×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Funding For Automotive Fuel Cells Cut

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the goring-entrenched-oxen dept.

Transportation 293

rgarbacz writes "The US will stop funding research on automotive fuel cells and redirect the work towards stationary plants, because of slow progress on the research. Developing those cells and coming up with a way to transport the hydrogen is a big challenge, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in releasing energy-related details of the administration's budget for the year beginning Oct. 1. Dr. Chu said the government preferred to focus on projects that would bear fruit more quickly. The industry and the National Hydrogen Association criticized the decision and declared their intention to fight for funding. Dr. Chu also announced that funding for a coal gasification pilot project, cut by the Bush administration, will be reinstated. The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has ample resources for that, Dr. Chu said."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

293 comments

I think plants are already stationary (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929687)

I mean... you stick them in the ground, and they stay there. It's really pretty consistent. If your tree walks away, it's probably not a tree. I don't know how much funding this needs, but if it is more than $0, it's too much.

Time for a terrible British pun... (5, Funny)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929935)

...if you think it's a tree but it gets up and walks away, then it probably Ent [wikipedia.org].

Re:Time for a terrible British pun... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930305)

Either that or a Resto Druid.

Re:I think plants are already stationary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930033)

^ This has got to be the best first post of all time. rofl

Re:I think plants are already stationary (1)

Kleen13 (1006327) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930407)

If your tree walks away, it's probably not a tree.

Either that, or you should probably get off the pipe... I wish I could give you the last +1 funny. Thanks, I needed that.

And redirect the work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929711)

I'm pro biofuels, but how are they going to know what technology will pan out?

And the stationary plants are going to have to be farmed and converted into fuel and that fuel will have to be distributed.
 

You mean redirect the funds. (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929747)

Its a new team in town, with a different set of friends that need to be 'greased'.

Its just typical ( shortsighted ) politics at work here. Nothing new.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (3, Interesting)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929947)

and it's not like NASA and other Fed agencies haven't been working on fuel cells for like 50 years or so.

Talk about a clue, all the hydrogen hype that started in early 2000 was designed to stop the US auto industry from bringing out any fuel efficient hybrids. You know, like the ones they'd been working on through the 90s. And there was probably nothing behind how the hydrogen hype was used to get the CARB board to eliminate high fuel efficiency requirements for California and eliminate the zero emission requirements which caused GM to product the EV1.

This is all just shortsighted politics taking money away from the industry Bush created to chase after unicorns instead of fuel efficiency. Bush is a visionary isn't he? Gheesh, some peoples kids.

LoB

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (2, Interesting)

DECS (891519) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930927)

Exactly, mod up.

Cutting funding for the pie in the sky, futuristic hydrogen research that Bush shooed in as a distraction while killing all viable research that could credibly be competitive with Saudi oil (or Iraqi oil once he freed it with the blood of thousands of Americans and trillions of dollars of our children's future for short term profits for his partners, a plan that subsequently failed to work out as planned) is just as sensible as cutting funding for Bush's failed "abstinence-only" sex education/state religion, which was just as misguided.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (-1, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930011)

You said it.

The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has ample resources for that...

...and guess who will foot the bill for said exploration? I can hardly wait for $6/gallon gas this summer! Though Americans won't get raped nearly as badly as our European [cnn.com] buddies will.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (1, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930047)

I can hardly wait for $6/gallon gas this summer!

Me too. Only I'm not being sarcastic.

($6 is, of course, over the top; the size of the subsidies is pretty tiny compared to the size of the industry. But I would like to see prices up in the $3-$4/gal range. Preferably via taxes rather than supply/demand or OPEC limits, so that the money could be used to offset the pain caused by those prices via either additional services or tax cuts.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931019)

So let me get this right, you don't want people driving a lot which has very very very little short term effect on your health, and most likely you won't be alive for the long term effects of it. Its about the same stupidity as "I think marijuana is bad, so therefore we should ban it for private use because I don't like it", or "Profanity is terrible, I don't like hearing it, so lets make all TV shows profanity free, even though I can choose not to watch TV or change the channel".

Effectively tactics like this destroy economic freedom, much as how over-zealous right wingers destroy some civil liberties with censorship.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930235)

You said it.

The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has ample resources for that...

...and guess who will foot the bill for said exploration? I can hardly wait for $6/gallon gas this summer! Though Americans won't get raped nearly as badly as our European [cnn.com] buddies will.

At the point gas hits $6/gal., congress will have carte blanch to tax the hell out of the oil companies ("windfall taxes" however unfair those are, environmental damage taxes, maybe even sending the justice department in to investigate the obvious and blatantly illegal practices of some of these companies), and Americans everywhere will push for that money going directly into alternatives.

$4/gal. last summer was enough to cause a real resurgence in alternative energy interest here at home. People actually started thinking about electric cars again. People actually started demanding hybrids. And in this economic environment, money will fill the coffers of the real innovators in the field, and not just the "pie-in-the-sky" fuel cell cars that have been worked on for 15 years without a single one rolling off an assembly line.

