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No fuel cell vehicles from VW on the horizon

A few years ago there were a number of automotive manufacturers putting serious money into hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. These vehicles promised to have a driving range similar to a conventional gasoline-powered automobile, but produce no emissions to pollute the atmosphere.
However, the vehicles faced several daunting challenges, including the lack of a hydrogen fuel infrastructure and the fact that hydrogen is highly flammable and difficult to store.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stated this week that hydrogen fuel cells have failed to live up to promises and are unlikely to become an efficient and cost-effective way to power cars in the near future.

Winterkorn said, "I do not see the infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles, and I do not see how hydrogen can be produced on large scale at reasonable cost. I do not currently see a situation where we can offer fuel cell vehicles at a reasonable cost that consumers would also be willing to pay."

While Volkswagen doesn't see a near-term future with hydrogen vehicles, other manufacturers continue to move forward with the technology. Mercedes-Benz reached a deal with Ford and Nissan-Renault with a goal of selling the first production fuel-cell vehicle starting in 2017.
Back in 2010, a study was published predicting 670,000 fuel cell powered vehicles would be sold annually within a decade. So far, that prediction doesn't seem likely to come true.

Source: Auto News

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By Jim Vanus on 3/22/2013 10:53:19 AM , Rating: 2
As skeptical as I've been of battery-powered vehicles, I'm lured by the potential of hydrogen fuel cells.

Promising fuel cell technologies are still being developed but without much fanfare.

For example, UK-based ACAL Energy ACAL Energy has reengineered the fuel cell design to replace the platinum catalyst with a liquid regenerating catalyst system. The result is claimed to be cheaper, simpler, smaller and more durable than any other hydrogen fuel cell currently on the market. ACAL's press release:

What I haven't researched: Is there any hope of developing a technology for producing economical supplies of hydrogen? (Or does one already exist?)

RE: Hope
By Griffinhart on 3/22/2013 12:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
The most economical way of producing Hydrogen still involve the use of Fossil Fuels. Natural Gas or Coal mostly. Specialty Nuclear reactors can be used to split Hydrogen from Water, but that's not a popular method.

Algae based production is being researched, but it is nowhere near the point of being viable and economical. It's estimated that the process needs to hit about 10% or better efficiency to hit that mark. Current ability is just below 1%.

The biggest problem, however, is probably distribution. Without the infrastructure to deliver Hydrogen to consumers, there is little chance for the technology. There is no point in Hydrogen vehicles if there are no places to fuel up.

RE: Hope
By Dr of crap on 3/22/2013 12:44:56 PM , Rating: 1
"Without the infrastructure to deliver Hydrogen to consumers, there is little chance for the technology. There is no point in Hydrogen vehicles if there are no places to fuel up."

The best part is the last line -
"There is no point in Hydrogen vehicles if there are no places to fuel up."

Also relates to battery powered cars.
If it takes to long to recharge you NEED a gas powered car as well as the battery powered golf cart, either owned or rented!

RE: Hope
By Rukkian on 3/22/2013 2:46:26 PM , Rating: 2
While you want to lump them in, they are not the same thing.

While it is an inconvenience to have to wait for a charge, there are few places that do not have some sort of electricity. A large portion of houses have electricity. How many people do you know that have hydrogen available at their house? Their work?

RE: Hope
By mjv.theory on 3/22/2013 3:26:28 PM , Rating: 4
The only likely way to produce hydrogen on the scale required is with nuclear power, at which point you already have the electricity generating capacity for electric vehicles.

Building infrastructure and "delivering" electricity is way easier than distributing cryogenically cooled liquid hydrogen.

When battery technology reaches a real-world 300-500 miles range with a sub-15minute recharge time, then all barriers to EVs replacing ICE will be removed. It is quite likely to happen in the next 5-15 years. So by 2040-2050 all new vehicles will be only electric....the writing is already on the wall.

RE: Hope
By M'n'M on 3/22/2013 8:08:33 PM , Rating: 1
When battery technology reaches a real-world 300-500 miles range with a sub-15minute recharge time, then all barriers to EVs replacing ICE will be removed.

I think you need to rephrase that as not when but if. And even if a battery that's economical can be made to do that consider what's required for the charger.

Tesla says their S model goes 3.5 miles/kW-hr. For a 400 mile trip, that's about 114 kW-hrs. The present charging systems (J1772) can supply 90 kW max and so that's a 1.25 hour recharge time. Even with the proposed standard of up to 600V and 400A (!!!!) that's 240 kW and about a half-hour recharge time. Sub 15 mins is a dream for the forseable future.

