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Read his lips: more hydrogen stations, please. That's the crux of the commentary from a Southern California gentleman who's been tooling around in a Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle since 2005.

Jon Spallino, the first "retail customer" to lease the Clarity, tells The Wall Street Journal that he enjoys "everything about the car," including the peppy acceleration from the car's electric powertrain. The added bonus, of course, is the fact that the car's emissions are nothing more than water vapor. He pays $600 a month to lease the car, including the hydrogen refueling costs, and says he can go about 230 miles on a full tank.

The flipside is the paucity in hydrogen refueling stations, which is understandable considering that they cost an estimated couple million dollars a pop to open. It's no accident that Spallino is one of the early hydrogen drivers, though, since there are eight public refueling stations in Southern California (and one in Northern California), more than any other state, according to US Department of Energy records. The only other public station is in South Carolina, so road trips are tough.

Spallino, a resident of Redondo Beach, joins higher-profile folks such as actress Jamie Lee Curtis and former pro hockey player Scott Niedermayer among those who've gotten the opportunity to lease the super-low-volume fuel-cell vehicle. How low? Honda leased out 10 of them last year and just five in 2012. You can read more of Spallino's hydrogen-powered thoughts here.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 252 Comments
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      What's really important is the volume of natural gas that is consumed, not the percentage of electricity/fuel that is derived from it. In 2012: 9,110,793 Million cubic feet were used by the utilities for electrical generation. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_cons_sum_dcu_nus_a.htm How many kg of hydrogen could be made from that amount? SMR is about 72% efficient, so that would be 6,559,770 million cubic feet of hydrogen. "SMR produces a hydrogen rich gas that is typically on the order of 70-75% hydrogen on a dry mass basis, along with smaller amounts of methane (2-6%), carbon monoxide (7-10%), and carbon dioxide (6-14%) (Hirschenhofer et al., 2000)" http://www.cleanenergystates.org/assets/2011-Files/Hydrogen-and-Fuel-Cells/CESA-Lipman-H2-prod-storage-050311.pdf One scf of hydrogen = about 0.00236kg. http://www.uigi.com/h2_conv.html So about 15,481 million kg? Do my numbers make sense? Assuming so, that amount would equate the amount of fuel needed by 51 million FCVs to travel 15,000 miles each at 50mpkg. Please feel free to correct those figures, but to me at least the scale seems accurate. Of course the utilities use staggeringly large amounts of natural gas, much more so than would be required by a national fleet of FCVs.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yesterday, I attended a "Green Energy Technology " seminar held by a university based institute. The audience consisted of businesspeople, academics, environmentalists, graduate students, journalists, politicians, scientists and engineers. The focus of the lectures was on the problems of future energy storage. I was surprised to discover that even among a well educated audience, the division between pragmatists and idealists was obvious. Energy storage is the biggest challenge facing these decades of the 21st century. Renewable energy sources need storage capacity to overcome the problems created by the vagaries of generation. Hydrogen, is not a particularly efficient method of storing and distributing energy, but has the potential for wide-spread adoption. To dismiss the technology out of hand, without an alternative, is irresponsible. Current EV ESD, in the form of existing batteries, will not become a significant replacement for gasoline/diesel. That's reality. Idealism is good, it promotes change and inspires progress. All too often pragmatism is used as an excuse to do nothing. But idealism must be informed, and understanding of practicalities, or it too, becomes a hindrance to progress. It really doesn't matter to the environment, whether an environmental replacement for gasoline/diesel fuel is introduced by a coalition of auto-makers-H2 providers-governments, or the Rainbow Creek Nirvana Commune, the planet doesn't care. At the moment, only natural gas, oil and coal, with a little nuclear are dominant fuel technologies. These fossil fuels power over 3-4 billion engines world wide. Sitting around in the suburban Western world , smugly congratulating each other on what a great contribution we are making, by buying a few solar panels and a Tesla, while in reality we are even 0.01 % of the world vehicle fleet, is delusional. The engineers and scientists, working on Hydrogen fuel technology, may or may not, prove to be successful at mass introducing an environmental replacement for gasoline-diesel, I don't know if the efforts will succeed onr not, but I will applaud those efforts, until H2 is proven impractical. Personally, I will continue to invest in developing better EV ESD technology, but I won't cry, in fact I'll rejoice, if HFCV's replace ICE transportation. (So will the environment).
