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back to article Report: Over 1.5 MILLION UK drivers will have hydrogen cars by 2030

Hydrogen fuel cell cars won’t hit the market until 2015, but with the right investment in infrastructure, more than a million and a half of us could be driving one by 2030, with annual sales topping 300,000 vehicles, an evaluation conducted by government and industry has forecast. A timeline drawn up by UKH2Mobility - a …

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Anonymous Coward

Wow, all sounds amazing!

Wonder what the oil companies will do in response to this...?

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Unhappy

"Wonder what the oil companies will do in response to this...?"

Laugh. Hydrogen doesn't have the characteristics of a good transport fuel, even if cost is no object.

Ignoring the primary energy source which may be the toughest nut to crack, it would be far more practical to plan to synthesise propane which could be used in existing spark ignition vehicles with modest conversion (only LPG, of course). There's a modestly developed infrastructure, the technologies are all known, there's experience, and instead of having to reinvent everything, you just build out from what you know, and use existing assets.

But if you're a (probably tax payer funded) think tank, then why waste time on old-hat stuff like LPG, when DECC will be queuing up to hand you money for a report on a hydrogen revolution, that positions the UK as a world leader in a new technology, with millions of green jobs, and low carbon, and , and, and (yawwwnnn).

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What will Oil companies do..

In my humble opinion, open the champagne bottles.

Hidrogen is going to come from natural gas... and it would be wiser to just burn natgas in our cars!!

As for using Hidrogen as fuel, a % of that hidrogen (and not a very small %) is going to leak. And a good % of that is going to be lost forever... so not so good an idea.

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Re: What will Oil companies do..

Perhaps not, hYdrogen is likely to come from water using oodles of badger friendly offshore wind platform things or whatever shockingly wasteful and ghastly expensive 'eco friendly' disaster on wheels the junket brigade pick out of a hat.

Electrolysis is by far the most likely method as all you need is water and elecktrickery and you also get oxygen which you can sell. If you use seawater on a large enough scale you might even make a bit of money selling other 'stuff' (theres actually all sorts of stuff in seawater besides salt, uranium for example). There is a chance that gas might be an economical form of energy for the power generation given the new scale gas craze.

The UK is lucky that many supermarkets have petrol stations whereas in other countries the majority of stations are owned by oil companies who might be ok with lpg but are unlikely to be jumping for joy at hydrogen.

Hydrogen isn't ideal in many ways but if generated by electrolysis then it might reduce the impact on our food resources caused by the monumentally retarded use of grain for ethanol (the Russians and Polish have a far better process) for fuel. It hopefully will also stop the even worse idea that digging up metals from vast tracts of South America to ship them around the world twice to end up in 'hybrids'. If they can make it survive an impact, do 260-300 miles on a 'tank' and cost about the same per mile as petrol \ gas then it's probably a decent idea, as long as we can sort out power generation without it costing a bloody fortune like those ship magnets they are obsessed with. It will likely start off cheap then as soon as people switch the govt will whack a shedload of tax on it.

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Boffin

Re: H2 loss

I think you might be mistaking loss of hydrogen (H2) which we can easily make gazillions of connes of, and helium (He) which is rare(ish) and getting rarer.

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Stop

Re: H2 loss

Being able to make H2 cheaply to make up the loss won't be any consolation when you retrun to your car in the airport carpark after two week's holiday & find half or more of your heavily taxed fuel has literally evaporated. Cross your fingers that there will be enough left to get you to the filling station?

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Boffin

Re: What will Oil companies do..

Hydrogen from Electrolysis is turning high-value electrical energy into lower-value chemical energy. It's inefficient as hell, even more so than gas reformation. There is occasional talk of using tailored bacteria to make hydrogen from algae and such, but the result isn't pure enough to avoid clogging fuel cells (which need almost perfectly clean hydrogen, even water is a pollutant). Small amounts of electrolytic hydrogen are useful where you don't want any storage of the gas - I understand that jewelers for example often get the gas for their torches this way, allowing them to work in a space they could never get a permit to store hydrogen gas in.

