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GM Investing in Fuel Cells

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the smart-future- dept.

Science 330

artemis67 writes "MSNBC is reporting that GM is getting ready to invest heavily in hydrogen fuel cell technology, believing that it is the way to go to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. They believe their cars can go 500 miles without refueling, and possibly create their own hydrogen by chemically converting (not combusting) gasoline. The article can be found at MSNBC." Of course, the financial details aren't given in terms of dollars, but when the largest automaker recognizes that a seachange is coming, that's something to note. Or, they could be hedging their bets. Yeah. Probably the latter.

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330 comments

High cost? High maintenance? Few fill-up stations? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#155158)

Americans are a notorious stingy lot. The alternative fuel cars- pure electric, hybrid, and natural gas- all have cost premiums of 20-50%. They don't do well in the market except for a few dedicated enthusiasts.

High purchase cost? $2000 off ona $50K specialty car is no "break".
Corresponding high registration costs (it's based on ticket price, yes?)
High maintenance and repair costs?
Few fill-up stations?
Few garages capabal of doing repairs?
Insurability problems (pressurized hydrogen is more dangerous than gasoline you know).
Scarcity of repair parts?
Long term (I'm talking 20+ year) reliability. My 81 Nissan pickup is still running.

Gee, I can't imagine why no one wants to buy them. With a cheaper gas car, all that money you save can buy enough gas to give you DOUBLE the total miles driven over the life of the vehicle.

Lemme know when these alternative vehicles actually cost LESS than gas/diesel vehicles and when I fill/recharge stations are available within at least 5 miles of any random urban point in the US or within 50 miles of any rural point.

TANSTAAFL (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#155159)

It is time for a dose of reality here... There ain't no such thing as a free lunch (c)

So where does the hydrogen come from?

There are two possible root sources in today's technology:

  1. electrolysis of water. This takes electricity... massive amounts of it. So where does the electricity come from? Nuclear, coal-fired, oil-fired, or natural gas fired generation by and large in the US (mostly nuclear in France). Hydro power contributes but at a smaller percentage. All the 'green' technologies (geothermal, wind, solar) contribute almost nothing as a percentage. Keep those fossil fuels coming...
  2. reformation of hydrocarbons. That is, a high temperature reaction between hydrocarbons and water. Which hydrocarbons? The same usual suspects. Keep those fossil fuels coming...

    By the way, the other product from the reformation is carbon monoxide... and not at parts per million either - we are talking about amounts that are equivalent to the amount of hydrogen produced. Where should all this CO go? Out the exhaust pipe? A catalytic converter needs the high temperatures that *combustion* produces... a hydrogen fuel cell won't have that.

This whole subject is a delicate balancing act. There are *NO* easy answers, no matter how much the scientifically ignorant press might make it sound...

Re:But it still uses gas (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 12 years ago | (#155161)

If I'm getting 500mph, why in the world would I even care about seeing hydrogen at the pumps? A (small by todays standards) 10 gallon tank would give you a 5000 mile range. That's treating fillups the same way we treat oil changes today. I don't know about you, but I'm not to worried about what exactly is at the pump if my fuel costs (at $2 a gallon for gas, I assume you buy the nice stuff) for the entire life of your vehicle (100,000 miles, probably a little low, but remember you have to average out people totalling their vehicle right out the lot and letting it rust, etc..) are $400. I can see dealers advertising free fillups for the life of your car with these. Heck, the gas station as we know it might disappear (or be cut back at least) as most people might just get a fillup with the oil change or whatever general maintence you need.

Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.

Fearmongering, was: Propaganda (1)

phil reed (626) | more than 12 years ago | (#155162)

The automotive industry has always been under direct control from the oil industry. The internal combustion engine is over 100 years old, but we have yet to find a better design?

Run a comparison of the energy density (available energy / pound) of gasoline vs. any comparible other fule, please.

Obviously there are alterior motives to staying with the current design. Ulterior motives like known technologies, new technologies don't benefit enough to make up for the enormous cost of changing over, etc.

There have been several inventors who have either disappeared or lost their life because they invented a more efficient engine.

Documentation, please.

Alternative fuels will not be utilized until the world is in a state of crisis (run out of oil, overwhelming pollution). Only in times of desperation, will true change be brought.

Probably true, but not necessarily for the reasons you cite.


...phil

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (2)

Misfit (1071) | more than 12 years ago | (#155165)

"Dubya .. are you ready to practice what you preach?"...

Of course not. It's our (GOP) goal to destroy the planet. Our only desire on this planet is to watch it burn while we dance around on our children's graves singing hallelujah.

Not only do we want to destroy the planet, but we want to see all our children wielding guns.

We want only the rich to have money, start wars for no reason, and keep everyone from making their own decisions.

Misfit

Re:Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (2)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 12 years ago | (#155170)

Actually, that's wrong; the world has about the same amount of proven reserves as it did back in the seventies, because there have been new discoveries. There have been massive oil finds in Saudi Arabia recently, as well as in Venezuela and in China in Xinjiang province (which apparently has a couple times the proven reserves of the United States).

Of course they are hedging (2)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 12 years ago | (#155171)

Big companies like IBM GM and Ford spend a lot of money each year on things that won't be a product for 20 years. Why because in 20 years it might be a great product. Remember for a GM $20 million (or whatever) is a non trivial but not really large amount of money. Ofcourse its in GM's intrest to make better cars. I'm sure they have lots of other reasearch projects into all sorts of things in a number of centers around the world. Some of them will pan out and be seen in cars of the future, some won't. But if you don't fail some of the time you are not being inovative enough.

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 12 years ago | (#155172)

The tax credits and such are nice, but people, not too unlike myself, demand a certain aspect of performance. My car at the moment, while certainly not ready for the Indy 500, is a 99 Dodge Avenger Sport with the 2.5 Litre V6 Engine. While available in an Inline 4 (not the sport model, but others), I found it to be relatively unresponsive and not quite ready for the open highway. Honda's ESV is a nice idea, but it has no acceleration nor top speed to be able to deal with normal commuting speed here in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. Corridor (generally 80 - 90 MPH or you'll get run over). If someone could come up with a viable market-ready electric vehicle capable of sustaining at least 150 horsepower and a decent amount of torque, then the American public would, IMHO, be more willing to accept it with open arms.

All opinions of course are my own, and I've been known to be wrong, but I'd personally pay the gas premium rather than give up my perfomance


Secret windows code

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 12 years ago | (#155173)

This is not necessarily a good thing.

You're right, but the point is that we're not as dependant on public transportation as Europe is. This is because except for LARGE cities, public transportation in the US is mostly non-existant.

If we were truly commited to reducing emmisions, we'd all take a mag-lev to work every day. Unfortunately, we're not as opt to give up our freedom to drive as our other more publicly-minded european bretheren are.
Secret windows code

Offtopic - you've been warned (2)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 12 years ago | (#155174)

The fact that the Bush administration is backed by "Big Oil" *should* not interfere with the fact that the man still has a job to do. At this time, Oil is the most cost effective naturally obtainable resource available to the US, if ONLY we could get to it.

During the Clinton administratrion, they tried (and thankfully failed) to "restructure" health care so that it was in the hands of government agencies in its entirety. Did he do this out of the goodness of his heart? No - he did it because he was backed by the pharmecudical industry, and they knew it would be easier to scam the US government rather than the individual HMO companies out of millions each year.

