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The United States will lead the way

Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm that focuses on global clean technology markets, conducted a study that predicts 670,000 fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will sell annually by 2020.

Some auto companies are still focusing their development on electric vehicles (EVs), and as many other surveys indicate, the growth of electric vehicles are expected to surpass fuel cell vehicles. However, Pike Research's study goes against the grain saying otherwise. According to the study, the U.S. will account for 134,049 annual FCV sales of the total 670,000, putting them in the lead for fuel cell vehicle sales. China will be in second place with 129,241 FCV sales and Germany will be in third place with 126,783 total annual sales.

Some believe these are "overly optimistic" results and that Pike Research is assuming that the appropriate refueling infrastructures will be available by 2020. According to fuel cell industry analyst Dave Hurst, "The entire growth of the fuel cell vehicle market balances on two key elements: the growth of hydrogen gas refueling stations and improvements in the cells themselves."

While improvements of fuel cells is in the works, the possible growth of hydrogen gas refueling stations is here. Currently, there is only one personal, zero-emission refueling station for FCV's that runs on sunshine and tap water. It's called a residential hydrogen refueler, and the only one that exists is hidden on the Torrance campus of Honda R&D. 

The residential hydrogen refueler uses a 6-kilowatt array of thin-film cell solar panels that "powers a machine the size of a mini-refrigerator," which then "sips in H20 and breaks it apart into hydrogen and oxygen gases." Next, the hydrogen is pumped into the vehicle right at home with no fossil fuels or pollution included.

Alternative Fuel Manager for American Honda Motor Co. Steve Ellis says that "the ability to refuel a vehicle at home ranks third among the values consumers see of owning an electric vehicle," and "saw the same possibility could exist for hydrogen."

The residential hydrogen refueler is 25 percent more energy efficient than the electrolysis system Honda designed in 2001, and instead of operating with a mechanical compressor or storage tanks, it'll only require solar panels that fit the size of an average American roof. In addition, the refueler can "support typical driving habits, about 10,000 miles per year." 

Honda says it could take about five years before consumer's will see these systems on the road. Manufacturers such as Daimler and Shell signed an agreement in September acknowledging this five-year prediction. In addition, General Motors, Honda, ToyotaMercedes and some other automakers have noted that they plan to sell FCV's to consumers as soon as 2015.

A five-year production goal and a potential growing infrastructure makes Pike Research's figures seem more reasonable.

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I don't get this...
By serkol on 6/27/2010 9:18:16 PM , Rating: 3
First you use electricity to produce hydrogen, then you use hydrogen to produce electricity...

RE: I don't get this...
By aegisofrime on 6/27/2010 9:22:53 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly, it doesn't really make sense since you are just moving pollution from the exhaust to the smokestacks.

On the other hand, if the electricity comes from a nuclear plant for example, then overall emissions will probably be lower.

RE: I don't get this...
By MadMan007 on 6/27/2010 10:05:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not if people have a solar-powered 'home hydrolysis' fuel know, the device which a good portion of the article was about?

RE: I don't get this...
By Atheist Icon on 6/28/2010 12:39:20 AM , Rating: 3
And if you live far from the source of water supplied by your city, you still need electricity to get the water there, via pumps.

RE: I don't get this...
By Quadrillity on 6/28/2010 7:35:48 AM , Rating: 2
And if you live far from the source of water supplied by your city, you still need electricity to get the water there, via pumps.

Did you really just say that? So, in your mind, people who don't live in a city just haul buckets of water to their homes?

Please don't comment on a technology website if you don't have any common or technical sense (to have both is rare enough).

RE: I don't get this...
By martinrichards23 on 6/28/2010 8:07:19 AM , Rating: 2
Did you really just say that? So, in your mind, people who don't live in a city just haul buckets of water to their homes?

I'm sure he means people who live in places like Ethiopia, you know, those people who don't have water but do have hydrogen electric cars.

RE: I don't get this...
By SSDMaster on 6/28/2010 8:38:49 AM , Rating: 2
No he didn't mean that... Are you assuming that he's referring to a hand pump?
Hand pumps are not powered by electricity. -_-

RE: I don't get this...
By jwdR1 on 6/28/2010 9:44:27 AM , Rating: 2
Just a dumb question...