I think hydrogen fuel is a rathole. Stored energy density by volume is crap, it requires vessels so big and heavy that it eats up all your savings in mass from using hydrogen over a liquid fuel, and hydrogen is ridiculously more combustible than gasoline, making it much more hazardous in accidents or simply in an enclosed space.

Hydrogen is great where mass is the siginicant factor, which is why it's a prime rocket fuel, but it's wrong way around for transportation, where you want lots of energy in a space not any larger than a normal gasoline tank, so you still have trunk space.

Synthetic liquid fuels are a far better answer, which is also why it's already being done. There's more hydrogen in a gallon of gas than in a gallon of liquid hydrogen! And it's no problem ecologically if the sources are carbon-neutral. Hydrogen production is ANYTHING but carbon-neutral these days, it's made from natural gas using steam reformation, because that's the only decently efficient way known that scales.

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JDX
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Re: What will Oil companies do..

Oil companies will simply buy into H2 production, they've probably been planning their strategy for a decade or two.

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Unhappy

Re: What will Oil companies do..

"Perhaps not, hYdrogen is likely to come from water using oodles of badger friendly offshore wind platform things or whatever shockingly wasteful and ghastly expensive 'eco friendly' disaster on wheels the junket brigade pick out of a hat."

Which suggests it could be scuppered if a more sane energy process came in.

"Electrolysis is by far the most likely method as all you need is water and elecktrickery and you also get oxygen which you can sell."

You hope (and I would too) that electroysis replaces the current thermal cracking of natural gas.

But both the compression to 5000psi or the cooling to -253c will use several x the amount of energy it carries.

Hydrogen (liquid or gasius) has phenomenally bad storage properties. If you set out to design a fuel that would be the biggest possible PITA to handle and mfg you would not be far from Hydrogen.

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Nothing. I wont happen.

Hydrogen as an energy storage medium is too inefficient and too dangerous and too expensive.

Its just part of keeping the myth of renewable energy and greenness alive, because its all about to end up in a high speed train wreck.

Green energy will end up like Chris Huhne. You really thought they were going to get away with it, and then GONE.

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Re: What will Oil companies do..

However my wet finger estimates put the raw cost of synthetic fuel made from electricity at around £10 -£30 a gallon.

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Childcatcher

"Wonder what the oil companies will do in response to this...?"

What they have always done join in and claim they thought of it first.

As for distribution, we used to have a perfectly good system but unfortunately someone filled it with methane and started using it to sell gas to the power companies to use for power generation. Now we are proposing to use power to generate hydrogen! I think we have things in the wrong order somewhere.

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Meh

Who cares really? So we pay 80% tax on H2 rather than petrol. H2 going to be expensive anyway.

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Er

"But that’s true of today’s electric cars, which have nonetheless failed to attract a large user base. That’s because they’re more expensive up front, even with government subsidies". Nope. It's because there is a very strong suspicion that it will require an extremely expensive new battery in a few years time, for which you will have to go to the car manufacturer as there is no competition at all. Oddly, the manufacturers tend to forget to mention battery lifespan or replacement costs.

Talking of forgetting to mention things, how will all the hydrogen be produced? oops.

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JDX
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Re: Er

I don't recall battery death being mentioned as an electric car criticism. Not that it's not a valid point, but I don't believe this is a major factor why the average family isn't interested.

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JDX
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Re: Er

>>Talking of forgetting to mention things, how will all the hydrogen be produced? oops

On an industrial scale meaning that the pollution per gallon of oil will be less than just burning the oil in your car.

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Cost?

Elecy Cars cost a fortune and perform (i.e. range) less well.

I might pay the same or a little more for a car that performs the same as the one I've already got.

But I'm not going to be suckered into something 'green' to see the benefits yoinked out from under me when the Gov of the day realise that the motorist cash cow has gone.

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Meh

What a load of crap

'Over 1.5 MILLION UK drivers will have hydrogen cars by 2030'

No, they won't, because there won't be the 'right investment in infrastructure'. This country has never been good at investing in the future unless it involves banking or some kind of useless 'service' industry. Computing, engineering, alternative energy or anything else that can take a few years to see a return, is largely ignored by those who could and should be providing funding.