So sure, I can't wait for the $6/gal. prices either. It will just seal the fate of the oil companies and the US's massive foreign imports. And maybe give the American auto companies a fighting chance at recovering, if they're able to seize the opportunity to get in on the floor of the hybrid revolution.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (5, Insightful)

californication (1145791) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931423)

Wow, paying the unsubsidized market rate for a commodity is getting raped?

Anyways, you'll only get raped if you have a gas guzzler. If you have at least a half-decent fuel efficient car, you'll be just fine. If you drive an alternative fuel vehicle, you won't even feel a thing.

Having the customer pay the full, unsubsidized price for gas may actually create real competition in the vehicle fuel market. If people had a choice between gas or an alternative fuel, then the gas companies would have no choice but to keep their prices competitive to that alternative fuel, wouldn't they?

Or worse yet, people may actually get used to driving less and taking public transit as part of their daily commute instead!

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (5, Insightful)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930019)

Funding is not unlimited; you make the decision about what to fund by doing a cost-benefit analysis using current estimates. This is exactly what they did, and they arrived upon the conclusion that plug-in hybrids and electric cars are current the most effective use of research monies.

You may disagree with the conclusion, but don't write it off as simply shortsighted politics.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (4, Insightful)

mollog (841386) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930113)

President Obama lives by the saying "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Hydrogen power sounds good on paper, but we need something that works soon.

Quoting Patton: A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

We, as a country, have limited resources. We have a lot that needs to get fixed. Let's be smart about it.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (2, Insightful)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930799)

If you need something that works soon, that is what private funding is for. All the venture capitalists want quick return for their investments.

On the other hand government's primary job is to fund research positive outcome of which is not so obvious in the present. It is government's job to take risks and invest in longer term research which potentially may have bigger pay outs 20-30 years later.

I assume here that the governments are usually more stable than all these vulture capitalists, and US government can take losses for prolonged periods of time for the greater good of being more advanced than the other more shortsighted governments.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27931023)

On the other hand government's primary job is to fund research positive outcome of which is not so obvious in the present. It is government's job to take risks and invest in longer term research which potentially may have bigger pay outs 20-30 years later.

The problem with this idea is that most governments can't keep policy stable enough for a decade to fund the kind of long term research and projects you're talking about. Every decade you get a president or two, a few "new" Senates and Houses, 20 budget meetings and hundreds of eager beavers trying to make their mark while slashing at someone else's budgets to do so. This is not an environment that breeds any kind of stability at all.

What the government is really good at funding is the middle-term research. Things that take maybe 10 years, maximum. The best example of this is probably the Apollo project and the life cycle of power plant construction in the US (from planning to construction generally takes about 5-8 years, nuclear power plants and large hydro plants run longer, but the need is more clear and so they're generally not terminated as soon).

There are outliers (like the Space Shuttle program which somehow miraculously lasted for nearly 30 years without its funding being cut to nothing, and programs that got cut almost as fast as they got funding like many of the stem cell programs that Clinton funded and Bush destroyed), but the pattern is very easy to see. Short term: venture capital. Medium term: the government. Long term: Wall Street and a prayer to $DEITY (you may have to build a whole conglomerate around the core idea just to get it to stick, see drug companies). This country forgot how to think in the long term a century ago.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (1)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930247)

Funding is not unlimited... unless you are talking about funding groups of people who actually produce nothing (i.e. banks et al.). Then there is no problem coming up with hundreds of BILLIONS of $$. Of course cutting 100 MILLION makes such a huge impact... perhaps we won't be able after all to fully fund the bonus check of a fat fish at some bank. I am truly disgusted with this development and I am lamenting my vote for O who seems to favor bankers over industry.

Re:You mean redirect the funds. (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930867)

Funding is not unlimited; you make the decision about what to fund by doing a cost-benefit analysis using current estimates.

It will cost $x to fund this, and $polititian/$party will benefit from it. Sounds like a simple ROI calculation to me. Nothing new here, just the way politics are done (here or anywhere else)

Re:And redirect the work? (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929817)

I'm pro biofuels, but how are they going to know what technology will pan out?

Fuel Cell cars are still 15 years away [reuters.com]. Bio fuels, and bio/petroleum mixes are here now as well as hybrids and electric cars that are coming out again.

Re:And redirect the work? (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929851)

I'm pro biofuels, but how are they going to know what technology will pan out?

You never know. But wise investment involves making your best judgment based on what is known, and what is known is that fuel cell stacks cost an order of magnitude more than even a large li-ion battery pack, have no better range or fuelling time than EVs (the only exception to the latter being if you have the fuel super-compressed at the stations, which is both dangerous and makes the stations even more expensive), have 1/3rd the fuel-cycle efficiency, have half the lifespan in the fuel cell stack, have many more moving parts than an EV, fundamentally require new infrastructure for all modes of operation (versus EVs which only need new infrastructure for long trips), and in general involve having to deal with hydrogen -- a chemical that leaks through almost anything, weakens metals, enters pipes and follows them to their destination, destroys ozone, pools under overhangs, has an incredibly low ignition energy, burns in almost any fuel-air mixture, readily undergoes deflagration to detonation transitions, and is a general PITA to store and transport.

