This is one political flip-flop scenario that could actually please some constituents.

The Obama Administration might reverse its policy of cutting support for hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle development (FCEV) in favor of battery-electric vehicles by putting more resources towards FCEV advancement, Slate reports.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently spoke at a private event and supported expansion of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, Slate said, citing ex-Shell USA President John Hofmeister. The government's executive branch may be reversing course because of what's so far been lower-than-expected battery-electric vehicle sales in the U.S.

Some consider hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles a best-of-all-worlds solution to cutting both petroleum use and greenhouse-gas emissions because the vehicles can be filled up in minutes and can go almost as far on a full tank as gas-powered vehicles. Still, costs remain an issue because of the limited number of HCEVs and the challenges of hydrogen distribution to refueling stations. General Motors has estimated that it would cost as much as $25 billion to build out the 11,000 hydrogen fueling stations needed to support a "mature" FCEV fleet, Slate reported. Currently, there are only about 50 stations across the U.S., according to the Energy Department.

Last year, Pike Research estimated that automakers will sell about one million FCEVs by 2020, less than Pike Research's prior estimate of 2.8 million vehicles. Toyota, GM, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Hyundai are among the automakers that have targeted 2015 for mass production of FCEVs.


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  • 190 Comments
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      yeah why not crown a total failure with the embrace of hydrogen fuel cells. Obama has been a disappointment as a politician because he turned out to be a bush lite, not really opposed to satanic wars, kissing ass at aipac, no real christian values like pacifism. but that's sort of expected from a politician. but nobel prize winner Steven Chu who gave lectures just like Al Gore on the effect of global warming, has been an unfathomable disappointment. he's the one who should actually understand the science and engineering of electric cars but he totally failed to appreciate EV potential in fast charge, light weight and aerodynamics and he said the most incredibly stupid thing when he declared that battery energy density needed to be at least 5x higher and probably 7 to compete with gas cars. and there of course wont be any HFC cars... not in 2015 nor 2020
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Now Vision Industries has some great news to share regarding a company called Total Transportation Services, Inc. (TTS-I) of Rancho Dominquez, California that has finalized its purchase order for 100 Tyrano [FCEV] trucks." http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/blog2/index.php/hydrogen-trucks/vision-industries-sells-100-tyrano-hydrogen-trucks/
      PeterScott
      • 2 Years Ago
      11000 H2 stations is more like the number to support early adopters. Gas stations have more throughput AFAIK and we have over 150000 of those in the USA. So make that more like 250+ $Billion just for stations to achieve similar coverage (Not to mention the production infrastructure).
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        Meanwhile, the infrastructure to charge your EV is already in your garage and will cost right around.. *crunches numbers* $0.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        Apparently, you think that $250 Billion is a lot of money. There are ~250,000,000 vehicles operating in the USA. That means that the infrastructure would only cost $1,000 per vehicle. Thats CHEAP!!!! In fact, the infrastructure for FCEVs is expected to cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per vehicle while the infrastructure for BEVs ist at least twice that due to digging up hundreds of thousands of miles of sidewalks and parking lots.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Um.. more absurd reasoning that tries to give unfair advantage to the hydrogen side. 1) You CANNOT compare the current costs of chargers for each EV (which is about $1500) to the hypothetical SHARED costs of 250 Million HFCVs. EVs are rolling out right now. And if you buy an EV today, and you are the only one in a 500 mile radius to have one... it will cost you $1500 for a charger (the expensive ones). If you buy a HFCV and you are the only one... a hydrogen fueling station will cost you Millions of dollars. Which won't happen, because an automaker won't even sell you one unless you already live near the 50 stations already built. Chicken and Egg. 2) Chargers require Zero dollars for operation and maintenance. And the costs WILL come down to only a few hundred dollars installed. And will probably soon come free with the purchase of a new EV. By that time, the Hydrogen fuel stations DO NOT get cheaper due to economies of scale (since it is industrial infrastructure and not a high volume consumer product). And require annual taxes on the land they occupy, Maintenance, Manning, logistics of shipping H2 in trucks.. etc. And will cost $250,000 each year, per station. ---------------- 3) Oh, and you keep trying to bring up the Red Herring of PUBLIC chargers being required for EVERY BEV... that is utter B.S. And for the ones that ARE installed... many won't need digging at all. Charging will be done primarily at home. And don't even start with claiming that EVERY car that uses street parking will have a BEV... because they won't... they will buy hybrids until they can afford a place to park that has a charger. **Those public charging stations that DO get built and used by apartment dwellers... will charge enough for electricity or time.. to make up for the costs to install the charger.
