Reading back through some of the posts it may seem to some people that I have been a little too aggressive putting forward my point of view and ignoring alternative viewpoints . If this is the case I apologise to anyone who has been offended
As you may have noticed I am a passionate hydrogen technology evangelist , the whole idea of a hydrogen based economy truly excites me and I am convinced it will be a major part of the next human revolution .
So I will continue
Apple has recently patented designs for a hydrogen fuel cell power supply for it products so they seem to be taking the technology seriously
Hydrogen fuel cells are infinitely scalable so they can be the size of a pin head or a mountain and they work in exactly the same way and are equally efficient .
This will be very useful as current nano technology is expanded .
There is so much more to explore so I ask anyone interested in hydrogen technology to do a little personal research , there is a wealth of information out there and an amazing amount of fully developed technology available now.
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The question is, how long will it take to design and implement hydrogen creation, storage and distribution infrastructure? Getting it past regulatory bodies? You think that will happen faster than battery tech maturing to the point of feasibility? It's safe to say that normal people will not drive further than 8 hours @ 70 ish mph in one day. You think battery tech will take longer to support a 600 mile range than the infrastructure implementation mentioned above? I don't know the answers myself, but I would place my bet on batteries.
I take your point, but the problem isn't simply about plotting rates of development on a graph. If you do the calcs on energy transfer, you find that filling up your car at 0.8 litres a second of diesel is an energy transfer rate of something like 30MW - even assuming that a battery could cope with those sorts of currents and voltages, it would play merry hell with the electricity grid. Just as importantly, what materials can we actually make lighter batteries from? You need two chemicals, an anion and a cation, to chemically store the energy. We are already using lithium as the cation, which consulting a periodic table is as light as you can go. The lightest anion used to date in a working battery that I know of is sulphur (element 16) which has demonstrated an energy density of 0.35kWh/kg and theoretically could reach 0.6kWh/kg. I'm not a chemist and battery technology isn't my area of experties, but I think the theoretical limits using lithium/oxygen or aluminium/oxygen, assuming that you could even get such a battery to work, are in the range of a couple of kWh/kg, after which you run out of lighter elements to make your battery from. So that is as dense as you can possibly go, which is still several times lower than good old petrol and about as good as hydrogen storage in metal hydrides is at the present day. So compared with hydrogen, technically the chemical battery is a pretty poor horse to back.
Batteries can be made to work in cars under two scenarios in my view. Firstly, in the scenario where you have a relatively short-ranged vehicle for town and light highway use, you never intend to drive it that far in one day and you're happy to wait around for it to charge overnight or whilst at work before using it again - much like electric city cars are used now, but developed on a bit. Almost no car has no compromises in all usability categories, so having useability restrictions is in my view not a big problem. For heavier usage, the only way I see batteries working are if you exchange batteries at a recharging station much like filling a car at a forecourt today. Pull in, a machine removes the battery from underneath the car and replaces it with a recharged one. The sum of money you pay covers both the energy in the battery and a small charge to account for the limited life-cycle of the battery. But this latter scenario requires a big infrastructure development as well, so it faces similar challenges to hydrogen.
Answer me this... Why would you want to go somewhere to refuel?
Well for less intensive use you wouldn't. But as I have tried to illustrate above, batteries can't really be developed to the point where a long trip is feasible without recharging. At which point, you have an awful lot of waiting to do whilst it recharges. Hence why pumping a fuel offers such an advantage.
I hope this clarifies why I believe the problems with hydrogen to be more surmountable. With regards to Peter Ritchings (not a buddy of mine, I read an article mentioning his views in Professional Engineering last month), I can't be sure but it sounds like he is primarily talking about fuel cells there. In this respect I agree with him, they are a long way off from widespread commercial maturity. But hydrogen can also be used in internal combustion engines relatively easily, and at the same time would allow the infrastructure to develop gradually as it did for LPG distribution. As the technologies for onboard vehicle storage mature, the key things holding this back today are cost vs fossil fuels, and a lack of low-carbon energy sources to generate the hydrogen from - which is both a cost and an environmental issue. One day these things will be overcome but as ever, when costs force us to do so.
The Tesla s is a beautiful looking car but unfortunately it is already obsolete because it uses batteries , long recharge time and short driving range makes it totally impractical .
So Tesla is already obsolete in the face of a technology that isn't yet available in the UK, & won't be available for a few years?
Oh, & regarding the driving range, check this:
Your love for hydrogen fuel cell technology is commendable, but please don't distort facts.