Don't get the idea that polital agendas aren't anything else. So what if he wants to drill the oil out of the ANWR? What is it going to do sitting in the ground? Will it solve the Energy Crisis in California? Will it keep gas prices down here in the US. No, it won't. Keeping us from that oil is what keeps us dependant on foreign countries for our energy, at least until I have a neuclear reactor in my car (we have a lock on Uranium and Plutonium).

Also - how much farther hands-off do you want him to get if he doesn't repeal laws that hurt business.


Secret windows code

Re:World too invested in oil to change anytime soo (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 12 years ago | (#155175)

Yep, rising oil prices are good for the environment. I dunno why people are whining so much about $2/gl: the US has the cheapest prices in the western world... which is probably why Americans consume more than twice as much energy per capita than in other western countries, such as the European ones. Try this: as the prices go up, try conserving energy... this way your fuel bills won't increase! If you're going to buy a car that guzzles fuel, get something with performance, not a useless SUV!

GM may "merely" like Feul Cells more then batts, n (3)

stripes (3681) | more than 12 years ago | (#155182)

CA, and some other states have a low or zero emission requirement. Anyone that sells more then X cars must sell some small percent that have very little or no emissions.

In my opinion the law is flawed in that electricity is assumed to have zero emissions, rather then a guess at the emissions required to produce the electricity (which may be more then some extreamly efficient gas cars). The Honda gas/electric car for example is assumed to pollute more then the EV1 even though it probably pollutes less.

Anyway the Fuel Cells may well be looked at as a way to meet the low/zero emission laws, and not as a replacement for gas. Of corse if people like the fuel cell cars then that may change. Well, like them for the price they can be produced. The EV1 was liked by a fair number of people (it had a ton of torque), but GM leased it for about $30k, it cost them more like $60k to make them. People would have to like them a whole lot to pay $60k for them!

Actually the law is more flawed then that, but I don't generally like new (or old!) laws anyway.

P.S. yes I do find it ironic that CA has "electric car laws", and is sticking to them in the face of an electricity crisis, but the electric car laws don't actually require electric cars (they are strongly tilted towards them though)

"Green" diesel (2)

jbert (5149) | more than 12 years ago | (#155189)

I like the sound of so-called "BioDiesel". This is a combustible fuel produced from a crop (for example oilseed rape).

This would seem to be the perfect fuel, since it would have energy density comparable (more/less - don't know) to existing gasoline/diesel but the big advantage of zero overall carbon emissions.

But but but...burning it produces CO2.

Well yes, but at least that much carbon had to go into growing the plants in the first place. So the net carbon increase in the atmosphere is zero. Of course, you might still get nasty sooty particulates which mess up people's lungs, but we'll wait for "fuel cells driven by gasoline/diesel" to get a cleaner version.

Does anyone have more info about this kind of fuel? In particular any down-sides? (Other than the fact it doesn't seem to be popular at the moment?)

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

rho (6063) | more than 12 years ago | (#155190)

I'm getting pretty tired of the "big oil conspiracy" nuts. There's a whole lot to get mad at GW about, but allowing companies to drill for oil is not one of them.

I like the fuel cell technology and think it has a future -- however, it's not widespread enough technology to base our future on (yet). In the meantime, we have millions of cars and boats and trucks that need fossil fuels to operate. The Great Engine of Capitalism requires oil, and we have to come up with it somewhere. We can either look for it on our own lands (vis, the Arctic Refuge) or we get it from sombody else (primarily the OPEC nations, most of which are not exactly buddy-buddies with the USA due to our involvement with Israel)

Until such time we can run our cars and trucks and heat our homes with something other than oil (both in a technical sense and an economic sense -- if it's cheaper to use gas than a fuel cell, you won't have a lot of people switch to fuel cells), we have to have a supply of oil.

If you're so all-fired up about saving the planet from the its destruction by the Evil Oil Companies (the dividends of whose stock is probably keeping your (or somebody else's) grandmother from eating Meow Mix), go to school, get a chemical/mechanical/electrical engineering degree and develop a better solution that's cheaper and safer. Hurling deprecations from the peanut gallery doesn't impress me one bit.

Re:But it still uses gas (1)

FunkBox (8451) | more than 12 years ago | (#155206)

The difference is that fuel cells are ultra efficient. You will use 1 gallon of gas to go 500 miles. This is just a stepping stone. Eventually, once this has been adopted and common, you will see hydrogen at the pumps.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

SirTreveyan (9270) | more than 12 years ago | (#155207)

Hell, I need a gun to keep the bona fide Democrats from mugging me as I go to work. And I need an friggin army to keep the same wimpy milk toast 'pity me I am not as fortunate as you' jack offs from stealing from my paycheck as I "earn" it.

I am responsible for my "good fortune". I made my "good forture" through hard work and perserverance. Hell will freeze over before one Democrat ever believes a person is responcible for making their "good fortune"

drill the fuck out of the ANWR?? Dont Think so (2)

SirTreveyan (9270) | more than 12 years ago | (#155208)

You sound like a typical democrat. You spout lots of "emotional rhetoric" but give no facts to back up your feeble claims.

The following is a quote from a well established nationally recognized synicated talkshow host.

"The Democrats and anti-capitalist environmentalist weirdoes who never have and never will visit the ANWR will continue to protest; the people who actually DO live in the ANWR will continue to lobby FOR the drilling, and the leftist media will continue to distort the facts.

Just remember: The amount of the ANWR on which you would actually see any human presence - including drilling and production equipment - would equal about one child's footprint on a 120 x 120 foot piece of real estate. Another example ... it would equal about one-half of a square inch in the corner of a 9 x 12 foot rug.

Sounds like it would be a real disaster for the ANWR, doesn't it?" -- NEAL BOORTZ

If you really want to see some numbers, see his May 1 web page at http://www.boortz.com/may1.htm

In the light of reason it sure DOES NOT sound like the ANWR is getting the "fuck" drilled out of it. And dont forget...the locals want the jobs taht come with the drilling...but that doesnt matter much to you as long as you get you way. QUIT TELLING OTHERS WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM...LET THEM DECIDE.

It seems you have forgotten the lesson of California. Stifle expansion of current and future energy sources...voila...rolling blackouts...and hot tempers. If you want to live like our ancestors 100-150 years ago did...be my guest...but dont do anything to force me to live the same way.

But I wonder about you...falling hook, line and sinker for the Democratic Party's watermelon adgenda...socialist/communist idealogy thinly veiled with a veneer of environmentalism.

Re:Better Idea (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 12 years ago | (#155210)

I find this difficult to believe, and it sounds more like in a situation of pumping clean air in, air that is only slightly polluted is emitted. But if you're pumping already polluted air in, I doubt combustion is going to clean it.

Volvo on the other hand (maybe it was SAAB) did something odd where they basically put a catalytic converter on the radiator, so it actually was cleaning the air as it drove around.

Re:But it still uses gas (2)

PD (9577) | more than 12 years ago | (#155211)

The hydrogen in the Hindenburg wasn't stored in a tank with walls 1/4 inch thick either. A tank of hydrogen is safer than a plastic or paper thin metal 10 gallon gas tank.

will americans buy them? (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 12 years ago | (#155215)

Americans are a notorious stingy lot.
The alternative fuel cars- pure electric, hybrid,
and natural gas- all have cost premiums of 20-50%.
They don't do well in the market except for a few
dedicated enthusiasts.