          methos1999
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          I chuckle about the hypocrisy of some EV advocates. They claim fast charging solves the charge time issue, and they also claim the infrastructure is everywhere because electricity is everywhere. Last I checked, most outlets are 110 VAC, which for any meaningful distance, means an EV would take 8+ hours to charge. EV's need an infrastructure put in place just like FCVs since there are not many 480 VDC, or even 240 VAC outlets around. I'm not knocking EVs (I can't wait to test drive one - especially a Tesla), but I hate picking and choosing convenient facts...
          Brody
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Infrastructure for EVs??? Where will I find electricity? -cause I live in a candle lit cabin.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Infrastructure for chargers is everywhere.. but incomplete.... they need terminations. Hydrogen infrastructure needs to be built from the ground up.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/htac_nov2011_thomas.pdf
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          that study seems to put BEV infrastructure at least five times more expensive than FCEV infrastructure. But that is based on Europe.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          C.E. Thomas is a such a fraud. I have already debunked that mess that you quote.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          The study quotes actual installation costs from actual installations. You havent debunked anything.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          All lies contain at least 10% truth. I have repeated debunked his methodology. Only ONE of which is claiming that every BEV needs a public charger and every public charger needs a trench dug. He also picks and chooses the cheapest quotes for hydrogen stations too. I have said all this already many times before. I'm not gonna walk you through again.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PeterScott
        More food for thought: http://www.cleancaroptions.com/Fuel_Infrastructure_costs_electricity_vs_hydrogen.pdf
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hydrogen is made from petroleum (natural gas) using steam reformation. How does this help us cut petroleum use?
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Petroleum is usually found near or with Natural Gas.. but it ain't the same. We have VASTLY more reserves of Natural Gas in the U.S. than petroleum.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Nick, At the risk of sounding like a Hydrogen advocate... that is not really correct. You have to look at the whole life cycle. SMR is about 70% efficient and Fuel Cells are about 50% efficient. That is 35% efficiency total from NG to Wheels. Burning Natural Gas in an ICE directly is less than 30% Burning Natural Gas in Turbines to make electricity is about 35% if you don't use waste heat in a Combined Cycle. Over 60% if you do. But to use that electricity in an EV requires another 20% in transmission and charging losses. So maybe 48% overall. So burning Natural Gas directly in cars is pretty close, but not as efficient to Fuel Cells. But I think it is WELL worth the price to avoid building a new infrastructure to handle the difficult Hydrogen and the expensive Fuel Cell stacks... especially Long Haul Trucks that would require 500+ KW of power (Fuel Cells cost MUCH more for every KW).
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Joeviocoe Yes, and in this case, turning natural gas into hydrogen takes more energy than directly burning natural gas. NOT clean at all.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Here is the Argonne National Lab's GREET model for Well to Wheels: Given in the Oak Ridge National Lab's 2011 report: http://cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb30/Edition30_Full_Doc.pdf Page 11-11 Emissions for FCV using natural gas as a source: 200 grams CO2 equivalents* per mile Emissions for CNG ICE vehicle: 270 grams CO2 equivalents* per mile BUT.... Emissions for a CNG Hybrid electric (non plugin): 185 grams CO2 equivalents* per mile *All Greenhouse gases reflected as compared to CO2 So CNG cars is about 5%
          methos1999
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Nick - Citation please?
