• Jan 27th 2010 at 6:37PM
  • 67
Hydrogen vehicles hold out a future hope where our cars, trucks and motorcycles won't be emitting harmful toxins and carbon dioxide from their tailpipes (and yes, we know generating the hydrogen fuel will mean emissions from other sources). But before any of us can trade in our fossil fuel-burner for a new hydrogen car, we need someplace convenient to refuel them.

There's already a small hydrogen infrastructure out in California, along with several smaller locations scattered across the United States, but a large-scale roll-out of hydrogen fueling stations has never really materialized. Connecticut-based SunHydro is setting out to change all that, though, with a new hydrogen highway that would stretch from Portland, Maine all the way to southern Florida.

Further adding to the eco-friendly nature of the project, each of the $3 million (privately funded, for what it's worth) stations would be run from solar power – similar in principle to how Honda's new hydrogen stations function. Each station would reportedly be capable of refilling 10 to 15 hydrogen-powered vehicles per day, but those figures would surely grow if a demand were found.

[Source: Wired]


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  • 67 Comments
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why??? There are no HFC cars! Just go down to the dealer and try to buy one!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Guys, don't get me wrong. I'm a "BFB" all the way and was extremely pissed off when bush put all that money into hydrogen, which is currently the biggest pipe-dream in alternative energy right now.

        I linked that site just to show how many companies had invested in hydrogen vehicles, not to provide current info. Let that be known!

        It IS a chicken and the egg thing. If you want hydrogen vehicles to take off, you have to have a place for them to fuel, period. Guess what? new technology is expensive.

        A good all-electric car with a real range is in the $100,000 range right now. That will go down. Same with Hydrogen. But one has to invest in the fueling structure since there aren't any other sources of hydrogen just lying around her and there, as with electricity and gas.

        I think hydrogen is stupid right now, but current research says it might be worth all the investment one day.

        I'm still waiting for a cold fusion car myself..
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        You're silly.
        You have to put in fueling stations before you sell them, right?
        There are also a few available for lease already.

        Also, read this:
        http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/

        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        "How in the hell can hydrogen fueling stations be commercially viable if they cost $3,000,000 per copy, and HFC cars are $500,000 per copy? At a tenth the price they wouldn't be viable. This would run the cost of personal transportation up 500%! Come on, guys! Let's get grounded here!
        I fully expect to be able to buy a safe, comfortable ICE hybrid car in 2015 that gets 75 MPG for a price in the low 20s.
        I really don't want our blundering government in complete control of all transportation anyway. HFCs are not likely to be competitive for a loooooong time.
        The basic problem is the production of hydrogen takes 3 times the energy that is in the hydrogen fuel. You just can't ignore the laws of physics. The people of this country are not stupid enough to spend 3 bucks to get a buck! I just can't understand why you think they are!"

        All very good points.


        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        @ Chris M:
        Very good and accurate post. You make more sense than anyone else.
        @ neptronix:
        I think in the long term we are more likely to end up with a new technology, like cold fusion or anti gravity, or something else only physicists are taking about for energy for transportation than HFC. People are absolutely irrational in their fear of nuclear technology, but Cold fusion could be the next big thing.
        None of us expect to still be using combustion of any kind by the end of the century.
        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        How in the hell can hydrogen fueling stations be commercially viable if they cost $3,000,000 per copy, and HFC cars are $500,000 per copy? At a tenth the price they wouldn't be viable. This would run the cost of personal transportation up 500%! Come on, guys! Let's get grounded here!
        I fully expect to be able to buy a safe, comfortable ICE hybrid car in 2015 that gets 75 MPG for a price in the low 20s.
        I really don't want our blundering government in complete control of all transportation anyway. HFCs are not likely to be competitive for a loooooong time.
        The basic problem is the production of hydrogen takes 3 times the energy that is in the hydrogen fuel. You just can't ignore the laws of physics. The people of this country are not stupid enough to spend 3 bucks to get a buck! I just can't understand why you think they are!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        @Chris
        Certainly I realize both BEVs/plug-ins and FCVs will need major government funding to develop. But I'm just curious if hydrogen stations are viable commercially and if they are, this might solve the chicken and egg problem for hydrogen. Then there is no excuse for oil companies to hold off on building hydrogen stations and we might actually see some decent progress on the hydrogen front in terms of getting cars out to market.