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My brother-in-law in the US has the Tesla S on order. Last month, Tesla invited him to its factory & he was very impressed with what he saw. I will report back his experience with it when it's delivered.
Coal is the major polluter, which accounts for only 1.7%.
He lives in California.
Really?? So Tesla is already obsolete in the face of a technology that isn't yet available in the UK, & won't be available for a few years? Oh, & regarding the driving range, check this: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/06/22/tesla-model-s-verified-as-... Your love for hydrogen fuel cell technology is commendable, but please don't distort facts.
I stand corrected about the Tesla s range it is quite impressive .
But imagine if Tesla used a similar hydrogen fuel cell technology to Honda , it could have the same performance with far less negative impact on the environment and be re fuelled in 5 minutes rather than hours .
Because you brother lives in California he is probably in the best place in the world to re fuel a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle .
I must say that I am still quite envious though the Tesla is a lovely car .
Siggy_7, I feel you are getting far too hung up on what batteries are capable of now, not what batteries and motors could be capable of. Your are accepting a massive "could" for hydrogen should the infrastructure be implemented, but not acknowledging "Coulds" for electric based system. For instance, in Korea (UNIST) they are developing fast charging technology which can charge a Lithium based battery between 30-120 times faster. This works on a matrix design which charges the battery uniformly rather than traditional batteries which charge from the outside in.
Another interesting tech is using silicon nano-structures to replace carbon anodes, this apparently could yield much greater performance.
You also mention weight, and your feeling that battery tech is maxing out for output power. Even if battery output power was fixed for all time, improving the performance of electric motors would improve range by reducing power output. Increasing the power density of the motor means reducing the size and weight, but also lowering the voltage there by increasing the range. Here is an example of work GE is doing.
I'm by no means an expert, but I dug this lot up in about 15 minutes. Seems like a lot of options to be reading up on
Finally, I see lots of very different scenarios for electric working. With significantly faster charging, imaging parking at a tescos metro for 5 minutes whilst you ran in to satisfy your hankering for Crunchies. Come out and your car is charged already. This is not that far away from reality, the NIssan Leaf can already do a 70 mile quick charge in 10 minutes without any of the tech above implemented.
Why stop there? Do you remember playing Wipeout on the playstation? You run low on power, and you drive through the pits to get recharged. You could have a section of Red road on major A roads next to electricity sub stations where your car would recharge whilst driving. Bit more than 15 years off, but you see where I'm going. You are so much more flexible if you can charge rather than refuel.
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It will never be cheaper (even if it was) because any increasing loss of oil profits/fuel taxes would be imposed on this as well.
Spot on. I used to have an old Diesel Land Rover 109' back in the early '90s..... This was still a time when diesel was pretty much unheard of in anything other than vans & commercial vehicles..... My nearest petrol station even had the diesel pump sited on its own away from the other pumps, with no cover over it!
Diesel was waaay cheaper than petrol then. Now look at it.
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Paul, apologies if my points aren't coming across clearly. My point about hydrogen cars is that the "could" requires the will to build the infrastructure. As of today, we have the technology to build a car running with an internal combustion engine powered by hydrogen, and it wouldn't be too bad a car. BMW already make one in fact, the Hydrogen 7. Sure, the fuel tank could do with some work - it only holds 8kg (enough to get the car 125 miles) and adds 250kg to the kerb weight, but that's because it's compromised with a cryogenic storage tank. Better alternatives have already been demonstrated and could be commercialised with relatively little effort if the demand for hydrogen vehicles were there. Best of all, cars like the hydrogen 7 run on regular petrol just fine, which allows a gradual transition to using alternative fuels, and don't require expensive fuel cells.
Batteries, on the other hand, are much more limited by the chemistry and physics of available things in the periodic table. Hence the energy density that hydrogen offers just can't be reached, unless you stretch your imagination of what a "battery" is - nuclear batteries, a hydrogen fuel cell "battery" and so on. But a chemical battery - that is, electro-chemical cells - will never beat the energy density we can get today, with hydrogen. Technology is fundamentally limited by the materials we have to play with, and whilst materials science has been very good at making new compounds that are bigger, more complex and have groovier properties for certain applications, you can't go the other way and make materials that are molecularly smaller and lighter than the elements.