Hydrogen fuel cells have failed to advance sufficiently to become marketable, affordable, reliable products that are decisively better for the environment, despite getting the lion's share of research funding in the past decade. EVs are far closer to this, esp. with the modern fast-charging, long-range, nontoxic li-ion variants, and hence the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction.

Re:And redirect the work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930465)

I like bio-fuels too, however what you are claiming about the cost, durability and refueling time for a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle is inaccurate. The cost of a large battery pack than can provide > 300 miles range per charge is significantly higher than a fuel cell system including the tank. The safety of hydrogen storage on-board a vehicle can be addressed by applying appropriate designs. Check out the GM project driveway program with fuel cell equinox in the link below.
http://www.gm.com/experience/technology/fuel_cells/

Looks like a lot of the discussion here and elsewhere on fuel cells for automobiles is based on misinformation or lack of information

No New Infrastructure Needed (2, Informative)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930537)

...require new infrastructure for all modes of operation (versus EVs which only need new infrastructure for long trips)

There was an engineer on the west coast who electrified his Honda CRX. His solution for long trips -- hitch a little cart on the back with a generator. You could even fuel these with propane bottles, and so avoid the whole petroleum infrastructure. Or, you could use the petroleum infrastructure, but use it to distribute biofuels for the generator modules.

Re:No New Infrastructure Needed (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931119)

I think we have a PR-speak phrase for that now. It's a "plug-in hybrid"! And yes, definitely a much better solution for long trips.

eh, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929793)

It's hard, so let's forget it.

Typical politician thought.

Brilliant (0, Flamebait)

Capt. Cooley (1438063) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929833)

Gee, let's just ignore a field of research that could almost totally eliminate CO2 emissions from transportation. That's how we get breakthroughs, right?

Re:Brilliant (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929931)

It's had the lion's share of research funding for the past decade, and despite that, has been lapped on pretty much every front by EVs.

It's electric vehicles' turn.

Re:Brilliant (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930445)

Gee, let's just ignore a field of research that could almost totally eliminate CO2 emissions from transportation.

Even if that description is reasonable for automotive fuel cells (it's not; all it does is move the CO2 emissions from the mobile sources to the sources feeding the electric grid, so unless you eliminate CO2 emissions from large scale generation first, automotive fuel cells don't eliminate transportation CO2 emissions) transferring funding to stationary fuel cells would not be ignoring that field of research, since improving technology for stationary fuel cells will advance the starting point for automotive fuel cells. It also offers more prospects for near term improvements, since stationary cells don't have the high infrastructure demands that mobile cells face.

linking to password-protected sites, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929837)

bad, rgarbacz, very bad.

Real problem with auto fuel cells, the hydrogen. (5, Insightful)

caladine (1290184) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929841)

I thought the real problem was creating the hydrogen in the first place. Not to mention the problem of compressing it to a point that it had a reasonable amount of energy per unit of volume.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I was under the impression that current methods of producing hydrogen for fuel cells was only slightly more intelligent than producing ethanol from corn.

Re:Real problem with auto fuel cells, the hydrogen (1)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930109)

You're wrong: storage of H2 under decent conditions (i.e. at room temperature and not a HUMUNGOUS pressure) is EXTREMELY difficult. The energy density of H2 is very small.

Re:Real problem with auto fuel cells, the hydrogen (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931063)

can store it as acid? then react it with some cheap metal(or something else that gives hydrogen when reacted with HCl)?

Isn't the *main* problem that all this shit gets powered by big oil/gas power-stations? Until countries (in this case the US) start going green (nuclear), how to best store the energy isn't that important.

Re:Real problem with auto fuel cells, the hydrogen (5, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930333)

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I was under the impression that current methods of producing hydrogen for fuel cells was only slightly more intelligent than producing ethanol from corn.

Uh, what? A fish without a bicycle? Look, ethanol from corn is stupid because it's not very energy positive and people eat corn, and corn depletes the soil unless you grow it in a guild with squash and beans, or at least rotate your crops. We don't even use crop rotation any more in big agribusiness; it's basically hydroponics in a soil medium. The corn is fertilized with, guess what, oil. Meanwhile, hydrogen is stupid because it's difficult to store and transport and you have to use [comparatively] exotic alloys with it because of problems with hydrogen embrittlement... oh, and fuel cells are energy-intensive and toxic to make, and they wear out and have to be replenished like everything else. However, we currently have a lot of power going to waste at night and we could be making hydrogen with it. If we're currently wasting it, and we start using it for Hydrogen, then even if it's only 40% efficient we're still vastly better off than we are today.