The proposed Cheney-Bush energy program has a
$2000 tax credit for alternative fuel cars,
so that could help.

Re:Better Idea (1)

jimmyphysics (16981) | more than 12 years ago | (#155226)

Why is it hard to believe? The cat on the Honda is simply far better than is needed... so it cleans up its own emissions and then some.

500 Miles? That's Nothing (1)

HerbieTMac (17830) | more than 12 years ago | (#155228)

My last tank of fuel lasted 722 miles.

That's a 13-gallon tank (approx) in a 2000 Jetta TDI. The diesel in this engine also produces less CO2 (albeit slightly more particulate matter) than unleaded gas.

Article in Home Power (2)

Randy Rathbun (18851) | more than 12 years ago | (#155230)

There was an article in the last issue of Home Power [homepower.com] about a guy who makes his own biodiesel. Seems to be a pretty simple, if time consuming, process. He goes around his local area and gets the old vegetable oil out of the fryers at restraunts, filters out the food then mixes up his fuel. Granted, it can be a bit on the dangerous side, so kids don't try this at home.

I will post some more about this tonight when I get home. There were some URLs and stuff in the story.

Hedging bets? (2)

Stephen (20676) | more than 12 years ago | (#155236)

Or, they could be hedging their bets.
Or looking for good publicity while not spending very much by their standards? Or am I being too cynical?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (2)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 12 years ago | (#155243)

We're not destroying this planet. The planet is doing just fine. It's we who are slowly diminishing our capability to survive on the planet. The planet will still be around when we're gone, and it will once again clean itself.

Scuse me? (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 12 years ago | (#155247)

Clean fuel? Hydrogen from petrol you call clean?? Bwahahahah. Most moden cars are already so damn "clean" the burning hydrogen isnt gong to matter much. If you want clean, go to hydrogen generated from nuclear, wind, water, solar, tides, or methane/bio/alcohol, but dont even pretend that anything involving gasolene of fossil fuels is clean these days. I saw an ad for "D.C. METRO(subway) Powered by newer clean coal power" I laughed outloud. If you want to save the enviornmet, push for nuclear, and I dont wanna hear about waste, thats what empty oil wells are for.

its crappy laws. (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 12 years ago | (#155248)

All/most the highways were designed to run at at least 60-80 mph, then in the 70s, they put in the 55 mph crap to save energy, then after the energy crisis, they kept the laws becasue they can make HUGE $$$$ off of speeding tickes, when people arent really speeding, theyre just driving at a comfortable rate for the road. (Ok. so it was a run on sentence, what the hell)

Re:Better Idea (1)

Iguanaphobic (31670) | more than 12 years ago | (#155251)

Compressed gases are incredibly dangerous. Moreso than barely-flammable liquids like gasoline, in my opinion. I think I'll pass.

Try this! 1. Cylinder full of highly flammable, highly compressed acetylene. 2. Typical automotive gas tank full of gasoline.

Set both about 500 feet away. Shoot with 22 rifle. The gasoline looks pretty while it goes up in a huge fireball on the first shot. The acetylene just, well, after 25 shots, the tank was still a tank. I gave up.

Uses gas more efficiently (2)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 12 years ago | (#155253)

The basic idea is just-in-time reforming of gasoline to hydrogen in the car, converting hydrogen to electricity in a fuel cell, and then propelling the car with an electric motor. This scheme has several advantages:
  • Refueling is with a liquid (gasoline or perhaps methanol), eliminating the hazards of transferring compressed hydrogen.
  • The liquid fuel can come from sources other than fossil fuels. Methanol can be synthesized from solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power. Think of it as a convenient, portable, and transferable battery rather than a non-renewable resource.
  • Hydrogen gas is not stored on board the vehicle. It's simply extracted from the liquid fuel as needed. Startup can be accomplished with a small bank of batteries.
  • Electric motors use energy more efficiently than combustion engines.
  • Since electric motors are already included, regenerative braking is practical.

There are many companies and universities hard at work on adapting fuel cells for cars. The focus right now is getting the size and cost of all the components down to be practical for consumer vehicles.

AlpineR

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#155254)

I undertsand that in Europe the typical person doesn't travel more than 50Miles from their home in a year. (The study I heard -may- have excluded a yearly holiday).

Some poeple in North America travel that far to work every day.

Thats the big difference between North America and European drivers.

Re:ceramic engines (1)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#155255)

It isn't a rumour, its utter speculation without verification. It can be proven to be true, so, unless your prepared to prove it, why spread the rumour?

distance... (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#155257)

Yes and No.

500 miles is the point where there are few, if any arguments against fuel cells.

What isn't mentioned is the amount of fuel required to do it.

Hybrid technology is a stepping stone anyway. If we continue to use gasoline for a while so people switch to fuelcell, so be it. But, once all the cars on the road are fuelcell based it would be possible to switch over to hydrogen at the pumps.

Re:ceramic engines (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#155258)

Please produce the patent numbers for them, and document GM not being willing to license them.

Patents are public documents. People like saying companies buy up the patents and then noone can use them, what they often forget is that the patent can atleast be referenced.

A lot of conspiracy nuts have hid behind this misunderstanding for 50 years.

Re:But it still uses gas (2)

topham (32406) | more than 12 years ago | (#155259)

someone pointed out a Metal fuel cell article at IEEE, heres a blurb...

These experts point out that if gasoline were not already established as an irreplaceable part of modern life, it would probably never be approved as a fuel in today's regulatory environment. Hydrogen, although not nearly as dangerous, has scared people ever since the Hindenburg airship disaster more than half a century ago. When hydrogen leaks, the gas tends to rise and dissipate, unlike heavy gasoline vapors, which tend to gather in low places and wait for unsuspecting victims to touch them off.

Article [ieee.org]

Carefully watch the footage of the Hindenburg and you'll note it was the canvas and it's coating which is the significant source of flames after the first second. The hydrogen wasn't the problem.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

revscat (35618) | more than 12 years ago | (#155261)

If you're so all-fired up about saving the planet from the its destruction by the Evil Oil Companies (the dividends of whose stock is probably keeping your (or somebody else's) grandmother from eating Meow Mix), go to school, get a chemical/mechanical/electrical engineering degree and develop a better solution that's cheaper and safer. Hurling deprecations from the peanut gallery doesn't impress me one bit.

Are you completely fucking stupid? Let me see if we can get to the bottom of this: if someone has a problem with policy X, they should go get training in X and fix the problem themselves. So if I have a problem with, say, the AIDS epidemic, then the only way to "impress" you is to go to medical school and train myself, right?

Hmm. What if I'm a Sudanese orphan who has been conscripted at the age of 11 into the military? Do I have that option then? If I were to complain about the AIDS epidemic, would your ear be deaf?

Let's take another example: For the sake of argument, let's take global warming as a fact. Now, I live in a coastal area that is beginning to be affected by melting ice shelfs. (Again, this is for the sake of argument.) I'm a 49 year old farmer, and the encroaching sea is damaging my ability to make my livelihood. Dykes, windmills, and other such instruments are becoming less and less effective. According to you, I should go out and invent a better fuel technology, correct? Me, an aging farmer, should go back to school, get a degree in whatever, and just fix the problem myself, correct?