        So far we have mostly seen public ventures which don't really show how the economics can work out in the real world. There is a major difference in cost for hydrogen stations vs gas stations vs charging stations. Hydrogen stations so far seem to be in the 3-4 million range, a typical gas station is in the million range, charging stations can vary from 1-100k per charger depending on how fast the charger is. A charger can be installed for fairly cheap, so even without much demand, it's not much of a loss for a business, but a hydrogen station may be a couple times more expensive than a gas station, so the economics are a bit different.

        If 2015 is when the affordable hydrogen cars are coming out (as Toyota promises), it is crucial they start building the infrastructure now, because they don't have a fall back to garage chargers like plug-ins do.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        neptronix, that article you linked is rather out of date, it describes "President Bush allocating money" and plans for "200 hydrogen filling stations built by 2010 stretching from Vancouver, British Columbia, all the way down to Baja, California" - It's now 2010, and there aren't 200 H2 filling stations in the world, let alone California and the West Coast. Those bold Hydrogen programs fizzled due to a lack of demand and a lack of money to burn.

        Chris, There were far more funds being wasted on H2 research during the 8 years of the Bush Jr administration, yet it is plug-ins that are much closer to production. At last count, there were just 318 H2 vehicles from all manufacturers put together, all prototypes and test leases, none for sale. But Tesla Motors by themselves have produced and sold a thousand roadsters! BTW, what makes plug-ins so efficient is the inherently high efficiency of chargers, batteries and electric motors, they are 3x more efficient than H2 FC vehicles fueled by electrolysis in spite of the additional weight.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Are you sure about that number, letstakawalk? Fuelcell.org lists all those that were installed, but fails to mention several taken out of service due to lack of use or obsolescence (for example, the first one listed was limited to a maximum of 5,000 psi, insufficient to fully fuel most current fuel cell cars). More interesting is to note how few of those are open to the public, most are for research only and have limited production capacity.

        But even if there are just over 200 working H2 refueling stations worldwide, it still doesn't hide the fact that the plan was to have 200 on the west coast by 2010, instead there are about 41 (California and Nevada, I didn't see any listed for Oregon or Washington).
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        This makes the fast-charging EV stations sound like a steal at $50K for two plugs...and there will actually be cars available to use it!


        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        @Jake, Good point and good question. At least it's private equity so we don't have any right to complain if someone is willing to put their money where their beliefs are.

        As far as being economically viable: That is a much harder equation. A $3M pump that can fuel an average of 12.5 cars a day. That means they would make about $30 per vehicle (at today's H2 prices) times 12.5 = $375/day. That yields 8,000 days or a 21 year pay back.

        I don't see that as very viable. Of course, these are early numbers with no volumes so I would hope that could one day come down an order of magnitude. But that still pales in comparison to a modern gasoline pump that pays for itself in a couple of months. I'm speaking purely economic terms and completely ignoring the pollution and energy security discussion, obviously.

        @Chris,
        You are angry with the "battery boys" but you have to realize where their anger comes from. Look at this quote from the link that neptronix provided above:
        "President Bush has already allocated approximately $2 billion in hydrogen highway research. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing to get 200 hydrogen filling stations built by 2010". From http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/

        Those billions came at the expense of what had been good progress on EVs. Now that we have the same type of money being spent on batteries and EV infrastructure, the H2 crowd screams that it's a waste.

        Let them get back on the same footing and then let the market decide which works better. They are both EVs so any improvements in batteries also benefits FCVs. Why are you attacking batteries? Your FCV needs them as well. How did you plan to load level the power requirements and provide regen braking?



        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Ah, interesting comment Jake. Because supplying public money for something like hydrogen is a big no-no yet it's a-okay to pour millions into battery powered vehicles. The battery power fanboys make it seem like our roads are full of high speed battery powered vehicles except that is not true whatsoever. The battery fanboys aka BFB's argue there are no hydrogen vehicles on the road. How can there when their funding get's cut in favor of low tech batteries? Let's make cars more efficient by loading them down with hundreds of pounds of batteries!
        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Most of those cars listed are experimental, one off designs still owned by the manufacturers and no way are they for sale. How many cars are on the road in the US, 75 million? And what are there, a couple of hundred H2 powered cars in the US? No one can even think about commercial viability here, and you think I'm silly?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Well, you have to start somewhere. At least this is a private venture, so we'll see if this is viable commercially.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        It's a chicken and egg situation.