        Thereminator
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        I'm pro environmentally positive science/tech. I'm also anti Economic infrastructure entrenchment,the main reason pollution causing energy systems do not change,and an idea that eludes the masses. Theirs more to it than getting from point A to point B.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Theremintor: It is fortunate for you that you are so superior to 'the masses'. I thought that line of paranoid self aggrandising flannel went out with the death of Marxist-Lenninist dialectic. Whatever your hallucinations have told you, you are not some superior being to everyone else.
        GoodCheer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        "until H2 is proven impractical." I think you mean 'until H2 is proven practical, (or researcher and investors give up on it)'. It's pretty unambiguously impractical at the moment.
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      Let's pass a LAW where ZERO Percent of Hydrogen comes from Natural Gas, and you've got my Vote.
        Greg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        If it doesn't come from natural gas, it ceases to be feasible.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Greg
          Not according to the DOE, but apparently you know better: http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/progress12/ii_0_dillich_2012.pdf Natural gas reformation is the cheapest way in the US, but other methods can produce hydrogen at acceptable cost, ie no more than petrol per mile at the top end of estimates.
        VL00
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        Yep. For now its just another fossil fuel.
      gslippy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Infrastructure - not gonna happen. Honda, Hyundai, Toyota are all deluded if they think hydrogen-fueled cars are worth doing. Electric, diesel, gasoline, and even CNG are much better bets.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gslippy
        CNG is a good bet. If you designed a natural gas fuel cell car; you'd have a huge leg up on those internal combustion CNG cars ( the fuel cell would be approximately twice as efficient, thus would produce approx. half the emissions and go approx. twice the distance on the same amount of natural gas ). You'd also have a fueling network that includes 1,000's of stations already. And additional ones would be cheap to build. The car would be really cheap per mile as well. much cheaper than hydrogen miles. But hey, that makes too much sense, right?
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gslippy
        Exactly. With Solar Cheaper then All Other Energy in 5 years 11 months, only a FOOL would put money into this.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @CoolWaters
          5 years and 11 months eh? You can't give a day and hour I suppose, which would be SO much nicer!
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gslippy
        Yep, just build your compact on-board reformer for the natural gas in your garage, sell it to the car companies, and off you go! Do you seriously imagine it is that easy and car companies just haven't thought of it? I am not sure what advantages you think it would have anyway, as there is no such thing as a natural gas fuel cell, it has to be reformed to hydrogen at some stage anyway. There are direct methanol fuel cells, but they are at a much earlier stage of development than hydrogen ones and are a different subject anyway.
      GR
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's great that he's been able to test out the Clarity for so long, but I hope he considers trading it in soon for an EV or PHEV. He could get the Volt for considerably less than the $600 a month he's paying now or even upgrade to the Model S for a little bit more.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        For California the subsidy alone is $20 million a year. That plus investment capital adds up to a lot more than 2 stations a year.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          S/be 'no imminent build of hydrogen stations 9 years ago'
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          9 years ago... Bush as prez, Arnie as governator.... California was prime for a huge rollout of H2 stations. You weren't here Dave, so I don't expect you to remember all that well... But the excitement, enthusiasm, and money were at all time highs. ..yet, nothing substantial happened.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Yes, but still, 9 years later after he took delivery of this car, there are only 8 fueling stations for him to use. You can throw taxpayer money at things, but that doesn't necessarily get those things done. If they money and laws that California put in place in the 2000's got something done, everyone would have been driving electric cars there by now. You must have a lot of faith in California.. having had lived in California for 25 years, my opinion is very different.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          That was around the time BMW were trying to make ICE cars run on hydrogen, if I remember right. I was less than enthusiastic about that notion too.