RE: Hope
By Reclaimer77 on 3/22/2013 8:21:48 PM , Rating: 1
Translation: EV's will never be a reality for the masses.

People need to just accept that and move on. Yes, I know you "hate" oil, but so what.

RE: Hope
By CeriseCogburn on 3/23/13, Rating: 0
RE: Hope
By Mint on 3/23/2013 12:58:48 PM , Rating: 1
rare earth metals strip mine production vehicle
NiMH batteries used rare earths. Lithium ion batteries don't.

Permanent magnet motors use rare earths. Induction motors don't.

Stop being a propaganda tool and educate yourself.

RE: Hope
By Mint on 3/23/2013 12:16:25 PM , Rating: 2
You mean pure EVs will "never" be ready for the masses.

They will work for a substantial minority, though, which is why Tesla is a $4B company, and more importantly PHEV will work for everyone.

RE: Hope
By Jim Vanus on 3/23/2013 1:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks. Duh. Good point on the nuclear power. That kills the idea of hydrogen-powered vehicles for me.

Most of the greenies don't seem to understand basic chemistry and physics. If it takes more energy to produce a fuel than the fuel yields, it's not a viable fuel.

Energy scarcity plays into the hands of politicians and those providing the current fuels, which may be the biggest barrier to abundant, cheap, clean energy.

Some form of nuclear power is likely the answer.

RE: Hope
By maugrimtr on 3/26/2013 11:20:36 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear, esp. modern Nuclear, IS the answer. Unfortunately, governments correctly assume that their voters will never go for it. Many voters are morons when it comes to Nuclear Energy.

Look at Japan and France's recent reactions to a disaster striking outdated ancient reactors that should have been off-lined long ago. Voters think all future reactors are the same as those designed in the 1950s to 70s.

RE: Hope
By ghost49x on 3/27/2013 9:42:55 PM , Rating: 2
If it takes more energy to produce a fuel than the fuel yields, it's not a viable fuel.

In theory this only becomes 'nonviable' when it costs more for the consumer to buy the fuel he needs to get to work than he makes from work.

In practice people (or at least smart people) would look for other options (or adjust their lifestyle) if they can't maintain their lifestyles while using their preferred option.

In ether way there needs to be more options out there to break the monopoly oil has on our lives, they would only benefit the market as oil companies would have to deal with competition and thus have to balance profit and consumer loyalty. Also economies would be more stable as they wouldn't be as dependent on the oil market.

RE: Hope
By inperfectdarkness on 3/22/2013 3:36:11 PM , Rating: 2
No. The biggest problem is that Hydrogen fuel-cells require a high pressurization in order to provide acceptable fuel economy. This spells a huge problem for vehicles in an accident, where you can generate a HUGE explosion from a 35mph head on collision.

No fuel-cell ever designed is impervious to rupturing.

RE: Hope
By Odysseus145 on 3/24/2013 1:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right. That's why considerable research is going into ways to store the hydrogen within a solid framework, which eliminates the need for high pressure tanks.

RE: Hope
By mars2k on 3/23/2013 9:10:19 AM , Rating: 2
There is hope. VW is not the final word on hydrogen. Just because they don't see it doesn't mean others can't.

RE: Hope
By zephyrprime on 3/25/2013 11:44:23 AM , Rating: 2
Splitting water is no good since you spend half of your energy producing oxygen which is unavoidable. For this reason, I don't think a hydrogen economy will ever happen. It's just too energy inefficient to waste half of your energy producing a useless byproduct.

RE: Hope
By ghost49x on 3/27/2013 9:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
You can still sell this oxygen to other sectors like medical and emergency responders, even exploration (underwater and mountain climbing). It's not as useless as the by-product pollution coming from refineries and traditional fuels.

The Real Problem is..
By maevinj on 3/22/2013 10:55:08 AM , Rating: 3
Lack of hydrogen fuel infrastructure.
Also isn't gasoline highly flamable?

RE: The Real Problem is..
By nshoe on 3/22/2013 12:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
Also isn't gasoline highly flamable?

Comparatively speaking, not really. Gasoline vapor is quite flamable, but the liquid itself is not easily flamable (to get an explosion with a gasoline tank you would need to heat the tank until the liquid was hot enough to quickly become a vapor, then ignite it - which is why cars don't explode when you rupture a fuel tank)

Look at it this way, at room temperature open a barrel of gasoline and throw a match on it and it will burn - do the same to a barrel of hydrogen and it will explode...

