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Home-Based Hydrogen Refueling Station

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the burning-down-the-house dept.

Earth 163

Sportsqs writes "One of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles has been the lack of an adequate hydrogen-refueling infrastructure. Beyond a handful of hydrogen stations, such as the one near Los Angeles International Airport, there just isn't anywhere to fill up. Step forward ITM Power, a UK company that has developed a hydrogen refueling station that could be installed at home, providing a ready-made solution for fuel-cell car owners."

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163 comments

Save for the fact... (3, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129037)

...that hydrogen is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with, sounds like a smashing idea!

Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start. Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid. (Which isn't a bad thing if we finally build more nuclear power plants!) As long as the safety concerns of generating hydrogen at home are worked out, I'm all for it.

Re:Save for the fact... (4, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129103)

... that gasoline is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with.

If I spilled 1 gallon of H2 vs 1 gallon of gasoline I'd be a whole lot less careful. The H2 would be gone in an outdoor setting (or with an open garage) in a matter of seconds.

But... (2, Funny)

darklich14 (1308567) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129135)

clearly, imagined fear is far more important than efficiency

Re:But... (1, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129967)

Yep, just look at the recent FISA bill that passed.

Imagined fear is pretty good for eliminating our rights.

Re:But... (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130417)

clearly, imagined fear is far more important than efficiency

You know the ironic part of this thread? I said I was in favor of having home hydrogen fueling stations. Yet clearly I'm a villain because I'm the only one who's NOT ignoring the very real safety issues presented by generating hydrogen in your garage. How evil of me! Being worried that the average Slashdotter doesn't blow himself to kingdom come by accident! :-/

Several folks have mentioned propane tanks as an area where we currently use a highly explosive gas as a fuel. What those posters fail to consider is that the average propane user does not refill his tank at home. Nor does the local gas station. They exchange propane tanks rather than deal with the hazards of recharging an existing pressure tank. In addition, propane tanks are generally kept outdoors for general safety. You'll notice that gas stations use metal-mesh lockers outside to store the tanks. And your gas grill? You probably keep that outside too.

So to reiterate, I love the idea of a personal hydrogen refueling station. My only concern is the safety matters inherit in having such a station in the average homeowner's garage.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24132349)

Oh Look mommy a troll!!

Re:Save for the fact... (4, Insightful)

Sierran (155611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129399)

The problem with this comparison is that at standard temperature and pressure, gasoline is much less dangerous. This is because neither hydrogen or gasoline will burn as a liquid; they will only burn as they vaporize and become gaseous. Now, gasoline does this quickly enough that you can, in fact, light a puddle of gasoline easily as it is vaporizing. Fully vaporized gasoline, though, is more of a low explosive than just a 'flammable substance.' Vaporized hydrogen (also mixed with oxygen) is just as bad if not worse.

Now, let's run that experiment again. If you spill a gallon of liquid hydrogen in your garage, ambient temperature and pressure means it will almost immediately flash-evaporate into explosive gas. Try it yourself: stick two leads from a 9V battery into water in a jar and watch bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen arise from the two leads. Now place a flame over the top of the jar.

No, on second thought, don't do that unless you're in a lab with a flame cabinet and are experienced with lab techniques. But still.

So the issue to me is this: Which is easier to prevent from vaporizing into an explosive? Easy. Gasoline. Just put it in a vessel that's airtight at STP. Make it somewhat sturdy if it gets warm out, but even heavy plastic will work. Hydrogen? Much harder. It's going to be under pressure, or a liquid which is hard to keep cold/pressurized enough to keep it so.

Now, if this system has some way of sequestering the hydrogen into a safe delivery and storage mechanism, that'd be one thing...but...heh.

Re:Save for the fact... (2, Interesting)

Sierran (155611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129413)

Also, I want to know what it does with the oxygen it's going to get. There's a reason that submariners call the oxygen generator (which basically does this, splits water) 'The Bomb.' I'm sure they have an answer, but raw oxygen ain't safer. I guess you could burn it with a pilot light, but, well, no that seems dangerous around this thing. Better have good venting.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129461)

You vent it to the atmosphere. I hear it's good for animals and stuff.

Re:Save for the fact... (2, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130299)

One thing I've often been curious about.

Our atmosphere is 21% Oxygen, 78% Nitrogen, and 1% "Other Gasses." If our cars were to start spitting out oxygen instead of CO2, what would this do the mix?

I remember reading an article years ago talking about higher oxygen content in the atmosphere and it's effect on wildfires. So I wonder what might happen around, say, Los Angeles if all the cars that currently pump out CO2 started pumping out oxygen.

Of course, I hear that breathe pure oxygen is a good cure for hangovers. So there might be some benefits to a higher oxygen content...

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

boteeka (970303) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130547)

Higher O2 content makes you age FASTER. In fact, environments with much higher O2 level than normal are poisonous for humans and animals. O2 is just as poisonous as any other gas. BTW, you can not burn oxygen; the process of burning something means that something gets in reaction with oxygen. Thus, oxygen doesn't get in reaction with oxygen, right? I could be wrong, though...

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131677)

Thus, oxygen doesn't get in reaction with oxygen, right?

Well, single Oxygen atoms can bind with another to become O2, or even become O3 (ozone). IIRC extremely high voltage welding tools can create ozone.. I'm sure someone will call me out on that if it's wrong :P

Re:Save for the fact... (4, Informative)

Pitr (33016) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130611)

They won't start spitting out Oxygen. The electrolosis that generates the hydrogen would create oxygen, but using the hydrogen will re-combine it with oxygen, turning it back to water.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132057)

finally someone that makes sense! people just don't understand the fact that you can't get something for free ;)

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129455)

Try it yourself: stick two leads from a 9V battery into water in a jar and watch bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen arise from the two leads. Now place a flame over the top of the jar.

No, on second thought, don't do that unless you're in a lab with a flame cabinet and are experienced with lab techniques. But still.

I did this once, in 4th grade. A 9V won't make much of anything. If you didn't time it just right everything you made (At most a bell jar full) it was gone.

And to the other reply, what do you plan on 'burning' with the O2?

