• Jun 24th 2009 at 8:10PM
  • 178
Toyota FCHV - Click above for high-res image gallery

Regular AutoblogGreen readers will probably be familiar with the name Greg Blencoe. He's known around here as a big proponent of hydrogen vehicles, and apparently believes that everyone else should love the H2, too. Blencoe has just written a post that describes why (again) and is challenging AutoblogGreen readers to think about whether mainstream drivers will be drawn to hydrogen or pure electric vehicles.

Basically, Blencoe says that if you put a Mitsubishi iMiEV, a plug-in Toyota Prius and a hydrogen-powered Toyota FCHV in front of Joe V6-pack, he'll choose the FCHV. Why? Because the iMiEV has limited range and the PHEV Prius is too expensive and doesn't deliver 100 mpg. The FCHV, on the other hand, can go 400 miles and has a bunch of trunk space. That's a bit of comment fodder if there ever was one. At least he calls AutoblogGreen "very popular" (flattery will get you everything). We've set up a poll to answer this question, but we're also ready for the comment explosion. Now, whaddya think?

95 percent of mainstream drivers will choose...
Hydrogen-powered FCHV 369 (21.8%)
Battery-powered iMiEV 401 (23.7%)
Plug-in Prius hybrid 593 (35.1%)
Other 328 (19.4%)

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      I'm beginning to feel bad for Toyota...for all that $$ and research in FCV, they have to at least push it hard, and they might make back a fraction of it from some joe 6packs out there.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Oh don't feel too bad for the auto makers. Most of that cost was covered by government H2 research grants, so it really didn't cost them much. Also, they were able to use some of that H2 research funds to develop and test improved motors, electronic controls, and batteries. What they learned can be used for their plug-ins.
      • 8 Months Ago

      (Note: For some reason, there is no reply button below your comment. Hopefully you will get this.)

      Here is what you said:

      "'And another problem is that I've read that the expensive Volt battery is only lasting 100,000 miles in the lab.'

      If this is true it is important, but I don't believe you. If you can provide a source I will give it more consideration."

      Here is the source:

      (Carnegie Mellon) Study Finds Chevy Volt Isn't Cost-Effective

      (Posted on Cars.com on March 5, 2009)

      "The study reviewed the cost of a single car’s batteries (which could be $16,000), recharging costs and CO2 emissions created both in making the battery pack and in generating electricity for home or commercial recharging. The study is also extremely skeptical about the long-term lifespan of the massive batteries required in the Volt. K.G. Duleep of Energy & Environmental Analysis Inc. said such batteries only last seven years in lab tests. GM has said it hopes to give the Volt a 10-year/150,000-mile powertrain warranty to alleviate such fears."


      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
      "Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog
        • 8 Months Ago
        Oh, you mean that study whose core assumptions were completely discredited? GM has pointed out repeatedly that the pack will cost "thousands less" than $10k when the *first generation* Volt is released. Which is in line with the market costs of the type of cells that they're using (about $0.50/Wh -- some types, like ThunderSkys, are even cheaper). And if they can't even get the basic costs of li-ion batteries right, how the heck do they deign to know more about the longevity of the Volt's pack than GM (who's actually been testing it) does?

        And finally, you caught yourself in a lie, as you stated that the Volt's battery pack is only lasting 100k miles in a lab, but your "source" is a study from a group that not only apparently knows nothing about automotive li-ion batteries, but quite obviously has no access to an actual pack.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Blencoe, only the original comments have a "reply" button, you cannot directly "reply to a reply". What you can do is scroll back to the original comment they are replying to, then add your own reply there.
        • 8 Months Ago
        OK, the cars.com post references a bloomberg study http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a4wcDZojpyIE&refer=us, which does not give a direct reference, but tracing the name of the researcher, Jeremy Michalek, I found this paper.

        Is this the one you meant?


        If so, it does not say what you purport it to say. I'll post parts of the abstract for all the nice people.

        (...) We construct PHEV simulation models to account for the effects of additional batteries on fuel consumption, cost, and GHG emissions over a range of charging frequencies (distance traveled between charges). We find that when charged frequently, every 20 miles or less, using average US electricity, small-capacity PHEVs are less expensive and release fewer GHGs than hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) or conventional vehicles. For moderate charging intervals of 20–100 miles, PHEVs release fewer GHGs, but HEVs have lower lifetime costs. High fuel prices, low-cost batteries, or high carbon taxes combined with low-carbon electricity generation would make small-capacity PHEVs cost competitive for a wide range of drivers. In contrast, increased battery specific energy or carbon taxes without decarbonization of the electricity grid would have limited impact. Large-capacity PHEVs sized for 40 or more miles of electric-only travel do not offer the lowest lifetime cost in any scenario, although they could minimize GHG emissions for some drivers and provide potential to shift air pollutant emissions away from population centers. (...)

