Will This New Toyota Hydrogen Car Change the World?

Toyota's FCV Concept is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell — and it's coming to dealers in a couple of years. Photo credit: Toyota

Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) this week released the first photos of its latest concept car, called the Toyota FCV Concept. The Toyota FCV Concept, which will be shown later this month at the Tokyo Motor Show, is an electric car. 

It's a "concept car", meaning that it's just for show, but you'll be able to buy something very similar in a couple of years. Toyota says that it will begin selling a car like the FCV-R in 2015 or thereabouts.

But the FCV Concept isn't an ordinary electric car. It doesn't have a battery pack. Instead, it has a system that makes its own electricity, right on board — from hydrogen.

Electric cars, without the batteries
That system is called a fuel cell, and Toyota is just one of several automakers that have made heavy bets on fuel cells — and hydrogen — as a way to power the automobiles of the future.

Fuel cells convert the energy in hydrogen to electricity by oxidizing it. That means the hydrogen atoms are combined with oxygen atoms. The result is electricity — along with water, or water vapor. That water vapor is the only "exhaust" emitted by a fuel-cell car.

Fuel-cell cars have all of the advantages of electric cars. Electric cars are clean and quiet, and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) and its hot Model S sedan have shown that they can be stylish and fun to drive, too. 

Tesla's Model S is an electric car powered by batteries. It's fast and stylish, but those batteries make it heavy and expensive, too. Photo credit: Tesla Motors

But electric cars like Tesla's are powered by batteries, special lithium-ion batteries encased in a big battery pack. Those batteries have proven to be a big challenge for engineers and car designers.

Right now, those special batteries are heavy, bulky, and expensive. That means that an electric car that has the range of a conventional gasoline-powered one is also going to be heavy and expensive. Tesla's Model S is sleek and fast, but "heavy and expensive" also describes it pretty well.

Just a few years ago, many analysts believed that electric-car batteries would be getting a lot lighter and cheaper by now. But battery technology hasn't advanced as quickly as electric-car fans have hoped.

That has led automakers to look for alternatives, and fuel cells might be the best of the bunch.

Where will fuel-cell cars get "gas"?
Of course, a fuel-cell car can't be recharged. It requires a tank of hydrogen in order to make electricity. That means you'll still have to refuel your fuel-cell car, at a "gas" station that sells hydrogen.

There aren't very many of those, at least not yet. But researchers are betting that they'll quickly become common if fuel cells show promise. Hydrogen can be made from natural gas, which is both cheap and abundant. It can also be made from water, using a process like a fuel cell in reverse.

Toyota is far from the only automaker investing in fuel cells. Ford (NYSE: F  ) , General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) , and Hyundai (NASDAQOTH: HYMTF  ) all say that they have fuel-cell vehicles coming to market in the next several years. And Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) already has one, though it's expensive and sells in tiny numbers.

Right now, nobody knows whether fuel-cell cars will catch on with consumers. But it's clear that we'll have the chance to kick the tires on a few before long.

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  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 10:37 AM, fraterjason wrote:

    Don't forget to mention Vision Motor Corp. They make big rigs that run on Hydrogen fuel cells.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 10:47 AM, Nevadarob wrote:

    Hasn't this hydrogen cell been tried once before?

    Sounds a lot like a story my Grandfather once told me about a vehicle that might have changed the world. THE HINDENBURG!!!!! It's going to be a long time before your going to convince a parent to put their family in a sealed metal can that you fill up with Hydrogen.

    Who is going to buy this???? Perhaps a car bomber?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:17 AM, AdvanderMeer wrote:

    Sorry John, but hydrogen cars do have a battery. Hydrogen cars don't make electricity as they go, but the fuel cell makes energy which is stored in the battery from which it can be called upon when needed.

    Making hydrogen from natural gas or methane may be cheap, but it pollutes. By products are CO and CO2 and in serious quantities.

    Producing hydrogen by electrolysis is possible, but horribly inefficient. A fuel cell car like a Hyundai ix35 FCEV uses 53kWh/100km compared to 23kWh/100km for a Toyota RAV4 EV. That's double John and it is something you should have addressed in this article.

    I suggest you read up on the subject and try again!

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:41 AM, digdug3245 wrote:

    Honda actively sells the fcx clarity which is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It sells only in California I believe. It suffers from the same infrastructure problems LNG, electric and other modern power plant vehicles have. Namely little or no infrastructure.

    Why will Toyota be any better?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:57 AM, Helivette wrote:

    My cousin drove a hydrogen test car a few years back . He said great power , smokes the tires at the light . Its just needs laboratory grade hydrogen gas the Crap from the welding supply won't work .