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

Sierran (155611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129891)

I just want to know what's being done with it. If this device is sitting outside, that's fine. If it's in an enclosed space, then building up O2 is dangerous. If it's inside and vented to outside, that still leaves potential hazards. My basic point is that mucking around with the storage of hydrogen and (potentially) oxygen can be much more dangerous than an electrical lead.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131539)

Platinum (or platinum coated) electrodes work better. And you need to add some salt to the water to get any reasonable reaction rate, since, despite many people's ideas about water, it is actually a pretty poor conductor of electricity.

Re:Save for the fact... (0, Troll)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130167)

Try it yourself: stick two leads from a 9V battery into water in a jar and watch bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen arise from the two leads. Now place a flame over the top of the jar.

No, on second thought, don't do that unless you're in a lab with a flame cabinet and are experienced with lab techniques. But still.

No, no. please do try this experiment. Just make sure you have someone video the whole thing and upload the it to youtube [youtube.com] .

Re:Save for the fact... (2, Interesting)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130463)

One my high school did was to run a tube from the can making the stoichiometric mix of oxygen and hydrogen, and run it under some soapy water.

Being very very sure that the tube was covered with plenty of water, light the bubbles with a burning splint.

Bang! It sounded almost like a .22 rifle.

As you can well imagine, this attracted law enforcement notice.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130471)

Argh... "One my high school" Chemistry teacher "did". Curse the typos that are invisible until the "Submit" button is pressed.

Re:Save for the fact... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130569)

or you could do something like these fine folks
http://www.switch2hydrogen.com/h2.htm
http://www.switch2hydrogen.com/h2new.htm

where they are working on the storage problem with some great success. now only if they would start selling their product

Re:Save for the fact... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130865)

Remember, there are also millions of homes that currently have a propane tank sitting in their yard. While this is not a direct analogy to a hydrogen tank, it is pretty close. And over the years that propane tanks have been in household yards, the accident rate is still low enough to still have them there.... So there shouldn't be too much fear if someone explains it along those lines...

Re:Save for the fact... (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129709)

Sierran already explained the situation fairly well, but I think it bears repeating. One of the primary advantages of gasoline is that it is an extremely safe fuel. Gasoline does NOT explode and is actually quite difficult to burn. It's only once you give gasoline time to evaporate that you have a problem. Fumes from gasoline are far more flammable and explosive than liquid gasoline. (I'm sure you can find some yahoo friend who can demonstrate the trick of putting a match out by dunking it in a barrel of gas.)

Hydrogen on the other hand does not have a liquid form at temperatures that are attainable by household equipment. As a result, it easily vaporizes and mixes with oxygen to create the perfect situation for an explosion. One spark and POOF! you're dead. I do NOT recommend attempting the match trick with a container of hydrogen.

Furthermore, hydrogen for vehicular use is usually kept in a highly compressed form. The fueling equipment will somehow need to pressurize your car's fuel tank with the hydrogen in a safe and economical fashion. That's nowhere near as easy as it is with gasoline, where we simply pump a liquid. This makes the hydrogen pump that much more dangerous to work with. (Being in a home environment, one of my first concerns is children playing with the equipment when their parents aren't watching.)

So to summarize:
Gasoline == Safe Fuel
Hydrogen == Dangerous Fuel

Now if you'll excuse me, my head is going to go have a rather painful talk with my desk about mods modding the wrong people around here. :-/

Re:Save for the fact... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130063)

Seriously, I'd like to know where you got your facts from.

First off, gas isn't typically stored indoors, so I'm not sure why hydrogen would be.
Second off, hydrogen dissipates by default, and gas fumes tend to collect in low areas.
Third off, propane is not a liquid by default either, yet somehow that blows up a lot less often than gas does. Even though the propane tanks are frequently handled with a lot less care than gas tanks are.
Fourth off, the hydrogen cylinders aren't going to rupture in a dangerous way as frequently as gas tanks do for the simple reason that they can be designed to fail in a controlled fashion a lot more easily that liquid containers can. Plus on top of that it's relatively straightforward to design a stress release and emergency discharge. Try doing that with a gas tank.

It is true that gas in its liquid state is hard to light on fire, and that there is a relatively narrow range within which it's actually flammable, but it sticks around a lot longer to find that mix than hydrogen does. And when a gas tank ruptures the fumes do not dissapate on their own very quickly.

Propane cars haven't caused these sorts of problems.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130137)

First off, gas isn't typically stored indoors, so I'm not sure why hydrogen would be.

You mean, like a garage? Granted, most folks wouldn't have any gas in their garage other than in their car's tank. (Though they might have a container for their mower.) However, they might have one of these hydrogen fueling stations in their garage. Which is what has me concerned. I'm in no way concerned about hydrogen in general.

In fact, hydrogen is very safe out in the open because of the fact that it blows upward so quickly. It's enclosed spaces that we need to worry about. Liiiiikkkeeee.... a hydrogen fueling station in your garage, perhaps?

Plus on top of that it's relatively straightforward to design a stress release and emergency discharge. Try doing that with a gas tank.

Gas tanks are not under pressure, so there's no need for an emergency discharge. In fact, the results of such a discharge would be LESS desirable than containing it as they'd help spread a fire rather than put it out. This is in direct opposition to the failure mode of hydrogen. Hydrogen will produce a brilliant flame as it vents, but it will be gone in a moment. As long as you're in the open it isn't a problem.

But in a garage...

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131711)

In fact, hydrogen is very safe out in the open because of the fact that it blows upward so quickly. It's enclosed spaces that we need to worry about. Liiiiikkkeeee.... a hydrogen fueling station in your garage, perhaps?

The solution here seems pretty simple. Put the business end of the fueling station outside the house (heck, way down in the back yard) and run a pipe into the garage.

(Much like the way other on-site household gas supplies are implemented.)

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132159)

Except that the "Business End" of ANY Hydrogen refueling station is....

The end of the pipe that you refuel from!

Hydrogen as a fuel alternative to Gasoline is NEITHER as economical OR as safe as plain old gasoline. It just isn't. Maybe someday in the future, if we develop the technology further, but NOT anytime within AT LEAST 20 years.

Face it; Right now the only semi-viable alternatives we have are biodiesel and electric. BOTH have serious problems of scale due to transportation and storage issues (biodiesel), grid weakness (electric) and production and capacity issues (both).

To be blunt, the ONLY short-term solution is to DRILL MORE OIL. There just isn't any other way around it in the SHORT term. Now, If we follow McCain's plan and build more Nuclear-based Electric capacity and build out the grid (in America and around the world) Then reasonably clean electric is the mid-term solution and possibly a long-term one as well.