However, a better plan than either would be to grow craploads of algae in the desert, and use our extra power to run arc lamps to provide light at night to extend the photoperiod and thus speed up the growth cycle. The emissions from the power plants can be piped through algae beds and up to 80% of the CO2 captured for reuse. The algae can be used to make biodiesel and butanol, both of which can be burned in current vehicles, transported in the current trucks, and stored and pumped with the existing tanks and pumps.

consider yourself corrected (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930443)

Hydrogen is generally cracked from natural gas. This is much more intelligent than using the natural gas to produce ammonium nitrate to feed crops that will, when digested by yeast to produce ethanol, yield a little less energy than was contained in the natural gas to begin with. (albeit in a form that is much, much tastier.)

Re:Real problem with auto fuel cells, the hydrogen (3, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930469)

As far as I know, hydrogen fuel was always really an energy storage medium rather than a fuel in and of itself. While it may be the most common element in the universe, free H2 isn't especially abundant on Earth. If you could store it well, it would allow electric vehicles to have the same convenience as petroleum-powered vehicles.

The biggest problems with pure electric cars are that the range is limited and that you can't refill it in a matter of minutes. A pure battery-EV doesn't really allow any kind of long-distance road trip. This is the appeal of plug-in hybrids, it gives you range and easy refilling capability while potentially allowing zero-emissions driving during normal city driving/commuting. Although a hydrogen energy storage system would require new infrastructure, it would serve as a great long-term solution that fits with most peoples lifestyles.

As with any kind of EV, the 'green-ness' depends on the original source of the power. Even from fossil fuels it would probably be slightly better, since large fixed plants are more efficient and cleaner, but definitely better with wind/solar/nuclear/geothermal/whatever.

Note though, that the requirement for all of this is efficient, easy and safe storage, which has been going nowhere with plenty of funding. I think biofuels from non-food crops on non-food-producing land (i.e. not corn ethanol) are a more feasible long term solution, either with or without plug-in hybrid vehicles.

It gets worse... (1)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930795)

I read an interesting writeup in a magazine that showed hydrogen production, storage, and distribution actually had a larger carbon footprint than petroleum based fuels. I unfortunately can't cite a source.

Another interesting statistic was that fueling all of the cars currently on the road in the US would require covering everything but the state of Florida in corn crops.

Ethanol fueled vehicles don't exactly work when you need to drive through the corn.

fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (2, Interesting)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929843)

On a qualitative argument they were a middle ground between current gas engines and electric engines. Slightly more energy efficient and less emissions but still holding a (more) explosive and volatile fuel on board. Electrical systems offer more benefits (they in general are more energy efficient) and have less logistical hurdles. There seemed like there was little reason to go the way of hydrogen. Basically they were an alternative, and thus received some initial funding. It just wasn't a very good alternative. Time to let it die

Re:fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929959)

Not more efficient. 1/4 to 1/2 as efficient, between the electrolysis and the fuel cell itself. Li-ion batteries are nearly lossless, chargers are usually around 92-93% efficient, and the grid is 92.8% efficient.

Hydrogen fuel cells were researched, despite its huge cost, durability, and efficiency problems, because at the time it did so much better than EVs in terms of range and charge time. But the fill time on FCVs has been going *up* as their range has increased, and the range hasn't gone up nearly as much as EVs have -- the best FCVs being passed out to limited numbers of people on a rental basis (because they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each) have worse range than the Tesla Model S or the T-Zero.

Re:fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930115)

My original post agrees with your assessment that electrical vehicles are more efficient. But also just to point out something. There are more than your two sources of loss. Things like motor efficiency etc also play into the net efficiency.

Re:fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930147)

Motor efficiency applies to both BEVs and FCVs, so it's irrelevant to this discussion.

Re:fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (2, Insightful)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930319)

From most of the articles I'm seeing, there doesn't appear to be any serious replacement for platinum in fuel cells. That's reason enough to rule them out for mainstream use.

what took so long? (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929845)

When Bush/Cheney took office in Feb 2001, it was only a month or so before they created the hydrogen program and then axed the hybrid vehicle program.

I guess since both Obama and McCain were involved in all the hydrogen hype there wasn't anyone cracking jokes about hydrogen like there was Bush putting down hybrids in the campaigning upto the 2000 election*.

Still good to see this finally happening. I wonder if the Governator is still backing that Hydrogen Super Highway to the tune of $200 million out in California?

LoB

Re:what took so long? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930395)

Have you noticed that they're just rearranging deck chairs? Hybrids are a boondoggle because they take more energy to make yet get worse mileage than small turbo diesels. The infrastructure for hydrogen doesn't exist and making the stuff is currently highly inefficient. And "Clean Coal"? What the fuck is that? You know, those who think that global warming is a scare tactic of the nineties should realize that some visionary climatologists were talking about this stuff back in the sixties, before it ever came up in a bond movie :P

Re:what took so long? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931219)

Well, the US has finally, just in last couple years, mandated low sulphur diesel as well. So finally we are making some progress on diesel. However, that doesn't mean hybrids are a boondoggle, since a small diesel engine alone doesn't provide regenerative braking or quick acceleration, and aren't that efficient outside a range of RPMs. But why more hybrid cars don't use diesel powerplants instead of gasoline, I don't know.