Or let's just take an example from the typical /.ers life: I just got done working on this really nifty program and released it under the license Y. Three months down the road, I find out that Pokersoft has snatched my wares and put them into their proprietary for-cost software, in the process violating some term of the license. According to your brilliant system, instead of hiring a lawyer, I should go to law school myself, right? No good bitching about it if I can't fix it myself, after all!

Moronic. Absolutely moronic. Fact of life, dumbass: Not everyone can solve their own problems. That's the "sevices" part of "goods & services." Sometimes it takes others to do it, whether out of goodwill or a profit motive. And sometimes the marketplace fucks people over, requiring government to step in and nudge things in the right direction.

Christ. Go back to the Freeper that spawned you.

- Rev.

Re:Fuel Cells: Not as clean as you think! (1)

Necron69 (35644) | more than 12 years ago | (#155264)

Uhmmm... How can a hydrogen powered fuel cell (your last two examples) produce CO2 as exhaust? Where's the carbon come from?

- Necron69

Re:Scuse me? (1)

Kool Moe (43724) | more than 12 years ago | (#155271)

and I dont wanna hear about waste, thats what empty oil wells are for.

Well, sorry, but you have to hear about it. I'm a rather environmentally-conscious fellow. Sierra Club and their ilk get my full support...most of the time.
However, I think nuclear energy is certainly a great solution for most power needs. BUT UNTIL we figure out a way to either recycle or safely dispose of nuclear waste, it's simply not a good alternative.
'empty oil wells' my patootie. What do you put nuclear waste IN? Just dump it in wells? You're just asking for radiated groundwater. Seal it in lead barrels, then dump it? Great, now we drink leaded water until the radioactive material seeps through.
Nuclear will be great, once we solve the waste problem...sorry you don't wanna hear that...
KM

Re:Gasoline (2)

selectspec (74651) | more than 12 years ago | (#155284)

Much of their value is in the fact that they are zoned as gas stations. Converting a gas station to something other than a gas station these days poses some environment expenses. In order to make gas burn cleaner, gasoline has become fairly toxic stuff, so gas tanks must be either maintained or removed (carefully). A single drop of MTBE (a gasoline additive) can render millions of gallons of water undrinkable.

Re:Scuse me? (1)

chinakow (83588) | more than 12 years ago | (#155285)

I may be wrong her e but , wasn't all that nuclear material radioactive before we stuck it in a reactor ? wouldn't that seem to mean that we could just but it back when we are done with it? or does the proccess of using the material to make electriucity make the stuff more radio active?


Jon

Rant Rant (3)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 12 years ago | (#155287)

BMW has already demostrated that a hydrogen combusting car is feasible. The safety tests with their fuel tank show it's no less safe than a gasoline tank (In fact, the hydrogen tends to disperse very quickly, while gasoline tends to just hang around and become an environmental nightmare IF it doesn't catch on fire and explode.) Their car can also switch between using hydrogen and regular gasoline for those times when you can't find a gas station that serves hydrogen.

It seems to me that an ideal solution would be to build a shitload of nuclear reactors, use the electricity generated to power the grid as well as electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen, and retrofit current gas stations to handle hydrogen. Fitting fuel cells into cars just adds an unnecessary step, since the eventual goal invariably seems to be to have gas stations serving hydrogen anyway.

Re:Offtopic: Disappearing story? (1)

spiny (87740) | more than 12 years ago | (#155288)

i've just noticed too, first time i've seen it happen though
did someone forget to close a table tag?

phil.

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

rschwa (89030) | more than 12 years ago | (#155290)

Well, they're targeting fleet sales for now, they won't even put a decade on mass acceptance. Probably not until gasoline is $10 a gallon

Re:Offtopic - you've been warned (1)

ChannelX (89676) | more than 12 years ago | (#155291)

Keeping us from that oil is what keeps us dependant on foreign countries for our energy, at least until I have a neuclear reactor in my car (we have a lock on Uranium and Plutonium).
Thing is that drilling there isn't going to solve our dependency on foreign oil. We will always be dependent on foreign oil now. We simply use too much and dont have the resources in this country anymore. My choice is to keep ANWR as it is and not worry about the small percent difference it would most likely make (if any) on our foreign oil dependence.

Re:This isn't the way to go (1)

ChannelX (89676) | more than 12 years ago | (#155292)

I applaud innovation, but I believe fuel cells won't be viable. the next step has to be electric vehicles, and their electricity should come from nuclear power plants in the United States. GM already manufactures an ALL electric vehicle.(www.ev1.com) it goes about 150 miles on a single overnight charge. Now most people don't drive more than 150 miles and could charge their cars at night. The only problem is, GM only sells these vehicles in Cali and AZ (which is one reason I'm moving to AZ soon)
There is a good reason they're only sold in those places: warm weather. An all-electric vehicle wont work worth a damn in the winter in a place like here in Chicago. Unless they come up with a way for batteries to not be hugely affected by cold fuel cells are the way to go. Considering how long batteries have been made and how they still dont work worth a damn when they get cold I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (2)

artemis67 (93453) | more than 12 years ago | (#155297)

Yes, fuel cells and electric cars are all neat ideas, but the current administration is encouraging the consumption of the world's rapidly dwindling oil supply.

Quite the contrary, actually. Many prominent Democrats are begging the President to put price caps on energy right now, energy that is produced by oil (among other things).

However, any first year economics student can tell you that price caps screw up the balance between supply and demand. When the government sets a price cap on an item, they are pricing it below what the market rate is. When a product is selling below the market rate, the demand generally increases. In effect, putting a price cap on energy would cause Califonians to use a lot more energy, and burn up a lot more oil in the process.

Re:Your sig (OT) (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 12 years ago | (#155300)

hmmm After a few seconds most cats that I know would curl up and sleep, if they weren't already sleeping when they entered the box.

-Steve

Re:Oil supply will become a problem shortly.... (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 12 years ago | (#155301)

mostly because you can only drill so deep.

The earth is of finite size, and thus can only contain a finite amount of oil. (unless you believe that oil is produced somehow by the planet at a rate similar to our usage of it - an argument which I have seen but have never seen good evidence for). Mos tof the earths interior is not oil.

At some point, be it in 10 years or 1000 years, that reserve will run out. Now... plant based fuels (like bio-disel) get their energy from plant sugars, which are stored solar energy. Thus available as long as the sun is around.

Others (like fuel cells) are even more independant. They are produced by electricity usually, which can be made using solar energy, or by some bio-disel system, or geothermally.

Eventually we will stop getin glucky and finding more oil - because their wont be any more.
Better to be ready for that now, than sorry we weren't later.

-Steve

Better Idea (2)

GodHead (101109) | more than 12 years ago | (#155302)

Look into the air powered car.
http://www.cartoday.com/livenews/news/00/10/27.3 .a sp

Talk about cool - with a filter on the exaust this thing would have NEGITIVE air pollution. And it runs as good as an electric. The down side is there's no big company controlling AIR (Yet) so no one would make money off of fuel.

G.H.

Keeping the playing field on GM's level (1)

eouio (108700) | more than 12 years ago | (#155306)

GM sees a technology that could compete with their industry so they get their piece of the pie to make sure it stays at bay until they are ready to compete.