Unfortunately, I think bio-diesel is going to run afoul of the same issues Ethanol has, but for small-scale projects I can see it working well. Personally, I would love to be able to get a small Diesel SUV and just make my own bio-diesel. Unfortunately, in NY state our laws are so mired in bureaucracy that we can't even GET those small diesel passenger vehicles. (unless already used).

Oh, and in case anyone cares, I would also LOVE to see a nuke power plant in my area. I live in WNY, and we have a big dirty coal-fired power plant here that really should be replaced by a nice clean nuke plant. I'd love to see that. Big beautiful twin curvy nuke towers to replace the ugly rusty coal-blackened steel gantry stacks. That would be GREAT!

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130177)

I'm sure you can find some yahoo friend who can demonstrate the trick of putting a match out by dunking it in a barrel of gas.

I'm sorry my friend, but I don't know anybody stupid enough to attempt that one. If you feel this can be done safely, be my guest. Your local hospital has a triage ward for burn victims with a nice comfy bed waiting just for you. But wait, there's more, we still are accepting applications for next years Darwin awards. So hurry now, grab that can of gasoline and any book of matches and get to work.

Ok now, back to reality. Once upon a time, gasoline was considered too dangerous to be used as a fuel. Well, that problem was solved and the rest is history.

This is now the dawn of a new era. Fossil fuels will eventually run out and alternative fuels will be necessary if we wish our modern culture to continue and survive. I'm sure all these kinks will be worked out eventually and before you know it, you will be puttering around town in you new hydrogen fueled automobile. Unless of course you burn your self to a crisp playing drinking games with matches and gasoline.

-----

Politicians and Diapers need changed often
For the same reasons

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130215)

I'm not worried about the fuel. I'm worried about the fueling station. Having a hydrogen device in your garage does not strike me as a very safe thing to do unless very specific precautions are taken.

I'm sorry my friend, but I don't know anybody stupid enough to attempt that one.

I've seen half a dozen such posts here on Slashdot, so it shouldn't be too hard to find some damn fool. Just stand back while they do it. Oh, and make sure they're doing it in the open? ;-)

Re:Save for the fact... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24131353)

Does anyone advocate the installation of gasoline stations in private homes? No one does it because they are dangerous. Shouldn't we measure the hydrogen risks by the same standard of precaution?

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131851)

***If I spilled 1 gallon of H2 vs 1 gallon of gasoline I'd be a whole lot less careful. The H2 would be gone in an outdoor setting (or with an open garage) in a matter of seconds.***

Hydrogen in a garage is going to behave very much like natural gas (but without the mercaptans that give gas its odor). At least short term. It's going to rise and concentrate under the roof. Except that the range of explosive concentrations looks to be much broader for Hydrogen than for Natural Gas. Going to lose a few garages I fear should home Hydrogen refueling stations become practical. The movies notwithstanding, accidentally igniting gasoline is not especially easy. That's why most automobile crashes -- even those that compromise the fuel system -- do not result in fires.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

failure-man (870605) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129219)

You already pipe methane into your house and haul around ~100kg of gasoline everywhere you go. You're worried about . . . . what exactly?

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130735)

You already pipe methane into your house and haul around ~100kg of gasoline everywhere you go. You're worried about . . . . what exactly?

Try turning on (please don't) your house gas and after a short time light a match then if you survive try the same thing with opening a can of petrol in a closed garage and lighting a match. The petrol explosion while spectacular will not look anywhere as good as the methane or natural gas one. If you somehow survive this try the same experiment with hydrogen. The resulting explosion will be very spectacular it will most likely get your neighbours involved as well :-)

On a scale of 1 to 10 diesel fumes (if you could stand the smell) would be a 1 while petrol fumes would be a 3, methane and natural gas would be a 6 and hydrogen would be a 10. Of course these are fairly rubbery figures but I would not like to be anywhere near when someone provides a flammable source, although it would be a great way of giving up smoking.

Since I brought up smell the following list may save your life.

  1. Diesel fumes - fairly strong walk away.
  2. Petrol fumes - strong but some people get addicted to it - run or stagger away.
  3. Methane - no smell - you won't even know your going to die.
  4. Natural and town gas - additives added so you can smell it - run away.
  5. Hydrogen - no smell - ignited with oxygen in an enclosed space results in water plus a demolished building. Again you won't even know your going to die.

Re:Save for the fact... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129301)

Great. Unless you have some unused energy source (like solar panels on the roof), you are taking three efficiency hits. One on the power plant making the electricity (~35% efficiency), one on the efficiency of this apparatus, and one on the efficiency of your car (even a fuel cell car won't get >50%). Lets say this apparatus is 80% efficient, then your total efficiency will be around 14%. This is worse than an internal combustion engine.

In contrast, a reformed fuel cell car will use hydrocarbons directly but still have about 50% efficiency. This apparatus is only a green option for those who have large solar panels. I intentionally didn't cite people who get their electricity from nuclear power or hydropower because electricity is fungible. Your overuse of power means that it won't be exported to other areas to combat fossil fuel use.

A better option for those who don't own solar panels is a plug-in, internally-reformed fuel cell hybrid. You can charge the batteries for short trips and use hydrocarbons at high efficiency for longer trips. Electric engines and decent batteries typically get higher than 80% efficiency (if you aren't flash discharging) so your efficiency will be about twice what you would get by making your own hydrogen.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

theglassishalf (216497) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129459)

Nuclear is less cost-effective than wind, especially when one takes into account total life cycle costs and interest on capital costs.

The MIT study is best, but I can't find it right now. This will have to do:
http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/6/13/11021/6597 [grist.org]

Re:Save for the fact... (3, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129517)

Nuclear is less cost-effective than wind, especially when one takes into account total life cycle costs and interest on capital costs.

Get rid of all the stupid lawsuits, and the capital costs drop to 1/10th of that. All the utilities are basing their costs on the limerick experience, which just kept getting sued and halted over and over again by the fruitcakes until it cost too much. So its really like smashing someone's car in, and then saying, you can't drive because the windshield's broken.