If I'm not mistaken, I believe one of the main byproducts of the fuel cell reaction is water. Why not capture the exhaust and reuse it? Then you only need to top off the refueler to replace losses due to evaporation, spills, etc.

Like I said...dumb question.

RE: I don't get this...
By Micronite on 6/28/2010 12:15:11 PM , Rating: 2
I love this big push to solar power. Pretty soon everyone is going to want some sort of solar installation only to find out that there's a serious lack of materials to build them with.
With the current solar technology, we couldn't sustain major manufacturing with the amount of rare-earth materials it takes.
I guess that's why we can hope for more technical advances in this area. I'd love to generate my own electricity.

RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
They're already working on plastic solar panels. The days of needing pure silicon for photovoltaics are numbered.

Anyway photovoltaics aren't the best solar energy collection method, nor the cheapest. Good old trough collectors with heat collection tubes is more efficient.

RE: I don't get this...
By Noya on 6/28/2010 3:47:01 AM , Rating: 3
Exactly, it doesn't really make sense since you are just moving pollution from the exhaust to the smokestacks.

On the other hand, if the electricity comes from a nuclear plant for example, then overall emissions will probably be lower.

Even coal plants are cleaner and more efficient than an internal combustion engine.

RE: I don't get this...
By chick0n on 6/28/2010 7:25:34 AM , Rating: 1
yea, a lot of morons just don't understand that.

RE: I don't get this...
By ImSpartacus on 6/27/2010 9:30:21 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that is a bit puzzling. However, I believe most activists believe that we can replace inefficient and non-renewable electricity sources with renewable electricity sources.

Nuclear, anyone?

RE: I don't get this...
By MamiyaOtaru on 6/28/10, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get this...
By angryplayer on 6/28/2010 12:42:08 AM , Rating: 2
RE: I don't get this...
By deputc26 on 6/28/2010 12:49:08 AM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen fuel cells make no sense as primary automotive powerplants, there will not be 6 hundred and whatever thousand of them sold in 2015.

RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:02:24 PM , Rating: 2
That's why the oil industry is pushing for hydrogen fuel. Its a failed technology and eventually we will give up on it and stick to gasoline.

Direct energy conversion to batteries is much better than using solar or wind to crack water, compress the gas, transport it, pump it into cars at high pressure, use the fuel in multimillion dollar fuel cells.

Just charge up your car with electricity like you do your cellphone. plug it into the wall, the charger goes "ding" and you're on your way.

RE: I don't get this...
By JediJeb on 6/28/2010 6:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
I believe that Hydrogen could be the intermediate source though. Right now batteries do not charge fast enough or old enough charge for a long range commute. Hydrogen on the other hand can be refilled quickly if the infrastructure is in place and can give a much longer range. Hydrogen fuel tanks would probably be lighter than batteries large enough to give equivalent range also.

Hydrogen as it currently is, is not the perfect technology, but is has a place in the overall scheme of transitioning from gasoline to electric vehicles. If a breakthrough can be made in producing hydrogen more efficiently then we will have to take another look at the overall place for it in powering vehicles. Just as hydrogen needs improvements in production I am sure when gasoline was first on the market the refining efficiency was not what it is today, same with generating and transferring electricity, and especially storing electricity in battery form. All of these technologies have evolved, and will continue to evolve. Whatever evolves the fastest will be what determines the path automotive technology follows.

RE: I don't get this...
By Hydrofirex on 6/28/2010 12:05:04 PM , Rating: 2
Anything is renewable, it's a matter of economics.

There is a great deal of truth to this statement.


RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:18:21 PM , Rating: 1
Nuclear fuel reprocessing is very "dirty", and creates radioactive wastes. I don't know where people got this idea that nuclear fuel is clean, perhaps the atom worshippers in the GOP have trained their subjects well.

