Hydrogen cars

Why haven’t we heard more about the development of hydrogen fueled cars ? My friend believes it is a conspiracy of big oil companies (and the government) to stall anything that would cut into their profits (at the expense of the public). We hear alot about electric or hybrid vehicles but little on this technology especially since hydrogen is in great abundance and would seem to burn much cleaner than petroleum powered vehicles. Lets hear the pros and cons.

“Let’s hear the pros and cons”

PRO: Hydrogen is very energy-dense, relative to conventional battery power.


  1. There is NO unreacted hydrogen out there! (Unless you’re willing to travel to another planet to get it). This means that there are 2 ways to get it: from water, and from lopping off the C–H bonds on conventional petroleum fuels.
    a) From water: Creating the H2 from H20 consumes EXACTLY the same amount of energy as using the hydrogen for energy (and creating water). Thus, hydrogen STORES energy, but is NOT a SOURCE of energy: it is a "glorified battery."
    b) From petrouleum: self-explanatory…this does nothing of note to create energy independnece, and is just a high-tech means of burning dino juice.

  2. Zero infrasturcture

  3. Unproven technology

How many tons of coal must be burned to produce a barrel of hydrogen?

Dedicated hydrogen city busses make sense to keep the downtown air clean. M uch research is still going on, but hydrogen will be more expensive than other forms of energy.

As a private car fuel, it makes little sense, as pointed out the infrastructure is not there and would be very expensive to build. Iceland is the only country with a serious effort to a hydrogen economy, since they have unlimited geothermal energy to generate electricity, and the small population lives in a very concentrated area. Shell proudly has a dedicated hydrogen refueling station there.

Iceland has no oil or gas and no oil refineries. They would compare the cost of self-generated hydrogen with imported gasoline, diesel and heating oil.

Although hydrogen is in great abundance it’s mostly lock up in water. There are no hydrogen reserved waiting to be tapped.

Current engines can be modified to burn hydrogen.
Exhaust is water.

No hydrogen reserves exist.
Hydrogen is expensive (energy wise) to make from water.
Hydrogen embrittlement making metals brittle.
Hydrogen storage is difficult.
Most hydrogen made today uses petroleum, resulting in more pollutants than if the petroleum was used as a fuel.

Here’s something to think about if you cover the average American home’s roof in solar cells, You could produce enough electricity each day to charge a battery with enough power to supply the average American’s driving needs for a day. If you take the same solar cell and use that power to produce hydrogen you could drive about two miles.

Until someone comes up with a way to produce hydrogen cheaply, safely and that’s environmentally friendly hydrogen will always be a pipe-dream. You know what’s funny when I was a teen (in the 70’s) hydrogen was 20 years away, and just recently I heard on the TV someone saying hydrogen was just 20 year away.

Hydrogen would only make sense if nuclear power plants were built to generate the hydrogen.

Other alternatives are superior to hydrogen:

If electricity is used to split the water, just use the electricity directly in a battery vehicle (hydrogen vehicles require batteries along with their super-expensive fuel cells).

If the hydrogen come from natural gas, just use the natural gas directly in a slightly-modified internal combustion engine, like the Civic GX.

And no, there’s no ‘conspiracy’ by anybody. Unless new technology is developed hydrogen is a fuel with very limited potential.

Hydrogen costs too much to generate at this time. Maybe in 20 years it may make sense, but not now.

The biggest problem I have with liquid hydrogen, which may be necessary for storage in cars is, is safety. It is prone to leaks, and in liquid form, it means third degree burns and could easily cause instant blindness from the vapor eye contact. Can’t say that about gasoline…
IMO, it’s just another way of tying us to a pump and fuel commodity with a price still determined by the companies that now produce oil products. For now, give me a better battery.

It appears this was another “drive-by” thread by another OP.

(I mean, I got the memo about not biting anybody’s head off, but it seems that if we give ANY response that doesn’t parrot the OP, they pout and go home.)

I’d really like to know what OP considers the benefits of hydrogen, but I’ll never know if the OP lacks the fortitude to back up his beliefs…

CNG makes more sense…But you need gasoline at $6-$8 gallon before people get serious about it…

There is no conspiracy going on about hydrogen vehicles and I might make this point.
If you subscribe to the global warming/greenhouse gas theory then what are you going to do when tens of millions of hydrogen powered cars are running around emitting nothing but water vapor?
Greenhouse gas is appox. 98% water vapor so you would be advocating disrupting that percentage. :slight_smile:

I’m pretty sure that an I.C.E. using hydrogen as a fuel would still have the nitrogen oxide emissions problems that plague gasoline fueled I.C.E.s.

