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OT: Hydrogen is not a viable fuel for automobiles

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  • OT: Hydrogen is not a viable fuel for automobiles

    Here is an article I wrote about the use of hydrogen as a fuel for personal transportation:

    If you care to read it you'll understand why I wrote it.

    This piece has been languishing since March in want of an audience; then, an e-conversation made me realize the road to readership had been staring me right in the face, all along.

    So, I took the easy way out, took my essay, added some slap-dash formatting changes, saved it as an HTML document and threw it up on our Web site.

    If you ever get into a discussion about this topic you are more than welcome to make use of the above link.

    Yes, I'll admit that ego plays a role in my posting this, but not as big a one as you might think. There is a rather lengthy "rest of the story," but you would probably find it boring.


    So many projects. So little time.

  • #2
    Preposterous. Hydrogen is the Future.

    Baron Von Hindenburg


    • #3
      If it were efficient fuel oil refineries would already be making it for motor fuel. it isn't and they don't. As it stands refineries already make hydrogen, but only as feedstock to maximize their largest selling products. If anyone would know, they would.


      • #4

        Good piece and well presented: thanks.
        Making chips is more fun than fixing cars.


        • #5
          Very interesting and from the reading I have done I have to agree that hydrogen is not a fuel for vehicular use.

          There is still one thing I can't get a decisive answer on. Does a hydrogen/Oxygen mixture explode or implode upon ignition?

          I have seen explanations that say as it burns and changes from two gases into water it reduces in volume and therefore implodes.

          Other discussions say it explodes and then implodes into water.

          Is there a real study on what happens upon ignition?
          It's only ink and paper


          • #6

            I think you have done a good job of presenting all of the things that can go wrong with hydrogen especially in the sense of countering hype in the press. I'm not sure that this piece is balanced however in the sense that it presents all of the issues as unsolvable.

            I am friends with a hydrogen researcher at a DOE lab and I think he'd readily admit to most of your complaints.

            The colorless flame issue is definitely problematic as are what would happen to hydrogen in a confined space.

            It's also definitely true that hydrogen makes no sense as an automotive fuel unless you can get the hydrogen from a non-fossil-fuel process. The only reason to get it from fossil fuels is as an expedient for research and development.

            The difference between the real scientists and the pundits you are countering in your writing is that the actual scientists admit that the problems you see are real and are working on them while the press seem to think we have a solution to them now and should be running standard vehicles on H2.

            If we don't build prototype hydrogen vehicles now, we won't gain the experience necessary to build usable ones later. The press sees a hydrogen vehicle running around now and assumes it is the answer while the rest of us realize that it is only a question.High pressure storage isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion according to my friend for example.

            I am not a hydrogen researcher personally so I don't have the in depth experience to tell what current state of the art is. I do believe however that the perspective in your article throws the baby out with the bathwater while the perspective of the nitwits in the press tries to mass produce the not-ready-for-prime-time technology we have now.

            In short, I admire the critical thinking and research you did for your article and agree it makes good points. I just happen to disagree with your conclusion that all the problems are unsolvable.



            • #7

              I think the implode explode question comes from the fact that 2H2+O2=2H20+Heat. If you do the combustion isothermally(removing the heat as it is generated), the final volume of the products is less than the volume of the reactants (which can really only be achieved under lab conditions).

              If you do the combustion adiabatically, which is nearer to the conditions of a real explosion, the heat produced causes the final volume of the products to be much higher than the volume of the reactants which is an explosion.

              The idea that the mixtures implodes comes from a poorly controlled observation where the reaction products (steam) are allowed to cool in a closed container before the pressure measurement is taken.

              As far as I am concerned, the flat-earth society types are the only ones that could seriously believe in the implosion theory. One only need to look at the challenger disaster to see that hydrogen and oxygen definitely explode.



              • #8
                Actually all the Paris, France city buses have been running on hydrogen for the last couple of decades. Here is a list of local hydrogen fueling stations just incase your still not convinced



                Originally posted by Rustybolt
                If it were efficient fuel oil refineries would already be making it for motor fuel.
                I work at an oil refinery, no they would not. They are also heavily vested in exploration and mining of oil


                • #9
                  There are a host of problems with widespread, common, for-the-people use of hydrogen.

                  The ones Orrin mentioned are only a few of them. Environmental impacts are not much mentioned, yet may be significant.

                  Just as one, the water vapor is apparently a MUCH more significant greenhouse gas than CO2. We ignore it because we have to, it's a given.

                  There will be very significant issues with compressed hydrogen autos. I sure hope there are none near me very soon.

                  I suspect that hydrogen's "big picture" may make ethanol look good, at least for quite a while.

                  I note that BOTH can be used in fuel cells............

                  Keep eye on ball.
                  Hashim Khan


                  • #10
                    For hydrogen to be safe you would need some kind of on-demand hydrogen generator that runs on a safe, efficient, portable energy source. Petroleum comes to mind. Now, you can improve efficiency quite a bit by leaving out that on-demand generator process and use the petroleum directly, but that seems politically imprudent.

                    Obviously the energy problem is politics.


                    • #11
                      Cameron, thank you for your thoughtful common-sense reply. I agree with everything you say.

                      Indeed, my article is not a balanced piece of writing as one should expect when seeing the subject line of my post. But, on the Web page I clearly stated that I was presenting the dark side of hydrogen because it has not shown up in mass media.

                      I agree, many of the issues I mention may some day be solved through engineering, research and new discoveries. It will be a very long time, however, before they are put to practical use.

                      That said, there are some things that technology cannot solve, such as perfect recovery of energy from a fuel. There is no such thing as 100-percent efficiency.

                      So, if hydrogen is added to the energy chain as an intermediate step, we are introducing additional losses, losses that cannot be engineered away. It all boils down to the basic facts of physics and thermodynamics.

                      Then, there is the expense of engineered protective measures. This introduces unavoidable costly complexities.

                      I agree, most of the problems that I mentioned might possibly be solvable; but, at what cost?

                      Best regards,

                      So many projects. So little time.


                      • #12
                        I’m pretty glad the scientist and engineers we employed to develop the Manhattan Project and NASA’s space race to the moon did not have the same fatalistic mentality I see here. Especially since hydrogen is ALREADY in use in other parts of the world.

                        But yes hydrogen only works in the energy picture IF you have nuclear power to produce it


                        • #13
                          Was it an implosion that lifted the roof and blew out doors and walls at the Cambridge (MA) Electron Accelerator on July 5, 1965?



                          • #14
                            Roger Billingsley

                            Hi Orrin,
                            I hope I spelled his name correctly. He invented a fuel tank that had a core material that absorbed hydrogen and released it again as pressure was removed from its exterior. The tank had a small space between the core material and the interior of the fuel tank. When the small amount of hydrogen that was available in that space was used the core material released more hydrogen. The thinking was that it was safer with the smaller amount available in an accident. Roger Billingsley had a Plymouth Aspen station wagon that was run on hydrogen and charged with a compressor at home.
                            He is a very famous person in the field of hydrogen. The government went to him for answers when the three mile island incident occurred.
                            They claimed he was the foremost authority on hydrogen at the time.
                            Try to google his name and you may find the information that I am referring to.
                            Last edited by Yankee1; 01-06-2008, 06:54 PM.


                            • #15
                              Another project thats of interest

                              Hello Again Orrin,
                              Check out:

                              this is how Ford is using Hydrogen.