Anyways, most mileage could be handled by electric-only cars, which would save a huge amount of weight on the engine, gearbox, and fuel. These should be great commuter cars for many people and can charge at night when demand on baseload generators is lower.

It's about time (2, Interesting)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929873)

It's about time this was submarined. I don't know what kind of craziness has led to the obsession with fuel cells. Not only is there no hydrogen distribution infrastructure of any kind, but fuel cells still haven't gotten out of the spaceship era.

We'll be driving cars on Mr. Fusion power before we drive them on fuel cells, unless someone gets fuel cells that use something other than hydrogen working in a way that's suitable for automotive use.

Re:It's about time (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930165)

I don't know what kind of craziness has led to the obsession with fuel cells.

If I were paranoid, I'd wonder if maybe the oil-baron President deliberately chose a technology that sounded good but would in fact go nowhere, thus ensuring an extra decade or so for oil company profits.

I'm not paranoid, and I think the oil companies could have made equal profits by backing the right horse.

But maybe I'm just a little paranoid, because I can't shake the feeling that they should have known hydrogen made no economic sense.

Look Around (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930205)

It's about time this was submarined. I don't know what kind of craziness has led to the obsession with fuel cells. Not only is there no hydrogen distribution infrastructure of any kind, but fuel cells still haven't gotten out of the spaceship era.

Look around. We distribute liquid fuels all over the place today.

Hydrogen cells make a lot more sense than batteries do for cars, because they can be refueled instantly instead of having a delay.

And as for "spaceship stage", I guess you think the highways of today are futuristic - the FCX Clarity [honda.com] uses fuel cells. Yes that's a limited trial but those are real production cars o n the road. They'd be a lot LESS futuristic if people would spend more money developing them.

The future needs a mix of traditional batteries and fuel cells for the same reasons the world of today does. You can't just drop one and put all your research eggs in one basket.

Re:Look Around (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931247)

Look around. We distribute liquid fuels all over the place today.

Do you really think that we'd be distributing liquid hydrogen? To cars? It's both expensive and dangerous (you have to let some evaporate, so any enclosed space could develop an explosive hydrogen oxygen mixture).

Good riddance (2, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929893)

Hydrogen-powered cells for autos are a pointless waste of time with out a LOT of pre-requisite technologies. Generating the Hydrogen is an energy-wasting PITA or involves oil. Storing it in a form that even comes close to the energy density of gasoline is extremely difficult. Compressing the Hydrogen is energy-intensive. (CNG gets a LOT more energy out of the same volume of compressed gas at an identical pressure, so NG actually makes sense to compress.)

There are a LOT of things we can do to reduce pollution before we have so much spare electricity lying around that we can crack and store Hydrogen in amounts large enough to feasibly power a car.

SirWired

You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

SigNuZX728 (635311) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929899)

The article says transporting hydrogen is "a big challenge". Well then don't transport it. All you need to generate it is water and electricity, which are both pretty easy to transport. What they need to work on is a cheaper way to generate electricity.

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930009)

Small scale electrolysis is even less efficient and more expensive than large scale, and takes bloody forever to boot.

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930075)

Small scale electrolysis is even less efficient and more expensive than large scale, and takes bloody forever to boot.

The wildly optimistic estimates I've seen have been $600k per "gas" station, and I don't believe those for a second.

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930061)

"What they need to work on is a cheaper way to generate electricity."

Which of course you could just put into batteries.

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930171)

And with a smart grid, which they've already started investing in via the stimulus bill, EVs can adjust their charging rate based on the needs of the grid. Or, in the case of V2G, even output power to it.

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930089)

That same energy could instead be used to charge a battery. Lithium-ions are already close to 90% efficient, which no method of producing hydrogen can even approach. Combined with supercaps and high-voltage "fueling" stations, charge time would be a non-issue. So what does hydrogen get me?

It's not the pipeline that is the problem... (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930183)

In this case "transport" refers to moving it around as an energy source for your car. It's more difficult than it sounds, as a usable size supply of Hydrogen must be compressed to far higher pressures than CNG to perform the same task. (CNG has far higher energy densities, even if a ICE is less efficient than an electric motor.)

SirWired

Re:You don't need to transport hydrogen. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930521)

The article says transporting hydrogen is "a big challenge". Well then don't transport it. All you need to generate it is water and electricity, which are both pretty easy to transport.

If you do that, you lose energy cracking the hydrogen, so why not just put the electricity directly into a battery rather than cracking hydrogen and putting it into a fuel tank. Even the method you suggest, which makes hydrogen into a transfer mechanism and not an energy source, takes more infrastructure changes than supporting pure-electric vehicles would.