    Clean diesel is the only HERE NOW technology

    That is cost effective . No high end batteries or odd ball service stations . So take off your foil hats and hope for flying car dealers opening near you .

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:58 AM, madskills wrote:

    Anything that keeps us from using fossil fuels is a plus. One thing about electricity use, is resistance in the transportation reduces the energy by 30-50%. So with a liquid or gas, like hydrogen, you'll have less waste in transporation. It should be possible to have nuclear and thorium energy generation at remote locations with a source of water and then send the gas to places that need it. This could be the big, win/win.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 12:03 PM, normgarry wrote:

    Hydrogen gas is more unstable than GASOLINE or DIESEL. Yes you could make an engine that used electricity to seperate Hydrogen from Oxygen in water, but so far, we've never been given a good proof-of-concept that would work in daily American living.

    The MODEL S, is only a hit because it's SPACIOUS. The Fisker Karma was widely praised, right up until someone actually tried to drive around in it and realized what a crappy and cramped car it was. I actually liked the Karma more because it's range extending technology meant that you couldn't ever run out of ENERGY.

    The key word is ENERGY. Energy takes a lot of effort energy to produce , store it, transport it or dissipate it (to drive the wheels). Thus far, biodiesel made from bacteria converting human waste is the best idea for alternative energy I can see. They just need to properly develop it.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 12:19 PM, Shawn wrote:

    Yes, this has been tried before, and it will probably be tried again 10-20 years from now, with much the same result, that is, it's not going anywhere.

    Hydrogen is not a real answer for replacing fossil fuels if it's made from fossil fuels. Hydrogen also has the well-known problem concerning tank size and pressure.

    A tank of welding-grade hydrogen contains about 2/3 of a gallon of gasoline equivalent and costs about $30.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 12:32 PM, kingofrome wrote:

    they have water that comes out of the tail pipe . i am srry but i would never buy one in mn as this will cause black ice during winter. this will be a major safely hazard on roads.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 1:31 PM, Derwood2112 wrote:

    Great so we'll be driving around in Hindenbergs on wheels?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 1:43 PM, syzygysyzygy wrote:

    same old same old-------- the power of a StanleySteamer was terrific

    fuel cells electrics etc all nonesense

    well cant blame em for trying I suppose

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 2:28 PM, ddcmall wrote:

    For all of you foolish enough to complain that hydrogen is dangerous because its flammable remember that a single cup of gasoline when vaporized and ignited has the explosive power of 5 sticks of dynamite. Ask any yacht owner who failed to vent his bilge.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 2:49 PM, ddcmall wrote:

    A few years ago General Electric announced plans to make cheaper devices (hydrogen generators) to produce hydrogen gas from water using standard electrolysis. General Electric claims the cheaper devices will bring the cost of hydrogen down to $3.00 per kilogram which is the energy equivalent to one gallon of gasoline. When such devices are powered from solar photovoltaic cells the individual economies of both hydrogen and PV generated electricity will be forever lowered. The combining of the two technologies is the game changer because hydrogen will become not only the standard storage solution for solar generated electricity it will also replace higher cost gasoline and substitute all oil based energies.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 5:13 PM, JosephLong65 wrote:

    At first, I don't see a problem. But, if this catches n and cars become more common with fuel cells, we may have a problem with too much water vapor. I'd like to see some research about that. Global warming has a double issue. Excess water (like from melting glaciers), and stronger storms, possibly from higher amounts of water vapor.

    At what point will this be a problem???

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 6:01 PM, jeffreycourtney wrote:

    This is a really dumb idea, but it's only a concept car! Anyone who would actually buy such a car would have it sitting in their garage gathering dust without the availability of hydrogen, or even any way of getting it into the car. Even if there would ever be available sources, the cost of the fuel per mile would be outrageous. And then the point is to be environmentally friendly, but the hydrogen would most likely have to be derived from a conversion from hydrocarbons or electrolysis from energy produced by hydrocarbons, the conversion of which uses even more hydrocarbons (and expense) than just using octane for a typical car. There are a lot of disadvantages to hydrogen as a transportation fuel too.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 6:21 PM, tstoneami wrote:

    With these cars having the potential to be so much lighter than any other car, the potential for power to weight being fairly high is awesome. I wonder if doubling or tripling the power plants means literally doubling or tripling the power? hmmm

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 6:25 PM, alcast86 wrote:

    It's about time. My only slight disappointment is that FORD did not do this first!

    Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. It is absolutely the most logical method of producing electric of electrochemical based energy.

    Hat's off to Toyota and I hope this concept becomes more a reality and not just a concept!