        However, several major automakers have all made very public promises to have FCVs on the roads in increasing numbers after 2015. GM, Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes have very small fleets operating at the present time. As the infrastructure is built out, there will be a greater market for the makers to distribute their FCVs.

        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Good post Dave D.
        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        It's more than I knew about, but world wide it's kind of insignificant.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        "You're silly."

        No, you are.

        "You have to put in fueling stations before you sell them, right?"

        Wrong. If you are selling $3,000,000.00 privately funded stations, their should be predictable, scalable market demand for them. These things don't even exist outside a few *TEMPORARY* lease-only publicity stunts. There is no such thing as a affordable hydrogen car - THEY DO NOT EXIST. What we have now are huge, expensive R&D experiments, being show ponied out to a few celeb clients for green appeal, with no chance of going into actual production. A few automakers have made various long-winded premonitions about when the tech should be ready to make one that does not cost as much as a Ferrari, but few people can accurately predict the timetable it takes for multiple technological miracles to occur, let alone coalesce into an affordable, drivable vehicle.

        "There are also a few available for lease already."

        Gee wow. And when those leases expire and the company takes them all back? What will you have to sustain your $3million-dollar-a-pop investment? Press releases and promises going back two decades won't be much help to you then.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Chris M

        You under estimate the number of hydrogen filling stations world-wide.

        There are more than 212 stations world-wide, with hundred more planned in the next few years. It's a start. Anyway, they will give the BEV enthusiasts something to laugh at as they drive past them, right?

        http://www.fuelcells.org/info/charts/h2fuelingstations.pdf
      • 5 Years Ago
      We've already got two hydrogen stations here in SC, but neither is adjacent to I-95. Having them along that major N/S corridor is a great idea. It's nice to see private enterprise getting moving on increasing the hydrogen infrastructure!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mike!!ekiM

        I'm just one person, expressing my own opinion. Interestingly enough, I happen to have a positive attitude towards the subject of the article.

        Enough with the ad hominem attacks, please.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "The grass suddenly looks like astroturf in this blog!"


        DING!DING!DING!DING!

        We have a winna! More than a few of us have noticed this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The grass suddenly looks like astroturf in this blog!
        • 5 Years Ago
        FTA: "The first stations will be located in Portland, Maine; Braintree, Massachusetts; Wallingford, Connecticut; South Hackensack, New Jersey; Claymont, Delaware; Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; and Orlando and Miami, Florida. If all goes well, Grey said the company hopes to expand westward."

        Oh well. They choose different Interstates and focused on urban hubs. That makes sense, too.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Guys and Gals,
      There has been so much information published about Hydrogen, and ALL of the independent papers say the say thing.

      HYDROGEN IS NOT A VIABLE REPLACEMENT FOR FOSSIL FUELS, if we are to achieve the goal of CO2 reduction. Because it is produced using NATURAL GAS .. sure you can do it with water but no one does..

      and then there are about a zillion other reasons.

      Big business wants us to use HYDROGEN and they will get their way in the end..
      Common sense tells us we should have BEV's,
      History is repeating itself folks and if we dont remember we will be the victims of the same errors.

      Here endeth the thursday morning sermon!

        • 7 Months Ago
        Well, these folks are planning to make H2 by electrolysis, using solar panels to produce the electricity needed, so no CO2 emissions. Problem is, it would be several times more expensive than using steam reforming of fossil fuels, so it cannot compete financially.

