Hydrogen Cars.
October 17, 2002 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Hydrogen Cars. I had been expecting something akin to the Sinclair C5, but these are full production models within the Ford Focus range. The article predicts that although they'll initially appear in niche markets such as public transport, in a few years we'll all be able to drive about in them, creating a cleaner, happier world.
posted by feelinglistless (23 comments total)
creating a cleaner, happier world.

but not necessarily safer...
posted by machaus at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2002

Within an hour of being test-driven by journalists, the Ford Focus FCV hybrid had irretrievably broken down in a Cornish lane and had to be ignominiously picked up by a Ford truck.

"We think something got wet," said an embarrassed Ford spokesman. "They could not find the fault. Our finest engineers are working on it right now."

posted by ginz at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2002

As sad as it is to say, I can't imagine these cars doing well in the US market unless they give the same (or better) performance for way less cost. And the fuel must be readily available and way cheap too. otherwise, Americans will never give up their gas guzzlers unless they are forced to. It's like breaking a bad habit. I for one, would love an alternative to gasoline, but I don't foresee the government, who's pockets are lined with cash from the oil companies, changing their tune any time soon. I am so pessimistic.
posted by cowboy at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2002

This right here kicks ass. Maybe the article is spun a bit, but the Ford people sound genuinely positive about hydrogen powered vehicles. Buy-in by the big auto makers is 80% of the battle to my mind.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2002

Well actually, I'm very positive and I really hope this is going to work. Mainly because we don't have oil around here. Water on the other hand...
posted by ginz at 10:53 AM on October 17, 2002

Okay, so Dean Kamen finally unveils IT and it's this lame scooter thingy. What's the rumpus?

But was its real significance as a foot firmly wedged in the door?

I mean, alternative transportation engine types usually get bought out and buried, so they don't compete with the established automobile/oil industry. Even car designs that just threaten the industry--look at Tucker. Look, even, at DeLorean, who created a stainless-steel car that wouldn't rust out so quickly.

Is it finally time for fossil fueled cars to fade away, or at least to share the road with efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles?
posted by Shane at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2002

Now, while they say the only exhaust is water vapor and that is certainly cleaner than usual car exhaust... What would happen if you replaced every car in a large metropolitan area previously hampered by excessive smog and air polution, in part from car exhuast... Say Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley especially...with one of these cars... what would the sudden upswing of air humidity do to the environment and/or weather? I mean it wouldn't happen over night (neither did the air polution problem) but is it possible that the whole thing could have some unintended reprecussions....
posted by davros42 at 11:34 AM on October 17, 2002

I mean it wouldn't happen over night (neither did the air pollution problem) but is it possible that the whole thing could have some unintended repercussions....
True davros42, but could it be worse than smog and other side effects of petrochemical combustion? My gut reaction says no, but is there perhaps a chemist or environmental engineer in the house who could shed some light?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:39 AM on October 17, 2002

what would the sudden upswing of air humidity do to the environment and/or weather?

Cool, I'm thinking palm trees here.

As for repercussions, I've got no idea of course. Could it be worse?

eh, what PinkStainlessTail says.
posted by ginz at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2002

I believe car exhaust is already composed of a decent percentage of H2O... along with CO,NO2, and SO2... and then there's lead, yummm.

I read somewhere that if cars were 100% efficient, and gas was 100% clean, then the only emmissions would be H20 and Co2, not sure about that though.
posted by zanpo at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2002

creating a cleaner, happier world.

except now instead of gas you're burning more coal in power plants to make all that hydrogen... People need to get over their aversion to nuclear energy.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:51 AM on October 17, 2002

except now instead of gas you're burning more coal in power plants to make all that hydrogen...