Re:Save for the fact... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130031)

This is another bullshit piece that gets spread around. If nuclear was so expensive, a country like France that makes 80% of its electrical power from nuclear power would be bankrupt. And the investment in wind power which requires almost no permits whatsoever would by far exceed that in nuclear power. This isn't happening. What wind advocates fail to recognize is that these big investments are over a 50 year lifespan for the nuclear plant. $6 billion for a 1.1 GWe plant that operates at 90% uptime over 50 years means that the capital costs come to account for only $0.014/kw-hr. This is dirt cheap. Operation, maintenance, and distribution costs increase this value so that nuclear is only competitive with coal. Wind plant power is nowhere even close. Yes, wind advocates like to toss out scary numbers like $5000/kw in capital costs. It doesn't sound so scary when it comes down to $10/kw per year of operation though.

Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130235)

s/10/100/

This typo doesn't change the penny per kwh value of capital costs (obviously since $0.01 * 24 * 365 ~= $100) .

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130345)

I'm not saying you're wrong, but:
1) Is $6 billion for building the plant?
2) The price for the fuel is accounted for in operation?
3) Does this include the price for storage of waste, deconstruction and safe handling of the rest of the plant, sanitation/some sort of making the crushed ore more safe and radioactive material not reach the ground water, more things I haven't thought of?

Atleast with wind power you sort of know what it will cost. The storage cost for a nuclear plant sounds sort of unknown and similair with if you let the ore leak various crap into your ground water or environment. Something a wind power plant of course won't do.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#24133287)

Atleast with wind power you sort of know what it will cost.

No, you don't. You aren't taking maintenance of an essentially mechanical process into account, plus the MASSIVE amount of space that a wind farm takes, plus (and this is the biggie) The essential UNreliability of wind power! There are tons of hidden costs related to reliability that make the reliability of a power source a PRIME concern.

Wind will never ever ever ever be the solution. Why? Because Wind is NOT a stable and reliable power source. It's fine as an ADDITIVE to an existing baseline source, but it is NOT capable of providing long-term baseline level power on a large scale. No matter WHAT the eco sites may say, it is not practical. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you a lie.

Nuclear, on the other hand, can provide, safe, clean, baseline power for YEARS to come while we work on the highly complex issues of cold fusion. I have no doubt that we will have cold fusion (if you will excuse the pun) down cold by the time we are running out of FISSABLE material.

Nuclear Electric is the way to go for the forseeable future. yes, it's more expensive to build than a wind farm, but it's more practical and reliable. Also, costs can be brought down significantly (at least in the US) if the sitting president declares that Energy Independence is a National Security issue and sweeps aside all the lefty NIMBY special interest groups. We could get those Nuke plants built MUCH more cheaply if we didn't have to deal with NIMBYs.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130105)

Wind power can't be used for base power production. Whereas nuclear can.

Wind is a great choice, but it will never be the dominant choice, it's just way to inconsistent to be used that way. The investment in batteries and storage is unlikely ever to be low enough to justify the cost.

Nuclear power is cheap, effective and reliable, the arguments to the contrary are usually based upon old knowledge by people that have never studied the technology.

In most cases the fuel rods can be recycled for further use. Any dangerously radioactive material is still radioactive enough, in most cases to be refined for further use.

If you factor in that along with the reduced costs of radioactive waste storage and the price for it goes down and quickly. The other things is that if it were being used there would be more study of the technology and there's almost certainly room for efficiency gains over the plants in service today in the US.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

too2late (958532) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131741)

extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with, sounds like a smashing idea!

sounds like propane.... i can't believe millions of people have a tank full of it right next to their house with it exploding constantly like it does

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131757)

...that hydrogen is extremely flammable, often explosive, and very dangerous to work with, sounds like a smashing idea!

I would never use it in a million years. Way to dangerous. Quite simply put, the risk is not worth the reward.

Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start. Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid. (Which isn't a bad thing if we finally build more nuclear power plants!) As long as the safety concerns of generating hydrogen at home are worked out, I'm all for it.

Hmmmm. There is a couple of things in the statement I have a problem with:

1) Pushing the energy requirements to the grid is not a good thing. It is a little shortsighted. Don't get me wrong, I am not insulting you at all. You clearly want to do something to help the environment and I love your motivations. It's just that even IF everyone used hydrogen cars and had the home fueling stations it would cause a huge increase in demand from the grid. The energy has to come from somewhere, and that might not be as clean. You are not only pushing the energy requirements to the grid, but also the environmental responsibilities to the grid too. There are just not that many ways to cleanly generate that much power which brings me to....

2) Build more nuclear power plants. I have to admit I am on the fence about this one. Newer reactor technology is a heck of lot safer and there have been some developments in other technologies to handle the nuclear waste better. However, the controversy, security concerns, and costs of deploying enough nuclear reactors in the US makes the whole idea wishful thinking. You would need a lot of reactors too, which means several dozen "not in my backyard" battles between the states.

3) Safety of generating and storing hydrogen in the home. Well it's not safe. I don't think it can be worked out either. The average American is a "fucking idiot". I am not trolling here, but SERIOUSLY very few people can deal with the technology they have safely. I am reminded of Tim Allen and Foxworthy. I include myself in this statement as well. I have only a basic idea of how combustion engine works and would be nervous about messing around with my water heater. Compressed hydrogen is just too dangerous of a responsibility for most people. An accident is inevitable and it will be spectacular.

This reminds me of the Ford Pinto. Any car running off compressed hydrogen is a BOMB. This is not FUD either. I may be wrong, but the reason why the cars that are coming out with this only go 15 miles is that they have kept the container small and for good reason.

I would wait for some other technologies to be fully realized. I recently read about metal hydrides storing hydrogen safely and with vastly increased densities [wikipedia.org] . Even more interesting is foregoing the need to store hydrogen altogether and produce it on demand [physorg.com] .

Now if we did use the on demand hydrogen production technology it would require tremendous amounts of energy which would put us back to step one which is ultimately pushing the energy requirement to the grid. More nuclear power plants would be required. It would have to nuclear since an alternative non-renewable source like coal is a "stupid" resource. I say stupid since it's really a step backwards and counterproductive towards the goal of preserving the environment. The only real alternatives are natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal.