        Worse, the combined efficiency of electrolysis, compression for storage and H2 fuel cells is only 24%. The combined efficiency of charger and batteries is 85%, more than 3x more efficient. It would actually reduce CO2 emissions far more if they fed that solar power directly into the grid, displacing fossil fuel use and making power available for plug-in charging.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Chris M, you just took all the fun out of it. 24% versus 85%, you spoilt my agruement.
      Don't forget that energy must be converted one more time from the DC batteries to AC through the motor controller for the AC motor, that has got to suck 1 or 2% more efficiency out of the BEV does it not? : ) Seems like they should be making AC batteries and skip a few conversions?
        • 7 Months Ago
        Ahother thing: There are no AC batteries, and no AC fuel cells, either. Fortunately, solid state DC to AC inverters can be highly efficient.
        • 7 Months Ago
        My comparison was with electrical energy storage only. Since both H2 fuel cell vehicles and battery electrics use the same type of controllers and electric motors, the energy losses there would be the same.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Chris M, thanks for the info. I never have heard of a AC battery, obviously their is some logical reason for it not being produced. I googled AC batteries, found DC battery packs with inverters built in.

        It is to hard to be a hydrogen proponent, I am just going to drive my EV. :) Someday they may find a way to make H2 vehicles as efficient as a EV's, until then I will wish in one hand and do some steam reformation in the other and see which one fills up first?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Isn't water vapour the most potent green house gas? What would be the impact of hundreds of millions of vechicals emitting water vapour. Would the weather patterns change with the increase of relative humidity?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Role_of_water_vapor

      "Water vapor accounts for the largest percentage of the greenhouse effect, between 36% and 66% for water vapor alone, and between 66% and 85% when factoring in clouds.[8] However, the warming due to the greenhouse effect of cloud cover is, at least in part, mitigated by the change in the Earth's albedo. According to NASA, "The overall effect of all clouds together is that the Earth's surface is cooler than it would be if the atmosphere had no clouds." (cf. NASA Clouds and Radiation) Water vapor concentrations fluctuate regionally, but human activity does not significantly affect water vapor concentrations except at local scales, such as near irrigated fields. According to the Environmental Health Center of the National Safety Council, water vapor constitutes as much as 2% of the atmosphere.[31]"
        • 5 Years Ago
        It has a residence time of hours or days, it falls out as rain and reverts to its equilibrium.
        • 5 Years Ago
        While I think H2 is a very poor automotive fuel - expensive, bulky and difficult to store - concerns about their water vapor emissions as "greenhouse gas" are unfounded. Turns out that internal combustion engines burning gasoline or diesel also produce water vapor, and due to their much lower efficiency compared to H2 fuel cells, the gassers actually produce more water vapor per mile driven than the equivalent H2 fuel cell vehicle would!
        • 5 Years Ago
        A HFC car will only produce approximately 50% more water than a conventional ICE car. Your statement about the effect of the impact of "hundreds of millions of vechicals emitting water vapour" is completely irrelevant as we already have that situation today...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Compared to the megatons of water vapor that already exists in the atmosphere (aka clouds)? FUD!
      • 5 Years Ago
      They can plan all they want. Hydrogen has seen many great plans, but all of them somehow failed to materialize, or produce substantial results.

      At $3M a pop with highly questionnable returns, there's no way they'll raise enough money to build anything worth calling a "highway". They may be able to scam enough money out of small investors and government programs to build one or two "proof of concept" stations, but serious VC investors will laugh them right of the board room.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yep, there are too many BIG gaps in coverage, far beyond the range of those H2 vehicles, particularly in the heartland between California and the East cost. So, those early H2 buyers can only use them locally, no road trips - but ironically, local driving is precisely where EVs shine, and EVs are cheaper, can be "refueled" at home, and are 3x more efficient.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Its great that companies are seeing the shift in hydrogen fuel technologies. This is what we need more of in the future! As part of the University of Waterloo Alternative's Fuel Team (UWAFT), we are currently re-engineering a GM -donate hybrid powered vehicle into a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. This project is currently a 3 year competition, called the EcoCAR, sponsored by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information about us, please visit www.uwaft.com.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How on earth can stations at $3 million a pop be privately funded if they can only service 10-15 vehicles a day?
      Taking the higher figure, you would only service c.50,000 vehicles over 10 years, for a cost per vehicle of around $60, with no interest or anything else!
      These figures make no sense at all for a private venture, so we are not being told something.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The numbers don't seem to work out (unless they bill hundreds of dollars per fillup). If I may venture a guess at what's going on... maybe they can create H2 for 10-15 cars/day using the solar panels... and then they will create more H2 from grid power or NG for another hundred cars/day.
        • 5 Years Ago
        BINGO.
        You may have hit it on the head.
        There's are just "Greenwash" Hydro stations.
        99.9999% of the "real" stations will generate hydro from natural gas.
        Solving Nothing, in fact, Home natural gas prices will go UP, creating shortages like the Home Heating Oil problem.
        • 5 Years Ago
        These projects are all about getting GOVERNMENT MONEY. They'll market to some sucker town to put these in, maybe show the mayor or whoever a few press releases from Honda, and make off like rich bastards.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I personally think this is a WONDERFUL idea for private companies to invest in.