I love watching history repeat itself! (5)

Dman33 (110217) | more than 12 years ago | (#155308)

Back in the late 70's the Big-3 were having fun producing big muscle cars and fuel economy was not a factor in design or in the forecasting. Most Americans laughed at the Hondas and Toyotas. Then the fuel crisis hit and the Japanese carmakers were suddenly taken seriously by the consumers.

Shortly afterward, the Big-3 made feeble attempts to compete with the Japanese automakers. The Big-3 got through the tough times, but it sure wasn't pretty.

Now it is the really early 90's. The economy is on the rise, gas prices are stable, things are good. Ford throws an SUV chassis onto a pickup frame and the Explorer is born. It is featured in Jurassic Park and suddenly everyone wants one.

The next thing you know, the 'Bigger is Better' mindset catches on. By now, the mid to late 90's are here, the internet is booming, the stock market is great and gas prices are still pretty good! The Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions, Excursions etc are the hot thing for the soccer-moms now cuz everyone has one. 9 MPG is the standard, but nobody cares!

Meanwhile, silently Honda and Toyota R&D are working on this concept. It is a hybrid system that will allow a car to use both a gas and electricity. 60 - 80 MPG is the projected outcome. Most scoff at the lack of power and the unrealistic use of this type of car.

Then the bottom falls out. The market goes down, an oil tycoon gets elected, and OPEC thinks that we need a reality-check. The economy settles down, the gas prices skyrocket, Explorers are flipping like hotcakes instead of selling like hotcakes and suddenly the $50,000 SUV that gets 9 MPG is not the best idea.

At the same time, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius take to the market. Yes, they are small. Yes, they are not speedsters. Yes, they are $20,000 and get unprecedented fuel mileage.

Now, Ford and GM harp up. "Hey, we are working on these nice little fuel-cell technologies. We rule!"

Sounds a little like GM's 'Impact' concept car from the mid-80's to me. That never materialized, nor will this. It is just history repeating itself... so don't worry. Perhaps after you pay off the Excursion you can get a loan to buy a Peterbuilt or Kenworth... just maybe.

Well, that is just my take on the situation. Just some guy from Detroit.

Re:Methanol vs Gasoline, H2, Zn, Al (1)

dara (119068) | more than 12 years ago | (#155320)

Fuel cells will definitely win out eventually, but it isn't very clear what the fuel will actually be. Many of the advantages, efficiency, quiet operation, low to zero emissions (and stable over the life of the fuel cell) are shared by all designs.

I'm hoping for methanol to win out, preferably with a direct methanol fuel cell (as opposed to a reformer producing hydrogen on the fly). Methanol looks more practical than ethanol or any other carbon based hydrogen carrier, it shouldn't require an outrageous change at the gas stations (a new nozzle standard, new tank linings, etc.). It can be made from natural gas (currently often wasted), which is bad for greenhouse effects, but you know it's going to get used up anyway. Or it can be generated from a number of feedstocks.

Gasoline will probably never allow a direct fuel cell, and the reformers will always be dirtier than methanol.

Metal sounds interesting, but will force a more expensive infrastructure.

Dara

Fuel Cells: Not as clean as you think! (3)

pcb (125862) | more than 12 years ago | (#155322)

There is a rather long but interesting article [ottawacitizen.com] in the Ottawa Citizen [ottawacitizen.com] regarding the 'total' amount of CO2 produced by fuel cells. How clean fuel cells actually are, depends a lot on the source of the fuel. For example, they list the following data:

All were compared to the benchmark car, which emits 248 kilograms of carbon dioxide for each 1,000 kilometres driven on ordinary gasoline:

- A car using grid electric power in Alberta (dominated by coal generation) to make hydrogen would emit 237 kilograms of carbon dioxide per 1,000 km driven.

- A fuel-cell vehicle obtaining its hydrogen from an on-board gasoline reformer would emit 193 kilograms covering the same distance.

- Vehicles using on-board methanol (extracted from natural gas) reformers would emit 162 kilograms per 1,000 km.

- Vehicles using hydrogen made from natural gas at urban retail outlets would emit 80 kilograms per 1,000 km.

- Vehicles using hydrogen made at large natural gas refineries would emit 70 kilograms per 1,000 km.


The article goes on to say that 'Big Oil' is really pushing the on-board gasoline reformer technology as it would make very little difference to their bottom line, but people would think it is environmentally friendly. The relevent parts are:

The favoured option of car makers like GM and oil companies seems to be on-board reforming of ordinary gasoline into hydrogen. That would require the least re-tooling of billion-dollar auto plants and maintain gasoline sales, while passing on the costs of the fuel cell and reformer technology to new vehicle purchasers. The pollution reductions would be meagre, but this option has a huge strategic advantage: the gasoline supply network is already in place.

The end of the muscle car era is near... (2)

Mustang Matt (133426) | more than 12 years ago | (#155325)

I will be sad to see the day that Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes are replaced with front wheel drive super efficient/super slow cars.

Then again everyone thought the Muscle car era was over when the late 70s hit and right now you can buy showroom cars that do the quarter mile in 13 seconds or less. Maybe they will make a few fast ones in the future too.

So......? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 12 years ago | (#155328)

Remeber, GM invested heavily in electric cars and when they introduced the EV1 (codenamed "impact") in '98 they were the only auto manufacturer that was making a serious attempt at an electric car in the US. In fact, they were the only company that was prepared to meet the California law that stated that 10% of all cars sold in California must be emission free by the year 2000. No other manufacturer was able to put out a car in time and so they lobbied for an extension untill 2004 (when it will happen again, I guarantee it). So what if GM is researching fuel cells....they may even put a model into production.....but unfortuneately because people are too lax with the restrictions they set upon themselves, a fuel-cell car will go the same route as the EV1.

Re:Better Idea (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 12 years ago | (#155329)

Honda's low emissions sedan (I dont know the model) already has an emissions level lower than the air pollution on a typical Los Angeles freeway.....the air coming out the tailpipe is cleaner than the air going into the intake. Its already a "negative" emissions vehicle!

Re:Better Idea (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 12 years ago | (#155343)

I mentioned this before-- this car would be a BOMB in an accident. Think of any aerosol can in your house: "Do not puncture or incinerate." Ever wonder why?

Compressed gases are incredibly dangerous. Moreso than barely-flammable liquids like gasoline, in my opinion. I think I'll pass.

Re:"Green" diesel (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 12 years ago | (#155344)

Burning *any* hydrocarbon fuel - gasoline, diesel oil, Crisco, sugar, ethanol - produces carbon dioxide.

A perfect hydrocarbon-fuel combustion process produces nothing but carbon dioxide and water.

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 12 years ago | (#155345)

Cars don't have big engines for sustained speed; they have/need big engines for acceleration.

I used to have a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird with a 1.8-liter inline four. Brand new, that engine was rated for 80 horsepower (when I bought it it hasd 124k miles and a blown head gasket, which I fixed). It had a five-speed manual transmission and was therefore barely drivable in traffic (downtown Atlanta). I can't imagine how lethargic it would have been with a manual transmission. It would have been dangerous!

Going down the road takes little more than 25 HP for the average car. Getting up to speed and merging with traffic is where POWER is needed.

