Are Fuel Cell Vehicles and Home Hydrogen Stations – The Future?

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    etilley
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    toyota_fcv_plus1

    Fuel Cell Cars & Home Hydrogen are the Future

    But Positive Change needs New Government Supports & Policy

    In any discussion of where to go after gasoline vehicles, we are faced with a confusing array of mixed messages that discuss efficiency, fuel, pollution and politics. The Oil Companies are happy to keep things just as they are. Our politicians are terrified of change in truth – at least until they can figure out what are the correct income-support policies to support a mass migration from Oil-Industry products and jobs; and also come up with a plan that protects the country from the decline of their largest export.

    When we look at the field of options, one fuel-source stands out as the logical next step Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). FCVs, like the car in the photo above, are Electric Vehicles (EVs) that run on fuel instead of a large rechargeable battery. There are several types of fuel cells and each type have strengths and weaknesses and if you haven’t heard of them before, Fuel Cells have been hard at work since 1939 in generators, space vehicles, forklifts, power plants, and in many other applications.

    Toyota, the maker of the Prius, is probably the leader in this market, as they have made the largest investment in Fuel Cell technologies. Toyota have been making Fuel Cell cars for more than 20-years now. See the Mirai’s website for details here.

    Most FCVs, like the Mirai or Honda’s FCX Clarity, use a polymer exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). In that system, compressed hydrogen gas is forced through a platinum catalyst under pressure, which splits it into two ions and two electrons. The electrons power the vehicle’s electric motor, while the hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water — which exits as steam “exhaust.” Such cells are arranged in stacks to produce enough voltage to power a car.

    Consider also, this long and complicated list of pros and cons for our next-steps discussion.

    • Gasoline and Hydrogen both explode – but both can also be handled safely. Hydrogen is in a Compressed Gas form when used in standard Fuel-Cell vehicles.
    • Large-lithium-battery cars take 13+ hours to recharge daily (superchargers can deliver a half-charge in 30-minutes at a highway checkpoint); the configuration is proven to create more pollution from cradle-to-grave than a gasoline-vehicle lifetime due to its lithium battery and coal-based power grids
    • Diesel – does not explode – and it does not dissolve in water  – which is another important environmental consideration that makes Methanol a very-real safety concern.
    • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) can operate with most hydro-carbon fuels (natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, etc) including diesel or synthetic-diesel (see Audi’s Blue Crude). So an FCV backup fuel option exists if we can’t find a hydrogen station – in a pinch.
    • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) offer 65% to 80% efficiency – compared to combustion’s 20%+- efficiency, so a Synthetic-Diesel/SOFC solution is probably the safest and cleanest, rapid-recharge (3-minute) automotive solution today.
    • SOFC/Diesel solutions would require us to buy our hydrocarbon fuels from neighbourhood fuel-stations. As these stations can take products from a local synthetic-fuel refinery best-case, no pipelines are needed in this configuration, but expensive distribution hubs/stations, tanker trucks, etc. are needed still.

    The tipping point to a well-balanced safety & cost decision here, lies in one fact that many articles fail to report today. This missing point is that hydrogen fuel can also be created at home – using only electrical-power and electrolysed tap-water – safely. So – a hydrogen-gas & fuel-cell combination offers a Zero-distribution-cost solution today; and you can buy these electrolysis-based Hydrogen Fuel-Pump devices for $350 to $1000 online – plus delivery and installation.

    Certainly there are regulations that protect all fuel systems from accidental combustion and explosion … and nearly every home-garage holds well-managed combustible fuels today as well. The concern for explosion hazards should seem to all of us to be far removed from an insurmountable obstacle.

    Panicked neigh-sayers will grasp at straws to protect their status quo: with arguments against unclean power grids, job-losses, they would miss the sound of combustion, etc. but none of these arguments have merit in science nor fact – on-balance.

    The problem with Battery Powered Cars

    Years from now, a rapid-charge, inexpensive, less-weighty battery technology will come along to increase battery’s energy-density-by-weight from today’s 1/100th that of fuel. Perhaps we will find a super-capacitor technology not yet discovered. At that point, the power-source for our vehicles will change again – but for now, the Hydrogen and Solid Oxide Fuel Cell vehicle wins on merit of science and economy (assuming fuel cell cars are permitted to mass-market at two-fifths the price that they cost today).

    The Elephant in the Room

    The bigger difficulty lies in our present inability to change society’s status-quo in anything. The rate-of-change forced by automation is similarly requiring us to develop government policies that permit jobs to be separated from incomes, healthcare policies, etc. In this way only, can oil and auto workers re-educate themselves, and take on new jobs and new businesses – in other industries and in other roles in other companies – without interrupting their families and their livelihoods.

    The very great benefit of making these government policy changes, is that these are the same changes that turn around a 20-year-collapsing economy and also harvest the $8 trillion dollars lost in GDP exports annually today. $8 Trillion is a lot of Trade Revenue to lose in defence of the U.S.’s current oppressive democracy-crushing inequity. See this explanation in greater detail here… http://csq1.org/forums/topic/middle-class-for-power-49-percent-for-prosperity/

    And of course – is it not UnAmerican to support the needy ! This is not viewpoint – Tilley’s were the largest family group on the Mayflower, but I do believe that American’s cause themselves and their neighbors much pain when they wear this truthfully loathsome tombe as a misplaced “badge of honour”. Have a read of the Mayflower Compact (its only a paragraph or two in length) for a hint of what a sustainable society with real freedoms should actually look like today.

    The Private Health Insurance Lobby in the U.S.  kills perhaps a hundred million Americans every year, so you can feel very “American” in moving mistaken policies into history at first opportunity. It’s not Conservative to deny neighbours the opportunities afforded to you; rather, failing to do is unsustainable, socially irresponsible, and a time-honoured recipe for revolution. I don’t even have to remind someone else of my own subjective ideas on morality and my own belief that the Golden Rule is simply a time-tested, lesson-learned sustainability model.

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