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Hydrogen vehicles aren't too eco-friendly in terms of carbon emissions, according to an in-depth new study.  (Source: Web Wombat)
Study indicates plug-ins feature a lower emissions life than gas vehicles, but hydrogen vehicles feature greater emissions

The hydrogen vehicle movement appears stalled.  The push to use the diatomic gas as auto fuel never exactly made it off the ground due to a lack of infrastructure -- production, distribution, and storage facilities.  However, for a time automakers like Toyota and Honda were pushing ahead with testing of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. 

Even this year, news leaked that GM was considering launching a commercial fuel cell vehicle in 2015, despite lack of support for the hydrogen movement from U.S. President Barack Obama.  However, of late, the big automakers like Toyota and Honda have backed off the effort to push hydrogen vehicles onto the market.

A new study might put another road block in front of the prospect of a near term commercial hydrogen vehicle release, while giving the plug-in vehicle movement a nice boost.  The study was authored by Ryan McCarthy at the University of California, Davis and published in the Journal of Power Sources. The ground-breaking study, entitled "Determining marginal electricity for near-term plug-in and fuel cell vehicle demands in California: Impacts on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions", examines the emissions impact of hydrogen and plug-in vehicles versus their gas counterparts.

Lowering carbon emissions to fight warming, along with high fuel prices and global-political instability, has been a key driving factor for the adoption of hybrids and alternative fuels.  The new study, though, judged hydrogen vehicles to be an utter failure at that objective, in their current state.  The study concluded, "All of the pathways except for [fuel cell vehicles] using hydrogen from electrolysis reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions compared to ICEs and [hybrid electric vehicles]."

It doesn't dissuade further research into hydrogen vehicles; it simply indicates they are unlikely to be ready for showtime anytime soon.  It points out that steam methane reforming is a promising emerging method of hydrogen production that may one day allow hydrogen driven vehicles to actually live up to their emissions promises.

In the near term, the study finds that plug-in electric vehicles are the best option in terms of lowering carbon emissions.  Despite using electricity mostly generated by "relatively inefficient steam- and combustion-turbine plants" the well-to-wheel carbon impact of EVs is still significantly lower than hybrids.

While by no means the definitive study on the topic, the new work does much to fill in the gap in knowledge about what exactly the true impact of green vehicles are.  While the topic of on-the-road emissions has been well researched, there's been much less progress in examining the full lifetime impact of vehicles.  Now, that lifecycle has been examined in depth and EV advocates can put another feather in their caps, while hydrogen advocates are once again handed another setback.

The study may play a crucial role in forming the policy of California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, an effort to reduce the carbon impact of transportation.  And given that President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency has embraced California's emissions policy, the new study could have a profound impact on the course of regulations and the auto market nationally, as well.

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RE: I might care
By ZeroGuardian on 1/3/2010 1:51:05 AM , Rating: 4
Hmmm... so CO2 emissions have a direct correlation to global temperature increases? Funny your data that you linked yourself doesn't even agree with you. As shown in your links there is close to a 400% increase in CO2 emissions between 1950-1960... and yet the global temperatures (again shown by your data) actually go down during and after that same time frame. And if you look at the overall temperature increase its a fairly linear progression, not the bell curve shown in the CO2 emissions graph.

Also, you state that we know that the current warming trend is greater than previous warming trends... but the problem with that theory is that we have only been gathering accurate weather data on this scale for the last 150-200 years. Any data we have on years prior to that are estimates based on ice core samples, soil samples, etc. None of which are accurate enough to make such a claim.

Is it a good idea to cut down on some of our emissions? Yes, I agree that it is. Is it necessary to burden the development of technology in order to cut down on our emissions? No. Our technological advances lead to steady decreases in pollution and better living conditions for everyone, we need to stop abandoning new technologies at the first sign of trouble. That is what killed off our expanding nuclear power infrastructure which would have solved a lot of the problems that so many are complaining about today.

I vote we stop all this sensationalist news and all work towards developing better technologies for the future. Besides its not the US that will be the problem in the future it expanding countries like China, India, and most of the third world that are the big problems in the future. As they progress they will start relying on our older technologies because it will be the cheapest option for them. If we can develop better alternatives that are cost effective then we can help everyone at the same time.

RE: I might care
By roostitup on 1/3/2010 3:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
Just because the temps didn't rise at the same rate during those years doesn't mean anything, they still shot up before and afterwords at a correlated rate. It's just as possible that the earth was naturally suppose to be cooler within those years and in fact it may have been much warmer than it should have been because of emissions? We don't. It's still warming at a significantly greater rate than any time in history, even with the slight lull in temps.

You underestimate the accuracy of ice cores, they are actually VERY accurate methods of gathering historical global climate data. You can disagree all you want, but they have proven to be just as accurate as anything we use to date.

On another note, I don't completely disagree with you. In paragraphs 3 and 4 I definitely hear what you are saying and agree completely.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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