When I was a kid and people were buggering about on the moon, it was pretty commonly believed that by the year 2000, we would have habitats on the moon (and possibly Mars, too). Fat chance. Unless a few governments are prepared to invest in the future, it won't happen - or at least it will, but it'll be pretty much the same as the past.

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Re: What a load of crap

Very true. Isn't this the same story that was cranked out for LPG? Clean(er), cheap(er) and it just needs infrastructure and everyone will be using it. That worked, didn't it.

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Re: What a load of crap

Part of the problem is that "the future" only extends as far as the next election if you are a Government, so spending now on something that will benefit a following administration (whilst diverting cash from something now that will benefit yours) is generally not the done thing.

"Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the others that we've tried." and all that.

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Mushroom

Re: What a load of crap

Yes, "The Hydrogen Economy" is indeed a load of crap.

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Well - lol'd. Gives me something to chuckle about on my drive back home.

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Just another pipe (ahem) dream

Until hydrogen is able to be manufactured and distributed in a more economic, efficient and sustainable way it won't happen. We can run cars off chip fat and chicken dung if we really wanted to, but the economic case for its demand and supply don't stack up. Hydrogen is very much in this boat and this report is a load of fiction without the technical breakthrough that makes its use practical.

Electric cars, for all their many faults, at least can obtain access to electricity relatively easily compared to hydrogen. The petrol companies would prefer that we went hydrogen for their own obvious commercial reasons...

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Been saying for how long?

Weren't fuel cells "5 years away" 10 years ago? Sadly this is another scream for support for something which has yet to live up to overblown promises.

I really like the idea of fuel-cells driving electric motors and I supported the development of the Chevy Volt simply because it separated the electric drive train from the means of 'leccy generation so that petrol/diesel generators could be replaced by fuels cells "when they came along". But have you seen how much they cost? And that includes a whacking great government subsidy as well

The tech I really like is fuel cells driven by methanol (a nice liquid fuel) and for a while this looked possible as well (was it Sony who had a laptop you refuelled with a cigarette lighter-sized methanol cartridge?). Another thing we were all going to be using in 5 years. How long ago was that now?

I am afraid this is one I will believe only when I see it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Been saying for how long?

Weren't fuel cells "5 years away" 10 years ago? Sadly this is another scream for support for something which has yet to live up to overblown promises.

The Honda FCX Clarity became available for least to customers in SoCal in 2008 - there are about 50 running around there and another 150 worldwide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_FCX_Clarity

C

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Stop

Re: Been saying for how long?

Try putting the word "economical" in there. Hydrogen fuel cells have been about since before the days of the Apollo program, but they are stupidly expensive because they rely on a platinum catalyst. They won't sell you a Clarity because the cost would make your eyes water.

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Happy

Re: Been saying for how long?

50 world wide - WOW. that's some sales I'm sure I wont be able to move for them soon... How many Rolls-Royce's did it cost (Rolls-Royce being the greenest of all cars as 60% every produced are still on the road')

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Alert

Re: RR

I seem to recall that more than 70% of all Land Rovers ever produced are still on the go...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RR

"70% of all Land Rovers ever produced are still on the go"

Maybe, but not all the time....as for "German Engineering", another great myth....

FIVE LEAST RELIABLE CARS AGED 4-8

1. BMW 3 Series Convertible - 3.49 days off the road

2. Land Rover Discovery 3 - 2.69

3. BMW 5 Series Touring - 2.58

4. Volvo XC90 - 2.56

5. Citroen C4 Picasso - 2.53

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-2186477/Top-reliable-reliable-cars.html#axzz2JwzBh214

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Re: Been saying for how long?

Mercedes, BMW and VAG have all been long term investors in hydrogen powered tech as well - the only thing stopping them moving forwards is the infrastructure. VW had a production ready golf around 10 years ago.

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Boffin

Re: Been saying for how long?

"The Honda FCX Clarity became available for least to customers in SoCal in 2008 - there are about 50 running around there "

So 50 Clairty's in 5 years

That's about the time that this report is meant to be talking about.

Not exactly a good dry run.