Finally (1)

Rackemup (160230) | more than 12 years ago | (#155349)

A major car company finally clues in that gas reserves are dropping, and that traditional engines are harmful to the environment! wow.

I think every major car manufacturer should be making these new types of vehicles their top priority. Maybe then they could find a way to include some type of "home hydrogen" kit that will use a solar panel and a tank of water to generate the hydrogen you'd need for your new fuel-cell car. Just fill it before you leave for work and you're good for the day!

I wouldnt mind getting one of those Honda Insight hybrid cars (I know its not a fuel-cell car, but it's a start), if only they didnt cost over $27k Cdn (without even having a built in CD player!).

500 miles? (1)

tshak (173364) | more than 12 years ago | (#155359)

They believe their cars can go 500 miles without refueling...

My (gas only) Honda Accord already does this. I was under the impression that fuel cells would be a lot more dramatic then this.

Re:Propaganda (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 12 years ago | (#155360)

Fun in the morning in 4 easy steps

Step 1: Apply argument to unix
Step 2: Add Microsoft parody in
Step 3: Look at argument, see how funny it is
Step 4: Laugh at argument

Don't belive the hype. The unix industry has always been under direct control from the sys admin industry. The unix system is 20+ years old, but we have yet to find a better design? Obviously there are alterioir motives to staying with the current design.

There have been serveral Microsoft programmers who have either disappeared or lost their job because they invented a more efficient OS.

Alternative operating systems will not be utilized until the world is in a state of crisis (run out of inodes, death of sys admins). Only in times of desperation, will true change be brought by Microsoft.

Sorry about the gratuitous MS bashing, but it added just that lit bit more of humor to it :)

Re:will americans buy them? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 12 years ago | (#155378)

Fine point: the speed limits may not be higher, but the speed of traffic is much higher than the posted speed limits.

This is not necessarily a good thing.

Re:Scuse me? (1)

nekid_singularity (196486) | more than 12 years ago | (#155386)

A recycling technology for nuclear waste already exists, its called reprocessing. Only thing is that it was outlawed by I think Carter because it produces weapons grade plutonium. IMHO I think this was incredibly stupid. Also, there is a nifty way of processing nuke wast for storage. It's called vitrification, and produces these glassy disks. Also, the government is looking at a permanent storage facility at Yucatan Mountian(?) in New Mexico because it is the most seismecaly stable places in the country.

Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#155397)

Yes, fuel cells and electric cars are all neat ideas, but the current administration is encouraging the consumption of the world's rapidly dwindling oil supply Then again, there's probably going to be a reversal of parties in the Whitehouse in Jan. 2005...

Recall back in the 70's it was determined that the world had 40-50 years petroleum remaining, at current rate of consumption. Even with more efficient vehicles, more are in use that ever and the draw on petroleum reserves is still very high. Many gulf states will run out of petroleum in the next 10 years. Iraq, because of the embargo, and Saudi Arabia will be among the last, 20 years tops, at current rate (BTW this is why OPEC has cut production and raised prices.)

--
All your .sig are belong to us!

Re:Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#155398)

Perhaps better to examine this [doe.gov] before making such claims. Saudi Arabia is the greatest single oil producer, at the rate their reserves are consumed new finds would have to be much much more that what's been found in China, and the underlying assumption that China will export it rather than consume it all herself. Get real.

--
All your .sig are belong to us!

Don't know where your reading all that... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#155399)

California, for the ~34 million people living out here, is more energy efficient than the rest of the country. Our local generators are run on natural gas, not oil. Caps have been requested because 700-1500% increases in prices have less to do with supply and demand than a public utility which is required to provide power and not being able to and being gouged as it attempts to meet its commitments.

Worth noting is, reported in todays news [yellowbrix.com], executives at some power sellers (to California) have been selling stock for 200%-300% more than they used to. Can't tell me all that cost went to buy resources to generate excess capacity.

--
All your .sig are belong to us!

CO2 emissions, etc. (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#155405)

First off, consider that for the past 80 years Coal and Petroleum, sources of Carbon, having been away from the atmosphere for a significant number of millions of years to create the world climate we have today, are being reintroduced to the atmosphere. The other major component of these compounds is Hydrogen. Plants have been judged to be consuming much Carbon (from CO2) being reintroduced, thus lusher forests, grasslands, etc. (Minor question: Where's all the Oxygen coming from to bond with the re-release C and H? Water? That releases more H...eh?)

Thus more plants all working to some slow degree to lay down the next layer of coal? Anyway, there's huge sources of Natural Gas all around us. A mining engineer friend has worked on landfills for years and demonstrated, with a small landfill contracted by a community in Michigan, that sufficient natural gas could be generated from a properly designed one to power a generator which provides the entire community with heat and light, with some excess they sell to the grid. It's production estimated to peak in 50 years. Tens of thousands of other communities simply bury their trash, with no thought to gas recovery and waste the potential, further this gas does escape and enter the atmosphere where it contributes greatly to greenhouse gases.

Food v fuel, is currently a distant backseat to issues of turning croplands into housing, malls and parking lots.

--
All your .sig are belong to us!

Re:"Green" diesel (2)

canning (228134) | more than 12 years ago | (#155408)

I do, it smells like french fries when combusted. Millions of pot heads will be burned by exhaust pipes. What a shame.


Murphy's Law of Copiers

GM far behind (1)

ManDude (231569) | more than 12 years ago | (#155412)

GM is making its first steps now? They are a bit slow. Many others have invested are starting to see results. Check it out:

'Ballard Power Systems is recognized as the world leader in developing, manufacturing and marketing zero-emission proton exchange membrane fuel cells for use in transportation, electricity generation and portable power products. Ballard Power Systems proprietary fuel cell technology is enabling automobile, electrical equipment and portable power product manufacturers to develop environmentally clean products for sale. The fundamental component of these end-user products is the Ballard® fuel cell that combines hydrogen (which can be obtained from methanol, natural gas, petroleum or renewable sources) and oxygen (from air) without combustion to generate electricity. Ballard is partnering with strong, world-leading companies, including DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GPU International, ALSTOM and EBARA, to commercialize Ballard fuel cells. Ballard has also supplied fuel cells to Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Yamaha, Cinergy, Coleman Powermate and Matsushita Electric Works, among others.'

Gasoline (3)

clinko (232501) | more than 12 years ago | (#155413)

If this can be done with gasoline this will probably work. All those gas stations have to do something. But... I was thinking about this a couple days ago. Imagine how much money Texaco is worth in land value. Every gas station you see is in prime location.

Re:Air Car = (1)

Azanian (247369) | more than 12 years ago | (#155422)

They are actually building two factories to produce these in South Africa as we speak.

Not Suprising (2)

daniel_isaacs (249732) | more than 12 years ago | (#155426)

Let's keep in mind that Power Companies own most of the patents/technologies related to Solar Cells. As soon as advances were made that looked like they may scale to become viable choices for consumers, the big corporations bought out most of the smaller companies that were making the advances. Not sure if they called it "innovation", though ;)

More likely than not, GM is hedging their bets. At worst, it turns out to be a great PR move. At best, they take the lead in Clean Automobile Technology.