Energy storage is the issue (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931375)

The real issue we have with electricity is storage. Hydrogen was never, and will never be, a fuel source, rather it is an energy transportation medium. What I mean is that in order to have hydrogen you need to get it from some medium, such as water or another compound. Since you need to do electrolysis to extract Hydrogen from water, you might as well look into skipping the step and using is straight. This reminds me of using natural gas to extract oil, as another energy wasting endeavour, but that is another story.

Now the issue is the storage of electricity, which currently has Lithium based batteries as the best method. The ideal solution, will probably be a super capacitor based system, since you will get the advantages of charge time and reduction of chemicals. Storing Hydrogen has one set of issues, which is compounded by the issues of making it safe in an accident.

Having said all this, batteries currently fail in very cold climates, and this is a place where Hydrogen could find its place. Given that this suddenly reduces the potential market for Hydrogen based vehicles, it is probably money better spent to find a solution to getting an electric vehicle starting at -30C. Heck, given the advantages for Moon and Mars missions, maybe we could even get NASA involved. Another advantage with electric vehicles, is that electricity can be produced by plenty of different sources and is easily transported (even if there is some loss).

 

It would be nice to see the full budget numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929917)

From the article

While the budget request for the Energy Department is $26.4 billion, an increase of less than 1 percent, actual spending will actually be far higher because some projects will be financed by the economic stimulus package,...

It would be nice if they actually told us how much higher because once you subtract out "$6.4 billion for nuclear weapons and $4.4 billion for naval reactors, nuclear nonproliferation activity and safe storage of surplus plutonium" you're only left with 15.6 billion - which is the direct cost of only a month and a half in Iraq.

suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (1, Redundant)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929967)

"The Obama administration will also drop spending for research on the exploration of oil and gas deposits because the industry itself has ample resources for that"

Re:suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (5, Insightful)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930055)

That makes sense. The oil industry is already established and making tons in profits. They should be able to fund their own development.

Emerging technologies on the other hand sometimes need a boost.

Re:suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930173)

You goddamn communist! You America Hater! Those who support and subsidize oil companies are PATRIOTS! They are True Americans, not like you latte-sipping bisexual socialist hippies! They're... they're...

You will undoubtedly hear the rest of it on your favorite pro-establishment news source. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can try to figure out why gasoline prices have risen nearly 10% this month, in spite of the deepest worldwide recession in two generations and in the presence of a petroleum glut.

Re:suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930241)

Uh, that storm in... no.. not that. Uh, the spring shutdown of the.. no? Ok, to mix metaphors: sticking their toe in the water to see how far they can throw us?

Re:suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930749)

Assuming you are not being facetious, nothing has occurred in the past 6 to 9 months to justify the increase. Oil industry PR folks point to this or that minor and often intentional glitch to justify disproportional price increases with only a rough coincidence in time. They do it because they can, and nobody with any authority over them tells them otherwise.

If you can demonstrate otherwise, by all means enlighten us.

Re:suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931045)

No, I agree with you. I think it's _only_ about 10% because they are testing the waters with the new admin. If the new admin doesn't bark then expect the "summer driving season" (WTF is that anyway?) to see a nice 30-70% bump because uh, "Cavitations in the pipe-line are delaying shipments" or something.

Follow up - isn't that true of everything? (1, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930267)

Why so much subsidies around solar and other renewable technologies then - the same theory applies. It's mainly the energy industry doing the research, they have a lot of funds to apply to it.

Re:Follow up - isn't that true of everything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930501)

Difference is that for oil exploration there is immediate (and quite likely) economical benefit for finding oil. For other energy sources, risks are higher, and risk/reward ratio much lower.

So basically: oil exploration will go on independent of subsidies, but much of solar etc research will not.

Question is not whether industry has funds so much as whether those will used for kinds of activities govt (i.e. we the people) want.

Re:Follow up - isn't that true of everything? (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930679)

It isn't "the energy industry." Specific companies fund research, and the funds available have to do with expected profits. Oil companies have a vastly larger predictable income with a short lead time or low risk from research bench to market compared to nascent technologies like wind or solar. The time to subsidize oil exploration ended generations ago. Not the same case for technologies that are 1) just starting to ramp up, and 2) have a small market penetration and cash flow.

Easy (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931111)

because he and his type find it politically expedient to vilify the oil industry.

Doing so to the solar industry, regardless of how true, has no political mileage.

Remember, Obama has advisers whose entire job is to determine how to release information and in what form. They recently released information that their studies shows the public in general cannot wrap its mind around the three trillion dollar budget but has an easier time understanding sixteen billion in savings. In other words, they are playing with public ignorance, fears, and jealousy, to do what they want. It is a brilliant show of marketing.

On a side note, with no support for nuclear what is going to be our base load supplier of electricity?

Good (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929973)

Hydrogen doesn't have the density we need and it's difficult to move.
Batteries. Focus on batteries, industrial solar thermal, and Nuclear.

That can solve are energy needs.