    Let's see what FORD will do?????

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 6:32 PM, Hydrogen411 wrote:

    Another company that could certainly benefit from the introduction of fuel cell vehicles is Plug Power. Their technology and refueling options could be ideal vehicle infrastructure solutions.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 6:46 PM, DIVBOY wrote:

    I think fuel cell technology holds the ultimate answers for energy. You can actually made a hydrogen still from solar energy and water. The only problem is compressing it for your tank. Still, the thought of producing water as a waste product is very enticing.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 7:33 PM, fonytony wrote:

    I worked at a refinery near st.louis about six years ago and the already had the capacity to produce hydrogen. So this concept is possible but I wouldn't want to live within thirty miles of that plant.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 8:58 PM, ffreeman wrote:

    THE HINDENBURG did not catch fire because of the Hydrogen gas cells, this was proven several years ago by the JPL. It caught fire initially due to being coated with, as it turns out, SOLID ROCKET FUEL. The company that built it and its sister ship thought it was a new safer doping compound to make the ship shed water faster and thereby remaim lighter. yes after the skin was on fire the gas bags burned. i supposed they would have done the same if filled with gasoline. who knew.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 9:21 PM, jarhead wrote:

    Runs on water great only $4.00 a gallon for water and how much will be a fedral tax on the water we need to drink to STAY ALIVE this is a great idea.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 9:46 PM, vet212 wrote:

    No it wont. Several years ago BMW quietly dropped its Hydrogen fuel program as impracticle, there are simply too many problems with generating storing the hydrogen and the huge expence of building the infrastructure to refuel vehicles so fueled

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:12 PM, pb15654 wrote:

    I like how clean and SAFE hydrogen is that is it is no more dangerous then Gasoline and is stored in a tank 1000 times better then a Gas Tank. Sadly water vapor has been reported as one of the main items as green house gas.

    I wish the Oil Companies would let Automakers build Diesel Electric Cars and Trucks because we can make Clean Diesel now from Soy Beans and they would have far more range then the Gas Electric and a lot better fuel economy......Combine that with a battery and You could see 250 mpg to 500 mpg easy.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 11:12 PM, lucas wrote:

    You can already find plans to do this and run it on a diesal engine to get better fuel mileage. Its a old tech. That's just being brought up again. Just like running a motor off of the smoke from wood.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 12:06 AM, Hoogaroo wrote:

    All you people that really know nothing about hydrogen except that back in the 1930's the Hindenberg blew up, make me laugh. These car companies have invested millions of dollars into research, yet you think you know more than they do. Gimme a freakin break!

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 12:51 AM, cyberblade6669 wrote:

    You guys do know that gasoline explosive agent is hydrogen and that the HINDENBURG burned not exploded and that was from the paint it was covered with not hydrogen. hydrogen escapes too quickly Although the hydrogen had finished burning, the Hindenburg's diesel fuel burned for several more hours. still think gas is safer . Dr. Bain's findings and conclusions lay out the most plausible scenario of events on that day. No matter, using flammable matter for a buoyancy gas is not the greatest idea, but the fact that the passengers who "stayed" with the ship survived the crash is a testament to the "safety" aspects of hydrogen's physical and chemical properties. did you know with a baseball worth of thorium we could make all the hydrogen' gas we would ever need for 10 years sounds like the governments in bed with the oil companies but we all ready know that

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 2:33 AM, whacked wrote:

    Who said plugins were clean ? Their emissions can be seen at the nearest power plant.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 9:32 AM, Bornforee wrote:

    I'm just amazed at the epic level of ignorance is here on the Fool. Doesn't anyone do simple research anymore? This is not a "concept" for the industry, its just labeled as one for Toyota. Please do a simple search on google for GM's Hy-Wire. This technology exists, it doesn't have to be discovered, it'll run your house and then some. Is it the most "dangerous" contraption on the road? Not by a longshot, so just read all the available information at your finger tips and try with an open mind to get the dam distribution system out of your head. There will be no "fill-up" stations. It'll all be on-board. If you're really foolish, google Stanley Meyer. You'll get a kick out of that one.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 10:27 AM, mekallo98 wrote:

    For all of you people complaining about driving with hydrogen (you like to call it hindenburgs) because it could explode...what do you think you are driving on now....pretty much a bomb filled with gasoline.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 10:36 AM, Hubie337 wrote:

    Why go to all the trouble and expense of converting Nat Gas into Hydrogen (electrolysis of water takes way too much electricity) when you can simply compress nat gas and use it in a modified conventional combustion engine?

