By John Dodge
Posting in Cities
With gas prices holding steady and GM desperate for cash, one might assume the bankrupt company would kill its hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) program ...
With gas prices holding steady and GM desperate for cash, one might assume the bankrupt company would kill its hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) program oddly-named Project Driveway. The program backed out of the driveway in 2006 and includes adapting more than 100 Chevy Equinox SUVs to run on hydrogen, arranging for fueling facilities and getting people to drive the vehicles to gauge their opinions.
A source close to the program which I wrote about extensively last May when I took an HFC Equinox for a morning outside New York City says it's actually been expanded.
"The program for all intents and purposes is tracking forward," the veteran GMer said. GM was shut down this week so reaching a media person for official comment was not in the cards. But top GM R&D honcho Larry Burns said recently that the company remains committed to bringing hydrogen vehicle to market by 2015. Toyota, Honda, Daimler and Ford have more or less said the same thing, but auto execs have acknowledged that recent cuts in federal funding into hydrogen will slow commercialization.
The timeframe also gives them six years to change their minds. Fair to say Honda and GM are the most committed at this point.
A few years ago, GM was saying hydrogen was THE future, not batteries charged from an outlet or a small internally-combusted engine. No doubt, hybrids and battery-centric vehicles are far ahead of hydrogen. Batteries in GM's Equinox play a secondary role.
I loved the powerful HFC Equinox, but when times were more conducive to a gasoline alternative a year ago, hydrogen still had plenty of critics. I like the technology, but it's hard to deny the economic challenges.
Hydrogen is expensive to produce and distribute. You'll get a lot of push back on that from industrial gas companies like Air Products, the world's largest producer of hydrogen, but building out the refueling infrastructure will take years if it ever actually happens. Frankly, the oil industry has shown little interest in it with the exception of Shell and Chevron. Oil giant Exxon Mobil has rejected the idea outright. Home electrolyzers you may have heard about to produce hydrogen are way off if at all feasible commercially.
Hydrogen production also requires vast amounts of water and electricity which, pun intended, waters down the zero emission claim. That disenchants the tree huggers.
My source says the GM program has added southeastern Michigan to refueling sites in addition to LA, Washington and Ardsley, NY just outside NYC. GM's hydrogen program has been expanded to China, Korea and Germany. For two years, GM has been trying to launch the program in Japan, but the vehicles have been prevented from entering country by bureaucratic red tape, the source said, adding that the GM effort in China might use something other than an Equinox.
GM may have miscalculated with its no-compromise philosophy (cost to build each experimental Equinox was $250,000 or 10x the gas version). In that vein, the Equinox is spacious, comfortable and very powerful. Sounds like a GM car, doesn't it?
Jul 2, 2009
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If you has a car with hydrogen most used my Invetion for complete combustion. your motor (engine) exhaust HO a gas for greenhausteffect and global warming thanks
Hydrogen power is a waste of time. Electric is the way to go. Tesla motors already has cars that can travel over 400 miles on a single charge. They are fast efficient and takes 15 min to charge in your garage. Why would we pursue something as extravagant as hydrogen power?
The onboard hydrogen splitter is a lot smaller and lighter than an array of batteries, and the weight/power ratio of the entire system is much better as well. For all the anti GM types, perhaps they can explain why Nissan is a huge proponent of the system as well. For those who wonder where the electricity will come from - we already have an off-peak surplus, where sources like hydro and nuclear are in over abundance at night. Using this will be considerably cheaper than conventional fuels which are burned during the day to make up for the peak loads.
Looking at the clucky vehicle that they are rolling out for their hydrogen vehicle, is pretty much another failure for GM. They still don't get it do they? I bet it will use gasoline as it primary fuel of choice. Using geothermal electric production, solar steam industry, would power all our needs, and shake off our needs for oil for transportation. Low cost mass transit sytems would tie our cities together. Another misaligned corporate bandaid, thats leads to destruction of our home.
The propulsion enrgy created by a hydrogen fuel cell will be somewhat less than the electrical energy required for the electolysis of water to produce the hydrogen fuel. Unless the electricity comes from wind, solar, hydro or nuclear power plants there will be significant release of carbon dioxide. The hydrogen fuel cell should be seen as a possibly more efficient battery system for an electric vehicle. Whether this is the best way to go depends on the economics of the HFC versus battery systems being developed for plug-in electric cars.
