At a home station, a 220v outlet actually charges faster than the natural gas carbon oxydizer can seperate out the hydrogen and fill the tank (electrolysis takes even longer). Then you have the potential battery-swap stations that swap the battery faster than you can fill a hydrogen tank. And it would be much more practical to have a charging outlet at every lamp post...

      That doesn't even get into the far greater charge/discharge efficiency of the battery...

      Cutting hydrogen was the right move in order to concentrate our efforts on more practical transportation.
      • 6 Years Ago
      To the original challenge. Greg thinks Chu is a common citizen. The man is a scientist. He looked at Hydrogen from a scientific perspective and said: CHU Quote "...the way we get hydrogen primarily is from reforming [natural] gas. That's not an ideal source of hydrogen. You're giving away some of the energy content of natural gas, which is a very valuable fuel. So that's one problem. The other problem is, if it's for transportation, we don't have a good storage mechanism yet. Compressed hydrogen is the best mechanism [but it requires] a large volume. We haven't figured out how to store it with high density. What else? The fuel cells aren't there yet, and the distribution infrastructure isn't there yet. So you have four things that have to happen all at once. And so it always looked like it was going to be [a technology for] the distant future. In order to get significant deployment, you need four significant technological breakthroughs. That makes it unlikely"

      Does not sound like he's going to be a "hey neato" rube that will fall for your disinformation tactics.

      And to the driving challenge, why does distance per fillup matter? Every time Chu wakes up he has a full 100 mile range. Sure the Cube is probably a low end 20K boxy car and the by all reports the FCX is a 70K luxury car but which is the American consumer going to need most?


        • 5 Months Ago
        Certainly got that right. Chu is a real scientist, a Nobel Prize winner, with the orderly, methodical and precise way of thinking. When he lookrf at the plusses and minuses, and how many H2 problems are left to be solved, the answer was inevitable.

        He is unlikely to be swayed by the H2 hype.
      • 6 Years Ago
      We're not trying to switch to Hydrogen just for Laughs.
      We're switching because we're paying the Global Warming Lottery TODAY. With Forest Fires, Drought AND Floods, many of us are getting hit with the True Cost of the Carbon Economy Today. Hydrogen, produced from Natural Gas, Does Nothing to cut the Global Warming Tax. An Electric Auto fleet gives us a quicker and bigger payback to our investment.

      Battery development will help a whole host of other industries besides auto.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Of course, Noz. H2 is used for many industrial purposes, including increasing the yield of gasoline and diesel from a barrel of oil. But the low density and difficult to store nature of H2 puts severe limits on its usefulness as a transportation fuel. Currently, the main use of H2 fuel is for really big rockets, where its high energy density overrides the problems of bulkiness, difficult storage, and high cost.

        H2 isn't a practical fuel for commercial ships as it takes up too much space - ships need room for passengers and cargo. H2 might be used on military and surveillance aircraft where cost is no objection and H2 tanks can take up most of the fuselage. H2 is simply too bulky to provide all the power for commercial jetliners, though H2 fuel cells might find a minor role as an electrical power supply for jets - assuming that prices can be brought down to reasonable levels.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Greg Blencoe is an attention whore! if Auto Blog Green continues to promote this man, I will go get my green auto news from some other place.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Powering cars is not the only use for hydrogen. If you could only get that through wonderfully open mind, you could actually have a revelation. Looing beyond your own arm's length can be enlightening.

        The fact is, being clean is expensive....for now. If you want to use a fuel that is not carbon based, the choice is limited.
        • 6 Years Ago
        augustus, you can't just shut off most power plants at night. They keep running, that's when EVs charge and at a discounted rate due to low demand. By comparison, natural gas -> hydrogen has more greenhouse emissions on top of status quo, and electrolysis is just lowering overall efficiency.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And you can't use those same energy sources to produce hydrogen?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Augustus,

        I think one of the issues with Hydrogen is the fact that it is not particularly convenient to store. If it were, the rest of the pipeline is pretty much there. Burning it or running it through a fuel cell is pretty much figured out.

        Storing electricity in a battery is also not ideal, but it appears to be a more solvable problem, not to mention the infrastructure to distribute the electricity is already there.

