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Is Hydrogen the Future for Electric Cars?

By January 30, 2011

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Do hydrogen electrics represent the next emerging wave of vehicles in answer to the demand for green?

Neil Chambers thinks so. Chambers is founder/CEO of Chambers Design, New York, N.Y. His company consults in green building design, but Chambers says that has given him the perfect vantage point for analyzing a variety of alternative energies.

What he sees is a trend toward plug-in electrics that he says don't contribute to a more sustainable future. He has other issues with plug-in electrics as well. "In terms of economics, if the plug-ins can start to be mass produced in the hundreds of thousands or millions each year, they will be affordable by lots of people. But they are not as flexible for long and short distances like a gasoline-powered car or hydrogen cars."

It's the latter category that Chambers believes to be the future of electric-powered vehilces. "I've test-driven the Mercedes F-Cell and it is really incredible," he says. "Mercedes is starting a leasing program in California and Germany of around 50 cars. This is a big step forward, plus other companies like Honda have already had hydrogen cars on the road." Chambers says their advantage is they drive like gasoline cars and they have the same range.

If smaller fuel cells are mass produced for hydrogen cars, it will revolutionize the energy market," he predicts. "And we could no longer need massive infrastructure to supply electricity."

February 25, 2011 at 8:20 am
(1) George Harrison says:

The number one problem, where do you get the hydrogen? There is NO natural supply of hydrogen in nature. In the article you imply hydrogen cars will remove demand from the electric network. 1. If you electrolyze water, there is about a 40% loss. In other words you need to put in 140 units of electricity to get one unit of hydrogen. What you end up doing is putting a greater demand on electric demand than if you just used the electricity directly to charge a battery. 2. If you split methane (natural gas) there is a huge energy cost to split the hydrogen atoms from the carbon atoms. Not only that, you are throwing away 60% of the energy content of methane (the carbon atoms). Why not just burn the natural gas as fuel? It is much, much, much easier to carry around compressed natural gas than it is to curry around compressed hydrogen.

In summery, developing a small, efficient fuel cell is a waste of money that can be better spent on something that could solve the energy problem. You sir are a waste of precious resources, research money.

February 25, 2011 at 10:25 am
(2) cory shelton says:

she has a point

February 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm
(3) neilchambers says:


You make some interesting points about hydrogen – but you miss several opportunities with hydrogen that do not exist with other methods of energy production.

For example, if the hydrogen is derived from natural gas, the methane can be used for electricity and the waste heat can be used for heating buildings and domestic water. In fact, as you point out the process of just creating electricity is only around 30 to 40%…but when a fuel cell is coupled with a heat recovery system – you can have nearly 90% efficiency. you should check out the UTC Model 400 PureCell System.

Of course, the fueling stations would need to be combined with a building…but because the emissions from the process is nearly zero – it wouldn’t be difficult to site such a fuel cell in or near a building. There are two such buildings in the northeast of the US already.

Grid source electricity is very inefficient. Coal-fired plants burn nearly twice the material necessary because the process is so faulty…solar and wind are only about 30% efficient and then lose another 10% during transmission.
If we use all of the renewable energy we are producing in the US for cars with plug-in electric cars….that will mean that the buildings that currently use 68% of the electricity will have to go back to fossil fuels.

Add all of those issues together – and that is why i see hydrogen as a real alternative….and not as you put it “a waste of precious resources”.

March 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm
(4) Robert Johnson says:

My layman’s comprehension of this is that electric cars are and will likely be good for relatively short driving, yet in our present mode of driving, we all on occasion need vehicles capable of longer trips. Manufacturing hydrogen to supply this need could supplement electric power for those needs. In addition, I should think that hydrogen could be generated with wind and solar sources and delivered to points of consumption, leaving existing high energy fuels to be used to their best advantage.

March 12, 2011 at 10:28 am
(5) larry says:

Batteries and solar panels require rare earth metals like lithium as i understand.
The largest known concentrations are in asia.
So will we be raping the environment for minerals? Or will we be exchanging our dependence from oil to rare earth minerals? And will enviro’s complain about mining?

Recharging uses electricity, electricity is free cheap and grows on tree’s. NOT
Electricity is produced in many ways none of them cheap or free. Have you found any method that the enviro’s approve of?

The mileage is effected by the weight of the vehicle.
Plastics are used to make a vehicle lighter . Plastic comes from oil.
Will we use less oil if 75% of oil is not used for fuel?
Oil is used in hundreds of products not even remotely connected to driving.

April 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm
(6) Vicky says:

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