Many people think hydrogen is the key to the future. However, Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum says the "Hydrogen economy is a structure of mind, which has no backing by physics. " To explain why, here are a few quotes.
hydrogen has to be compressed or liquefied for handling, it has to be distributed, and then reconverted back to, guess what, electricity. That means electricity derived from hydrogen has to compete with its original energy source, electricity. If you go through a hydrogen chain, you find that after the fuel cell only 25% of the original electricity is available for use by consumers. A hydrogen economy is a gigantic energy waste.He then goes on to say "compressed air has [an efficiency of] 75%, flywheels perhaps 80% and Lithium-ion batteries about 90%." In other words, hydrogen is by far the most inefficient energy storage technology discussed in the interview. Think about that for a second. The relatively cave man like technology of compressing air is 3 times more efficient. THREE TIMES!!! Yes, there is energy density problems so it's not exactly proper to compare the two. However, air powered cars that travel 70 mph (range 50 miles, more if traveling slower) are being sold in Europe. And the potential energy storage capabilities of batteries is much much greater. If the battery problem is solved then gasoline will be a slow and cumbersome technology. I will post more on that later. Ok we are getting off topic, back to hydrogen...
Quotes on scales of power:
Using hydrogen for all public air and road transport in Germany, it would take the power output of about 400 nuclear power plants plus enormous amounts of water. You need nine kilograms of water to make one kilogram of hydrogen. The Rhine river and all other rivers would be dry in the summer because the water is used to make hydrogen.Every river in Germany would run dry? That is a LOT of water to power just one country. And just to drive the point home:
Without the slightest doubt, the technology for a hydrogen economy exists or can be developed in reasonable time. Also, hydrogen is an appropriate energy carrier for particular niche applications, or it may become an important medium for electricity storage with reversible fuel cells. But hydrogen can never establish itself as a dominant energy carrier. It has to be fabricated from high grade energy and it has to compete with high grad energy in the marketplace. Hydrogen cannot win this fight against its own energy source.It seems Dr. Ulf Bossel feels the hydrogen economy is a joke and batteries are the key. So what does Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer at big oil, think?
Physics is eternal and cannot be changed by man. Therefore, a "Hydrogen Economy" has no past, no present and no future. The road to sustainability leads to an "Electron Economy".
Well on his blog titled R-Squared Robert Rapier says:
I was recently asked what kind of cars we would be driving 100 years from now. Without hesitating for a second, I replied “Electric cars.”And he confirmed Ulf Bossels findings in the comments of his blog as well.
Considering AC Propulsion's tzero does 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and the Tesla does 0-60 in 4 seconds then the only thing that's holding us back is batteries. The good news is there is tremendous room for improvement for battery technology. Solid state batteries, Super caps, and carbon nanotube batteries all have tremendous potential. (more on that later) Unfortunately this area isn't a hotbed of federal funding and R&D. Yet for some reason hydrogen is being aggressively funded. The dissonance between the politicians and the scientists is often comical.
TheWatt- Interview with Ulf Bossel - Hydrogen vs Electron Economy
TheWatt- Podcast with Ulf Bossel
"Intelec '05" - On the Way to a Sustainable Energy Future
R-Squared - Cellulosic Ethanol vs. Biomass Gasification
R-Squared - Electric Car Breakthrough?
MSNBC - Car runs on compressed air, but will it sell?
JOSEPH J. ROMM (Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary US Department of Energy), The Hype about Hydrogen
Salon, Just say no, to hydrogen If we're serious about stopping global warming, hybrid cars make a lot more sense than a hydrogen future, says Joseph Romm, a former Clinton administration energy official.
Physorg caught on to the news:
Physorg, Why a hydrogen economy doesn't make sense, 15:44, December 11, 2006
Bossel, Ulf. “Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?” Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 94, No. 10, October 2006. (PDF)
And so did Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer and president of Pioneer Astronautics:
Robert Zubrin, "The Hydrogen Hoax," The New Atlantis, Number 15, Winter 2007, pp. 9-20.