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Joe Romm has long battled with vocal hydrogen vehicle proponent Gerg Blencoe on the value of H2 vehicles. They've made bets, given suggestions, and just plain disagreed about everything when it comes to hydrogen vs. plug-in electric vehicles. I doubt Romm's latest missive is going to change the situation.

Romm has published a lengthy post over at the MIT Technology Review on the "dead end" of hydrogen vehicles and why the U.S. DOE was right to slash funding for future work. Most of the first piece (it's the start of a series) is taken from Romm's 2005 journal article called, "The car and fuel of the future," from Energy Policy (PDF). As should be obvious from the headline, Romm methodically goes through and explains why hydrogen fuel cells are just not the right choice for transportation. A few highlilghts:

  • Hydrogen is the most challenging of all alternative fuels, particularly because of the enormous effort needed to change our existing gasoline infrastructure.
  • The most promising AFV [alternative fuel vehicle] pathway is a hybrid that can be connected to the electric grid. These so-called plug-in hybrids will likely travel three to four times as far on a kilowatt-hour of renewable electricity as fuel cell vehicles
  • The new generation of hybrid PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid have substantially raised the bar for future AFVs. These vehicles have no chicken and egg problem (since they can be fueled everywhere), no different safety concerns than other gasoline cars, a substantially lower annual fuel bill, greater range, a 30% to 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and a 90% reduction in tailpipe emissions. The vehicles do cost a little more, but that is more than offset by the current government incentive and the large reduction in gasoline costs, even ignoring the performance benefits.
  • A push to constrain carbon dioxide emissions actually delays the introduction of hydrogen cars because sources of zero-carbon hydrogen such as renewable power can achieve emissions reductions far more cost-effectively simply replacing planned or existing coal plants.
There's much, more more here if you want to join Romm or Blencoe on the battlefield. We'll keep an eye out for Part 2.


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