Hydrogen "economy" (3, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930007)

The hydrogen economy is a bit screwy anyway. While we already know very well how to run a car on methane, how to distribute and store methane (most homes get it through a pipeline already), and even how to retrofit existing cars for methane, AND how to synthesize methane given a good energy source, we've been throwing money down a hole for the "hydrogen economy".

That is, for a fuel we don't know how to store without it escaping and making the tank brittle in the process, that has additional hazards because it burns invisibly. Meanwhile, we're trying to come up with fuel cells to use it. It's a perfect recipe for looking like you care but delaying an actual solution for as long as possible.

Excellent! (1)

Uzik2 (679490) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930041)

Fuel cells have never been close to a workable solution. Batteries and super capacitors are much better and available right now. The oil companies wanted it so they would have something to sell us when fossil fuels got phased out. Instead the power companies will get all the business when people buy plugin hybrids.

Being "green" isn't just inventing new stuff... (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930051)

Another part of being green is fixing all the screwed up horrible polluting technology that isn't likely to go away for decades and decades!

Inventing new "green" stuff is nice, but sometimes fixing the old extremely common stuff makes a bigger difference!

More efficient cars, and less polluting coal plants? Sign me up!

No Hydrogen Economy? (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930057)

Well, there goes another beloved pipe-dream from 2008.

[pulls out beloved pipedream list from pocket, crosses something off with a small, chewed-up #2 pencil, and returns the wrinkled scrap of paper to pocket]

Includes using Hydrogen with normal IC engines? (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930081)

Honda and Mazda had done research in using hydrogen to replace gasoline in a more or less normal internal combustion engine . While straight forward, producing and storing the hydrogen is incredibly wasteful of energy... as well as the problems of having a 15000 psi storage tank in an accident.

BMW took the cake, though, with their hydrogen powered 7 series. It maintained its fuel in liquid form... that involves maintaining the tank at -252.87 degrees C or -423.17 degrees F. Real energy efficient, I'm sure.

Supposedly, the insulation on the tank was such that an ice cube placed inside would take 16 years to melt when the tank was maintained at room temperature

Re:Includes using Hydrogen with normal IC engines? (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930225)

Little known fact about liquid hydrogen: as per a NASA hydrogen safety guideline document I was reading a while back, air accidentally ingested with the hydrogen during the liquefaction process makes a solid explosive with the explosive power of TNT.

A joke at your own expense? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930245)

You said:
Real energy efficient, I'm sure.

Immediately after you said:

Supposedly, the insulation on the tank was such that an ice cube placed inside would take 16 years to melt when the tank was maintained at room temperature

So what's so funny? It seems like in fact yes, it's damn energy efficient.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid (3, Interesting)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930131)

I question Chu's objective logic.

The U.S. sits between 2 of the largest sources of Hydrogen on this planet. Dangerous to ship? How about shipping it as Water? Then at the "Filling Station" Use Solar, and or Wind Electricity to separate the Hydrogen out. This is already being done in Norway [ecofriendlymag.com].

Okay, you have the H2... now what? (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930207)

Okay, you've now generated a bazillion liters of H2 at the gas station next door. How do you plan to haul it around in your car?

SirWired

Ask Honda. Or Mazda. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930339)

How do you plan to haul it around in your car?

It seems like a few [honda.com] car [ecofriendlymag.com] companies have already answered that.

Gee dude, the Norway link was right in the main post you replied to... perhaps you should have read a little further before you fired off a response. If Obama says Hydrogen is evil, it must be evil I supposed even if there are working solutions today... Better to run off chasing the new shiny thing!

Re:Ask Honda. Or Mazda. (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930957)

But I notice that neither of those are cars that are in wide release or with the actual purchase price available (I'm sure the $600/month lease isn't break-even, its still an R&D project).

While it's certainly possible to store hydrogen, its certainly not cheap. I remember for a project I was involved in a couple of years ago, a DOT approved storage vessel that really would have been too small for a production vehicle was ~$10k. Surely this could be brought down some, but I can't see any way it could be brought down to the point of not being one of the main cost drivers.

Combine that with conversion inefficiencies (compared to batteries/capacitors) and the need for a completely new infrastructure (compared to biofuels) make think this is probably the right choice. EVs and biofuels are much closer to achieving cost-effective solutions, and it seems like a reasonable and responsible move. Plug-in hybrids using biofuels for range extension and quick refueling seem to me to be a lot more effective than hydrogen.

Maybe I'm wrong, I don't think this will completely kill fuel-cell research, if car companies are still interested they'll keep going on it. However shifting funding to something showing more signs of progress sounds like a responsible use of our tax dollars. And I'm not an Obama-ite, I just happen to think this particular decision is correct.

Re:Stupid, Stupid, Stupid (1)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930467)

The U.S. sits between 2 of the largest sources of Hydrogen on this planet. Dangerous to ship? How about shipping it as Water? Then at the "Filling Station" Use Solar, and or Wind Electricity to separate the Hydrogen out. This is already being done in Norway.