Going for hydrogen is not the answer, it's a volatile fuel alternative to pertroleum, sure, but it is just another expensive costs versus profits fuel scenario, and the figures at the moment are not favorable. Compressed air is by far a better alternative. It is boundless, highly inexpensive, creates no pollution, especially if you use green energies to compress it, and companies like MDI have shown that cars run efficiently on it. If you want extra power you just spice it up with a bit of hydrogen or even petrol in tiny amounts. It can also be used for de-centralized power generation, which again, is far more desirable than the ill-conceived centralized coal-fired, or nuclear plants. I know it sounds too good to be true, and it's not sexy because it does not have the lure of big money profits that we associate with mega-energy companies, but sometimes the simplest answer is the best. We are facing an imminent energy crisis in as little as 5 to 10 years. There is nothing prepared to replace oil. We also need clean power generation to avoid global warming. Compressed air addresses both these problems. What is lacking is the government will to move toward this type of energy, and that lack of will stems from a lack of bribes to politicians because compressed air has few vestd interests, unlike oil or hydrogen. It is obvious we need to upgrade our political system to the 21st Century in order to get the kinds of energy answers we require. CJ
Well, this post brought the hydrogen fans out. Good points all. Here's my question....why did new DOE secretary Stephen Chu cut funding for hydrogen? That took me by surprise. Not that the govt. has a lot of extra dollars lying around...JD
Water to Hydrogen converters (currently reffered to as HHO) that are used with fuel injection already exist. Due to the media's smear campaign on the technology it is thought of as a scam. While you have to be careful with anything bought over the internet, the technology does exist and work. The oil companies are not ready to relinquish any of the control they have and most everyone is in their pockets. 2015? I think it's obvious they are milking the gas cow until it's gone.
thanks for the post..! I think the real story here is the low cost platform of fuel cells, less the chemical fuel (hydrogen or hydrogen rich mixtures). GM understands that the real revolution is not how we fuel cars, but how we build them. And when you look at moving beyond the cost complexities of a combustion engine, the electric motors need a reliable, scalable power generation system. Yes batteries are coming, but they have a performance ceiling (weight/cost/safety) as a storage only device. If we move forward with a 'fuel' (hydrogen) and on-board power generator (fuel cell- I know, still in development!!) you've found your real alternative to the ICE. GM is wise not to follow the short-sighted hype over batteries and plug in -- as it pushes for a low cost power generation system in fuel cells. So - I'm glad to see them maintaining a public commitment. There is a short but solid presentation by Keith Cole, GM Director of Adv Tech Vehicle Strategies from a recent Congressional committee testimony that is worth watching. He explains in so many words why the best bet/ROI for the US (e.g GM) is H2 fuel cells not battery cars (which we've already lost to Asian manufacturers) Video is at http://budurl.com/7czh I think GM might move further down the road by convincing Americans that the electric fuel cell vehicle is the revolution (polymer based energy conversion) and let's not confuse them w/ talk of hydrogen until it's time! Thanks for post - John! Best, Garry Golden
Hydrogen is a good storage medium for surplus renewable energy that exceeds electical load at the time it is being produced. Surplus renewable prices will be sufficiently low to warrant generating hydrogen or anyhydrous amonia in the alternative which is not only a fuel but fertilizer as well. It the bigger picture, amonia production may make more sense than the "hydrogen economy".
Everyone seems to forget that it is relatively inexpensive to crack natural gas for hydorgen and, in the near term, will be the most likely and cost effective means of transitioning to hydrogen based transportation systems. I am sure that the industries working on vehicles are not focusing on cost effective supplies of hydrogen, at least, until the vehicles are tested, Be sure that suppliers of hydrogen are.
It is incomprehensible to me that Exon does not want to play a role in the change to hydrogen fuels. In fact I am surprised that the government has not 'compelled' big-oil to begin developing at least proposals or plans for infrastructure. Afterall if the government can dictate efficiency standards to the automakers it stands to reason big-oil should be 'invited' to the same game...in a different role.
Battery manufacture and disposal are also polluting. We will run out of oil, it is only a matter of time. The only real viable substitute is Hydogen. Besides being plentiful in the universe, hydrogen is non polluting. Burn hydrogen and you get H2O, so it is re-newable also. This planet is almost 75% water, it is inconceivable we could not use it to produce hydrogen on a massive scale so we could use it. Gasoline was very useful because of its burn rate, hydrogen has a better burn rate than gasoline.