RE: The Real Problem is..
By Griffinhart on 3/22/13, Rating: 0
RE: The Real Problem is..
By nshoe on 3/22/2013 1:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps you should read what I said. I did not say, leave it open and throw a match on it some time later. Nor was I referring to a leaky tank.

If you open a gas barrel and immediately throw a match on it it will burn but be extremely unlikely to explode. Do the same with an equivalent hydrogen barrel and the only way it is likely not to explode is if the rush of hydrogen coming out blows out the match before it can ignite the hydrogen.

So as I said, comparatively speaking, gasoline is not highly flamable when compared to hydrogen.

RE: The Real Problem is..
By ritualm on 3/22/2013 4:50:04 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it probably wouldn't. Hydrogen being lighter than air would tend to leave the open barrel rapidly while gasoline vapors, being heavier than air, will linger. A leaky gas tank is a much larger fire danger than a leaky hydrogen tank. The biggest problem is that to store enough hydrogen to fuel a vehicle you need to use compressed gas cylinders or some other expensive or unproven method.

Hydrogen, with current technology, needs to be a pressurized gas. This is a problem, not just because of issues arising from rapid depressurization of the fuel tank, but also the volatility of the gas itself.

When was the last time hydrogen reacted with open air? You get the Hindenberg disaster. In a car, the best case scenario is the fuel tank stays relatively intact ... and that very rarely happens. A single leak from a gasoline-powered car isn't enough to destroy it and kill everyone onboard, as you also need an electrical spark or fire elsewhere. A single leak from a pressurized hydrogen gas tank gives you an explosion, destroying the entire car and killing everyone onboard.

This is why propane has a pungent smell added to the mixture - if you can smell it, get out of whatever you're in before you die to the leak going ablaze. Hydrogen as a fuel is more dangerous than THAT.

RE: The Real Problem is..
By lagomorpha on 3/23/2013 10:11:25 AM , Rating: 2
Look at it this way, at room temperature open a barrel of gasoline and throw a match on it and it will burn - do the same to a barrel of hydrogen and it will explode...

Fun fact: It's possible to flick a lit cigarette into a container of gasoline fast enough that it will put out the cigarette without the gas burning or exploding. I don't really want to know how this was first discovered and I'd rather not be around to see anyone try it.

RE: The Real Problem is..
By zephyrprime on 3/25/2013 11:47:46 AM , Rating: 2
This country has millions of rednecks that discovery things like this on a daily basis.

The solution is on youtube
By toyotabedzrock on 3/22/2013 11:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
The people who push the idea that you can run a car on water have figured out how to split water into oxygen and hydrogen quickly and efficiently.

They are nuts but there obsession might hold the key to the hydrogen production part of the problem.

Really storing hydrogen is the hurtle. We can just burn it in a normal engine without much change.

RE: The solution is on youtube
By Griffinhart on 3/22/2013 12:41:17 PM , Rating: 2
Ford has already had experimental vehicles that burn hydrogen and they say that current production lines could incorporate the needed changes with minimal reworking. It's all very cool really. It's all about production, storage and distribution though.

RE: The solution is on youtube
By ppardee on 3/22/2013 2:39:26 PM , Rating: 3
The problem is that making hydrogen from water, then burning the hydrogen is a negative energy equation. You will always use more energy creating the hydrogen than you get from burning it. Hydrogen isn't a fuel, it's an energy storage medium at best.

If it's just an energy storage medium, wouldn't it be better to use a battery that doesn't explode when you look at it sideways?

RE: The solution is on youtube
By Visual on 3/25/2013 5:11:09 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, every closed process is a "negative energy equation". That is not an issue.

Also the actual efficiency of the process is as bad as you make it sound.
Average fuel cells are 40-60% efficient, and electrolysis efficiency can vary from 50% to up to 95%. Combined gives a worst case of 20%, which might sound terrible but is in fact comparable with ICE efficiency. And it is also obvious that above 50% efficiency is possible with the right electrolysers today. That is worse than the 90% figure possible with batteries, but not by too much, and especially not when looking at batteries in realistic situations instead of theoretical max, taking into account self-discharge, temperature effects, limited capacity and recharge time.

And there is still room for future improvement in fuel cells efficiency, with the theoretical maximum given as 83% without heat recapture. Also systems with heat recapture, even though not usable in something like a car currently, already can boost fuel cells to 80-90% efficiency. In the future maybe we can adapt them for cars as well.