Uranium doesn't come out of the ground already purified. The ore must be processed, purified, put in gas centrifuges and run thousands of times through these devices, and then formed into pellets. This process along the way creates lots of radioactive wastes, not to mention toxic metals. Reactors use A LOT OF FUEL, I'm talking tons of the stuff. A nuclear bomb has maybe a few pounds at most. After the fuel is spent, the core is taken apart and shipped off to be stored in water pools, mainly because they have no idea what to do with this "hot" fuel. The moment its not underwater, it melts and gives off radiation. Thats just the high level wastes, the low level wastes far exceed that in sheer tonnage. Radioactive water, metals, clothing, equipment, etc. You can't just toss this stuff in the dumpster or bury it.

Let's just bury this theory of clean nuclear for once and for all.

RE: I don't get this...
By eachus on 7/5/2010 5:20:36 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear fuel reprocessing is very "dirty", and creates radioactive wastes. I don't know where people got this idea that nuclear fuel is clean, perhaps the atom worshippers in the GOP have trained their subjects well.

Or perhaps from people who know that not all nuclear power plants are alike. In particular Molten Salt Reactors use Thoruim for fuel, and except for the initial fuel load, do not need any enriched fuel. (Hmm. To explain, the Thorium-232 absorbs neutrons and becomes Uranium-233 which is the fission fuel. For startup, you can add some Plutonium-239 or enriched Uranium. So MSRs work for disposing of Plutonium-239 and other high-actinide wastes. In other words, they burn bomb materials and nuclear waste.)

Let's just bury this theory of clean nuclear for once and for all.

I would rather bury the idea of Clean Coal under all the radioactive materials that any coal burning plant produces. And it is enough to bury a lot of bodies. The main radioactive material is Potassium-39, but there is also a significant amount of Uranium-238 and 235 in fly ash.

Fly ash is not very radioactive, the problem is the amount of fly ash produced by a coal burning plant. (Yes most coal plants now have electrostatic precipitators to catch most of the fly ash, but it still needs to be disposed of.) There are also some gases like Radon, that are not trapped by the precipitators.

Oh, if you want to be against (liquid metal fast breeder reactors) LMFBRs or any sodium-cooled nuclear reactor type, fine by me. The amount of sodium in those scares me more than the nuclear parts. I do like all types of high-temperature gas cooled reactors (HTGRs). And I don't see anything wrong with Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs). Some people think pressurized water reactors (PWRs) are as safe as BWRs, but I remain unconvinced.

However, any new nuclear plants built in the US will be much safer than the existing plants, release less radiation and cost less to dismantle. That's not something particular to the nuclear industry, computerized design tools and numerically controlled milling machines have changed the way anything is built. The intent may be to reduce the amount of welding--which is a very high cost process--but it makes later disassembly much easier.

RE: I don't get this...
By spread on 6/27/2010 9:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
Think of it as a big battery instead of a "fuel" source. Is this more efficient than current battery chemistry?

Really, I don't know, I'm actually curious if this has better storage than a battery.

RE: I don't get this...
By Stoanhart on 6/27/2010 11:11:38 PM , Rating: 1
How is that different than any other batters? Use electricity to arrange lithium ions in one way, then arrange them differently to generate electricity.

"Regular" EVs and hydrogen vehicles are really the same thing, but with a different battery. Whichever battery type achieves cost effectiveness and sufficient range first will win.

RE: I don't get this...
By TOAOCyrus on 6/28/2010 12:15:05 AM , Rating: 2
Well Hydrogen already has one huge advantage in that it doesn't take hours to charge.

RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 2:59:05 PM , Rating: 2
Not really. Pumping hydrogen fuel into a car's storage tank can take 30 minutes to 1 hour.

RE: I don't get this...
By bingbong on 6/28/2010 1:55:26 AM , Rating: 3
Unfortunately you fail to understand that hydrogen can be produced in many ways. Using electricity for hydrolysis is one of the least efficient ways but has some uses as alot of electricity is wasted at offpeak times when powerplants are still producting but no one is using it.