    Compressed nat gas is safer and way easier to ship via existing pipelines. This isn't hard.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 10:40 AM, speculawyer wrote:

    Hydrogen, the fuel of the future . . . and always will be.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 11:22 AM, chubb90 wrote:

    Elon Musk calls it FOOL CELL---

    That's all I have to know-----

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 12:05 PM, GregVezina wrote:

    For a fraction of the cost the hydrogen fuel system and fuel cell could be replaced with and ammonia (NH3) fuelled electric generator, which would be as efficient but the fuel costs would be a small fraction. There is more hydrogen in ammonia than there is in liquid hydrogen that has to be stored at high pressure and cooled cryogenically. Driving range on NH3 will me nay times more than hydrogen and the infrastructure for distributing ammonia is in place for agricultural use and all that is needed is fuelling stations, that would cost well under $100,000 when hydrogen stations will cost over $1 million each. NH3 Gasoline hybrid vehicles have been built in Italy and South Korea and Natural resources Canada has been funding NH3 fuel cell research for a decade. See:

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 3:28 PM, 1bec1 wrote:

    Chevy had a hydrogen car'd that work for them after a billion investment...

    There isn't any infrastructure to support it...Just like our great idea of using corn for fuel...Terrible for cars and engines...paying farmers to not grow it....It was a flop...

    Same with the natural gas that you have been pushing....

    This is also coming from a country that is choking on their own waste and pollution...

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 3:45 PM, steveinsa wrote:

    I work around high pressure hydrogen in refineries for several decades. To have usable range for an H2 powered vehicle, The H2 will be stored at very high pressure to have enough pounds of fuel to go anywhere. Say 1000 - 2000 psi, minimum. So you are an EMT approaching a wrecked vehicle, Guess what, You can't see the flames. They are invisible. So the fuel system, tank, tubing, etc. must operate at high pressure in a vibrating, rough road, environment. Then you park the car in the garage and there is a tiny leak. It will either auto-ignite or fill the garage ceiling where the ceiling light will ignite it. No thank you!

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 4:11 PM, billy1122 wrote:

    Back in the 5th grade, my science partner and I made a small hydrogen car for our science experiment. We also installed solar panels on the top of it to replace the need for a battery. IIt ran pretty well. Ever since then, I have thought of hydrogen as the future for cars.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 4:58 PM, ADrolson wrote:

    i will change the world when me and people like me can afford to buy one. not until.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 5:05 PM, larryincal33 wrote:

    I cant believe that some people still believe in fossil fuel oil is naturally made within the earth to cool its core not from vegetation or dinosaurs. and hydrogen does work at least it can on older models that use carburators I have a 10967 cougar that I have been driving using three canisters that are filled with water and baking soda that makes hydrogen gas and I gas up maybe once every two or three months using a combination of hydrogen and gasoline I just turn the gas screw down and the hydrogen makes up for the difference

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 5:31 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    As many here have pointed out, this is a truly stupid idea on so many fronts. I would like to add another- if you are going to run a fuel cell where atmospheric oxygen is the oxidant, you are going to run into a phenomena called "catalyst poisoning".

    Sometimes I wonder if these car companies embark on these hydrogen fuel cell projects in good faith, or are just trying to get their competitors to waste money, lol. Even a student in high school that has studied chemistry should be able to tell you that this is a stupid idea. It would be scary to think that there are really engineers that are serious about this.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 5:32 PM, lcvc2000 wrote:

    Even though this car will do a great thing by preventing pollution from increasing, it will also do two (2) very bad things: 1) Remove oxigen from our already oxigen-depleted atmosphere; and 2) Increase the hydrogen levels of the atmosphere, which will increases the greenhouse effect it causes in the atmosphere - provoking global warming. These two bad effects outweight by much its good effect, so I am NOT enthusiastic at all! Furthermore, hydrogen is a lighly explosive gas, and any sparkle/crash could cause a major explosion killing people and making a lot of damage nearby.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 5:36 PM, lcvc2000 wrote:

    Please disregard my previous comment. Read it as:

    Even though this car will do a great thing by preventing pollution from increasing, it will also do two (2) very bad things: 1) Remove oxigen from our already oxigen-depleted atmosphere; and 2) Increase the hydrogen level of the atmosphere, which will amplify the greenhouse effect hydrogen causes in the atmosphere, provoking global warming. These two bad effects outweight by much its good effect, so I am NOT enthusiastic at all! Furthermore, hydrogen is a highly explosive gas, and any sparkle/crash could cause a major explosion killing people and making a lot of damage nearby. This is a creative solution, but it actually makes the environmental problem worse than it is now!

