With the Toyota Mirai now $349 per month to lease, complicated expensive hydrogen fueling stations are the major road block to the mass market adoption of fuel cell vehicles!
California is leading the hydrogen fuel transportation way with a few dozen hydrogen stations coming online by the end of 2016, less than originally planed (50). The catch 22 holding hydrogen back is multifaceted, notably caused by the market forces of sub $3/gal gasoline, and LNG which is 1/2 the cost of gasoline even when oil is trading at $32/barrel.
Hydrogen is the most expensive fuel you can buy, costing something like $14/gal equivalent. Fortunately fuel cell vehicles are exceptionally efficient at using H2, meaning the actual parity fuel costs are only about 2x greater for a fuel cell vehicle vs conventional gasoline power, or roughly $5000 per year for the average driver of the Toyota Mirai, or about $0.17 per mile. You can refill the Mirai in under 5min :) making it more attractive to use than electric vehicles which require 6-50x more time to recharge.
Electric Final Drive
Remember that fuel cell vehicles are electric, so any combination of batteries and fuel cells are possible. Electric final drive has so many benefits that the Tesla Model S blows the doors off of conventional vehicle designs! Many electric vehicles enthusiasts call Hydrogen a joke because of all the problems, costs, and complexity of the hydrogen economy, especially as a transportation fuel for the general public.
Hydrogen is hard to compress, but James Dewar was able to liquify hydrogen in 1898 using regenerative cooling, trapping the liquid hydrogen thereby produced in his other invention the vacuum flask, at the cryogenic temperature of 33k (-400 deg F)
Expensive H2 Stations
Each hydrogen fueling station costs more than $1 million USD to build, in some cases up to $2 million. The cost problem stemming from the 10,000 psi filling pressure method. The equipment utilized is produced in low volumes, is technically complicated and requires complex assembly and maintenance. Fortunately these challenges have been overcome at every functioning hydrogen filling station. As the production volume increases for the components of the H2 stations, the price will come down, making more affordable H2 stations possible!
Consider the cost of hydrogen fuel for the Toyota Mirai, estimated by Toyota at $5,000 per year. Thats with relatively cheap hydrogen produced from natural gas. The majority of the cost of natural gas hydrogen is the energy required to strip hydrogen from natural gas, then the energy to compress it into a cryogenic fluid for distribution at expensive filling stations, making hydrogen up to 15x more expensive per unit of energy then liquified natural gas.
Hydrogen fueling stations have to store the hydrogen as a super cooled fluid in exotic cryogenic tank systems, and the plumbing is complicated because of the way that hydrogen can seep into metals, rendering them increasingly brittle over time, which along with the super cold conditions produces a complicated series of problems that are expensive to address. The solutions used to solve these problems increasing the costs of hydrogen fueling station significantly!
Cheaper H2 Stations
Someone has to invent a cheaper way to build hydrogen fueling stations while maintaining superior safety and functional longevity if they are going to directly compete against gasoline stations or CNG stations. Not an easy task, today industrial liquid and high pressure gas companies are building the hydrogen fueling stations in partnerships with automakers like Honda, Toyota and Hyundai.
CNG the cheapest transportation fuel, the economics of natural gas are far more attractive, and the hydrogen being produced for fuel cell vehicles today is actually made from natural gas in an industrial scale stream reformation process that strips Hydrogen from hydrocarbons, producing oxides of carbon as their waste stream (notably CO & C02). Fortunately oxides of carbon have commercial applications so they can be liquified and sold as commodities, turning the waste stream from stream reformed hydrogen production into a revenue generating stream of marketable CO2 and CO. For example, in beer brewing and soda manufacturing, CO2 is used to carbonate beverages, while CO is used in industrial chemical processes of many types.
CNG from LNG is clean burning compared with gasoline, is half the cost of gasoline, and produces lower amounts of CO2, NOx's, SOx's and particulates. CNG vehicles still have a tailpipes, but their oil lasts 3x longer because of how the natural gas burns cleanly. Many homes make use of natural gas as a heating source fuel, and in appliances like ovens and ranges for cooking. Because there is already natural gas at your home, all you need is a special compressor to turn it into CNG for to using in a natural gas vehicle, like the Honda Civic GX that is sadly out of production.