Natural gas is also non-renewable and there is quite a nasty secret surrounding it as well. It will be gone in 15-20 years. Natural gas is worse than hydrogen as far as transporting is concerned. We don't transport natural gas by truck. Ever. Do some research and you will find just how much natural gas is being produced, found, and planned exploration. There are pipelines criss crossing the US and as of right now there is only approx. 2,000 billion BCF of gas in the pipelines [doe.gov] . Natural gas has increased in cost by TEN TIMES in 10 years approx. Forget about using that in the future to generate electricity to the grid. I have heard plans about creating new natural gas tankers to ship it across oceans, but WHEN, not if one of those explodes it will make a fuel bomb look like a small firecracker. They are only interested in doing so since they know that natural gas should be trading at $30+ in 10 years. Of course I could be wrong, but I have not heard about any huge gas field discoveries that can create the 10K+ BCF necessary to satisfy future demand on this continent.

The rest is renewable resources but creating the capacity in the short term to service the existing energy requirements is hard enough. To add the new requirements of generating the energy for transportation would not be practical.

Our best bet is electrical cars and pushing hard for the development of better battery technologies. I think it would be far more efficient to just change out batteries automatically from the bottom of our cars at recharging stations. The recharging stations themselves could then be open to any technology they wanted. I would bet they could even burn regular gasoline far more efficiently then we ever could with a car and with less emissions. Since they could be using multiple technologies concurrently it would help even out the price too. Just as airlines use long term contracts to save on fuel costs, the recharging stations could do the same. There is a huge benefit to the auto manufacturers too since they can create a standardized interface and chassis for the batteries. The auto manufacturers could stop worrying about the battery technology and just assume that X amount of energy will be present. They could even make it modular and large SUV's would have several more battery bays than a smaller economy car. I may be oversimplifying it a bit, but I am sure there would be a large number of benefits to doing it this way.

In any event I am not strapping a container of compressed hydrogen under my butt anytime soon.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132129)

....makes the whole idea wishful thinking...

Even with the best of intentions, basically ALL alternative energy sources are wishful thinking at present. I don't say that means we shouldn't think about them, and work toward implementing them, but we cannot forget about keeping ourselves going in the meantime until the years of research, investment, and construction that go into completely cycling our power supply come about. We cannot afford to sit around twiddling our thumbs saying 'the age of fossil fuels is dead because we have some better ideas.' at least not until these better ideas as actually generating power, and not just in a lab somewhere or in an article linked to from slashdot.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

smartin (942) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131801)

"Not only because it provides a convenient source of fuel, but also because it pushes the energy requirements to the grid.

This is exactly right, for most people energy takes two useable forms.
      1) The Grid
      2) Fuel

In order to get our dependence off oil, we need to first concentrate on the grid. It is an efficient distribution mechanism that can be fed from many different points in many different ways. We need to drive the cost of feeding the grid down by expanding renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc.

The other form of energy is fuel, fuel represents stored energy and should only be used in places where the grid is not accessible such as for mobile applications. The current problem with fuel is that it is incredibly dirty and current fuel sources are finite. Any future fuel alternative should be clean and easily obtained. Batteries and hydrogen are two obvious answers. Using batteries is a decent solution as they run cleanly and can be charged from the grid. Unfortunately they are very dirty to create and dispose of. Hydrogen on the other hand is extremely clean to produce from the grid (assuming that the grid is fed in a clean fashion) and extremely clean to dispose of, the planet handles it automatically. This is not to say that hydrogen is the perfect solution (at least not yet) as there are issues to address such as storage and production where water is not easily available, but these issues are not insurmountable. Wired had an issue a few years ago that suggested that the US should embark on a Manhattan Project to address the main barriers to a hydrogen economy. They estimated that it would cost something like $10 billion over 10 years. Of course this seemed like a lot before some idiot spent close to a trillion dollars invading a foreign oil producing country and quadrupaled the price of oil.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132501)

Methane is pretty flammable, explosive, and dangerous to work with, but I have a big pipe of it coming right into my apartment!

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132511)

aka, check out some of the reports on electric cars. They have over and over shown that the grid can handle electric cars because the underlying belief is that nearly all of the energy pull will be at night. IOW, the power plants AND grid could handle converting transportation to electrical or even hydrogen. Though converting to hydrogen is the absolute worse thing that we could do. FAR TOOOO INEFFICIENT. It is even less efficient than using lead acid batteries.

Re:Save for the fact... (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 5 years ago | (#24133291)

Seriously though, I think a home fueling station would be a great start.

Why bother having common people make their own fuel? It's a little too far beyond the tipping point, IMHO. Might as well have existing gas stations retrofitted to generate hydrogen on-site taking advantage of the economy of scale to generate it efficiently overseen by trained individuals. A lot of the safety issues either go away or get mitigated.

More important is this means no infrastructure (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129051)

With something like this, any normal fueling station can become a Hydrogen vendor without having to arrange a supply of hydrogen.

It might not be the cheapest way to make and sell the stuff on every corner, but it may be the most feasible.

Re:More important is this means no infrastructure (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129495)

not really - the advantage of a home fueling system is you distribute the production capacity around a greater number of nodes so that each node only has to produce a comparatively small volume. A "station" cannot produce a small volume and do good business; electrolysis is extremely energy intensive and to make any reasonable dent in offsetting rising demand, you'd need to be pretty well situated near a substantial power supply.

Re:More important is this means no infrastructure (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130389)

Sorry for getting of topic but I just have to ask when you say that electrolysis is extremely energy intensive.

I've seen all those bullshit "omg run your car on water"-apparatus on youtube as, uhm, bullshit, since obviously to use electrolysis to convert the water into hydrogen and oxygen and then burn it in your regular combustion engine won't have an efficiency over 100% and therefor it fails.

But I haven't wanted to say that I'm 100% sure the engine as such can't run more efficient due to the added oxygen and hydrogen into the gasoline mixture (that is I'm 100% sure it fails as a water only car, but what about "water" + gasoline?)

Does anyone know if this makes the engine run more efficient FOR BURNING GASOLINE?

I don't know how cars works but if the generators run on the wheels while breaking and therefor picks up some in other cases lost energy to the battery and use that for the electrolysis I guess it could be seen as some sort of hybrid but a very crappy one which however don't need an electronic motor.

Re:More important is this means no infrastructure (1)

bpkiwi (1190575) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130847)

Water injection is used in some internal combustion systems to improve efficiency, but is actually operating as a coolant rather than as a combustion agent.

Reclaiming lost energy from the brakes is plausible, and I believe most hybrids do exactly that, however it's a fine balance as the weight of the reclamation system can often negate the energy saving.