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 6:53 PM, sciencedave wrote:

    On- demand hydrogen generation from water and then storage using fuel cells may become very feasible in the future. The energy barrier to economically split water into hydrogen and oxygen is the only problem right now, but new research is very promising and on-going. Water is the most abundant item on the planet. Predictions are that gallon of water could power your car or house for an entire day. There will be numerous and exciting investment opportunities in these areas in the next 10 years.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2013, at 9:01 PM, Burstedbladder wrote:

    Just make a car that doesn't even require any kind of fuel is what needs to be invented.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 5:28 PM, KingAdrock wrote:

    The best comment I've heard about hydrogen fuel cells is this:

    "The notion that hydrogen is an energy source falls somewhere between a delusion and a scam. There is no free hydrogen available on Earth. Hydrogen has to be made by stripping it from a hydrocarbon fuel like natural gas (releasing CO2 in the process) or by the electrolysis of water. The first nets out less energy than simply burning the hydrocarbon and the second less energy than simply using the electricity directly."

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 6:02 PM, Diogenesdad wrote:

    and the world is flat.... What the mind can conceive, man can achieve.

    Napo Hill

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 6:32 PM, postwick wrote:

    There is a massive problem with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, that this author did not include in the article.

    Due to the low density of hydrogen, even when under pressure the amount you can put into a tanker semi will only fuel a fraction of the vehicles that would be fueled if the same truck were filled with gasoline.

    In other words, hydrogen is a very inefficient way to transport energy.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 6:43 PM, TMFBos wrote:


    While I agree with your point around natural gas, I'd have to disagree with the electrolysis point. While it's certainly uneconomical to use electrolysis to separate hydrogen from water today, that method hinges on the use finite resource to power the electrolysis like coal. If an electrolysis plant were powered by a solar thermal plant (free energy not counting the capital for the plant) the amount of energy input doesn't matter because it's source is infinite. Now if you're powering the electrolysis plant with finite resources like natural gas, then it does matter because it would be more economical to use that natural gas directly to power transportation.

    Hydrogen production today may be uneconomical, but in a solar thermal hydrogen economy it's a solution with little waste. The solar energy powers a electrolysis plant which separates hydrogen from water, the hydrogen is then used as a fuel source which gives off water, which then evaporates, which then falls back to earth as water in our oceans and lakes, which then repeats the can be used for electrolysis again. It's the only feasible circular feedback loop that gives us a viable clean energy solution with today's tech.

    I encourage anyone interested to read a paper by Derek Abbot titled: "Keeping the Energy Debate Clean: How do We Supply the Worlds Energy Needs?" It's a great fact based paper with little bias.



  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 7:41 PM, dlwatib wrote:

    Hydrogen (as distinct from HHO) is a dead end technology. Hydrogen does not occur naturally by itself, it must be produced from electrolysis or natural gas. Both processes are energy intensive, and then the result must be compressed to a high pressure in a multi-stage compression process to fit into the storage tank of a vehicle, another very energy intensive process at least as expensive as actually creating it in the first place. Last, but certainly not least, hydrogen generated from hydrocarbons still doesn't give us a renewable energy source.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 8:39 PM, sevenheart wrote:

    Ha ha ha ha ha! dlwatib concisely nails it as do a number of contributors. As for Dangerous CO2, and depleted oxygen, Ha ha ha haha. Alas, some of these incompetent comments were made by smart phone users who were texting during science class, the older generation was probably doodling and dreaming of legal pot. Fools all.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 8:51 PM, Geojockey wrote:

    Ah yes, the fuel cell. Made about a small amount of cash on a penny stock touting hydrogen sensors about 17 years ago- turned out it was a pump and dump. But I've kept interested- one seemingly good idea was to use ethanol as the fuel source (essentially cracking it into H via some convoluted process) and then using it in the fuel cell. But it can't be scaled up, and therein lies a fundamental problem. Also, it is a low-density source of energy. I hope to gawwd it works, but I remain skeptical.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 10:56 PM, kgrahamprinter wrote:

    Anyone remember Ballard -

    Forget cars, If fuel cells were a good idea using natural gas as a feed stock the place to put them would be in the home, particularly where customers are using Natural Gas fueled grid or in places still using diesel or coal fired plants.

    Natural Gas powered vehicles are also about as bad with very little range with compress gas having only 20% of BTU content of Propane. Propane is a proven fuel with 4 times the outlets across the U.S. vs Natural gas.

    However since Gasoline units became efficient using their fuel with fuel injection propane also lost considerable value in the vehicle market - the one possibility I see is if its easier to refine or synthesize propane from natural gas than liquefy natural gas or create diesel from natural gas a world of opportunity is there for propane.