Well, one could make a case that cars of the future will be lighter and therefore require less power to drive them (if you go slowly anyway), but there are issues here. Firstly, if they are electric, then you've got those pesky heavy batteries to haul around! Secondly, despite making lighter and stronger materials the trend in cars (at least until very recently) has been one of increasing weight, as higher and higher standards for crashworthiness have been introduced along with a load of other weight-adding systems. Thirdly, on the highway most of the power output is fighting air resistance, not weight. Aerodynamic shapes are horrible to package - you end up with less useable space and very long cars which are a nightmare in the city - and because they are designed to carry a family plus stuff you can only make a car so small. As the very article you linked to points out, the efficiency of electric motors is already very high, so any gains made in this area will be relatively marginal.
I don't understand the comments about lowering voltage being a good thing. Electric motors are inefficient for two main reasons - mechanical/frictional losses, and losses due to resistive heating of the windings. Resistive heating is a function of current squared, so high voltages should make for more efficient motors of equivalent output - power being the product of voltage and current. That's why we transmit electricy at 400kV rather than 240V after all. Whatever reason they are seeking to use lower voltages, it's not for efficiency of the motor.
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There just seem to be so many more problems with electric vehicles than using a combustible fuel to me. Unless we turn the road network into one massive scaletrix set, storing/charging batteries on convenient timescales is such an uphill struggle compared to just pumping a liquid fuel. I concede that with vast amounts of funding and very innovative engineering some of the issues are at least partly tractable, but why bother when easier, technically better and cheaper solutions are available? The world has enough problems to solve without making life difficult for ourselves.
Batteries, hydrogen, it's all so difficult really. Nature stores energy in hydrocarbon componds because it's effective and easy to release. Hydrogen and battery powered vehicles are both just storage media for energy produced by some other process, but why fight so hard to re-invent the wheel and turn our backs on what we know best and have proven over more than a century? You want to know what the future will be for vehicles, I predict that something like this will be it:
Beware the New - Fight Progress!
Things will change in the future, & the current limitation of electric cars will be overcome:
Things will change in the future, & the current limitation of electric cars will be overcome:
The solution will come when they invent matter transportation and we can all just beam ourselves around instantly. What could possibly go wrong with that...
Maybe I'm wrong. But the one thing I guarantee is that the cars we are driving in the future will be affordable - because otherwise, no-one would be able to buy them. Same goes for the roads on which they will run.What I don't get is why there is such a great incentive to re-invent the wheel with these things. Progress is changing things because they are better than what came before, not changing things just because they are completely different to what came before. This is science and engineering, not fashion. Why make things more difficult than simply producing the fuel for existing cars in an environmentally robust manner - e.g. biofuels or by some industrial alternative to photosynthesis, as described in the article above? The way forward is the one with the fewest and cheapest problems to solve, is that not self-evident?
This makes a lot of sense especially where you say " The way forward is the one with the fewest and cheapest problems to solve, is that not self-evident?"
This is why I believe hydrogen is the answer because existing internal combustion engined vehicles can be simply and economically converted to run on hydrogen with the bonus of being more efficient and completely pollution free , they will also last longer and will need far less frequent servicing . The engine oil will not get dirty or contaminated with acids and will last for very long periods without needing to be changed .
Heating and cooking equipment could also be converted to use hydrogen just like when they were converted from coal gas to natural gas and it would be far safer because nobody would ever die from carbon monoxide poisoning again !
There would be less likelihood of an accidental explosion in domestic homes using hydrogen because and hydrogen gas leak would clear the area very quickly because it is so much lighter than air and there would be far less ignition risk time compared to natural gas . There are no greenhouse gases emitted at all when hydrogen is burnt .
I believe there is far less work needed long-term to convert to a hydrogen based society than any current alternative .
Bio fuels seem like a good idea until you find out that the world is running out of fertile land rapidly , in fact in the near future we are going to struggle to have the land to grow enough food for the world and because there is more profit in growing crops to produce bio fuels more farmers are deciding to take this path leaving less and less space to grow food .
Advanced new battery technology also seems like a good alternative until you realise that they will most probably be Lithium based technology's and the problem with lithium is that it is that the ore is only found in a few places in the world .
The mining of Lithium to meet future demands will cause massive environmental damage not to mention the wars that will be started as different countries fight for the mineral rights .
In fact it could be argued that one war has been started over potential Lithium deposits in a particularly vulnerable part of the world .
The beauty of hydrogen is that it is free to all that seek it equally anywhere in the world , no wars will be fought over it because it available to everyone without favour or advantage to any one country
This work being done by BMW is a large step in the right direction .
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