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Stop

@Dapprman

Odd definition of production ready you have there. The original fuel cell Golf had all of 20kW of power, 27BHP. That's not enough to sustain motorway speeds or hill climbs. Their CURRENT generation of fuel cell cars manage 100kW (137BHP), but only 160 miles range and 0-60 in 14 seconds.

If you read the links in the Wikipedia article then the latest Clarity is estimated to cost Honda $120-140,000. Too expensive, too slow and too short a range on a tank of fuel.

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Flame

Re: Been saying for how long?

"they rely on a platinum catalyst"

How much platinum? More or less than the average petrol/diesel car has now in the exhaust "cat"?

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Re: Been saying for how long? - @John Brown

Much more platinum than a cat. The research goal is to get it down to about the same level, but they're still a way off.

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Re: Been saying for how long?@Dapprman

"Mercedes, BMW and VAG have all been long term investors in hydrogen powered tech as well - the only thing stopping them moving forwards is the infrastructure."

No, the thing that is stopping them is that H2 is stupidly expensive to produce in volume by any known means, and the low energy density that it has gives the vehicles range problems to rival electric cars unless you wish to fill the boot with a tank. The German car makers put money into this partly for commercial reasons, but largely as a sop to the powerful green movement in Germany, which is a big threat because the German motor industry is dominated by companies producing big fuel guzzling barges (in relative terms). The same companies have put a lot into electric cars, which likewise haven't taken off.

An interesting development that hasn't been reported much in the UK is that the German car makers are currently lobbying their politicians to push Brussels into changing the forthcoming corporate average fuel economy rules to allow electric cars to be included with a 3x weighting, rather than like for like. This EU legislation will be intended to operate like the US CAFE rules, but the amendments the Germans seem likely to implement are simply to ensure the German car makers can continue to produce and sell thousands of fuel-guzzling luxo-barges by selling a pitiful handful of (heavily subsidised) electric cars.

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More coal fueled power stations needed?

Where are they going to get the energy from to produce the H2? Burning more coal in the suburbs probably.

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Stop

Re: More coal fueled power stations needed?

Are you only able to envision Coal stations? There are many other, greener options (even natural gas fired stations are vastly cleaner).

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JDX
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Re: More coal fueled power stations needed?

Burning coal in a vast plant is more efficient and less wasteful than doing so in your car. Waste can be contained far more effectively and when it must be discharged, done so strategically rather than right where all the people are.

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Facepalm

Key assumption:

Nobody cracks the "fast charge" problem for batteries between now and 2030, which would render the whole Hydrogen thing moot overnight.

Elephant in the room: The military want batteries, which can be charged from any power source, rather than a rebadge of their existing fuel logistics problems. Guess where most of the serious R&D budget comes from these days?

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JDX
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Re: Key assumption:

- Weight is still an issue

- Fast charge requires infrastructure all of its own... that will be the limiting factor

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Re: Key assumption:

there are lithium batteries that will recharge in 5 minutes, but that is about 600KW while its doing it for a small car, and that's a LOT of heat to get out if its not 100% efficient. Which it isn't. And a LOT of peak power in yet filling station.

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Facepalm

Re: Key assumption:

Fast charge requires infrastructure all of its own"

Or a mandated standard battery pack which can be easily swapped out at a "filling" station.

The competition can come from what actually goes into the pack, the capacity, cost and range etc. After all, i's not like you can't get C, D, AA cells from many manufacturers and using a number of different technologies at various price points and capacities.

Potentially, we could define a "battery" as being 30cmx30cmx30 at 24v with standard connections (or whatever works best). Car manufacturers could design for however many their make/model needed or even allow the driver to choose how many. Install less for short commutes (less weight), more for a longer journey. The driver gets to chose whether to buy "Standard", "Super" or "Ultimate" depending on price and performance.

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FAIL

Re: Key assumption:

> Or a mandated standard battery pack which can be easily swapped out at a "filling" station.

That doesn't solve anything. The "filling" station still needs the infrastructure to charge those batteries, and for a busy station that means hundreds on charge at a time, ready to be swapped. Fast charge 1 battery in 5 minutes, or slow charge 100 batteries over 8 hours, it's still the same peak energy load. The filling station would also need storage space for 100 batteries containing potentially dangerous chemicals. Want to consider the effect of even one of those batteries overheating while on charge? Then you have the space and machinery needed to do the swap, the economics just don't work. Filling a tank with liquid may be crude, but it's the perfect KISS solution.

