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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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H2 from Natural Gas
By Chris at CaFCPw7876 on 1/5/2010 1:48:14 PM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen has been made from steam reforming of natural gas for 60 years. Most H2 produced goes into gasoline, making gasoline cleaner. H2 is also used in manufacturing silicon chips, making pharmaceuticals, processing food and as a whitener in consumer products like toothpaste and laundry detergent. It is a safe, reliable and cost effective way to make the equivalent of 56 billion gallons of gasoline a year, enough to fill 200 million vehicles a day.

According to the report (and many other reports) making H2 from natural gas and using it in a fuel cell vehicle has slightly fewer GHG emissions than using electricity from natural gas in a battery vehicle. When producing H2 from grid electricity from a coal-fired power plant is dirtier than a gasoline car, which is exactly why no company produces hydrogen this way. Academic reports cover all the possibilities, even those that people or businesses would never do.

Biofuels, hydrogen and batteries are all three important to end gasoline use.

Chris White
California Fuel Cell Partnership
www.cafcp.org




RE: H2 from Natural Gas
By Penti on 1/6/2010 2:43:34 PM , Rating: 2
And will possibly carbon monoxide poison the fuel cells. You might just as well use SOFC fuel cells run on diesel. It's not that easy to produce H2 for vehicles. I don't see the point of producing hydrogen with energy we don't have. Besides there's not enough natural gas around.


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