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          I knew hydrogen was mooted. The technology seemed no where near ready to me, so I did not take it seriously. AFAIK they never got to the point of allocating funds for a hydrogen station build, indeed how to build a hydrogen fuel station in any detail was also unknown at the time.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          "Oh, i remember when George Bush put up tons of federal $$$$$$ for hydrogen projects too." "Overall, the funding for hydrogen and fuel cells from these programs is $2.5 billion from 2003 through 2012. EERE has provided slightly over $1.5 billion (Figure 2) while SECA has provided just over $500 million during the same time frame (Figure 3). The combined total corresponds to less than 0.9% of the total DOE budget for the same time period." http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/13004_historical_fuel_cell_h2_budgets.pdf
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          --"Money and mandates are no guarantee whatsoever." Which is why I don't like public money for infrastructure projects.... lots of money wasted with little or nothing to show for it. While I am in favor of money given only at time of purchase to the 'end user'.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          There was no imminent build of hydrogen stations a year ago.. A discussion has to be based on verifiable data to be useful. I pointed out that the funding, and note that the state is responsible for providing that, not the build itself, will allow a lot more than 2 stations a year, and you revert to a low build based on no information at all - your two a year is simply your own invention. Of course, nothing is impossible, but since the build is to start this year and the funds are allocated arbitrarily reducing the number so drastically, especially when you are a confirmed opponent of fuel cell cars, is hardly persuasive. Whether or not the build out takes place in California, it certainly is from Korea to Japan to Europe. Germany for instance has no less than three different fuels available pretty well throughout the country, petrol, diesel and natural gas. They can certainly add a forth, and have the track record to show it.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Oh, i remember when George Bush put up tons of federal $$$$$$ for hydrogen projects too. He also had some hydrogen challenge; i don't know what happened with that. Oh, and government has thrown all kinds of money at EVs too. Money and mandates are no guarantee whatsoever.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        He is obviously a lover of technology, and since his replacement vehicle will be much more capable and gradually benefit from the new build of filling stations, I have little doubt that he will enjoy being part of this further development.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        Yes, there might be an additional 2 stations next year at this rate. In 5 years, he might be able to take a trip to Vegas. Very exciting.
        archos
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        I'd choose the Volt and most definitely the Model S over this in a heart beat. It takes a certain kind of risk taker to be guinea pig for a hydrogen car. Probably someone who doesn't understand the inherent risks in lugging that stuff around in a fast moving metal box.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hey Japan made a hydrogen generator that you put one pint of water in it and start you 4 banger and you are off to the grocery store. Now the invention is hidden. I bumped into the issue by way of: overunity.com
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        *cough* Perpetual Motion Machine *cough* You see, the man doesn't want you to have free energy. He's keeping us DOWN!
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      His early Clarity uses 350 bar tanks. Upgrading to 700 bar tanks would nearly double his range. That aside, it's nice to hear what real world drivers think about FCVs.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Here is the underside of the Toyota FCEV: https://file.kbb.com/kbb/images/content/editorial/slideshow/-toyota-fcv-concept-debuts-in-tokyo/toyota-fcv-concept-underside-600-001.jpg It looks to me as though they could have put in larger tanks if they had chosen to, but thought that the range was enough for the present, as as has been extensively noted there are not enough hydrogen filling stations to make long distance journeys likely for the time being.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Are the 700 bar tanks the same size, and take up the same space in the compartment? How much heavier?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          True, if you're looking for trunk space, the Tesla Model S is where it's at. 31 cubic feet compared to the Clarity's 13. As long as you're not carrying the kiddos in the wayback, naturally. The Clarity does give the back seat passengers a bit more room, though. Two inches more headroom (37.1 vs. 35.3), two inches more legroom (37.9 vs. 35.4), and about the same hip room (54.6 vs. 54.7). The Clarity is 1,000lbs lighter than the Model S, 3582lbs vs. 4647lbs. Certainly, the cars are very different beasts in terms of dynamic performance, the Honda more in line with a 4 cylinder Accord.