Re:More important is this means no infrastructure (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#24133213)

But in this case it's not water, it's hydrogen + oxygen and sure fusing them must should heat the environment? Or?

Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129055)

This device can only provide enough hydrogen for a 25 mile journey with overnight operation. Battery powered cars get better results with the same amount of charge time, and no one is going crazy to buy them. At $4K, this is a pricy way to make a hydrogen car work less efficiently than an electric car.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (2, Insightful)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129231)

This device can only provide enough hydrogen for a 25 mile journey with overnight operation. Battery powered cars get better results with the same amount of charge time, and no one is going crazy to buy them. At $4K, this is a pricy way to make a hydrogen car work less efficiently than an electric car.

The thing is, electric cars need batteries, which are big, potentially dangerous in an accident, and difficult to dispose of when they wear out. It's relatively easy to convert existing engines to run on hydrogen (or natural gas, see below), so the automakers have an easier time switching over their productin lines, and in an sufficiently serious accident the fuel dissipates into the atmosphere quickly (making it safer than gasoline).

In the short run, natural gas might be a good stepping stone to hydrogen. Yes, it will run out eventually, but IIRC you can convert an engine between them without much more effort than switching a home appliance between propane and natural gas. Lots of buses and delivery trucks run on natural gas already; in fact there's a "public" refueling station just a mile from my St. Louis home (but, when I inquired a few weeks ago, they only accept fleet credit cards).

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

failure-man (870605) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129253)

Better: crack natural gas for the hydrogen in something like this. (Which is MUCH more efficient than electrolysis.) When we have better, renewable ways the cars will already be in place.

Plus, fuel cells are a hell of a lot more efficient than otto cycle engines anyway.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129793)

Better: crack natural gas for the hydrogen in something like this. (Which is MUCH more efficient than electrolysis.) When we have better, renewable ways the cars will already be in place.

Which is what 99% of fuel cells do. The big myth is that fuel cells are carbon neutral devices. The truth is that while it is possible to operate this way (and this is cited endlessly), in the vast majority of cases the only reasonable implementation is to use a reformer--a device that strips hydrogen from hydrocarbons. Thus, most fuel cells release CO2 just like internal combustion engines, albeit at a much lower rate.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130413)

and in an sufficiently serious accident the fuel dissipates into the atmosphere quickly (making it safer than gasoline).

http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=608999&cid=24129709 [slashdot.org]
http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=608999&cid=24129399 [slashdot.org]

*gets the popcorn*

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131233)

The thing is, electric cars need batteries, which are big, potentially dangerous in an accident, and difficult to dispose of when they wear out.

1. If you cut out all the bulk from an internal cumbustion engine and gearbox etc., you end up with a much smaller system, even counting the battery.
2. I wouldn't say they're particularly more danerous than a heavy engine or the fuel tank.
3. Recycling a NiMH battery is fairly straightforward, and economically lucrative, esepecially for something that could power a car.

It's relatively easy to convert existing engines to run on hydrogen (or natural gas, see below), so the automakers have an easier time switching over their productin lines

It would be rediculously cheap to switch prodution to electric vehicles. The reason for the automakes resistance is the tremendous lobbying from OEMs, and the fact that it would mean cheaper cars, less profit and less work. The amount of manual labour it takes to assemble a car engine is huge.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (2, Informative)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131699)

And Honda has had a natural gas powered civic on the road for many years already, it is considered the cleanest internal combustion engine ever produced. On top of that they also have a home refueling station you can lease as well called a Phill. It hooks right up to your home gas line.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132977)

Yeah, I was looking into buying one. The first problem is that dealers only have them in stock in NY and California; I was planning to check with local dealers to see if there would be any service issues. But the bigger problem was that the local gas utility isn't able to accept my credit card. (In their defense, they are working to fix that; they'd like to get my money.) And the cost of the Phill added to the cost of the car pushed everything over my budget.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#24133131)

I've seen them in Ohio... but of course I live about an hour from where the vehicles are built and I know the factory has it's own refueling station. It could just be employees driving them or pool cars.

There are very few unique components between a normal Civic and a CNG, I doubt there would be any service issues.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (2, Interesting)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129339)

I don't travel 25 miles on most days and we are a two car family. We could convert 1 car over and it would work pretty well for us.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129615)

Not exactly related to my central thesis: That electric cars can already do this.
You could get an electric car just as easily, more so, since finding a plug in an emergency would be relatively trivial, if time-consuming to charge. And just because you *usually* don't need the range doesn't mean it will sell to people who buy cars for what they *might* need. Witness the SUV boom of the past decade. What percentage of those people used the vehicle for off-road purposes even once? Now consider the number of people who, semi-regularly, exceed 25 miles of driving in a day. Do you really think people will voluntarily:
  • Pay more for the car
  • Pay an extra $4000 up front just to be *able* to fuel the car
  • For a vehicle with reduced range and increased fill time
  • On a technology that is only one of several options (potentially ending up the same way HD-DVD and BetaMax customers did)

I'll bet you four thousand dollars they won't. :-)

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130523)

Yes, I take your point and at that price right now, not for me either. I semi-regularly, exceed 25 miles of driving in a day, but I could save the fuel from low milage days ... still wouldn't completely suit without the second gas driven car though, so you're right. I've considered an ethanol powered motorbike for travel to work, but more as a fun project than for practical value.

Re:Why not go electric at this rate of fill? (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130133)

The real question is - what is its capacity? Can it continue to produce and store hydrogen while you're at work for the day? How long before it can't continue to produce hydrogen and needs to be emptied? I think the device would be feasible for many people; in a 24-hour period, I'd expect it to be able to produce 2 or 3 times more than the nebulous "overnight" concept. And, if it has at least a decent amount of storage, you wouldn't need it to handle your peak capacity, just something slightly over your daily average. If you drive 15 miles each way to work, and it can produce 50 miles of fuel per day, you could still take a 200-mile round trip every weekend. Your 3 month/3000 mile recommended oil change is equal at an average of 40 miles per day, well within the likely production capacity of this device. And most people I know hit the 3 months before the 3000 miles. (There are certainly people who hit the mileage first, but it sounds like in general, a currently-feasible hydrogen-powered car wouldn't have an acceptable range for them anyway, even with a well-established fueling network.)

