A thoughtful piece written by Jerry Flint, Senior Automotive editor at Forbes magazine, has been posted on the Edmunds’ website. In it, Flint expresses his doubts that hydrogen powered cars are anything much more than a fantasy.
He has a point, in fact, several points – all good.
First, hydrogen is explosive. It doesn’t just burn. It can explode. Just take a look at those famous pictures of the Hindenburg. As he says, “I can’t wait to see the safety regulations for the hydrogen gas pump.”
Second, there is no distribution system. As Flint points out, all of the various other technologies currently being pursued, whether it’s electric power, diesel technology, or hybrid technology, basically involve the same car as today, with a form of propulsion that uses an existing distribution system for fuel. Hydrogen would require an entirely new system, unlike anything that exists today. The cost of that would be incomprehensible.
Third, hydrogen may be a free ride so far as pollution is concerned – making water rather than CO2 – but it is scarce. Sure, it can be chemically broken out of H2O, but that cannot be done cheaply. So, while it may be a free ride in terms of emissions, it is no more a free ride to get the fuel than it is to drill for the stuff we use now. And that’s not even considering the energy costs associated with creating the hydrogen.
Cost considerations aside, Flint’s point about the explosive character of hydrogen are particularly telling. Toyota, after all, cited safety as one of the reasons it was deferring introduction of a lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries create a fire hazard if they internally short-circuit, as Dell discovered. But they don’t explode. Hydrogen does.
Do you think they told Will Farrell about that when they handed him the keys to a Hydrogen 7?