Print 16 comment(s) - last by axeman1957.. on May 27 at 11:06 AM

Kia Borrego fuel cell prototype
Meanwhile, still working out hydrogen-related problems

Just when fully electric vehicles have become a mainstream reality and will be available before the year is up,  new advancements in hydrogen fuel cell technology are following closely behind. This is triggering Kia to declare their hopes of becoming the world leader in hydrogen vehicles as soon as 2015.

Later this year, Kia plans to sell their first hydrogen vehicles to research institutions and government fleets. As early as 2012, they hope to release these vehicles to the public, and by 2015 would like to have 10,000 fuel cell vehicles sold to consumers. Kia aims to reach these goals by continuing progress on vehicles like the Kia Borrego FCEV, a hydrogen SUV that can reach 60 mph in 12 seconds and has a top speed of 106 mph.  The vehicle is capable of covering 375 miles before needing to refuel. 

While this mission looks promising, considering the staff of just 150 engineers at Kia's Eco Tech Research Institute in Mabuk, Korea, there are still some issues that need to be ironed out before hydrogen vehicles can hit the market.

One major concern is the relatively nonexistent refueling infrastructure. Fuel companies are skeptical about investing in hydrogen fill stations when there are so few vehicles on the road. Although global demand for oil is expected to increase over the coming years and the cost of hydrogen will fall, making fuel cell vehicles that much more alluring to consumers. Also, SunHydro, the world's first chain of privately funded fueling stations that provide hydrogen, plans to transform Interstate 95 into a hydrogen highway.

Fortunately, some earlier hydrogen vehicle problems concerning cold starting and safety issues have been resolved. Kia ran several tests with varied temperatures from minus 40 degrees up to 70 degrees on water left in the fuel stack and front, side and rear impact tests as well as a vehicle fire test have been successfully conducted on hydrogen vehicles. 

Other issues still remain, though, including concerns about price and insurance. Kia has admitted that getting insurance on these vehicles would be "impossible" because so much about hydrogen vehicles are new and unknown. This is expected to change over the next few years as more technological advancements are made. Also, the cost of hydrogen vehicles would be high because fuel stacks are so expensive.

The year 2015 is a ways off and Kia plans to fix these hydrogen-related problems along the way, but it looks as though test drivers are already impressed with the hydrogen vehicles saying the Kia Borrego FCEV is "above all, a smooth, smooth ride."

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I have a thought,..
By axeman1957 on 5/26/2010 3:00:13 PM , Rating: 4
... Before anyone points out the obvious, I know there would be issues with efficiency.

That said, I think hydrogen cars are the best of all the current options. They are electric cars but their "battery storage" are tanks of hydrogen, much "greener" to produce than lithium ion or nickel cadmium batteries. And as far as the lack of fuel stations, hydrogen cars could come with a relatively inexpensive home fuel station that breaks down water through electrolysis (inefficient, I know, but stick with me) and stores it, in essence you are making your hydrogen car a plug-in EV but your fueling station can be making fuel for several days while you are driving, and you can refuel in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. And as for the efficiency, it is inefficient to charge batteries too... not as inefficient, but it is a trade off.

I would honestly like to hear some intelligent responses.

RE: I have a thought,..
By JediJeb on 5/26/2010 5:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. The thing is nothing will replace gasoline cars until someone starts to do it. Also hydrogen is not as unsafe as so many try to make it out to be. Hydrogen suffers from the Hindenburg just as Nuclear suffers from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. In the lab where I work we handle cylinders of compressed hydrogen every day without any problems, been doing it for 20 years now. I also know the fear of hydrogen embritlement is not as big a deal as some say either because we have had cylinders that have been in use for several years, the company refills them and recycles them many many times with no problems. Design a self sealing break away connector for a cylinder and you would have no problems, unless you drive off a cliff or get hit by a semi, but then you are going to have other problems than a fire to worry about.

I personally would have no fear of driving a hydrogen powered vehicle, or even refueling one. I would be more worried about driving an EV with lithium batteries actually since so many of those have caught fire in cellphones and laptops. Probably just as unreal for me to fear that as most others to fear hydrogen though.

One thing that could eventually make the hydrogen cars better in the long run would be the ability to have a way to do a quick refuel on the road if you run out of fuel. Service trucks could carry cylinders just like welding tanks to give you a quick shot of fuel. That would be really hard to do for full electric vehicles. Of course it would probably be a long time before car nuts would be able to do much modifications on these, but it would happen eventually :)

RE: I have a thought,..
By Paj on 5/27/2010 8:37:15 AM , Rating: 2
Ive always thought of hydrogen as being more of a viable solution than electric in the long term. I remember the trial of hydrogen buses in my home city, it felt very much like the future had arrived, the steam exhaust and the unique sound it made were very memorable.

Is hydrogen obtained through electrolysis a much more energy intensive process than obtaining it from other sources (ie refined from oil/hydrocarbons)? Are there other ways of getting it besides those two?

RE: I have a thought,..
By Micronite on 5/27/2010 10:52:04 AM , Rating: 2
These guys are a little slow rolling it out, but I think this idea awesome.

RE: I have a thought,..
By axeman1957 on 5/27/2010 11:06:41 AM , Rating: 2
They have the generation system i was imagining, but they seem to be modifying combustion engines. If i remember right, a fuel cell and an electric motor are far more efficent. but of course with this, you dont have to buy a new car.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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