Fuel efficiency or wasting money on hydrogen snake oil?
There has been lots of talks recently on President Bush’s “Freedeom Car” initiative. Remember: more money for fuel cell research, especially hydrogen fuel cells as the “coming fuel”..
Since I am in Germany right now, I thought I should do some research on what Germans think about this. Of ourse, German car makers are also onto that hydrogen next big thing. There have been talks on establishing a German “hydrogen gas station net”; around 2000 gas stations by 2020…roughly estimated costs: 120 billion Euros/Dollars. Surely, nobody wants to pay for it, now they’re talking about 2050..;-)
[Here are some differences US – Germany]
– mpg/fuel economy: 20.4 mpg (US) vs. 29.5 mpg (Germany)
– there are already two “3 Liter cars” available (means: 3 Liter/100 km) — roughly 78 mpg:
* VW Lupo 3L TDI
* Audi A2 TDI
(both run on Diesel, which is in Germany way cheaper than regular gas and also sort of subsidized (but also dirtier; French companies Peugeot/Citroen already introduced certain filters to reduce emissions)
– in general, gas is way more expensive than in the US..about 3 dollars/gallon
– also, German Government issued an ‘eco tax’ in 1999: each year gas is going to be around 3 cents more expensive —
argumentation/calculation: 10% increased price for gas leads to 3% reduced usage. And this seems prove to be true: In the last
two years, gas usuage decreased at around 12% (source)
– biodiesel is coming; also ‘sulphur-free’/’sulphur light’ gas at gas stations
[zero emission? naaah]
Is hydrogen our future? maybe. who knows. And I can’t stand listening to that ‘zero emission’ hydrogen fuel cell crap. But this is only partly true: The only byproduct of a hydrogen fuel cell is heat and water. However, hydrogen is a chemical element not to be found in nature; it takes energy to split hydrogen, usually done by environmentally unsound coal or natural gas. Also, hydrogen is more difficult and expensive to store and an new infrastructure has to be set up.
[methanol — an alternative?]
And methanol is also not a very ‘clean fuel’ but it may be more efficient starting with methanol because it’s derived from natural gas. Methanol could be stored in regular tanks, though. But we shouldn’t forget: The output of purely methanol powered fuel cells is not only water but also unwanted carbon-dioxide (CO2) and there are lots of emissions in getting natural gas….