      Ziv
      • 2 Years Ago
      Fuel cells are simply the wrong technology that continues to cost 10 times too much to be even close to successful. Hydrogen would be elegant, but it is stupid when you look at total cost. Lets look at facts. How many Fuel Cells have been sold in the past year? How many BEV's? How many EREV's? What is the trend line for each type of vehicle? Fuel cells are always just 5 years away, BEV's started well but tanked, the Volt is slowly ramping up both production and sales. As long as GM is willing to build enough of them to actually sell enough to break sales records, Volt sales appear to be ready to continue to rise. Right now, BEV's aren't there yet, but with prices dropping 8% a year, they will be a better buy than an ICE in just 8 or 9 years. In the mean time, EREV's are looking pretty darned good.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ziv
        Nice theoretical hydrogen costs there Dave, how about what it really costs today? I could throw out a mass produced battery price but it would be theoretical as well. BTW, FCVs require an electric drivetrain in addition to all the expensive hydrogen stuff, because the power output of the fuel cell is suuuuper low. That's what drives hydrogen cars over the cliff when it comes to cost.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ziv
        "Oh wait . . . there is not a single FCV available for sale on the market today. Hmmm. Maybe you are Dan Fredricksen of fuel cell cars." Wrong. See my post above. The Vison Tyrano is available for outright sale.
          GoodCheer
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          A class 8 semi with a staggering 85hp output from the fuel cell and a range of 200 miles on a tank. I can see that selling like hotcakes.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          LOL!! Well that one got shot down pretty good didn't it
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Googles "Vison Tyrano" . . . bursts out laughing. $270K for a H2 Semi.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ziv
        Ok, lets compare current technology: Fuel cell stack (mass produced 500,000 units per year) = $51 per kw x 80 kw = $4080 http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/2010_market_report.pdf 5.6 kg compressed hydrogen tank and hardware ~$3000 http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/compressedtank_storage.pdf 1.5 kwh battery pack ~$500 Total ~$7580 $7580 / $400 per kwh ~ 19 kwh battery pack, approximately 58 mile range.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Yes, clearly you are right, Dave. That's why the market is filled with fuel cell vehicles. Oh wait . . . there is not a single FCV available for sale on the market today. Hmmm. Maybe you are Dan Fredricksen of fuel cell cars.
          JakeY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          That's not current technology, that's "current technology" *projected to 500k units per year*. If BEV battery packs were produced at 500k units per year the costs would look completely different too! It will probably take couple of years for BEVs to reach that point (currently it's in the 10k-20k range). It's completely unknown how long it will take FCVs to reach that point (currently in the 10s-100s range). And don't forget the other major cost in an FCV, the storage tank!
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Another, collective, debunking of the C.E. Thomas B.S. that Dave keeps regurgitating.
          pmpjunkie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          "1.5 kwh battery pack ~$500 Total ~$7580 $7580 / $400 per kwh ~ 19 kwh battery pack, approximately 58 mile range" batteries are magically cheaper for FCV's? Wouldn't they be more expensive since they get cycled more? Solid case for fuel cells - Dude...
          Ziv
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Dave, in what sort of fantasy will we ever see 500,000 fuel cell stacks built? But that seems to be an important part of your post? It hasn't happened, the price reductions that have guessed at are only estimates at best, and fuel cells are an experiment in wishful thinking. And you start your post with "Current technology"? Don't confuse your wishes with reality. Fuel cells cost 10 to 20 times what a gas car costs, and hydrogen is a poor energy carrier due to its inefficiency. Fuel cells are a great idea, but they just don't work in the real world. So when will a fuel cell actually be available for $51 per kw? Never?
          JP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Wow, let's project fantasy costs for unrealistic fuel cell production numbers with battery costs today, that makes total sense.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most cars sit in one spot for 10 hours a day. Level 1 (120v) if fine for that. How is it hypocracy, I didn't even mention Fast Chargers.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cost. A PHEV using a combustion engine basically has two systems, and adding a reasonable size battery to an ICE is expensive. I like the Volt, but it is going to be tough to take costs out. Battery only cars have far better cost reduction potential, and low, low maintenance. A fuel cell RE is a totally different matter, as you are still all electric, and most of the components are identical. I'm hopeful of some combo's such as the Lotus 3-pot in a plug in, but at the moment see them as less game changing than one would want. They will no doubt provide a strong alternative though, and I for one am perfectly content to see how things pan out.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      " And"estimates" for FCVs (with much higher volume production) past 2015 ... Is going to be greater than $50K." How do you live with yourself? The price estimates have been under $50,000 by 2015 (both Toyota and Hyundai). And with smaller volume than the Volt (less than 10,000 per year). And in both cases, larger vehicles than the Volt. And you know it.
      methos1999
      • 2 Years Ago
      Um sure, if you use a 110 VAC socket, but it will also take you 8+ hours to charge a BEV... now if you want 240 VAC socket, let me know how many of those you find in most garages...