  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 1:34 AM, PeakOilBill wrote:

    Very unlikely. Hydrogen is dangerous, being explosive over a wide range of mixtures with air. It leaks quickly through the tiniest holes or cracks because of the small size of the hydrogen molecule. Establishing a national infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations would cost trillions of dollars. Fuel cells malfunction a lot. Even NASA had a hard time keeping them functioning. They are very expensive to make and easily damaged by any contamination. Hydrogen gas is difficult to store and tanks of it can explode violently if breached. It is like fooling around with acetylene. You had better know what you are doing or BOOM!

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 10:42 AM, stanno934 wrote:

    Why is it that every time the subject of hydrogen arises, someone says Hindenberg ?

    If we wouldn't put our family in a sealed can and fill it up with explosive hydrogen, why do we put them in a sealed can and fill it up with explosive gasoline ?

    The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank.

    Did we stop building ships ? Of course not, we developed technology eg radar to minimise the chances of that happening again.

    Planes crash and kill hundreds every year. Do we stop flying ? No.

    Hydrogen may yet have to prove itself as a viable source of energy for road vehicles.

    But the Hindenberg is irrelevant to the issue.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 11:54 AM, kickbishopbrenna wrote:

    There are many more fuel cells now, Neah power make an anaerobic one that runs on methanol, Bluegen make one that runs on Nat. gas.already powering many homes in Australia and Germany..they are certainly a power source of the future, but Hydrogen cells in cars? Think they might be "overtaken" (cough) ....rapidly by newer and better technology.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 12:17 PM, jwiest wrote:

    Apparently nobody remembers the Ballard fuel cell company. This story already played out in the late 1990s, and Toyota's new concept car isn't so new, they had one back then too.

    The problem to solve is packing enough H into a small enough space. By weight, H has more than twice the energy density of gasoline, but by volume even compressed at 70MPa it has 1/6th the energy density. So the problems for all electrical vehicles remain the same: reducing the size requirements of the storage. It doesn't matter if that energy is stored in a lithium-ion structure, or a compressed tank of H.

    If we make a breakthrough in storing H at small volumes at room temperature, then fuel cells will be the way to go. Otherwise, batteries are much closer to widespread adoption.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 2:38 PM, Innovatinguy wrote:

    If the car makers heading toward Fuel Cell powered vehicles support the work being done at Savanna River Hydrogen R&D Center (funded by DOE). They will most likely be successful. A Professor working there has developed a cylinder capable of storing huge quantities of Hydrogen safely. He is using nanotechnology in the form of something he calls "Aline". Low pressure, high volume, Warm outside of cylinder (very low BTUs) to release Hydrogen. No battery required. It is coming as sure as anything. IMO switch to graphene would increase storage and power capability.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:00 PM, RHoneycutt wrote:

    The prototypes have been in testing for awhile. I drove the Toyota and BMW prototypes back in 2007 at the Alternative Energy car conference. They are impressive cars, with much more power than one might think (it was cool driving getting honks and waves as we drove the fuel cell around the US Capital in DC). It is very promising technology.

    But, as I see it, the practical issue with fuel cells for the foreseeable future isn't the car, but the re-fueling stations. A huge infrastructure of refueling stations will have to be built out, and thats progressing slower than the cars themselves.

    If you want to look at alternative fuel technology for cars while we're waiting for all that to happen, take a look at PHEV's. That technology promises to be practical bridge while waiting on fuel cells. PHEV's have just started shipping from the major card companies. Ford is in the lead in that area. with Toyota working hard, but lagging.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:05 PM, RHoneycutt wrote:

    Anyone interested in investing heavily in this area might be interested in this conference:

    I've attended before and it was most interesting. They often let you test drive these prototypes.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:54 PM, illini wrote:

    The "batteries make it heavy" caption is *silly*, along with other weight comments. In an electric car, that weight literally doesn't cause worse MPG, and in fact the Chevrolet Volt and Tesla Model S have superior rides because of the extra weight. Most gasoline drivers have this "weight is bad" thought ingrained, but it's wrong for electrics.

    The price of this will be more than the price of an existing electric for at least a decade, and building a hydrogen infrastructure will also take decades. I think Toyota may be showing some cool R&D because GM and Tesla have leapfrogged them with the electric Volt and Model S, and Toyota still using much weaker nickel batteries in their plug-in Prius.

    The current Chevrolet Volt gives you all the benefits of this car and more, and is cost competitive to current gasoline cars: its running costs are typically a quarter of a gasoline car (less than $35 a month), does everything regular cars do, and total cost of ownership is the same, or much better, than regular cars. The Tesla also gives you the electric benefits, but at a premium price.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 11:24 PM, CMFSoloFool wrote:

    The chevy Volt is a flop precisely for the same reason the Tesla will always be a small niche vehicle - battery life and cost. Hybrids are much more practical at this stage.