        Ultimately, it is all just a bet, but I think battery technology seems like the better one at the moment, especially if we are looking to have a turn around time of 2-5 years vs. 15 years.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, Noz, those renewable energy sources could be used to make H2. But storing that energy in batteries is 3x more efficient than storing the energy in H2. That means either 3x more spending for expensive solar cells and windmills, or less renewable energy left to displace fossil fuel use elsewhere.

        If your goal is to reduce CO2 emissions with renewable energy sources, the best option is plug-ins, not the less efficient H2 option.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This is such a one sided comparison. I mean, really, an FCX compared to a Cube? A fairer comparison would be an FCX and, oh say, the Tesla Roadster. But wait, the Tesla would be cheaper, it would be able to travel farther, it would be faster off the line. Oh, and it's available to the general public for about $875,000 less. Did I mention it costs less to fill up? Yes, Hydrogen is a little faster to refuel (by not much), but otherwise there's no difference. DId I mention it's available right now? Ok, I'm done.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Hydrogen, produced from Natural Gas, Does Nothing to cut the Global Warming Tax"

        How do you propose to generate electricity at night to recharge your EV car and not generate greenhouse gases? By putting some unicorns on a treadmill? EV cars will be recharged at night from either coal power, natural gas or nuclear power plants. How is that different from using coal, natural gas or nuclear power to create hydrogen? Please think before posting stupidities.

        Unlike electricity, hydrogen is conveniently storable. If the wind blows more one night you can use electrolysis to create excess hydrogen and store it for when you need it. You can create hydrogen in the winter months and use it in the summer months when people go on vacation. It is very difficult if not impossible to store electricity in large amounts for use months later.

        Please think.
        • 6 Years Ago
        >> How do you propose to generate electricity at night to recharge your EV car and not generate greenhouse gases?

        Um ever heard of a wind turbine or hydroelectric dam or geothermal power or wave power? If that is too clean for you then you could try nuclear power.

        I buy wind power for my home for an extra 1 cent per kWh, it costs me about $5 extra per month.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is it just me or is Greg ignoring a lot of issues with hydrogen.
      1- the green argument hit by Mike above.
      2- Lack of hydrogen infrastructure, electricity is everywhere it needs to be.
      3- While batteries now have lower range its to keep cost low, by the time (if ever) fuel cells can come down to a comparable price I have a feeling a lot of the current ills of battery tech will be past.
      4- Where can I *buy* i hydrogen car right now, or in the next 3 years? EVs are here now, hydrogen is and will possible always be 5-10 years away.
        • 5 Months Ago
        "1- the green argument is bogus, you burn coal/natural gas to power your EV."

        Red herring. If you're getting your hydrogen from electricity, you can't credit it with cleaner electricity than you credit EVs for charging from. Except that whatever the electricity source, EVs will use about 1/3rd as much of it and fuel far cheaper from it.

        And FYI, only half our grid is coal. The rest is almost entirely nuclear (near-zero carbon), natural gas (low carbon), and hydro (near-zero carbon). Wind is the fastest growing part of our grid -- 42% of new power capacity added last year was wind (most of the rest being natural gas).

        "2- you don't need to replace 20k gas stations to cover the US"

        You're right. The real number for FCVs is over 200k. FCVs are worse than gasoline cars in that respect because, unlike EVs, which primarily charge at home, FCVs require filling stations like gas cars. But, unlike gas cars, they take much longer to fill (the Fuel Cell Equinox, for example, takes about 25 minutes -- much longer than many upcoming EVs at rapid charging stations). EVs only need rapid chargers (which are, per unit, cheaper than hydrogen stations per pump) for long trips. There are rapid fill hydrogen systems, but they're ridiculously expensive and involve keeping the hydrogen in massively pressurized tanks that I wouldn't want to live within five miles of.

        "yes this is an issue but so is overloading the power grid if everyone has an ev and plugs it in at the same time- there aren't enough lines to move the power and there aren't enough power plants to supply the power."

        The DOE disagrees with you. Hmm, who to listen to, the DOE or user "augustus"? And furthermore, hydrogen cars require *three times as much* electricity.

        "Electric supply and conveyance are not very flexible when dealing with multiple GW."