        So I ask you again... what is the source of your claim that Volt packs aren't lasting 100,000 miles?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Blencoe continues to avoid important questions and dish out questionable criticisms of BEVs.

      1- Justify the doubling of energy requirements for transportation by going the FCV route rather than BEVs. Don't tell me that energy efficiency isn't important, that is a ridiculous statement for a green technology advocate to make.

      2- Either stop ragging on the Volt battery for struggling to meet a 10 year lifespan (that's today - how much will this improve by 2015), or give us hard numbers on the durability of fuel cells - you sounded like you were about to answer this and then posted a bunch of empty statements about the "Status and Challenges" of FCVs and BEVs and somehow FCVs win.

      I am a Masters of mechanical engineering student who's had the fortune of working extensively with both lithium ion batteries from LTC and a ballard Nexa fuel cell. The Ballard fuel cell had a warranty for 1000 hours and was rated to operate between 3 and 30 degrees celsius. The LTC cells we run are rated to operate between -30 and +60 celsius. These batteries have already powered an electric snowmobile for two full summers at the National Science Foundation research station at the summit of the Greenland glacier. The same cells continue to power our award winning series hybrid race car.

      • 8 Months Ago
      I think we need to add the "its a trap" flag to blog entry.

      We are essentially helping Blencoe earn a living here. We are wasting our time trying to reason with someone who has no intention of being reasonable.

      He is a lobbyist. He is paid to dissemble/obfuscate/misquote/misrepresent in the name of pushing whatever agenda his employer desires. The more he lies the more he gets paid. Posting the legitimate issues just gives him another chance to cut and paste his nonsense answers that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

      The fact that BEVs are 3X as efficient. Is answered with a long ramble about unlimited renewable energy. Doesn't respond to the issue and solves nothing. Doesn't mention the hundreds of billions or trillions necessary to tap renewable energy. Doesn't mention that you would need 1/3 that amount if running BEVs instead of FCVs.

      He complains that the $40000 volt is too expensive, while hawking FCVs that are so expensive you can't even buy one.

      If actually acknowledging the FCV high price, he trots out the always useful. They will be affordable in 5 to 10 years (just like they have been for about 30 years now).

        • 8 Months Ago
        Blanco and Gorr MUST be related! Same BS. I was seriously thinking of leaving ABG but I got a better idea:
        I will do a Blanco myself if that @#$% keeps on posting rubbish.
        • 8 Months Ago
        At this point, the only hope is to embarrass this guy using well thought-out, well explained, well documented counter-arguments to all the fluff he posts.

        Once he knows he will be stomped down with real information every time his head pops up -- with him and his company becoming the next ABG joke on the level of SparkEV, he'll get smart.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I doubt flagging posts will do much ABG purposely brings in trolls to up the posting count, so they could care less.

        Blencoe is serving the same purpose as Witzenburg. Spout BS counter to the opinion of the board to inflame some discussions.

        I suppose flagging or voting down is harmless.

        But really the most important thing we can all do is IGNORE any Blencoe related story or posting. I realize this one is a lost cause. But if we all endeavor to ignore the flamebait, it will go away. Our anger only makes it stronger.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "He is a lobbyist. He is paid to dissemble/obfuscate/misquote/misrepresent in the name of pushing whatever agenda his employer desires."

        I flag all his posts on sight, will continue to do so, and encourage others to do the same. I have no problem with hydrogen proponents advocating for their beliefs. I have a problem with *professional schills* getting *paid* to advocate their beliefs here -- and especially when they deliberately attempt to hide or distort the facts.
      • 8 Months Ago

      Here are statements from very credible sources to back up the following comment:

      "Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be economical in 2015 when mass produced."

      From the Toyota presentation given at the Congressional briefing on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on June 12th:

      Page 18

      “Status & Challenges

      Fuel Cell

      • Cost – high, but on track to reach commercial introduction targets"

      Page 19


      • Toyota sees a clear path to commercial introduction of a fuel cell vehicle by 2015

      -Infrastructure is our primary concern”


      GM made a similar comment about the cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in their presentation at the Congressional briefing on June 12th:

      Page 12

      “• Industry is meeting or exceeding DOE’s well vetted FC commercialization targets – which aim for commercial viability in 2015

      • Fuel cell cost, range, hydrogen storage, source of hydrogen, infrastructure can be addressed without ‘breakthroughs’

      • If fuel cells were a ‘head fake’ nobody told the autos – we are making it happen

      • Other countries are pursuing a portfolio that includes H2 FCs – and are moving aggressively to a ~2015 target date for early commercialization”


      Daimler has also addressed the issue of the cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles:

      “But the question remains: When will hydrogen-fueled cars be mass-produced and affordable? (Daimler CEO Dieter) Zetsche says that annual production of the new vehicles would have to reach 100,000 and that by around 2015, the vehicle prices could match those of conventional cars."