Save for the other fact... (1)

darklich14 (1308567) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129075)

Hydrogen is still just an energy medium -- not a source. Say that hydrogen generator runs at 2kW (similar to an A/C unit), and it takes about 2h to generate enough H2 to run you for 100m... Oh wait.. that's like 25 cents ~ 1/4 penny a mile........

Re:Save for the other fact... (2, Informative)

bpkiwi (1190575) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130901)

That it isn't an energy source is a point worth repeating, because people can forget it. However, it is an energy storage method which can reduce our needs for base-load power generation.

Imagine if this was successfully and safely scaled up to powering your house as well as your car. Now, you can run your power grid off solar and wind power because the intermittent supply would not affect you. You can also load balance power demands much more easily and prevent brown-outs, and in the event of a long term power supply issue people can ship in stored gas to keep the lights on.

But it's still not a Mr. Fusion! (1)

phxhawke (35260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129087)

I still await that day when all I have to do is open up my Mr. Coffee-like power generator and put my scraps in.

Initial vs. Long Term (1)

McGuirk (1189283) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129093)

It seems that these days people are very short-sighted, and paying a one time $4000 fee (plus small electric fees) will scare them away. Nevermind gas leaking that much out of their wallets in a few months, average Joe won't think clear enough for this to catch on quick. Well, I could always be wrong, and hope I am, but people and their actions have made me jaded over the years.

Re:Initial vs. Long Term (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129161)

It seems that these days people are very short-sighted, and think that hydrogen powered cars are going to be available to them on a mass scale in the near future. Nevermind not a single manufacturer has announced any such mass production of cars, non average Joe who will be the first to get any such car won't think $4000 is that much to pay on top of a $100,000 car so this will catch on quick. Well, I'm not wrong, but people and their posts have made me jaded over the years.

But far from the only barrier (4, Informative)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129147)

One of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles has been the lack of an adequate hydrogen-refueling infrastructure.

What hype. Gee, they can make hydrogen from water and electricity. This is news? It's important to note that this home system claims to be able to give a hydrogen power car a 25 mile ability to travel. Which works out to a maximum destination of half that without a way to refuel until you get home. Also worth noting is that another tiny little barrier to a hydrogen powered car is that the current fuel cells used in hydrogen cars drives the price of the car to over $1,000,000 US per car (Ownership of the few existing prototypes is being retained by the auto companies because they can't realistically sell them.) Sure, the companies say that they hope to drive the price down to $40,000, but they don't ever seem to give any data to explains how they came up with that number.

While it would be interesting if the hope of making cost effective fuel cells became reality (it might not), it certainly seems more desirable, more practical and safer to not got through the hydrogen separation process in the first place. If the effort expended on fuel cell development were instead focused on battery, super capacitor and other electricity storage technology, a car could likely be recharged with electricity at home rather than being refueled with hydrogen. The range would be much greater (heck, it's already much greater than the 25 mile total travel capacity stated in the article), and a number of other problems would be avoided as well, including the problem of storing that hydrogen (it tends to leak out of anything and you don't want thick walled compressed gas tanks burning up range with their weight), and it is extremely dangerous in gas form in an accident.

And I say this completely expecting some eco-geek will mod me down because they didn't think through the hydrogen issue and think it's a good thing.

Re:But far from the only barrier (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129419)

They can drive the price down at will. The cost of materials to manufacture the car in a factory is well below $40k, the thing is, you need to sell enough of them to justify the research and development expenses at that price.

Re:But far from the only barrier (3, Informative)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129641)

Wrong. The technology used in the fuel cells is just not there yet. For one reference see the current on-line Scientific American, who have an article on this which states "Toyota hopes to reduce its costs per fuel cell vehicle to around $50,000 by 2015. And note the word hopes, this may never happen, while battery capacity can already beat the range given in the article, and with this same research effort would very likely do far far better. And no need to build hydrogen fuel stations, jut some way to recharge cars when on a long trip.

Re:But far from the only barrier (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129753)

I don't have any data to go on, but I'd be curious about the total cost of ownership over the same lifetime of a battery powered car versus a fuel cell. Those batteries don't last for ever and they aren't "cheap" by any stretch of the imagination - and they're certainly not light on mass; Li-ion is discounted because it is not cost effective in bulk (yet).

Re:But far from the only barrier (1)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132293)

Sure, the companies say that they hope to drive the price down to $40,000, but they don't ever seem to give any data to explains how they came up with that number.

They don't really need to explain it.

That spoooky high number comes from the fact that they've made a few hundred prototypes by hand, and factored the engineering costs into it. It has nothing to do with the actual cost of parts or mass-production, which should realistically not come out all that much higher than any other mass-produced car...

H2 vehicles have only two big additional expenses over ICEs - The oft-mentioned "expensive" catalysts, which only really add a few hundred dollars to the cost, and battery arrays (if applicable), which can add up to a few thousand. Certainly nothing even close to a million dollars, and the rest of the drivetrain arguably costs less than an ICE (you basically have no engine, no transmission, no emissions control, no breaks... Just batteries, two/four electric motors, and a PEM stack.

bad idea (1)

dave1g (680091) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129187)

home electrolysis is a horrible idea, unless its a renewable or maybe nuclear source the electricity is coming from

The inefficieny is staggering (0)

l2718 (514756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129271)

Indeed: instead of burning oil in the engine of a car, converting the heat to motion, it is proposed that we burn oil in the power plant, convert this to electricity, conduct the electricity to the home, use this to separate water, and finally burn the hydrogen in the car?

Re:The inefficieny is staggering (3, Insightful)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129557)

Without going off reading the link provided by narf314 there, another oft overlooked advantage is the centralization of energy consumption. With hydrogen cars running from grid-power generated H2, what was formerly two forms of energy consumption (burning coal separate from burning oil) now becomes one. By combining the two, you now have one problem to solve instead of two: improve the efficiency and renewable resources going into grid power. There is nothing doing with regard to burning oil in 200 million cars, but something can darn well be done about 10,000 power plants (or however many we have).

Re:bad idea (1)

narf314 (932332) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129315)

I've heard numerous comments to that effect but from what I've read, that is flat out wrong. See Debunking the Myth of EVs and Smokestacks [electroauto.com] That particular article covers electric vehicles but as argued above, fuel cells and tanks are essentially equivalent to battery storage in their efficiency.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24129895)

your skipping electrolysis which is extremely energy intensive. it takes all night to generate enough h2 for 25 miles. assuming the unit is moderately energy efficient its still a massive energy investment for not much resultant power. It would be a pretty heavy strain on the grid if many people got these things.