RE: The solution is on youtube
By Visual on 3/25/2013 5:13:42 AM , Rating: 2
"is as bad as you make it sound"... yeah... obviously that is exactly what I meant to say... not.
My point got defeated by Dailytech's lack of edit button.

RE: The solution is on youtube
By zephyrprime on 3/25/2013 12:00:35 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with this analysis is that it doesn't take into the fact that gasoline engines effectively get free energy from free oxygen in the atmosphere. Of course, the energy in the oxygen comes from somewhere (plants) but we don't care about that because the cost is free for humans. With electrolysis, even with 95% efficient electrolysis, a lot more than 5% of energy is wasted producing oxygen which can be gotten for free in the atmosphere.

I guess he didn't read the recent article
By joshuaheard on 3/22/2013 12:20:55 PM , Rating: 2
In Science Daily a couple of weeks ago about some scientists who developed a metal catalyst that will separate hydrogen from water. This could conceivably be done on board the vehicle, obviating the need for an extensive hydrogen infrastructure. The car would be water in, water out.

RE: I guess he didn't read the recent article
By bobsmith1492 on 3/22/2013 12:31:56 PM , Rating: 2
But, then you need a massive supply of refined magnesium (or whichever metal they used). That pure metal had to be refined which is where the energy input to the system came from. It's then volatile because it reacts with oxygen, which is why it can strip water of its oxygen leaving hydrogen and which makes it very hard to handle. Extremely problematic for a consumer setup.

By zephyrprime on 3/25/2013 11:56:32 AM , Rating: 2
And if you had such a volatile chemical on board, it would be better to just make a battery out of it and run off of pure electricity.

Failed to live up to promises?
By Tequilasunriser on 3/22/2013 11:44:01 AM , Rating: 2
They've never even been given a fair chance...

RE: Failed to live up to promises?
By tikib9999 on 3/23/2013 7:21:03 AM , Rating: 1
I don't really understand why people don't think EV is the future.

Once one of metal-air batteries are perfected ranges will be high enough.

And charge times can simply be avoided by battery switching.

RE: Failed to live up to promises?
By Mint on 3/23/2013 12:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Metal air batteries have a long way to go because it's difficult to make them rechargeable and even more so for thousands of cycles.

Battery swapping requires too much infrastructure. The real solution to making charge times irrelevant is night charging and PHEV. Who cares if you still use 1/4th the gas you used to.

At least they're realistic
By jimbojimbo on 3/22/2013 9:53:12 AM , Rating: 3
US car companies would always add "unless the government gave us huge subsidies and afforded buyers a $10,000 tax credit."

RE: At least they're realistic
By Flunk on 3/22/2013 11:10:30 AM , Rating: 1
They don't say that because the German government would never give them such a ridiculous subsidy.

Imagine if a country paid their people to buy a car that only the richest people could afford anyway. That would be borderline insane, the people would rise up against the oppressive regime and demand reform.

Or perhaps they would be too busy with the bread and circuses.

By steedsrva87 on 3/22/2013 10:17:30 AM , Rating: 2
Its ironic that VW signs a $60 mil deal 2 weeks ago with Ballard Power Systems, who make and produce hydrogen fuel cells, and then their CEO comes out with this

RE: Ironic
By Lord 666 on 3/22/2013 6:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
Steve Jobs was known to say misleading statements in an attempt to throw off the competition.

I cant understand
By i cant understand on 3/22/2013 12:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
I think i am stupid, because this person said that the fuel cell is not going to be the future...but three weeks before wolksvagen signed a deal with the company ballard....(if you dont know, ballard makes fuel cells) .
He thinks this is not going to be the future but his company is going to spend 100 million dollars in fuel cells.....I cant understand

RE: I cant understand
By Griffinhart on 3/22/2013 12:44:52 PM , Rating: 2
Possibly because they can still use them to produce vehicles for governments (cities, military, etc) without requiring a huge national investment in infrastructure.

By PaFromFL on 3/23/2013 9:59:41 AM , Rating: 1
Back in the mid 70s at a Penn State Physics colloquium, an invited government "scientist" gave a presentation about the new hydrogen economy concept. He was ripped to shreds by the professors before he could even finish. The main problems are that hydrogen is merely a carrier of energy rather than a source (like electrons), there is no efficient way to generate hydrogen, and there is no way store hydrogen at anywhere near the density of liquid hydrocarbons. Forty years later nothing has changed, except we found out that is harder to solve the fuel cell contamination problem than we thought it would be.

Until we build thousands of nuclear reactors to generate hydrogen, there is no point wasting money on hydrogen fuel schemes.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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