      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
      "Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog
        • 8 Months Ago
        It does not really matter who says what... it's still conjecture about the future, and is contingent on a LARGE number of assumptions. With Chu at the helm of the DOE, many of the assumptions might have to be redrawn.

        I would also point out that the large OEMs are not impartial in this matter. They reap benefit from continued public funding for research, so they are motivated to deliver messages that encourage that funding.
      • 8 Months Ago
      "mass production" doesn't magically make things cheaper.

      exactly how does one achieve a hundred-fold decrease in the cost of a PEM fuel cell and its supporting hardware, given that those are much more complex compared to a $500/kWh (GM's figure for the Volt) lithium battery pack?
        • 8 Months Ago
        Have you ever seen a fuel cell? It is actually very, very simple. I would suggest looking at one before claiming that they're "more complex" than a lithium ion battery. You are wrong.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Thanks, Nixon! (having lived through the Watergate era, I never thought I'd say that! LOL)

        I'd say bob just got "owned".
        • 8 Months Ago
        Actually, H2 fuel cells are a LOT more complex.

        A LiIon battery cell has: an anode, cathode, electrolyte, separator, electrical connections, case and seals.

        A PEM fuel cell has: anodes, cathodes, electrolytic separator membrane, electrical connections, case and seals, fuel flow plates, air flow plates, water drain and moisture regulation system, H2 pressure regulators, air compressor, air pressure regulator.

        The assembly of the fuel cell is fairly straightforward, just stack the components in the right order, make electrical and fuel and air connections, seal and encase. That means most of the cost is in the materials, not the labor for assembly, and "mass production" cannot reduce the price below the price of the materials. H2 PEM fuel cells require expensive platinum, none of the ingredients for a LiIon battery are particularly rare or exotic. The result is LiIon batteries cost far less, and will continue to cost less for years to come.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Chris M: You nailed it, with one more thing to add in the BEV vs Fuel Cell complexity comparison.

        Fuel cell cars HAVE a battery! They need a big advanced battery right next to the fuel cell, like in the Clarity. So the complexity of the fuel cell is purely overhead on top of the underlying BEV structure.

        So whenever you compare the complexity of a BEV to a Fuel Cell car, you have to add all of the complexities of the BEV to the Fuel Cell side of the equation too.
      • 8 Months Ago
      All this blither blather, let all the car manufacturers make what they think will work and we will see what happens. If you put 120 hydrogen fueling stations in California, we can see a bunch of fuel cells running around too. A great intermediate step is a Volt with a fuel cell extender as an option. It is a good way to phase in fuel cells.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Yes, but who is going to pay for it, at $1.8 million apiece? That's $216 million. Logically, the companies selling the H2 fuel and reaping the profit should be the ones to pay, but the oil companies don't want to dip into their immense profits for what they see as a risky venture. Instead, they are paying a fraction of that on lobbyists to get the government to pay all the cost and take all the risk, then the oil companies plan to take it over and reap all the profits.

        Doesn't that give you a warm fuzzy feeling?
        • 8 Months Ago
        I think you just posted the most intelligent comment in this discussion!
      • 6 Years Ago
        • 8 Months Ago
        • 8 Months Ago
        That's a great article. Too bad it also doesn't mention the vast amounts of hydrogen also used to refine oil, particularly in the tar sands and shale oil. It would literally be enough hydrogen to power millions of hydrogen fuel cell cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Bob, did you read the entire article? What is planned is to use coal and petroleum coke (a byproduct of oil refining), reacted with steam to produce H2 and CO2. They plan to inject the CO2 into old oil wells, which is at best only a temporary storage measure, and at worst could have disasterous leaks.

        The H2 will be used with fuel cells to generate electricity for the grid, at a higher efficiency than standard coal fired powerplants. It is an open question whether the much higher cost is worth the modest gain in efficiency, this project should help answer that question.

        Ironically, they could used molten carbonate fuel cells that run directly on carbon instead, bypassing the efficiency robbing steam reforming step thus achieving higher efficiency, possibly at a lower cost. But "Hydrogen" is such a wonderful buzzword...
        • 8 Months Ago
        Bob -- That's a great point. Even the hydrogen used to extract oil could be used for a better purpose than than getting the oil out of the ground. You've got the right idea, you just need to take it further. Because the hydrogen used by the oil industry isn't a resource, it's a refined product.

