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Go suck a tailpipe. No really, suck it!
July 26, 2005 9:14 AM   Subscribe

UK-based Intelligent Energy intends to put the world's first fuel cell-powered motorbike on sale next year. At 0-50 in 12 seconds and US$6000, it's not a lot of bang for the buck. And there aren't a lot of hydrogen filling stations yet (they're working on that). But it's kind of cool looking, and you can drink the exhaust, so it's got that going for it, which is nice. Interview and details via the Boston Globe.
posted by schoolgirl report (23 comments total)

 
Thanks for the post.
I'm pretty sure I had read about this a while back (while it was still in development), and they were talking about the fact that a good majority of users felt uneasy due to the extreme silence of it.
They then went on to say that they were planning on building in speakers so there would be a user-defined responsive sound associated with acceleration.
I kept thinking how cool (/geeky) that would be to be able to load up sounds like the Tron lightcycles.
Anyhow... If I end up tracking down the old article, I'll post it.
Cheers,
num-
posted by numlok at 10:08 AM on July 26, 2005


I don't know, I'm not a rich man, but it seems like pretty cool bang for the buck.
posted by OmieWise at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2005


It costs about $3 to $4 per fill-up (5 ounces of hydrogen), which is enough to transport it 100 miles. 'Once a network of fueling stations is in place, that cost should drop to something more like 25 cents," said Eggleston.

How much you wanna bet that even after a fuel station network is in place, the price will not actually drop from 4.00 to 0.25 like it "should".

Just sayin. But still a lot more appealing than gasoline.
posted by p3t3 at 10:29 AM on July 26, 2005


I hope the roads fill up with silent, water-dribbling vehicles. If they need noisemakers to stay alive, make them radio-triggered warning buzzers inside other vehicles and at crosswalks. If roads can be quiet, they should be.
posted by pracowity at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2005


I could swear this was a double but can't find it for the life of me.

But this is such a great step in the right direction (even if they did take styling cues from Voltron). I'm not ready to trade in V-Strom but when they get those 0-60 times into the realm of other bikes, I'll seriously give it some thought.

FWIW, a buck of gas takes me about 20 miles on my motorcycle. And p3t3, yeah should won't happen, not when there's profit to be made!
posted by fenriq at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2005


Ah... Here's some BBC coverage of the bits I was thinking of.
posted by numlok at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2005


Exciting stuff. If I lived in a compact, urban environment, I'd love to have one of these. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem too practical for Texas highway driving with a top speed of 50 mph [pdf spec sheet].
posted by blendor at 10:38 AM on July 26, 2005


This will not only put the oil companies out of business, but the bottled water companies too!

(Anybody want to predict what 5 ounces of hydrogen will cost in ten years if it's $4 today? I'd say $1.99, a big enough bargain to sell a lot of hydrogen vehicles, but still obscenely profitable...)
posted by wendell at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2005


Texas highway driving with a top speed of 50 mph

You suck! We get 70 here... Mind you the Germans get all the fun.
posted by Meccabilly at 11:05 AM on July 26, 2005


Why do these articles (and articles like them) conveniently omit the substantial challenges entailed in the isolation of the hydrogen itself?

p3t3, wendell-- you realize that hydrogen is not an energy source, but rather a storage medium, right?
posted by Kwantsar at 11:12 AM on July 26, 2005


Yes Kwanstar, I was mostly thinking of when the music industry said CDs would get cheaper once there were more in circulation, but instead they got more expensive.
posted by p3t3 at 11:19 AM on July 26, 2005


Why do these articles (and articles like them) conveniently omit the substantial challenges entailed in the isolation of the hydrogen itself?

Maybe because it isn't very hard, but only very energy expensive (electrolysis), or dependent on natural gas(cracking). Unless of course you mean something else.

The article said quite clearly:
Hydrogen is readily available. One phone call in any major city and a truck can drop off a canister

However, this seems to be from crack natural gas, not from electrolysis, so it is still fossil fuel dependent.

And about the price, honestly, if $3 to $4 is accurate for a 100 mile range, that is about $0.04 a mile. Compare that with a 30 MPG car at california gas prices($2.70+), thats about $0.37 a mile. Pretty cheap as far as I can tell.

Biggest problems I see are what seems to be a 100 range, which is a quite small.

Anyways I eagerly await the car version of this.
posted by litghost at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2005


The 100 mile range is somewhat small for many sprawling cities and very small for interstate travel. But in an urban area or smaller city I'm sure it would be no trouble. My college town commute is less than 20 miles a day. Factor in errands and such I figure I'll need to fill up twice a week. Not too bad for the price.

Besides do you really want to travel a few hundred miles on a sportbike-style motorcycle?
posted by oddman at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2005


It looks like a motorbike and, more important, performs like one.

No it doesn't, and no it doesn't. Not in Amurka anyhow. We have choppers and Hayabusas.

a good majority of users felt uneasy due to the extreme silence of it.

Just like the sticker on my helmet says: Loud fuel cells save lives.
posted by scratch at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2005


And about the price, honestly, if $3 to $4 is accurate for a 100 mile range, that is about $0.04 a mile. Compare that with a 30 MPG car at california gas prices($2.70+), thats about $0.37 a mile.