Except that the emmisions are centralized and easier to contain/clean up. I'm with you on the nuclear though.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:55 AM on October 17, 2002

I'm telling you, we need cars that run on hate.
posted by zanpo at 12:03 PM on October 17, 2002

Lust is cheaper.
posted by ginz at 12:09 PM on October 17, 2002

Promising these ultraclean cars "in a few years" is one of the ways us automakers have gotten the implementation dates for strict fuel consumption rules pushed back. The margins on SUV sales would suffer if they needed to meet tighter efficiency standards. I think the date has been bumped 3 times now. Ford / GM / Chrysler all promise water powered cars on one hand while on the other they claim an inability to manage hybrids and scuttle their electric car programs. That is not to say that I take a moral stand on this issue.

Also, DeLorean failed because he was a dumbass.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2002

Zanpo, the results of complete combustion are nothing but CO2 and water. I forget in what ratio, though.... Quick Googling has failed miserably, resulting in a pile of chemistry worksheets... heh.

and thanks for pointing out that emissions free really only means "not in my backyard", techgnollogic
posted by mr_mindless at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2002

Most of these alternative sources of energy need an honest calculation of EROI (energy return of investment), so they could work as a truly substitute of oil.

Yeah, "they work", but they fail to scale the prototypes onto full scale utilization.
posted by samelborp at 1:05 PM on October 17, 2002

What I am unclear about is why this its taken so long to turn to an element for fuel. The article unfortunately isn't very clear about time scales. Is the current investment because of fear that the earth's petrochemical fuel stocks are running dangerously low? How long has this taken?
posted by feelinglistless at 1:05 PM on October 17, 2002

People need to get over their aversion to nuclear energy.

I'm on the fence about nuclear, but I think I'd rather wait for fusion. Meanwhile, conservation is key.
posted by badstone at 1:56 PM on October 17, 2002

The efficiencies produced in coal powered generation plants vastly exceed those of automobiles. You have far FAR less pollution for energy produced. Additionally, coal is a dying technology, the bulk of new plant construction in the US is in natural gas, which, while not perfect, is a hell of a lot cleaner than coal. And renewable are gaining ground all the time. Surprisingly, Texas has one of the largest wind power programs in the United States. Lastly, nuclear currently produces about 20% of US power, which is not insignificant. There has been substantial research over the last several decades on creating more reliable nuclear technologies, some of it spearheaded by South Africa surprisingly. While this doesn't solve all of the problems, and there are many, associated with nuclear power, options are open.

There is no question that hydrogen powered cars are a step in the right direction. But really, the revolution is around us already. I'm from Portland, ME originally and now live in Washington DC. In both cities diesel metro buses are slowly being replaced by natural gas powered vehicles. Natural gas is also beginning to be used in many developing countriesas a transportation fuel to reduce air pollution.

Are we there yet? No. But things are looking a lot more hopeful than they have in a long time. If only Congress would invest in a decent national rail network or raise the CAFE Standards....
posted by pjgulliver at 2:48 PM on October 17, 2002

Not only aren't we running out of petrochemicals, scientists and oilmen were recently shocked by discovering what they thought were depleted oilfields that had mysteriously re-filled. So why the push for alternative fuels?

The best argument for alternative fuels is not lofty, just an extension of mercantilism, an idea that now incorporates even renewable resources. Namely, the "winners" in the future will be 'lender' nations, not 'debtor' nations. If you can eliminate the need to import, your nation will be a winner.

I disagree with Jeremy Rifkin, who "believes that eventually the hydrogen economy will democratise society more than any other development in the past 200 years."

He is stuck in a centralization or decentralization dichotomy.

I think that fuel cell technology lends itself to individual, and community and large scale use, as much as there are still mainframe computers and PCs.
posted by kablam at 2:58 PM on October 17, 2002

bi-product? Mercedez? The Grauniad lives down to its reputation.
posted by dhartung at 3:06 PM on October 17, 2002

Some points of departure:

Complete gas combustion results in slightly more molecules of water than CO2 (53%:47%). As it turns out, CO2 is not a particularly good greenhouse gas, but water is.

A viable hydrogen economy will require two things we don't yet have: a good way of storing hydrogen and an energy efficient way of producing it.
posted by bonehead at 3:51 PM on October 17, 2002

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