    But the point of the article is really lost on many of the readers - innovation happens in fits and spurts, linking multiple ideas together, until presto! the previously inconceivable is suddenly the genius breakthrough.

    All the nay sayers need to realize mankind has overcome much bigger obstacles, and many before the age of computers and the Internet.

    We only need look back just a few years at the creation of internal combustion engine, which likely seemed like a myth when the only source of transportation was a horse and buggy. How about invention of the airplane, space travel, the Internet, the PC, the cell phone, the smart phone, the iPhone, the iPad, etc. Heck, even the nuclear physicists on the Manhattan project thought their nuclear bomb would incinerate the earth's atmosphere.

    The challenges of Hydrogen fuel cells will be overcome. It's only a matter of time, and I believe it is much closer than many here believe.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2013, at 8:37 PM, JCOLOV wrote:

    As the fuel cell was ordinarily designed to use water, the automotive industry continues to be the servant of the energy companies, so the production version run on hydrogen gas and get much poorer mileage.

    We need to end all the servitude of companies to the energy industry.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2013, at 9:00 PM, armby wrote:

    We wall will be able to fill up at all of the same places where we fill-up, now.

    We will have a choice of LNG/CNG or Hydrogen .... no problem and no worry AND NO POLLUTION!!!!!

    The naysayers must not be aware of the thousands of trucks, etc that are running on "gas" power today .... too bad!

    At least we will be able to go to a real "gas" station and NOT receive gasoline!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2013, at 9:18 PM, MisterEC wrote:

    Hydrogen is the perfect fuel. The by product of its use is water vapor. There is no infrastructure, but producing it would fuel economic development for years.

    Use nuclear fuel to produce hydrogen.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2013, at 9:21 PM, GregTrocchia wrote:

    Others have already mentioned the low energy density of hydrogen gas and the attendant problems of trying to store it, but there is another problem with trying to store hydrogen that I didn't see mentioned, hydrogen embrittlement:

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2013, at 9:35 PM, jumpngeorge wrote:

    Hydrogen is also a product of electrolysis which separates water into his component parts. When you combine hydrogen and water in a fuel cell, you generate electricity. Seems like you could charge the fuel cell and make your own hydrogen by plugging in and splitting water into the hydrogen and oxygen needed for the fuel cell to work.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 1:15 AM, seymourfroggs wrote:

    The comments are too varied to comment on. Pity we can't Vote Up.

    In the UK, Hyundai have a car up & running, been so for a couple of years. ITM-Power supply the H2.

    Its highly acclaimed.

    In this case, the Grid electricity >H2 at 300 bar, 74% efficiency (ITM fuel cell).

    The H2 fills just like usual pump. The H2>back to electric motors (fuel cell) 60% efficiency. Brake power retrieval helps further.

    Range ~ 500 miles.

    ITM will supply the pumps at usual stations and there will be a roll-out 2014.

    The H2 is safer than gasoline (as described above - floats away, doesn't stick to you).

    The Energy Density is 123 MJ/kg or 25 MJ/L at 300 bar for H2, and 46 MJ/Kg or 36 MJ/L for gasoline or diesel.

    The UK Isle of Wight has for some years set itself up as an "Eco-Island" and H2 is being used there for a small range of vehicles.

    ITM-Power (ITM.L) is worth a look. Much like HYGS on the Nasdaq (I think).

    IMO, H2 - being lighter - will eventually power big airliners (big to accommodate spherical tanks).

    H2 is being shoehorned into a number of UK & German settings.

    H2 isn't a Future Thing. Its here already.

    PS - What does ITM stand for? No-one knows. I think it stands for "Its The Membrane", stupid.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 4:04 AM, observerbob2013 wrote:

    The reality is that everyone is looking for cheaper and greener transport and hydrogen is one more possibility.

    Distribution of hydrogen will be solved in the same way as LNG is now available in virtually every service station in Australia and much of the world. Distribution inevitably follows successful innovation, the trick is to produce the successful vehicle.

    But the bottom line is cost and emissions. If Hydrogen, Electricity or Chicken Droppings can successfully produce a cheap car it will BUT the government will be one step behind with excise taxes.

    Toyota, ford and everyone else will have a go, its called research and development, but for investors you have to look at the resources of the company including both manufacturing and distribution.

