>Stop with the Hydrogen cars already

>This NY Times editorial is pushing the idea of hydrogen cars, yet again.

First of all, the editorial staff is apparently confused about what Hydrogen actually is:

A car powered by a ubiquitous, inexhaustible gas that emits nothing worse than water.

Usable Hydrogen fuel isn’t ubiquitous, it’s most common to see it in its fully oxidized state, which just happens to be water. It’s also not inexhaustible because there isn’t very much free hydrogen about. In fact, almost all of the hydrogen used in fuel cell vehicles has to be created by people, at a huge energy cost.

Honda’s president said that the Clarity costs several hundred thousand dollars to make. The lease of $600 a month is heavily subsidized.

That’s a huge understatement. Assuming a ten-year lifetime, the “lease” on that vehicle should run even higher than the mortgage on a house. A nice house. We’re talking $3000-4000 per month.

To lease one, you must live in a small slice of Southern California, close to one of the few hydrogen fueling stations in the country.

Cool, so you can’t fuel it anywhere except Southern California? Sign me up!

Also, the fuel is heavily subsidized, about 50% of the cost being paid by someone other than the driver. Even ignoring the subsidy, the fuel is the same price as gasoline, about 15 cents per mile. And that ignores the mortgage you had to take out on the car.

I think the prize for “most idiotic statement” is a contest between these two:

Hydrogen usually needs to be peeled off other molecules, and the most common method gives the Clarity a bigger carbon footprint than the Toyota Prius, Mr. Samuelsen said.

Translation: We make hydrogen from natural gas. Period. It would be more efficient to just use the natural gas, but then we wouldn’t be able to claim the car “emits only water”. We emit the CO2 for you so you don’t have to think about it. Note: It’s much more efficient nowadays to strip hydrogen off of CH4 than it is to electrolyze water.

The other idiotic statement is this one:

But if we got hydrogen to propel us to the moon, we should be able to use it to tool around town.

Why do people even bother comparing mass market stuff to heavily government subsidized programs? We landed on the moon only six times, at a total project Apollo cost of $135 Billion Dollars (2005 dollars). Of course we used hydrogen to go (part of the way*) to the moon. For a government funded project you’re only going to accomplish a dozen times at most, you can choose practically anything regardless of cost. But if you’re going to be driving 3 trillion vehicle miles per year (6 million round trips to the moon), you better be worried about cost and feasibility.

Hydrogen: It’s inefficient economically. But you get to emit only water!

*The first stage of the Saturn V rocket was powered by kerosene (refined crude oil!) and liquid oxygen, not hydrogen.


About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
This entry was posted in carbon, economics, environment, fiscal, gas, government, politics, tax. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to >Stop with the Hydrogen cars already

  1. Geoff says:

    >Hydrogen at best has been a nice idea that one day could do some good. At worst and in reality it is has a been a waste of time, money, and acted as a trap for political motivation.Hydrogen was part of the reason why CARB was willing to let GM slide and pull the EV1 program. Strange that seems like a mistake now for both sides.

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