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The Clarity doesn't really have much trunk space despite a relatively large rear section (the tank takes up most of it). That's why the 700 bar tanks in the newer FCVs (which are more like typical cars in trunk space) still result in ~300 mile range, not close to 500. http://cars.about.com/od/honda/ig/2009-Honda-FCX-Clarity-pics/2009-Honda-FCX-Clarity-trunk.htm The Clarity was also rated under the older adjusted 2 cycle test (the 5 cycle test was not officially required until 2012) gives the Model S a 320 mile rating.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The latest on CF weights, volume capacity and costs here: http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/13010_onboard_storage_performance_cost.pdf No, going up to 700 bar will not double the range, although it will improve it. The latest Honda will however have much improved range, as the early cars had heavy parasitic losses for de-humidifying, compression and so on. 8 years at this stage of the game is pretty much an eternity, and fuel consumption etc will be much lower as well as things like cold weather performance. As it is so old I can't really be bothered to look up range details to arrive at a closer assessment of likely range increases, but including the 700 bar tank as well as less losses they will be substantial if Honda wants to make them so. Toyota have elected to stay with a relatively modest range for the new model, but that is likely because they are not going to be used for long distance travel anyway.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          yet a production FCX Clarity might initially cost just as much as a Model S (base). Which will be a non-starter to ramp up production.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          To be honest, the Clarity would have to have a slight redesign to accommodate different tanks, simply because it wasn't designed with them in mind. There's a whole lot of other equipment that would need to be altered to handle higher pressures other than just the tank. Honda has stated that the Clarity's successor will have the 700 bar tanks that are typical in other current-gen FCVs (Toyota, Mercedes, etc.) But to address the thrust of your question, 700 bar tanks are generally smaller in volume, although heavier in mass due to the needed reinforcement. About 100-120kg for a 700 bar tank, but I'll look for more specific figures.
        JakeY
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        @Letstakeawalk Actually according to Honda, switching to a 700 bar system for the Clarity would move it up to 360 miles from 240 miles (under the same older rating system). About 1.5x, not quite twice the range. http://www.government-fleet.com/blog/fleetspeak/story/2013/03/test-driving-the-honda-fcx-clarity-fuel-cell-car.aspx?prestitial=1
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JakeY
          I stand corrected. Naturally, the smaller 700 bar tank stores more fuel per tank, but it doesn't actually double the capacity of the 350 bar tank. Since it wouldn't carry 2x the hydrogen, it wouldn't get 2x the range. The 350 bar tank holds 3.92kg, while a 700 bar tank would hold 5.6kg.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think the gist of this story is rather about a unique real world experience with a fuel cell car (by the very first retail customer), than yet another opportunity to compare it with battery technology. The testimony comes from a man whose primary interest in his own car is about the actual experience with it (8 years) and not the usual fuzzy logic why he should really hate his car (coming from people who never had or will have any experience with any fuel cell car). His statement can be summarized very briefly: although there are two fueling stations near him that have hydrogen pumps, which look like regular pumps, he also admits one downside i.e. the lack of wider infrastructure. Apart from this he enjoys everything about the car: “the car has an electric feel” [good acceleration, comfortable highway speeds, very little noise, lack of pollution]. He, being an investor, probably doesn’t even know / give a damn about most of the things, which he could (if he would) read here in the comments. That is it. Not less and not more. But, here comes the usual catchphrase: most hydrogen is coming from fossil fuels. I don’t want to repeat any reasoning why it naturally and gradually won’t be this way in the future and I don’t want to explain why this is the very same problem with batteries (hint: power plants). All these things are extremely myopic, so let’s talk about a way more important project of mankind with hydrogen [deuterium-tritium], which has been identified as the most efficient fuel for nuclear fusion (yes fuel and not energy carrier here), which is surprisingly the most promising real zero emission energy source known to man. How so? Check this out: A fusion reaction is about four million times more energetic than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas. While a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant requires 2.7 million tons of coal per year, a fusion plant (same output) will only require 250 kilograms [551 pounds] of fuel per year (only a few grams are present in the plasma at any time), without any pollution or greenhouse gases, meanwhile there is no possibility of a "runaway" reaction because the conditions for fusion are precise—any alteration and the plasma cools within seconds and the reaction stops. 250 kilograms of hydrogen per year instead of 2.7 million tons of coal (or equivalent fossil fuels) and all of it can be produced from water without greenhouse gases / pollution. Most scientist and experts firmly believe that to harness fusion energy (using H2) is the only way to reconcile huge conflicting demands which will confront humanity sooner or later. Conclusion: even the Universe (God / Unicorns / Tooth Fairy etc.) couldn’t find out a better solution for running the show since 13.8 billion years (as every main-sequence star generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen), therefore without hydrogen we (as a life form) also wouldn’t be and couldn’t talk about how extremely terrible is hydrogen for us.