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Re: Key assumption:

"That doesn't solve anything. The "filling" station still needs the infrastructure to charge those batteries, and "for a busy station that means hundreds on charge at a time, ready to be swapped.""

Not so. It de-couples the charging from the loading process.

With a big enough pool of each battery type charging goes on 24/7. In extreme cases you can have bulk deliveries of charged batteries.

The key development is in thinking. These batteries are a commodity not a component like the battery in your car. Grades have to meet certain minimum performance criteria (or devices like fuel cells and can expect certain charging rules to be observed.

As for "dangerous chemicals" what would call the 10s of 1000s of litres of gasoline in those tanks?

Thumbs up for the idea as this is one of the ways you could break the trap of long charging times (standardised charge point plugs help but they don't change how long you've got to be plugged in.

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Re: Key assumption:@John Smith 19

"With a big enough pool of each battery type charging goes on 24/7. In extreme cases you can have bulk deliveries of charged batteries."

Maybe. Can't see it myself, because you'd only want to build the infrastructure if there were sufficient cars to justify it, and in that case you start stretching the electricity generation capacity of the nation, the electricity distribution system, and the gas transmission system if that's your generation fuel. It is worth recognising that the total energy used by road transport is forty per cent above the total existing output of the UK's electricity industry. As an indication, I reckon that you're talking of the order of £5k to £10k per vehicle just to pay for the power generation and infrastructure improvements. Given that a Nissan Leaf costs around £30k already, how would £35k to £40k for a small hatchback grab you?

Swapping the batteries out might work (although that's not the way car makers are going at the moment anywhere in Europe), but you then have problems of cost (a single battery pack can already equal half the total cost of smaller EV's), and it doesn't address the electricity and gas infrastructure issues mentioned above. You'd also introduce new and significant inefficiencies, in that the heavy weight and low energy density of EV batteries would require about five times as many trucks to move them around than the like for like requirement of liquid fuel tankers, and the cars themselves become heavier because a robust module swapping capability is likely to be notable heavier than a built in unit.

EV's might have a niche future, but the most sensible solution as others have suggested is chemical fuels, ideally that are reasonably compatible with the existing fleet and its infrastructure.

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doomed

Price dooms these things to failure - and I am sure that is a deliberate policy by the motor manufacturers.

Steam would of course provide a simple enough alternative - fireless steam, topped up at your local fuel station, we used to use steam in cars and lorries, we used to use fireless steam in railway engines. Its simple and cheap technology, and a small electric heater could be used to keep the steam hot over night at home ready for the morning.

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Re: doomed

Before you down vote him for steam power as barking mad....

this from a few years ago....

http://www.eurekamagazine.co.uk/design-engineering-features/technology/steaming-ahead/11693/

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Re: doomed

Thats an interesting one, haven't seen it before. I could certainly see something like that being interesting if the chemicals involved don't leave nasty substances after the reaction.

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Re: doomed

All you need now is a low-cost, low energy way to make methanol & hydrogen peroxide. - oh wait !

Thermodynamics is thermodynamics - there is no way round that. The energy you get out + losses had to come from somewhere.

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Re: doomed

"Steam would of course provide a simple enough alternative - fireless steam"

Relative to Hydrogen this is quite sensible.

If you're talking about high strength low weight pressure vessels this is an area that has seen substantial improvements over the years. The maximum use temperature for plastic resins has crept over the years to at least 250c. You're getting toward Pressurized Water Reactor territory. Of course like any good water tank you'll be wanting plenty of lagging to keep the heat in :)

While the technology for large scale steam production and storage is very well understood rolling it out over a sufficient area would be a royal PITA.

It might work out that a straightforward pulsed flow to a crank to drive the wheels would be simpler and more efficient than any sort of clever turbine drive (either through a gearbox or through a generator to electric motors as a hybrid steam/electric).

Superficially madder than mad-Jack-McMad it in fact leverages well understood good state of practice.

Now who stands to gain from its introduction and how could you get them to support it?

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