Re:bad idea (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129543)

I agree. There is an incredible lack of thought among people who propose hydrogen gas from electrolysis, or even just electricity, as an energy source for cars. They fail to take into account the sheer amount of energy we derive from fossil fuels.

Each gallon of gasoline provides at combustion around 125 x 10^6 Joules of energy. If you travel at 60mph and get 25 miles per gallon on average, that means that in one second you will have consumed 60 mph = .02 miles/second / 25 mpg = consumption of .0008 gallons of fuel per second = (125 x 10^6 Joules/gallon / .0008 gallons/second) around 100,000 Watts of energy, or 100 kW. Much of which is wasted in heat, noise, vibration, etc, but some of which actually powers your car (the "rated" horsepower or kW of the engine).

Do you have ANY idea how much electricity your vehicle needs to store to be able to provide a sustained power output of 100kW (assuming electrical engine efficiencies are close to those of internal combustion engines)?

Now you want to multiply this by how many cars, every night, plugging into the national power grid? A power grid which currently is breaking under the strain of millions of 1000W toasters, irons, ovens, etc? You want to add millions of CARS that need millions of Watts EACH? Or better yet, you want to use a process that is far less than 100% efficient (electrolysis) to try and get that amount of energy from hydrogen? Then it's going to "cost" you the energy you need PLUS the inefficiency.

There is NO substitute for crude oil. NONE. It is IMPOSSIBLE, no matter how many "nuclear" power plants you want to build. Hydrogen from natural gas comes close, but still energy is required to obtain it - similar to the fact that crude oil needs energy to be refined. Fair enough. But frankly once the oil is gone, our "free ride" is over. Oil companies aren't "stalling" at trying to find an alternative energy source. THERE ISN'T ONE. Poor horses, looks like we will need them again.

Re:bad idea (2, Insightful)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130481)

Do you have ANY idea how much electricity your vehicle needs to store to be able to provide a sustained power output of 100kW (assuming electrical engine efficiencies are close to those of internal combustion engines)?

They are not, modern electric motors are around 93% efficient. Factor of close to 5 better.

You want to add millions of CARS that need millions of Watts EACH?

Megawatts of power for EACH car? :)

There is NO substitute for crude oil. NONE. It is IMPOSSIBLE, no matter how many "nuclear" power plants you want to build.

Depends by what you mean by "substitute."

But frankly once the oil is gone, our "free ride" is over. Oil companies aren't "stalling" at trying to find an alternative energy source. THERE ISN'T ONE.

In general I agree with your assessment of the quality of oil, but I don't share the pessimistic sentiment. I think the world will adapt; vehicles will be downsized, commutes will shorten, alternative sources will be used.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24130799)

Stop trolling, biatch!

Re:bad idea (1)

DevonBorn (975502) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131243)

Someone needs to do some research. As someone has already posted, electric motoors are considerably more efficient than IC engines. They also don't need gearboxes or clutches (max torque at 0 rpm) so more efficiency gains can be achieved by using belt drives. Electric vehicles (under 1 ton[ne]) can get away with 7 to 10 kWh of energy per hour of use. 100kWh would be nice to have but completely unnecessary.

The main things holding electric vehicles back are the batteries. Lead acids are not very good. LiPo (non-exploding lithiums) are expensive and need fancy load balancing electronics which are expensive and don't always work well. Super/Ultra-capacitors have low energy densities, high costs and need fancy electronics to get all the energy out of them.

Also the grid is usually underutilised at night which is also when most people will be plugging their cars in. Alternatively they could charge them from their own personal wind-turbine, water wheel etc... if they wanted.

Slightly off topic. I'm looking for (ideally) a non comercial use licence to use for a hardware project related in some way to electric cars. Any suggestions. Something like the GPL may be acceptable but I would prefer something written with hardware in mind. Thanks.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24131717)

You forget wind and solar energy which can be perfectly used to convert water to hydrogen

Biggest Problem (1)

REJOSU (759953) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129229)

I love the idea!

As I see it though, the biggest problem isn't necessarily the inherent danger that hydrogen has, but is the mere fact that this is something that COMPLETELY removes the large petroleum companies from the loop. I can only imagine that the issue of danger will be drastically overinflated until the idea that any normal person cannot be expected to handle the danger that comes with hydrogen, when compared to the grade A gas station attendants

As you can expect, the attendants would have some sort of hydrogen handbook. It would prevent explosions. Also, water for hydrogen would suddenly become the most expensive commodity know to man...

Re:Biggest Problem (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129439)

Also, water for hydrogen would suddenly become the most expensive commodity know to man...

I agree with the rest of your points, but seeing as the combustion generates the same amount of water, I don't thing the price of water would jump much more than the current utility prices. At least, it shouldn't. If it does jump, I'll be making myself a water collector/recycler...at least until the government makes it illegal to own one.

Re:Biggest Problem (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24129651)

Lobbyists I think cannot win this war. They have not succeeded in convincing the masses that cigarettes are good for you - even smokers don't believe that.

Anyway, at some point the blacksmith learned to make other things like car parts instead of horse shoes. The big oil companies will do the same. There will be plenty of money to be had in converting over to the hydrogen economy.

Re:Biggest Problem (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131269)

The oil companies are the one's promoting hydrogen and biofuels as opposed to battery-electric cars, as the idea of your local power company selling you your car's energy needs scares the shit out of them.

This won't change much however, because the oil companies (or shoul we say "hydrogen companies"?) would have access to the better equipment and will probably be able to make the fuel cheaper. (although it could make sure they don't rip you off too much)

Either way, I don't see hydrogen powered cars catching up with battery-electric vehiicles anymore, so I don't think this is an issue.

"Mains" (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#24130445)

The station works via an electrolyser, which produces the gas from water and electricity

Which, in effect, gives us a coal-fired car. Terrific.

-Peter

Re:"Mains" (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#24131669)

before being smartass and firing out that 'terrific', you should have thought about hydroelectricity. or nuclear power.

Re:"Mains" (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#24132165)

Great! I'll install hydroelectric at my house today!

Oh, that's right, I don't get to choose where my municipal power comes from. It's coal or nothing where I live.

-Peter

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