        If you take the inputs used to create the hydrogen (electricity and natural gas) and use it to power electric cars, it would power even more cars than refining it into hydrogen. For every million cars powered by that refined hydrogen product, you could power 2-3 million battery powered cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        bob -- here is the counter argument to this study. Basically that we use so much electricity and natural gas to extract and refine oil, that if we were to just directly power our cars and power plants with that electricity and natural gas, we could just leave the oil in the ground.


        Taking this a step further, and applying it to the study you quoted, you would have to add all of the GHG impact of producing the electricity to refine the oil onto the ICE vehicle side of the equation.

        Since it will take approximately the same amount of coal-powered electricity to refine the oil as it takes to run electric cars for roughly the same distance, the GHG emissions from generating electricity roughly cancels out on both sides. All that is left is the GHG emissions from burning the oil.
        • 8 Months Ago

        "Electric Cars Will Not Decrease Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Says Federal Study

        • 8 Months Ago
        Nixon, here's some great news for you to read!

        "Obama Administration’s action paves the way for Hydrogen Energy’s low-carbon power plant in California with $308 million of funding."

      • 6 Years Ago
      I would say 95 percent of mainstream drivers would choose the vehicle they can afford to drive regardless of the configuration. As far as cost goes that dependent economy of scale. Any of the configuration product in sufficient quantity will be affordable. The configuration I would choose was not an option. It an extended range electric vehicle like the Chevy volt with a Fuel cell instead of an ICE for power generation.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Long term, 20 years from now I imagine my family having two cars: 1 that is pure electric and 1 that is an ultra-clean, ultra-efficient diesel that will be able to run on B100 and WVO (from the factory). Both would be used for in-town driving but we'd have the oil-burner for long trips.

      HOWEVER, both would be electric of we'd get off our asses and build a decent rail network already!
      • 6 Years Ago
      while i am personally no fan of hydrogen, what i dont want is another large corporation providing cars that i can only fill up with their type of fuel. a BEV with a hydrogen range extender? maybe.

      but the trick is, we barely will be able to produce the energy we need from renewables even with major increases in efficiency and major cut backs in usage. countries like the UK with less land area, relying on a great deal more offshore wind and hydro (esp if there is no nuk in the mix) have issues with reliability. that's where electrics come in, can your hydrogen car feed power back into the grid to stabalise demand on a hot summer day when everybody turns their AC on? i dont think so. a BEV and variable (solar, wind, tide) renewable energy go hand in hand, they need each other especially as the base load plants of coal and nuclear are taken offline. yes solar thermal power can work with molten salt storage, the US is lucky it can use that for a good % but for the betterment of the grid for countries with large solar resources and without, a large fleet of bev's able to send and receive power from the grid will mean a more stable system and a better ability to switch to the renewable energy we need, meaning less cardon released, more jobs and healthier environment

      not to mention hydrogen can never ever be as efficient as a BEV, we need to be increasing effeciency, and using the product thats the most cost effectively efficient. a BEV is it. i dont see any hydrogen any time soon able to meet that requirement.

      personally i like my bike
        • 8 Months Ago
        I agree with this guy!

        An ER-EV burning hydrogen in its ICE for the suburban masses.

        ...and I'll still be commuting by bicycle.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I'm happy that Blencoe acknowledges that establishing an infrastructure is a serious hurdle for FCV technology. I don't think his co-operative h2 fueling station idea will work, unless everybody else is as enthusiastic about the technology as he is, which simply won't happen until there ARE fueling stations. Meanwhile, every single property in the developed world already has the means of refueling a plug-in vehicle through an existing infrastructure.

      The point I want him to address is that, overall, FCVs use about twice as much energy per mile as plug-in vehicles, taking into account a full fuel cycle analysis. How does he justify doubling our transportation energy demand when one of the most common anti-EV arguments is the increased demand on the grid? Blencoes question is more about which technology is most attractive to someone who may not understand these issues, but if we're going to be advocates for one technology or another, doubling of energy requirements is one issue you better have an explanation for.

      I voted for the plug-in hybrid, but I believe a Volt type, series hybrid vehicle, with significant all-electric capabilities and a charge sustaining range extender for the longer trips. This is the vehicle that will allow for a seamless transition to BEVs with no range extender at all. A plug-in series hybrid offers massive fuel economy gains for every day driving, presents no compromises in terms of longer drives, and already can be sold for a reasonable price.
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