I am sure that hydrogen will be attractive as a fuel because you can refuel a fuel cell vehicle in 5min or less. Electric vehicles are disadvantages by long recharge times! The Tesla Superchargers pumping out 120,000 watts as the worlds fastest EV chargers, but even these take 30min to fill the Model S to 80%, far slower than the 5min you need to refuel a Toyota Mirai all the way to full!
Time is money! We are all running out of time! Charging an EV at higher than 120,000w for a faster recharge present safety, technical and costs problems that remain unsolved. Wireless inductive in road and parking stall charging is likely to help EV technology. Similarly robotic systems that automatically plug-in EV's are going to help their mass market adoption. More than 500,000 EV's have been sold in the USA!
Gasoline & diesel are finite, dirty, and dangerous to keep using because of climate change related to carbon burning, and these oil based fuels present economic and national security hazards because of the countries that control crude oil resources (Russia, Middle East).
Tail pipe pollution exposure is a major cause of preventable diseases. Many cancers are caused by breathing traffic fumes! As billions more people buy cars all around the world, the more important it will become to think carefully about how to power these vehicles. We will burn though all of Earths crude oil if we are not careful, and doing so could have disastrous global effects on climate, weather, natural security and the global economy!
Conserving Crude Oil Resources
The oil in the crust of the Earth is a finite resource, extracting all of it from the ground for fuel use does not make good sense given the ubiquitous value of oil as a petrochemical resource for millions of non fuel use applications! Notable crude oil is used in the production of synthetic fibers, high performance polymers, plastics, even the electrolytes in the batteries of electric vehicles made of petrochemicals.
We should conserve oil for all of the non fuel applications that are essential to the creation of shared wealth and prosperity! The PAN pitch fiber used to make carbon fiber for the BMW i3 also a petrochemical. Fabric & paint dyes, adhesives, lubricants, drugs, explosives, millions of chemicals used in almost all sectors, oil is turned into a bewildering array of different things in high value applications that vastly eclipse the ROI of fuel use cases.
Risk adjusted return theory proves that we stand to gain more as a species using crude oil as a chemical feedstock then we do using oil to make fuels.
Natural gas, propane, butane, hydrogen, batteries, fuel cells, hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, flex fuel vehicles, more options are better! We can work together to transition away from finite dirty fuels to embrace cleaner sustainable transportation energy. The oil companies are important as our partners in future energy as they have the resources to make big differences in the lives of billions of people. We need gasoline and diesel because more than a billion vehicles use these fuels for energy every day!
Over time ICE vehicles will rust out and fade away, replaced by super cool designs, electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles that can make use of many different fuels. I believe that poly-fuel vehicles will be an important bridge technology in the future. Vehicles that can run on any of the available hydrocarbon fuels, hydrogen, gasoline, propane, butane, natural gas, which can also be recharged from solar panels or grid energy; vehicles that incorporates more technologies. This might sound like science fiction right now, but it was not long ago that hydrogen was an illusive element!
Wealth Generating Innovations
Using science and technology we can master the art of molecular manipulation with genetic engineering, solving all diseases and extending human lives. Things that sound impossible will become possible because people want to understand reality more completely. Humanity has this collective desire to elevate, to go further, to do new amazing things that have never been done before, like building an electric highway. Germany is even calling for an end of combustion vehicles by the year 2030 after the diesel debacle at VW.
Tesla Model S FTW
Toyota Mirai Good Work
Going places, going further, clean technology the key to sustainable ecology, the biosphere of earth where life occurs will improve as we continue to push forward for eco-friendly solutions. Reducing toxins like smog in the real world and going back to organic foods free of poisons, the truth is out there that will set people free from preventable diseases! Mastering pests on farms using biologic solutions, solving cancer, living for hundreds of years, people will become intergalactic with fusion power and XPE fueled spacecraft. We will boldly go where no man has gone before, to Mars, to infinity and beyond ^^ Light speed genetically engineered future people allowing mankind to occupy the universe more completely! The present is already amazing as we are half way into the information age, about to embrace the 4th industrial paradigm in manufacturing with high speed 3D printing, gigabit mobile networks, and new ways of thinking about everything! You exist today as a tertiary extension of you, as your digital self online, even if you just search the internet! Cookies and metadata about your IP address, the truth about you is in computing clouds already!
Posted by Aaron Kenneth Schwarz