World too invested in oil to change anytime soon. (3)

bahtama (252146) | more than 12 years ago | (#155428)

I don't think the majority of the public understands how deep our dependence on oil and its byproducts is. Everytime you hear about some new way to conserve fuel, use another kind, etc, people get their panties all damp thinking about how cool that is. The fact is that it would take years, maybe decades to ween the world off oil. We use it in about every product you can think of.

And yes, you can blame the government and auto companies for "forcing" us to use Artic oil wells, but when someone turns off all their appliances, leaves their 65 degree house, gets in their SUV, drives to the 55 degree airport, boards a huge jet, flies to the Artic and takes a cruise on a huge cruise ship to "appreciate" nature, maybe we should look at our priorities. Using a ton of natural resources to go see them doesn't make alot of sense.

I for one got gas 6 times last year, get over 30 miles to the gallon and ride my bike/bus most everywhere. Conservation is the real short-term solution. People shouldn't keep using as much fuel as possible becuase there will be an alternative one day.

=-=-=-=-=

Read the NY Times Today (2)

daveym (258550) | more than 12 years ago | (#155429)

Apparently, Toyota is coming out with a hybrid gas-electric motor that will have a very small price premium over regular cars. With a tax credit, it would be cheaper...

Already, the Prius gets 900 miles on a tank of gas and 55 MPG in the city--45 on the higways. (Electric motor improves mileage in the city!). I am gonna buy one of their new models, probably, if they get some style sense ever.....

I'll believe it when I see it (4)

Martini Man (265244) | more than 12 years ago | (#155434)

For years now I've been hoping that somebody would put some serious effort into developing clean fuel technologies that would reduce our dependencies on fossil fuels and other polluting agents. If GM, one of the heavy hitters in the automotive world, is committed to this, that's great. But I have to admit that at this point in time, I'm a bit cynical. How long will it take for the Bush administration (both the President and Vice President are former oil executives are heavily indebted to Big Oil for getting elected) to put a stop to this? Will the Grand Oil Party sit back and watch this without trying to do something about it? Somehow I doubt it.

Bush has already announced his intent to drill the fuck out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. If technologies appear on the horizon that make oil appear less important, the public will be even less receptive to drilling than they already are. This will make it impossible for Bush to help his oil cronies set up lucrative oil wells up there. And if he pisses them off, look for huge repercussions in the 2002 and 2004 elections. For Bush, it's "do or die" .. if he doesn't get ANWR full of oil derricks by 2003 he will be a one-term President.

This is why "clean fuel" efforts will be fought to the death. It's interesting that this administration has pledged to take a "hands off of business" approach, and to not impose any more government regulations. Well, the proof is in the pudding, Dubya .. are you ready to practice what you preach? Somehow I doubt it.

Auto makers want fuel cell technology (2)

nanojath (265940) | more than 12 years ago | (#155435)

A big myth is that auto manufacturers don't want to develop this kind of technology. ALL major manufacturers are experimenting and researching in these arenas. Why? Because these vehicles will obsolete all existing internal-combustion vehicles by giving superior performance, reliability, and versatility in design, not just better mileage and lower emissions.

On the other hand, infrastructure for the internal combustion engine is in place, it is a stable and well understood technology, and car companies are, like most companies, completely beholden to the greed of their shareholders, and subsequently tied to their quarterly bottom lines with a very short leash. So the transition will go slowly unless regulatory pressures or government incentives encourage a faster pace. Considering how many idiots choose to buy giant SUVs and for all intents and purposes drive two cars worth of gas, road wear and emissions for their commute, one can assume the transition will not be consumer driven.

Re:Offtopic - you've been warned (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 12 years ago | (#155442)

  • So what if he wants to drill the oil out of the ANWR? What is it going to do sitting in the ground?

Ice ages are regular events. There's another one coming RSN in geological terms. Sure, maybe it won't be for thousands of years. But maybe it will be this year. (cue scoffing laugher)

We'll get through it; we're tricksy beasts. But we're talking a massive dieback, resource and land wars, a collapse of anything like a global economy.

When the glaciers recede (or when the asteroid impact or supervolcano crud clouds dissipate), what resources are our descendents going to use to recolonise of the planet?

I'd like us to leave some stuff for them. If not them, won't someone please think of the rats? ;)

Impress your friends today! (1)

Salieri (308060) | more than 12 years ago | (#155448)

Well, the proof is in the pudding, Dubya .. are you ready to practice what you preach?

That's a common misuse-- "the proof is in the pudding" makes no sense at all.

The phrase is supposed to be, "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting."

--------------------------------

Re:Seachange? (2)

freeweed (309734) | more than 12 years ago | (#155449)

sea change

n.

A change caused by the sea: "Of his bones are coral made:/Those are pearls that were his eyes:/Nothing of him that doth fade,/But doth suffer a sea change" (Shakespeare).

A marked transformation: "The script suffered considerable sea changes, particularly in structure" (Harold Pinter).

Let me introduce you to a wonderful site: www.dictionary.com [dictionary.com]

Re:Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (3)

freeweed (309734) | more than 12 years ago | (#155450)

Recall back in the 70's it was determined that the world had 40-50 years petroleum remaining, at current rate of consumption. Even with more efficient vehicles, more are in use that ever and the draw on petroleum reserves is still very high. Many gulf states will run out of petroleum in the next 10 years. Iraq, because of the embargo, and Saudi Arabia will be among the last, 20 years tops, at current rate (BTW this is why OPEC has cut production and raised prices.)

Actually, in the 70's the warnings were for a LOT less than 40-50 years. In some cases, as little as 10. Once the panic calmed down, and OPEC made a few more billions, suddenly there seemed to be a lot of extra oil. New reserves were discovered, and things like the Alberta Tar Sands suddenly got a lot more viable. The sands have been estimated to have anywhere from 10, to as much as several HUNDRED years worth of the world's current oil use, it all hinges on being able to extract it for a reasonable cost.

After 20 years of cheap oil prices, the shieks and dictators in the middle east are a lot poorer than they want to be (20 years of near-constant warfare in a 3rd world country doesn't help many economies). Suddenly, OPEC cuts production - they don't even lie about it, claiming it's due to supplies getting low. Their official statements basically add up to 'we feel the prices are too low, so we're raising them', ie: WE WANT MORE MONEY AND THERE'S SWEET FUCK ALL THAT ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT. That's why they're called a 'cartel'.

Re:will americans buy them? (2)

tb3 (313150) | more than 12 years ago | (#155453)

Fine point: the speed limits may not be higher, but the speed of traffic is much higher than the posted speed limits. I've noticed this everywhere I've been in North America. The police aren't that interested in enforcing the speed limits, only ticketing speeders (note the difference).

"What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"

The real players (1)

Claric (316725) | more than 12 years ago | (#155455)

If you ask me the real players in clean, renewable energy sources for transport should be the petrochemical companies. This is the perfect oppotunity for them all to stay in business when fossil fuels run out.

I've seen a van running on fuel cell technology. It's good because the waste product from combusting hydrogen is water !

Now, combine that with... I think it's electrolosys - but don't flame me if I'm wrong... to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen and use the hydrogen as fuel for the fuel cell. Not quite perpetual motion but I'm sure you can see where I'm coming from.

Claric
--

Re:But it still uses gas (1)

mccalli (323026) | more than 12 years ago | (#155456)

Have we forgotten the Hindenburger?