At $0.37/mile, it would cost you $37.00 for the gas to drive 100 miles. Even at $2.70/gallon, it's still only costs you $9.00 to drive that distance (in gas costs) or $0.09 per mile. The $0.37 figure you used must include depreciation of the car.
posted by notmtwain at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2005


Unless of course you mean something else.

I mean, of course, that articles like this-- using such language as:
-No noise, no pollution, no unwanted byproducts.
-Holy Grail of energy.
-we can foresee the production of virtually unlimited power from renewable agricultural resources (sugar cane, sugar beets, corn), along with weaning ourselves from fossil fuels,


-- ignore the problems that hydrogen isolation entails.

Perhaps "substantial challenges" wasn't the best choice of phrase, but the writer doesn't note the negative ERoEI af some (all?) biofuels, just as you imply that electrolysis is fossil-fuel independent. We use over 100 quadrilion BTUs per year in the US alone. What do you plan to do to create a fossil-fuel independent electrolysis machine? You going to set up a wind farm or solar panel with magically unfungible energy? Will you then somehow scale it? And will magical pixies somehow create the windmill or photovoltaic cells without the use of fossil fuels or petrochemicals?

And, litghost, a scooter gets anywhere from 60-200 MPG, and it would have been a far more apt comparison for this motorbike, no?

I'm not down on this, BTW. It's fantastic that we're making progress toward one of the two goals we must achieve to enable widespread fossil-fuel-free-transportation. But I fear that the more difficult half of the problem lies ahead.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2005


I expect this technology is better suited to European scooter/motorbike couriers than boyracers or cruisers. You get cost savings and cut down on city noise. Though I must admit, I think riding in silence would be pretty disconcerting. I depend a lot on auditory feedback when I'm driving my car, i.e. to decide when to shift.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2005


This is a big step in the right direction. Thanks for the post.
posted by voltairemodern at 2:32 PM on July 26, 2005


I depend a lot on auditory feedback when I'm driving my car, i.e. to decide when to shift.

Yes, but it would be good to be able to keep your feedback internal to the vehicle, maybe as sound through headphones or speakers or as a changing shade of light on the control panel. No one else needs to know when you need to shift.

Noise pollution, as a source of stress, is a giant problem in cities. If, thanks to vehicles like this, you could leave your windows open and hear nothing but people walking and talking, and smell no exhaust, it would be a lot pleasanter to live downtown. Cities (or vehicle dealers) should build fueling stations to encourage this.
posted by pracowity at 2:56 PM on July 26, 2005


I get around just fine on my bicycle without any auditory feedback and cars have managed to not slam into me. In fact, cyclists use a huge amount of auditory information to understand what's happening around them, unlike drivers who may have their windows up and AC on and radio blasting.

I'd feel more safe, not less, on a quiet motorbike. But I'd also feel guilty I wasn't getting any exercise.
posted by nev at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2005


At $0.37/mile, it would cost you $37.00 for the gas to drive 100 miles. Even at $2.70/gallon, it's still only costs you $9.00 to drive that distance (in gas costs) or $0.09 per mile. The $0.37 figure you used must include depreciation of the car.

Opps, I am not sure how I messed up, but I messed up somewhere. $.09 is correct my apologies.

And, litghost, a scooter gets anywhere from 60-200 MPG, and it would have been a far more apt comparison for this motorbike, no?


Honestly I had no idea for an average MPG of a equivalent vehical, but it is not hard to run the numbers again.
$2.70 $/Gallon / 60 Mi/Gallon ~= $0.045
$2.70 $/Gallon / 200 Mi/Gallon ~= $.005

So even then it could be considered equivalent to a 60 MPG scooter in terms of fuel costs.

just as you imply that electrolysis is fossil-fuel independent

It is, completely. Nothing about the process of electrolysis requires fossil fuels. You simply need eletricity. That said, we do not have the generation capacity that is required, but this is not as you originally put it a "substantial challenges". You are correct to say it was poor wording. I am a propontent of nuclear generation as a generation source, and fusion may become viable as a generation source in the next 15-20 years, depending on the success of ITER.

negative ERoEI

It may be fault of the article, but am under no illusion that hydrogen is a positive ERoEI source. I have always considered it to be negitive.
posted by litghost at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2005


If only it didn't look like a toaster on wheels...
posted by epimorph at 6:05 PM on July 26, 2005


The UK is already behind on it's targets for increasing capacity of renewable energy generation. The shifts that would be required to produce enough hydrogen to sustain a significant number of "energy neutral vehicles" as actually neutral are not realistically achievable.
The issue of infrastructure is also a significant one. someone will have to pay for new development, and there aren't a lot of people likely to be available to make such an investment. (As far as I am aware there is only one hydrogen filling station in the world currently, it's in Reykjavik and it currently services a total of three buses.)

I'm not saying renewably sourced hydrogen powered fuel cell are a bad thing, but I will say there is a lot of potential for them to act as a sidetrack to the establishment of other alternatives that might more credibly bring changes more economically, and for some political interests to fund them as failures waiting to happen.
posted by biffa at 2:50 AM on July 27, 2005


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