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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader , Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

  • Member since 2019
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  • Jul 11, 2021
  • 1280 views

 

As far as automobiles are concerned, electric power is undoubtedly the future. The source and repository of said electric power for the future has the house divided. While battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have managed to gain considerable momentum in most parts of the world, it’s hydrogen fuel cell electrics (FCEVs) that, at least on paper, appear to be the most sustainable form of mobility.

So just what are the key differences between battery electrics (powered using lithium-ion batteries) and hydrogen electrics (powered using a fuel cell)?

The UK's ten point industrial strategy singles out EV's for support and is exploring hydrogen concepts in the 'Northern Powerhouse' region through a 'multimodal transport hub'. Click below for details and join me at the Hydrogen Transport https://bit.ly/3cEcg6d Professionals Group to stay informed.

 

 

Chinwag podcast, John Massey and I:

 

Discussions
Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 11, 2021

Charley, call it what you will: hydrogen is, in fact, a fossil fuel. Only fossil-free fuels are fuels of the future.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 12, 2021

Is this still a serious question??

Is the house really divided?

Am I  missing something?

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Jul 12, 2021

.. it’s hydrogen fuel cell electrics (FCEVs) that, at least on paper, appear to be the most sustainable form of mobility.

Who's paper might that be? That's certainly not a consensus view. And if one reads on in the linked article, it looks a lot like deliberate misinformation.

Hydrogen is stored on-board much like petrol is stored in an internal combustion car,  ..

No, nothing like petrol in an internal combustion car. Petrol is liquid at ambient temperatures, and a tank to safely hold 40 liters of it in a car weighs only a few kilos. The tank is compact, and can be tucked away within the body of the car in a way that doesn't intrude on passenger or cargo space. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is a super-light gas. It has to be compressed to 10,000 psi to store enough of it for a practical FCEV. The hydrogen tanks are high tech graphite wound composite pressure tanks weighing 18 times more than the maximum amount of compressed hydrogen they're rated to hold. Expensive and bulky, they leave little room for passengers or cargo in ordinary sedans. 

Range and efficiency

As things stand, the advantage lies with hydrogen-powered EVs.

Range, perhaps. (The new model Toyota Mirai has an advertised range of 402miles from its 122 liter, 87.5 kg set of three pressure tanks.) Efficiency, not by a long shot. It takes roughly 265 kWh of electricity to produce the 5 kg of hydrogen needed to achieve that 402 mile range. Then ~20% more to compress it to 10,000 psi. That works out to about 0.8 kWh per mile. Tesla's model S is a roomier and higher performance vehicle, but needs less than 0.3 kWh per mile.

Hydrogen provides hundreds of times as much energy per kilogram,

Stated without equivocation, as if that were the whole story. Ignores the factor of 20 for the weight of the pressure tanks compared to the hydrogen they hold, and the additional factor of two in conversion from the thermodynamic enthalpy of hydrogen to mechanical energy delivered to the wheels. Oh, and no ability of fuel cells to support regenerative braking.

I can't speak to the author's motives, but the egregious cherry-picking of technical facts, the authoritative voice employed throughout, and the complete failure to mention contravening facts or issues suggest a conscious intent to deceive.

For the record, I don't consider the issue of BEV's vs. FCEVs to be entirely settled. There are valid arguments that can be made for FCEVs. I've even written about some of them. Unfortunately, this article fails to mention any of them. 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 13, 2021

Roger,

I read your linked article - which you wrote in 2017. Wondering, how has your attitude on BEV vs FCEV changed since then?

Personally, I think while it is not yet impossible that fuel cells might succeed the odds are super low. Maybe they will survive in some niche.

The amount of investment in battery technology over the next decade is going to be enormous.

I see an article like the below almost every week. Game over.

 

Stellantis unveils new electrification plans across all brands with new EVs with up to 500-mile range

  • Plans to invest more than €30 billion through 2025 in electrification and software, while continuing to be the automotive efficiency frontrunner, with investment efficiency 30 percent better than industry average 
  • Targeting over 70 percent of sales in Europe and over 40 percent in the United States to be low emission vehicle (LEV) by 2030
  • All 14 brands committed to offering best-in-class fully electrified solutions
  • Delivering BEVs that meet demands of customers, with ranges of 500-800 km/300-500 miles and class-leading fast charging capability of 32 km/20 miles per minute 
  • Four flexible BEV-by-design platforms, scalable family of three electric drive modules and standardized battery packs to cover all brands and segments 
  • Platforms designed for long life via software and hardware upgrades
  • Global EV battery sourcing strategy of over 260GWh by 2030, supported by five “gigafactories” between Europe and North America
  • Plans include dual battery chemistries: a high energy-density option and a nickel cobalt-free alternative by 2024
  • Solid state battery technology introduction planned in 2026

 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Jul 13, 2021

Wondering, how has your attitude on BEV vs FCEV changed since then?

Before the FCEVs that my 2017 article talks about came out, I felt sure that FCEVs would never see commercial deployment. The technical obstacles just seemed too great. Since the 1990s, an immense amount of effort had been sunk in trying to make FCEVs commercially viable, but with little apparent progress. The FCEV demo cars that the "Freedom Car" initiative had funded were multi-million dollar jokes. So I was dumbfounded when Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai suddenly proved me wrong. "OMG, maybe pigs CAN fly".

Sort of. 

Anyway, I felt I should step back and see how things developed. In the four years since then, I've reverted more toward my former skepticism. OK, I guess maybe pigs CAN fly, but they sure don't fly very well.

One of the things that served to harden my skepticism was a cross-country trip that I took two years ago in a rented Tesla model 3. The big points that everyone makes against BEVs in FCEV vs. BEV debates is the limited range and slow recharging for BEVs. But that road trip convinced me that both of those were non-issues. I never had any difficulty finding a recharging point, and never found myself waiting around with nothing to do while the car was recharging.

I still don't rule out fuel cell power for heavy trucks and off-road equipment. For those applications, the bulk and weight of hydrogen pressure tanks aren't so much of an issue. The ability to refuel from a tanker truck can be critically important. And blue hydrogen can largely avoid the fuel cost penalty of green hydrogen vs. battery electricity. Fuel cells also have a lower environmental impact in terms of materials required. The case remains open, IMO.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 14, 2021

I never had any difficulty finding a recharging point, and never found myself waiting around with nothing to do while the car was recharging.

I wish everyone had the opportunity for such a long-distance trip in an EV like you did, because my experience has been just the same but it's hard to convince people who are too nervous to just dive in. Do I stop and charge every few hours, yes. But I just plan that around reasons I'd want to stop anyway-- stopping for a meal, picking up some road trip snacks and the tube of toothpaste I forgot, etc. It's a reframing of expected behaviors, which is always the biggest challenge of integrating new technology into people's daily lives-- especially something as ubiquitous and important as personal transportation 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 14, 2021

Nice... thanks for this.

Charley Rattan's picture
Thank Charley for the Post!
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