Erm...never mind. :-)

As far as I recall however, current thinking is that the Hindenburg accident was not -caused- by hydrogen. A new coating had been placed over the skin, and a lightning flash combusted that material.

However, once the material was burning it is agreed that the hydrogen contributed to the speed of the disaster.

Cheers, Ian

Re:But it still uses gas (1)

mccalli (323026) | more than 12 years ago | (#155457)

a lightning flash combusted that material

Sorry - I remember in more detail now. The material had built up static by travelling through storms, there was a discharge between the ground and airship (caused by the mooring ropes?) and that combusted the coating.

Cheers,
Ian

Methanol vs Gasoline (3)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 12 years ago | (#155465)

Gasoline will probably never allow a direct fuel cell...
As I recall, it's already been done. The Monolithic Solid Oxide Fuel Cell has been run directly on hydrocarbons. If the coking problem can be beaten, this will eventually include all of the hydrocarbons in gasoline. At the low temperatures involved there is essentially no NOx produced, and the other emissions can be oxidized quite effectively.

The problem with running on such hydrocarbons, at least as far as global warming is concerned, is that you're producing the CO2 at the vehicle tailpipe. This makes it difficult and expensive to do anything other than release it into the atmosphere.

... and the reformers will always be dirtier than methanol.
Eh? Methanol itself comes from reforming (oxidizing) methane, then you have the same CO2 issue. You may be able to get rid of all nitrogen oxides and most hydrocarbons and CO, but you're not going to be able to deal with CO2 as effectively as you can with off-vehicle reforming.
--

Not really the lead, but a good start (1)

Aerog (324274) | more than 12 years ago | (#155468)

While watching DW-TV (german station broadcast internationally (yay for the big satellite dishes!)) last night, they were running a story on alternate-fuel cars in Berlin, although they used the terms "natural gas" and "hydrogen" just about equally (and seemingly interchangably), so we were left wondering what they were using. If it is the case that this is hydrogen, then GM wouldn't be the first, but if it turns out to be natural gas, then it's another topic altogether.

As well, GM may do well to partner with Global Thermoelectric [globalte.com], based out of Calgary, which has been doing research into fuel cells for a few years now and has already released products (to the best of my knowledge) which employ their fuel-cell technology, one being a procedure to efficiently convert natural gas to usable hydrogen in fuel cells. (maybe that might explain the german report)

Either way, GM is taking a very large step in securing their position in the new power hierarchy (double-meaning intended), and hopefully it will succeed for the betterment of everybody.


And on a completely off-topic note, the special series they're running on NOVA on PBS this week rules. It's a series on lost technology and how modern engineers are working to revive some of them. Very good way to spend an hour a night.

Green cars *have* performance (2)

evenprime (324363) | more than 12 years ago | (#155469)

We already have electric cars with great performance. Cars like the tzero [acpropulsion.com], and drag cars [nedra.com]that can beat a viper [wilde-evolutions.com] off the line. You want performance? Russ Wilde is talking about building a street legal 1000 hp [wired.com] electric car!

The problem with current electric cars is that batteries don't have enough range. The new fuel cells (like the ones in this story) may be able to change that
--
"Weapons should be hardy rather than decorative" - Musashi

Metal fuel cells ... (4)

s20451 (410424) | more than 12 years ago | (#155472)

Metal-based fuel cells (using aluminum or zinc) may prove a better solution than hydrogen, providing better energy densities and less hazardous handling.

There's a relevant and interesting article [ieee.org] in IEEE Spectrum [ieee.org] this month.

This isn't the way to go (2)

Richthofen80 (412488) | more than 12 years ago | (#155474)

I applaud innovation, but I believe fuel cells won't be viable. the next step has to be electric vehicles, and their electricity should come from nuclear power plants in the United States. GM already manufactures an ALL electric vehicle.(www.ev1.com) it goes about 150 miles on a single overnight charge. Now most people don't drive more than 150 miles and could charge their cars at night. The only problem is, GM only sells these vehicles in Cali and AZ (which is one reason I'm moving to AZ soon)

Now, for the info that will get me modded down as flamebait: I don't believe drilling for more energy is immoral. I believe that it is highly moral, as oil and every other natural resource is used to save our lives. The ambulance that saves a heart attack victim's life is gasoline powered, the oil heats our homes so we can live more than 200 miles above the equator line, and oil / natural gas helps keep lights on in research facilities that are trying to make new and cheaper energy. do you think by eliminating oil companies and electric companies sources of income, by denying them energy, they will have more money for R & D? do you think that by making energy a plethora of government regulation, of weaving generalities, of moral wrongness, that ANYONE would ever want to be innovative?

Re:Unbelievable...Are these guys awake? (1)

ek_adam (442283) | more than 12 years ago | (#155476)

With all the complaints about CO2 emissions, I'm surprised more people are talking about burning grain alcohol or other biomass.

Plant uses photosynthesis to convert H20 and CO2 into sugar. We use yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. (Or other biological fuels such as methane.) Then we burn the alcohol. CO2 is released, but it is never more than the plants first took out of the air with photosynthesis.

On the other hand, how much cropland would be required to produce amounts of alcohol equivalent to the amount of petroleum we currently consume? How long before we see food vs fuel protests?

Final note; I believe corn (one of the more common plants used to create alcohol) typically requires a fair amount of nitrogen fertilizer. For a truly reusable energy source, does anyone know of a nitrogen fixing crop that can be easily turned into alcohol?

"Look and feel" matters (1)

6EQUJ5 (446008) | more than 12 years ago | (#155478)

I hope they don't go giving it some ridiculous body design like you see at car shows. If the they actually made hybrid/electric cars that LOOK NORMAL, I think there'd be more interest.

I wouldn't be caught dead in all kinds of cars, simply because some models have a very un-manly perception. Among them:

anything from Toyota or Nissan. They're built well enough, but God they're ugly!

the VW Bug, or anything from VW - forgive me, but I'm not a big fan of post-Nazi automakers

any kind of hatch-back. I don't want to look like a fucking soccer-mom. This knocks off about 75% of all prototype cars.

Trucks are fine, but SUVs are NOT ok. They're for yuppie scum, and I'm no yuppie.

Lastly, the Kia, Neon, Honda, and Saturn all make my "bad list" - they're "sensible" cars. Yeah, real fun.

Give me a 1978 Chevy Impalla any day - or an early 80s model Ford Bronco. Actually, I'd love to have a Chevy Suburban except for one thing - they named it "The Suburban"... sorry, no deal!

Sometimes it amazes me (1)

kypper (446750) | more than 12 years ago | (#155479)

That no crackpot has created a USABLE electric car that could reasonably drive extremely long distances.

You'd think ONE of the inventions would get out.

Another article about fuel-cells (1)

Teldon (459719) | more than 12 years ago | (#155484)

For more information about hydrogen fuel-cells read this [ottawacitizen.com] Ottawa Citizen story.

It has a very canadian bias, but it also contains a lot of great information. For example, many people are stating that fuel-cells are free of emissions, but that is not true. The hydrogen has to come from somewhere, and the most abundant source is fossil fuels!

Depending on how the hydrogen is extracted, the CO2 emissions can be nearly as high as engines currently produce. An onboard gasoline converter, as mentioned in the story, produces 90% as much CO2 as a combustion engine.

-Teldon

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