      Once they have spent 3 million building their solar powered hydrogen station, they will be in the perfect position to expand.

      They can then spend somewhere around an extra 10% more and install a few EV battery fast chargers that completely bypass that silly hydrogen generation and high pressure pumping stuff. Then they can charge both EV's and Fuel Cell vehicles from solar power....
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a great idea, so long as they come with Level 3 chargers installed for EV's. Because lets face it. The won't be seeing any Hydrogen customers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Good idea. Or maybe sell power to the grid, anything to keep from going bankrupt.

        Hmm, maybe we could pick up a real bargain on used solar panels if they did go bankrupt...
      • 5 Years Ago
      No Emissions???
      It emits 10% of its hydrogen tank every week. Hydrogen has been linked to ozone. Anyone see a lawsuit here?
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      Exxon is trying to figure out how to get a meter between you and the sun as we speak! If not that, the government is working on a plan to tax you by the mile.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Since EVs don't pay gas tax, it only make sense that the government would have to come up with a different way of providing revenue to maintain and improve the road infrastructure. I don't like taxes anymore than anyone else, but paying by the mile seems to be the fairest way to do it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        It's possible the government may start taxing by the mile if gasoline sales plummet, but it would apply to all vehicles, including old gassers - but the gasoline tax would still be applied, so plug-ins would still have a tax advantage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        "Now this is more like it! Private equity, 10 to 15 cars fueled per day. Even if the cursed oil companies started doing this I could not complain as it is from renewables."

        I'll complain. These same stations could power 3xs as many EVs, and their would actually be people to use them. Considering these are for the highway, they'd be a perfect solution for drivers who want to take their EVs on the road but don't want to stretch the battery range. Hydrogen cars? The only reason a company would come out with something like this is if they wanted to get in on that pot of money the government is still wasting on hydrogen. This will end up being marketed at city governments who will pick up a few dozens stations that only get used one or twice a day..or week (until the lease program is terminated, which could be anytime). Its money that should go toward EV infrastructure since we actually do have EVs in the pipeline and rolling out.


        "The grass suddenly looks like astroturf in this blog!"

        DING!DING!DING!DING!

        We have a winna! More than a few of us have noticed this.




        harlanx6
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        It would make sense to tax by the mile, if the fuel tax were decreased accordingly. The working poor (most of which are no longer working in this depression) would be the last to be able to afford upgrading to modern technology, and I disagree with taxing the poor. I also disagree with adding new taxes period. The end result of these governmental shenanigans is we would be paying sales tax, value added tax, income tax, property tax, milage tax, a miriad of permits, licenses and fees, and whatever they can think up next. They want to have all the money, to spend to buy votes from their constituency, for our own good, of course. If you trust your government, you are pretty naive. Constant informed vigilence, is the duty of the citizens of democracy.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        DaveD

        I have no argument with an increased tax on heavier vehicles. We want to encourage light-weight vehicles, after all.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Since EV's solve National and Global Problems, they should be TAX FREE for the next 20 years. Hydrogen solves nothing, except Exxon's problem with the Future.

        No one is stopping Exxon from getting into Wind.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        @Letstakeawalk,
        You're right, the roads don't grow and maintain themselves by magic and we have to have some taxes to support them. I hate taxes, but we do have to pay for infrastructure somehow.
        But if we're going to pay by the mile, then that should be subject to a "weight factor". A heavier vehicle does orders of magnitude more damage than a light vehicle. Those who damage the roads the most should pay the most to fix them and adding in a weight factor is the only fair way to do this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        BEVs and FCVs will probably have a higher vehicle renewal tax/fee. Say about $100 to $150 more per year to compensate for lost revenue.
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