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      Amazes me that most think the gov'ment should spend billions or trillions to develop a hydrogen infrastructure to jump start a technology which is not even (currently - if ever) economically feasible. Just print mo. Just borrow more. Greece. A century ago, gasoline stations spread like wild-fire without a cent of taxpayer money. In fact, from the beginning, it has been a huge revenue source for the US Treasury. Still is ! eh,eh,eh,eh, ehhhhhhhhhhhh
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        A century ago gasoline cars didn't have any established infrastructure needed to be disrupted and crude oil was abundant and dirt cheap. Don't forget also that BEV technology is waiting for the big "economically feasible" breakthrough since the 1830s when the first BEVs were built and then after some success soon declined and disappeared. And what was the reason of the decline? Suprise: Insufficient battery technology and high price, as due to the cheap fuel, then mass production and economy of scale gasoline cars became way cheaper than BEVs. History is repeating itself, so maybe we could give at least some chance to the fuel cell now. On a side note: eventually and ironically the electric motor helped the gasoline car to win the battle then, with the invention of the electric starter which eliminated the need for the hand crank, as the ICE's last disadvantage that time over BEVs.
          • 2 Years Ago
          No, actually I'm a little late, as it happens to be 1828 (first EV): "Who invented the very first EV is uncertain and several inventors have been given credit. In 1828, Hungarian, Ányos Jedlik invented a small-scale model car powered by an electric motor that he designed." http://inventors.about.com/od/estartinventions/a/History-Of-Electric-Vehicles.htm
          • 2 Years Ago
          @LTAW The point is, that the first EVs were indeed invented / built in the 1830s (additionally to Ányos Jedlik in 1828). By the way, most ABG commenters still consider hydrogen fuel cel cars a small scale scientific experiment.
          Greg
          • 2 Years Ago
          That depends on what qualifies as "economically feasible." Comparing an eFocus to a similarly equiped gas Focus, assuming reasonable costs for gas & electricity, and including the govt subsidy, the eFocus pays for itself at ~100k. That's a long time, but its well short of the life of the car. This comparison doesn't even take into account the reduced maintance costs for EVs, so the break-even should be even sooner. A big problem is their large up-front costs. Most people can't afford that, even if in the long run it would save them money.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          "...BEV technology is waiting for the big "economically feasible" breakthrough since the 1830s when the first BEVs were built..." You're a little early with that date, I believe.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          Those were scale model cars, not actually passenger vehicles. I'm not sure if it's fair to really count them; there certainly weren't "successful" as they were never built for actual sale. Proof-of-concept, for sure, but not actual BEVs. It would be like pointing out that the earliest autos (that could actually carry people!) used hydrogen for fuel: "In 1806, Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz who built an engine powered by internal combustion of a hydrogen and oxygen mixture. In 1826, Englishman Samuel Brown who tested his hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine by using it to propel a vehicle up Shooter's Hill in south-east London. Belgian-born Etienne Lenoir's Hippomobile with a hydrogen-gas-fuelled one-cylinder internal combustion engine made a test drive from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont in 1860, covering some nine kilometres in about three hours" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile
      Vince
      • 2 Years Ago
      Every Hydrogen topic usually makes it to 50 comments within an hour, and all 50 comments usually hate it. Im one of them. is there anyway we can sign a petition to block right wing conservative from wasting good money in hydrogen to drum up votes.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vince
        Yeah... the VAST majority here generally say no to hydrogen. There are 3 that say yes... plus Gorr, but he doesn't count.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Be as it may be, scientific studies are the best ways - what we currently have - to predict anything. Way better, than "wild guessing".
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