The problem is ENERGY EFFICIENCY, not SAFETY. There is no science or technology that suggests that a H2 fuel cell is going to be nearly as efficient in a car as, say, an internal combustion engine. The only advantage of the fuel cell is that you can obtain the H2 from many sources. In contrast, the current fleet is powered by oil/fossil fuels alone.

Not surprisingly, there are other energy storage technologies, such as batteries, which can be more efficient and lower cost than a fuel cell.

Fuel cells are a great technology for some applications, but they don't make sense for cars.

Re:Stupid, Stupid, Stupid (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931261)

I thought about that, Bolivia [nytimes.com] has One answer. But unless there is a Major deposit of Lithium that no one has discovered, or the rest of the Lith' is easy to get to, then all the D.O.E. has done is trade one monopoly for another. Oil, and Lithium are by nature, not renewable. Generating electricity from combining Hydrogen, and Oxygen is renewable. The energy sources to separate Hydrogen is the Sun, and Wind. Converting cars to run on natural gas from gasoline is fairly straightforward, going from Natural Gas to Hydrogen is also straightforward. What needs to be done is to Venture Capital conversion kits and refueling stations. The stations are already there, the owners just have to put a hydrogen tank in the back next to the natural gas tank. Nothing is free in the Transportation industry, especially Oil, and Lithium.

Good. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930137)

Batteries are a better idea then everyone using a local fuel cell. The only reason there was much behind the so called "hydrogen economy" was because companies like the idea of selling fuel of some sort.

Re:Good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27931021)

And there aren't companies that aren't going to be selling "fuel" for EVs?

Someone, somewhere is going to make a bundle off of whatever new technology arises.

To be honest, I have no problem with a profit motive if the science is solid. I know that makes me a shill in the eyes of most people around here. That's their problem. But to act like whomever this funding gets handed isn't going to profit is plainly naive. I know there is a whole segment of the public who thinks that anything handed down from ObamaCo is done for the betterment of mankind but I'm sure if you look behind the curtain there is someone making cash.

start building nuclear plants NOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27930345)

I had more hope that Chu would back nuclear power. If they don't start building loads of plants rather quickly, then they have to start building more coal plants, THERE IS NO OTHER VIABLE SOLUTION CURRENTLY AVAILABLE! Either build or face power disruptions, alternatives are not ready yet, or in the case of wind, would require building lots of new transmission lines that would drive up the cost.

Re:start building nuclear plants NOW (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931207)

Problems with nuclear power.

A) Expensive to build and secure
B) Few locations for it, even though it is going to create a lot of new jobs, no one wants another Chernobyl, so no town is going to want a nuclear power plant close to it
C) No safe place to store waste.
D) Waste must be secured, this involves more manpower in contrast to coal power plants that need comparatively less security

The thing is, coal is cheap, reliable, and pretty decent overall, especially for a temporary solution. Nuclear energy just is too hazardous/expensive to be building many of them.

It's all Enviromentalist BS (0, Flamebait)

Uttles (324447) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930387)

People like Obama who basically hate capitalism and individual liberty realized that hydrogen fuel cells are too efficient to allow to freely come to the market. They would require too much electricity and they realize that a bunch of windfarms wouldn't be able to produce it. The only way Hydrogen would work is if we built a lot more nuclear power plants (like France) and that would simply generate way too much cheap and clean energy and would fly in the face of the democrat and big government pet projects like Wind, Solar, and Biofuels. This is why Hydrogen is taking the back seat now with the government and with environmentalists in general.

Re:It's all Enviromentalist BS (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#27931303)

People like Obama who basically hate capitalism and individual liberty realized that hydrogen fuel cells are too efficient to allow to freely come to the market.

Oh. My. God.

You actually believe that, don't you? I mean, at first I thought your post had to be a joke. But it isn't, is it?

There are a great many posts attached to this story which explain, quite clearly and accurately, what the major problems with hydrogen fuel cells are. Hint: too much efficiency isn't one of them. You could read those posts or, better yet, do a little reading on your own and educate yourself on the issue. But if you prefer your paranoid fantasies, you go with that.

Just be aware that sane people will feel free to regard you as clearly being a nutcase who has nothing worthwhile to say on this or any other subject, ever.

Science vs politics (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 4 years ago | (#27930775)

If a Bushie did this, I think I'd be all like "grarwbrblarblab rl! I can't believe glrbalrbalg, stupid politicians grblbr ... oil asgerbglajbaeog" But somehow, the fact the Dr. Chu is saying makes me feel OK with it. Definitely hypocritical of me, but I feel I'd rather have the wrong decision made for the right reasons than the right decision made for the wrong ones. Maybe because the wrong reasons always screws things up in the end.

It is easy to transport hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27931201)

All you need to do is combine the hydrogen with carbon, to form long chain molecules. That changes the hydrogen into a liquid that can be easily distributed and burned in existing automobile engines without any modification.

You FaIL it#? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27931217)

some inteeligent You don't need to
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...