        krona2k
        • 1 Year Ago
        So we just need Mr Fusion then? Comparing fusion to FCEV is ridiculous.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @krona2k
          @krona2k If you read my comment again more carefully you'll see that I compared a traditional coal-fired power plant to a hopefully near future fusion plant like e.g. ITER (originally International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and Latin for "the way" or "the road"). http://www.iter.org/ However what I actually didn't compare is FCEV to BEV (even one of the primary objective of my post was to avoid this, as I stated in the first sentence). But let me express my accolade to you for the Back to the Future reminiscence, and here goes the adequate quote from it: Marty: "Wait a minute, what are you doing Doc?" Doc: "I need fuel!" — Marty and Doc while refueling Mr. Fusion with garbage Unfortunately, that's not possible yet, but if you recall correctly Mr. Fusion (which is thought to be cold fusion) was first seen when Emmett Brown returned back from 2015 (which means it is not possible yet). It replaced plutonium as DeLorean's primary power source and allowed the time machine to generate the required 1.21 jigawatts to travel through the space-time continuum and facilitate flight capabilities as well. Thus, it needed the household waste to generate the required 1.21 jigawatts for the time machine's flux capacitor and time circuits to travel through the space-time continuum and not to reach the magical 88 mph. Apart from this you are perfectly correct.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @krona2k
          @ krona2k I don't think krisztiant is comparing Fusion and HFCV's. From my reading of krisztiant's post, he's simply extrapolating the discussion on transport fuels, into a discussion on future energy sources. Hydrogen fusion works, the stars (and H bomb) are evidence of the energy potential, and research continues to develop a safe, economically viable, method of harnessing it's enormous potential for power generation. Fusion could be the technology to power mankind beyond the stars ! Krisztiant's point was to illustrate the vast potential of H2 research, far beyond the immediate concerns expressed about H2 being derived from natural gas. Your derogative comment about "Mr Fusion", illustrates what I said in an earlier comment about ''picking sides'' and trying to suppress discussion of all other technologies, except whatever you favour. I'm not convinced that HFCV's will ultimately prove the best method of carrying road transport energy, but I think Honda, and Jon Spallino, should be applauded for providing valuable insights into HFCV potential. All research is valuable, even if it just disproves the viabilty of a particular technology.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ krisztiant Well said !
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      1. Okay, how much weight and complexity and cost? 2. How high? an internal combustion engine is already terrible at this. Bloom box is saying that their natural gas fuel cell system is 60 percent efficient. Let's say that a car's average power use is 25kw. Now you're going to blow 40% as that as heat. An internal combustion engine is most definitely shedding all kinds of heat... why couldn't a NG fuel cell ( especially with a battery as a power buffer ) shed this heat? Doesn't the inefficiency in a hydrogen fuel cell also create the same heat? 3) Couldn't that be changed? there are certainly some fragile things inside every car; vibration dampening prevents them from being destroyed.. 4) What are 'cycle times' in terms of fuel cells? is that the time to turn it on and off? As for your last point, that single source hasn't stopped gasoline or diesel cars ( which require modifications to run on different fuels ) from being the most popular things, ever. If you respond to this, please do so in a new thread.. this comment section is getting hairy real fast..
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      I might have missed your comments, but i've never had that explained to me. Tell me why they're a non-starter?
      VL00
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, the hydrogen economy is taking off! haha Not Get a Tesla
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      So far he has spent $57,600 in lease fees. Other than a quiet ride & a good citizenship badge, what does he have to show for the price of a Tesla?
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