        As noted by the DOE (and many utilities), EVs are a dream load. They're stable, predictable, readily adaptable to smart charging, and primarily off peak.

        "Copper cable only carries so much and the rest of the system (e.g. your computer) is sensitive to power spikes."

        You can't even get that right. Most of the grid is aluminum, not copper.

        "3- Volt's battery costs $16k, they aren't keeping the price low"

        According to GM, it's "thousands less" than the $10k figure erroneously reported in one article. I.e., probably $7-8k. Which matches what other companies are paying for similar batteries (about $0.50/Wh)

        "4- I can lease a FCX 5 from a honda dealer 5 miles away from my home"

        Good for you. You can lease a $300-400k car for dirt cheap because the company is using it as a PR stunt to push tech that they're heavily invested in. Way to change the world.
        • 5 Months Ago
        augustus your digressing from the real arguments on every point.
        1- Yes EVs get power from dirty sources, but are more efficient about it than Hydrogen cars. Natural Gas derived H2 doesn't help the greenhouse gases, at least EVs pull from existing power plants. And electrolysis only further ramps up inefficiency. (As an FYI if we're doing geographical happiness, my home's power is derived largely from nuclear and hydroelectric, yay TVA)
        2- One, while you wont have to replace every station you can't just have them in So Cal and DC. Also EVs do have the ability to smart charge, but even if they didn't I point you to an AEAI study noting even an overly optimistic uptake of EVs would put minimal stress on the grid.
        3- Last time I checked $16k(for Volt or the predicted $35k+ for Model S) is a lot less than the several hundred thousand a single fuel cell costs right now. So relatively speaking for new technology EV battery tech is cheap.
        4- One, could you really if you wanted to? I highly doubt that given the low production volumes (200 units). Again you digress, I said *BUY*. The grand whopping 200 FCX Clarities are only being *leased* in So Cal. As of now I have several options to purchase EV cars and bikes from.

        This isn't to say Hydrogen cars are bad, simply put they don't as of now need to have large sums of money invested in their development when we are in such tough financial time and a clearly better alternative is technologically AND economically feasible.
        • 5 Months Ago
        That is incorrect. If you want the 3-5 minute fills that you talked about (and that the Clarity supports), you have to store it at near the vehicle's tank pressure. Otherwise, it takes about half an hour to compress it (unless it's LH, but that has its own set of huge problems).

        "As to your danger comment, there is a lot less energy in stored hydrogen (even at pressure) compared to a typical gasoline station that stores 5,000-10,000 gallons of gasoline."

        The difference per vehicle mile is minimal. But the problem is not the amount of energy stored but the form. Storing highly compressed gasses that burn in almost any fuel-air mixture, have tiny ignition energies, and readily undergo deflagration to detonition transitions even at atmospheric pressure, at many thousands of PSI, is incredibly dangerous. Way, way, way more dangerous than having unpressurized liquid gasoline on hand. What you're describing is like saying a pine tree has more energy in it than a 50 pound box of dynamite. While true, which one would you rather be standing next to when it caught on fire?

        "Hydrogen has been around a long time and companies know how to handle it."

        Indeed it has, and indeed they do. But have you ever looked at *how* they handle it? Read NASA's hydrogen handling guidelines some time. It'll be enlightening. They go through all sorts of ridiculous measures to try and keep the stuff from killing them all, and they *still* have the occasional accident. I got to tour an oil refinery a couple times when I was younger, and despite all of that oil and natural gas there, the feedstock that worried them the most, that caused the most problems, and that they took the most extreme measures over was the hydrogen used for the cat crackers.

        "The peer reviewed studies I have read on fast charging shows that with 10 intermediate cycles of quick charging (40-60 min) decreases battery life up to 30%. "

        Um, no -- Ref please. Not even close. A123 cells, for example, can do around 1,000 6-8C (~7.5-10 minute) discharges and 3-4C (15-20 minute) charges before capacity drops to 80% of its initial state. While that's nothing compared to the ~7,000 cycles at 1C, for something done as rarely as cross-country road trips, it's not a problem.

        "Quick research yielded forklifts that can fast recharge in 1-2 hours."