The problem with splitting water is the fact that water is hydrogen that has already been burned. To split it is to unburn it, a process which requires returning every bit of the energy that was released when it originally burned into water.
To somehow split water back into hydrogen and oxygen without returning that energy is just as preposterous as the idea that you could build streets that go downhill in both directions.

Hydrogen is stored energy from another source.

If you want to believe in a conspiracy theory, that hydrogen cars are being pushed in the first place is more likely to be a conspiracy involving the oil companies. The most common chemical to crack for hydrogen is methane. The best place to find large concentrations of methane is in old, spent oil wells. It’s cheaper to extract methane from an existing well than it is to drill a new well and get the oil. So, oil companies stand to make huge profits selling methane to hydrogen extraction facilities (or just doing it themselves and then selling the hydrogen).

The reason we don’t hear much about them is the same reason you don’t hear much about steam powered cars. They exist, and they work, but they’re wildly impractical. If you want a large market saturation of hydrogen cars, you first have to get the infrastructure in place, which means installing hydrogen storage and pumps at gas stations nationwide. But gas stations don’t want to go to the expense of doing that until they have enough customers who will buy it to make it viable. And customers who would buy it don’t want to get a hydrogen car until there are enough gas stations that can dispense hydrogen to make it practical to own the car.

As hydrogen production becomes cheaper (there’s research going right now on bacteria that produce hydrogen as waste. Get some bacteria, feed them dinner, and you get fuel) this will probably slowly change, but it’s going to take awhile, and the sluggishness won’t be the result of any formal conspiracy.

"The most common chemical to crack for hydrogen is methane. The best place to find large concentrations of methane is in old, spent oil wells. It’s cheaper to extract methane from an existing well than it is to drill a new well and get the oil. "

Not really. There’s a growing glut of methane on the market from all the NEW shale gas wells that have been drilled. Old oil wells are not good sources for methane, the natural gas has long since been produced.

But you’re point’s correct - the petro industry would be the major source of methane for conversion to hydrogen, they’d love to have another market for it.

I just read an interview with Satoshi Ogiso, chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius. Basically Mr. Ogiso is in charge of all non-gasoline/diesel projects for Toyota.

While Hydrogen seems to have disappeared from the public eye, according to Mr. Ogiso it is alive and well at Toyota. They have a number of test cars out and about in Japan.

Today the systems are sort of large and bulky, and expensive at over $100,000 a copy. From what I read Toyota sees this technology coming down to a more reasonable price and the technology being much more ready by 2020.

I believe that hydrogen will one day be a viable method of fueling cars. But not yet. It won’t have a major impact until someone figures out how to produce it in large quantities and at low cost. Just because we can’t do it now does not mean it will never be done.

"The most common chemical to crack for hydrogen is methane. The best place to find large concentrations of methane is in old, spent oil wells. It’s cheaper to extract methane from an existing well than it is to drill a new well and get the oil. "

Methane itself is a perfectly good fuel. A lot of low grade methane with a lot of inert gasses mixed in is currently being burned on site and being converted to elecricity.
One of the land fills in my area generates about 4 megawatts of electric power from the methane coming out of the landfill. This methane is too impure to be sold as natural gas and it used to simply be flared off to get rid of it.

Remember, for every wealthy vested corporate interest conspiring against cleaner, cheaper energy, there are hundreds of wealthy vested corporate interests conspiring to get cleaner, cheaper energy.

Most wealthy businesses are consumers of energy not producers, and any auto company that developed a car that could be fueled for 10% of the cost of today’s cars would rake in the dough by the truck load.

BTW, the same is true in areas such as health care. Oracle and Bank of America would salivate over a $100 cure for cancer.

“Oracle and Bank of America would salivate over a $100 cure for cancer.”

Actually, these do exist. Some cancer drugs that are now generic are so inexpensive that no one wants to make them. Really. The number of patients requiring the drugs is so low that no manufacturer wants to run a production line because they will lose money. This is especially true for pediatric cancer drugs. They are available from other sources, but at a huge mark-up. It appears that the issue is that when a drug becomes generic, the price drops quite a bit. Because it drops quite low, it is often below the cost where manufacturers can make money. But Federal requirements, enacted by Congress (not a federal agency), make it illegal to raise the price to a stable level where it will be produced at a still reasonable cost. I hope Congress does something about it.