    Tesla etal will only reward the people paying the present high multiples if they can reach economic production and distribution and that is a hard road. I seem to remember a guy called DeLorian who thought it was easy.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 5:04 AM, mmctim wrote:

    Stan Meyer had right idea , split the water in spark plug injector, resonance of chamber and split charge timing is the key, same car engine, minor mods and gas tank become water tank. Stan was working with salt water to make fresh water AND electricity as output. desalting and making power SMART. Stan Meyer showed US govt this- videos on u tube- a few months later he was poisoned - with some type of isotope, nuclear thing- and died. he said he turned down a BILLION dollars from Saudis - his brother went to Canada and said he's not talking - i think brother very smart - he worked on electronic parts - he is also in videos

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 6:11 AM, seymourfroggs wrote:

    H2 with electric drive is more efficient than a usual internal combustion vehicle (which can't make 40% efficiency). No CO2.

    So the only point is, does electricity at the socket cost more than petrol at the pump, ignoring taxes?

    My guess is, electricity ( >h2) is cheaper.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 10:57 AM, EricManning wrote:

    I don't think Hydrogen-powered autos will succeed.

    1] A brand-new continental network of pipelines and fueling stations would be needed.

    2] Hydrogen is hard to transport by pipeline. It combines with many metals to make hydrides.

    3] The energy density [energy per cubic metre] of hydrogen is very low. You would need a very large gas tank to go a very short distance.

    My advice : sell the stock short of any automaker who bets the farm on Hydrogen.

    Trains and trucks? That's a whole different ballgame.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 11:04 AM, EricManning wrote:

    Hydrogen is not an energy source.

    Like electricity, it doesn't occur [very much] in nature,

    so it's best thought of as an energy currency, just like electricity.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 11:29 AM, rcmansid wrote:

    Why not just burn the hydrogen in an efficient turbine or internal combustion engine/generator and eliminate the expensive fuel cell. The addition of Ultra/Super Capacitors can store braking regeneration of electricity to improve efficiency in stop and go traffic. The capacitors can also be used to supplement the generator in starting torque to get the car moving faster.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 1:42 PM, lawrencerhodes wrote:

    The reason to use electric cars is the efficiency. Hydrogen production is not efficient. Maybe convenient. But at 8 dollars a gallon not a bargain. Until hydrogen can be stored in large quantity and produced cheaply Fuel Cells are off the plate. Now lets talk about the 50k cost of a fuel cell system. Do we have a deal breaker yet. Does the fact that most major auto manufacturers have given up on the California Fuel Partnership look promising? The Fuel Cell Partnership building housing all the major auto manufactures is up for lease. Most of the majors have quietly dropped participation. This aught to be enough warning about fuel cells.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 1:43 PM, lawrencerhodes wrote:

    Look at the Google map street view.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 10:26 AM, joegus wrote:

    Isn't water vapor an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2?

    So what happens when we have a billion or so of these cars out there? Will they tax them to encourage you to use the lesser greenhouse fuel "diesel"?

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 10:37 AM, Murcielago wrote:

    Daimler sent in the year 2011 a dozen Mercedes B Class cars around the globe, driven by auto-journalists. They all arrived back home safely with no car problems, the main difficulty was the supply of hydrogen for the fuel cells transported by a fleet of service trucks.

  • Report this Comment On November 19, 2013, at 3:00 PM, agsimon wrote:

    Boy. boy-o-boy. boy-o-boy-o-boy. Some of these posts are pretty far distant; from science. Reminds me one of the questions put to NASA when pictures of the moon were sent back from space, "Part of the moon is dark. Why? Was the sky covering it up, or something?" Seriously.

    Some folks need to do some fundamental research into combustion.

    Some folks need to put away their distractions from pet solutions to the world's problems.

    Throwing out the hydrogen baby with the Hindenburg bathwater is foolish.

    Paying attention to the development of energy technologies, including hydrogen research, is Foolish.

    Who can answer this, "How many gas stations were there in the United States when Henry Ford began to mass produce the automobile?"


  • Report this Comment On November 19, 2013, at 3:34 PM, maddogpilot1 wrote:

    Completely unnecessary.

    Compressed Natural Gas is the only reasonable alternative fuel way to go. I put my money where my mouth is and modified my Toyota Tundra with an ROI of less than 3 years.

    The infrastructure is reasonably in place and expanding ($1.50 -$2.30 gallon depending) and if someone could make a reasonably priced home fill...could be ~$1.25/gallon.

    Side bennie... because this is a clean burning dry gas my engine has essentially stopped wearing out. My oil looks as if I just put it in after 8,000 miles.

    Growing corn to burn it in my engine? Insane!

    I experimented with hydrogen electrolysis, disapointing.

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