        Huh? Where are you getting that from? The Enersys, Norvick, and Aerovironment chargers deliver hundreds of amps to each forklift. The standard approach for their usage is that they're fast charged from about 30% to about 80% during the workers' (15 minute) breaks, and hence the forklifts can run nonstop. If it took 1-2 hours, there'd be no point to them, as they're designed to *prevent* downtime on the lifts (which occurs during the other approach, battery swapping).
        • 5 Months Ago
        Greg *always* ignores these issues (price, 3x environmental impact, safety, etc), and posts grossly misleading stuff on his site (hey, Greg: the 100 miles is an EPA combined cycle estimate while the FCHV is Japanese, about 30-40% more lax). He always picks and chooses the worst EVs to compare to the best FCVs. He outright lies when talking about modern battery longevities and completely skips over the far worse fuel cell longevities. And on and on and on.

        Why on earth are we dignifying him with not only a spot in the comments section, but in article headers? This is his *job*. He's writing this stuff to *lobby* for fuel cells so he can *make money*. If you're going to post his ads, charge him.

        FYI: The lease on the FCHV is $7,700 a month:

        http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/09/02/toyota-to-start-leasing-fuel-cell-vehicle-in-japan/#comments
        • 5 Months Ago
        "The car can be refueled at any proper station in 3-5 minutes easy"

        Not at "any proper station". The hydrogen has to be stored at something like 10,000 PSI (~680 atmospheres) if you want to fill it that fast. Do you have any clue how much pressure that is? How expensive and dangerous hydrogen-safe storage tanks at those pressures are?

        "As per rapid charging, I've also yet to see a definitive, peer reviewed study that rapid charging does not significantly reduce battery life."

        It does generally reduce battery life. But you only need to do it so rarely (i.e., long trips), it's insigificant. Rapid charging of EVs has already found significant use in some industries -- for example, warehousing, where rapid-charge forklifts provide better turnaround, lower cost, and lower incidence of worker injuries than the traditional approach of battery swapping. It does shorten their lifespans, but not enough to make it not worth it.
        • 5 Months Ago
        The only reason it takes 25 minutes to refill the Equinox is because they are filling it at the GM facility which has a severely undersized compressor. The car can be refueled at any proper station in 3-5 minutes easy. As per rapid charging, I've also yet to see a definitive, peer reviewed study that rapid charging does not significantly reduce battery life.
        • 5 Months Ago
        1- the green argument is bogus, you burn coal/natural gas to power your EV.
        2- you don't need to replace 20k gas stations to cover the US, yes this is an issue but so is overloading the power grid if everyone has an ev and plugs it in at the same time- there aren't enough lines to move the power and there aren't enough power plants to supply the power. Electric supply and conveyance are not very flexible when dealing with multiple GW. Copper cable only carries so much and the rest of the system (e.g. your computer) is sensitive to power spikes.
        3- Volt's battery costs $16k, they aren't keeping the price low
        4- I can lease a FCX 5 from a honda dealer 5 miles away from my home
        • 5 Months Ago
        That is incorrect. No public 10,000 PSI (700 bar) station stores hydrogen at this pressure and does not have to be to dispense 700 bar. A compressor takes a intermediate pressure (as low as 40-70 bar) and pumps it up to the final pressure. The size of the compressor largely determines station capacity and dispenser throughput.

        As to your danger comment, there is a lot less energy in stored hydrogen (even at pressure) compared to a typical gasoline station that stores 5,000-10,000 gallons of gasoline. Hydrogen has been around a long time and companies know how to handle it. Large established companies with high reputations would not put above ground storage without significant protection if the vessels were so dangerous.

        The peer reviewed studies I have read on fast charging shows that with 10 intermediate cycles of quick charging (40-60 min) decreases battery life up to 30%. As a consumer, this would be unacceptable to me. I am for plug-in and EV but I am not sold on the rapid charging idea yet.

        Quick research yielded forklifts that can fast recharge in 1-2 hours. However, forklifts are a different story because the application. This is actually one area where fuel cells have a business case.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What's up with the Blencoe free press?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well it is kind of interesting, in a "slow motion train wreck" sort of way, to see Blencoe getting more and more desperate as the H2 hype fades in the face of economic and technical realities. Since his business appears to be totally dependent on the H2 hype, the decision to cut H2 funding is a severe blow to his business, and could even lead to bankruptcy.
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