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?

What do you think?
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2 comments:

  (1) posted on 10.12.2007

This article is a disgrace. Way to rely on overdramatization and hyperbole to catch readers’ attention instead of real information.

Do you honestly think that BMW or any other auto manufacturer would go through the millions of dollars to develop, crash-test and execute an expensive production run of vehicles if they were going to explode or pose ANY danger to the driver? Of course not.

Hydrogen vehicles are just as safe as the other vehicles we drive today, and in many ways, safer. Personally, I’d much rather have a well engineered tank of hydrogen that would either stay intact or safely vent the hydrogen in the case of a catastrophic accident than a thin molded plastic or metal tank holding explosive gasoline. Want to learn more? Check out this info on hydrogen safety: http://www.hydrogenass ociation.org/general/f actSheets.asp

O n distribution, you’re wrong again. Yes, there is work to be done, but the same is true for ethanol, plug-ins and basically any technology that does not use gasoline or electricity. You’re wrong that no distribution network exists.

One hydrogen company makes over 12,000 deliveries each year of hydrogen and there are several other companies in the same position. There are currently 62 hydrogen fueling stations operational in the US alone and you don’t need to build a brand new station. You can add a hydrogen pump instead. Compare the costs of new hydrogen equipment to today’s costs for just keeping the petroleum infrastructure up to date. Hydrogen is more afforable than you think.

There are challenges to be overcome as with any technology, but the hydrogen industry is not starting from zero. Without progress like BMW has made with their production quality Hydrogen 7 today, we will never have the chance to realize the great multitude of benefits that hydrogen technologies have to offer: energy security, environmental sustainability and economic growth.

tango  (372) posted on 10.10.2007

To be honest with you, I have never been particularly fond of the idea of using hydrogen as a fuel. Flint misses a 4th point. Hydrogen is the smallest molecules known to man. There is no such thing as a perfect seal (one where there is no leakage at all) and this is more evident where hydrogen is stored. It has the ability to seep through metal containers under pressure as well. Seep right through the walls! Much less that shut off valve that the arthritic grandmother of two just tried to close off as she retires for the night. Scary thought. The generation price of hydrogen may (or may not) one day become cheap, but the chemical-physical properties can’t be changed. That’s my fear right there.

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