Many more ways to produce hydrogen include naturalgas to h2 conversion(Some homes in Japan use this to produce h2 for power and use heat energy from conversion process for heating and water efficiency above 80%). Other technologies include algae , bioproduction the same but only more efficiently than ethanol. Recently direct solar to hydrogen production has made some pleasing gains.

I use hydrogen in the lab. Because of the lightness any leaks are quickly dissipated with no polution. Hey if you love oil so much check out the Gulf coast. Also ethanol is toxic and is easy to get into groundwater supplies.

Hydrogen fuel cells are an extension of electric cars. Refuelling your electric car in minutes for extended range. Producing hydrogen in your community with waste or just rain water and sunlight.

There is good uses for hydrogen as technology and more importantly Political will progresses.

RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:03:57 PM , Rating: 2
Methanol is toxic, ethanol really isn't. You're confusing your alcohols.

RE: I don't get this...
By TSS on 6/28/2010 3:46:45 PM , Rating: 2
Well what do you propose then? Driving with an 200 mile extention cord?

Liquid hydrogen = Liquid battery.

The only fight now is between some magical way to store alot more electricity in a battery or finding some magical less energy intensive way of producing hydrogen. Whichever one delivers more range for the buck will end up beeing the dominant technology.

RE: I don't get this...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/29/2010 2:08:19 PM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen is hard to produce, store, transfer. Electricity is easy to produce, store, transport, transfer.

Hydrogen energy is like fusion power. It sounds really cool, but its only being used in Starfleet.

By WoWCow on 6/28/2010 2:37:56 AM , Rating: 2
Of what I know, we need electricity to make hydrogen from H20 and hydrogen to make more electricity.

For those who don't know this already, H20 is water.

Now, can those just be ANY water? (AKA Ocean) or do they have to be fresh water?

I sure as hell don't want any developments causing cities to all end up like LA (where the city must drain necessities such as water and electricity from other cities/states). Or drain water excessively that would speed up the draining of well water in states such as Kansas; in which this wet rock we live on becomes a barren rock.

Course, it could also mean the end of free water at American restaurants (I do not know if water is charged elsewhere).

RE: Curious
By shin0bi272 on 6/28/2010 6:33:07 AM , Rating: 2
electrolysis usually requires salt water (or at least some form of electrolyte) but the main source of hydrogen currently is natural gas since water is much harder to split than gas and you get far less hydrogen out of water as well.

RE: Curious
By nvalhalla on 6/28/2010 8:09:29 AM , Rating: 2
No, H20 is some impossibly large 20 atom Hydrogen molecule. H2O, on the other hand is 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen. Why do people substitute 0 for O, and why do they think no one notices? Maybe we need a better default font to use on the internet, something that puts a dot in 0s.

RE: Curious
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:10:08 PM , Rating: 2
There's actually plenty of water on the planet. Its just that there's a shortage of fresh drinkable water.

Electrolysis is a highly inefficient process, and they still haven't cracked the problem which is excessive heat generation. Waste heat builds up and the water boils off which isn't what you want. Then you have to collect and liqueify the hydrogen, which takes even more energy. Hydrogen loves to leak out of nearly anything because the atoms are so small. Designing an inexpensive tank to hold hydrogen is an engineering challenge, and cryogenic storage is just plain out of the question.

By zodiacfml on 6/28/2010 12:14:21 AM , Rating: 2
this is only a little bit better than EVs as refueling/recharging is faster, good for long range driving over EVs.

once battery tech becomes better then the advantage of fuel cell vehicles quickly diminishes. if one needs a long range vehicle, they will opt for the internal combustion kind or anything hybrid.

RE: unlikely...
By bingbong on 6/28/2010 1:58:40 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately for very large amounts of energy such as excess power produced by windfarms and tidal plants, storing electricity in batteries is not viable. Although the efficiency is not so good conversion to h2 is better cause it could be used as a fuel in vehicles, in houses or reconverted on demand with high efficiency.

RE: unlikely...
By bingbong on 6/28/2010 2:03:33 AM , Rating: 1
Sorry this is not to say battery development is not important.
Although h2 is a competing technology it is also a complementary technology as fuel cell vehicles are also electric vehicles.
Hybrid batteries with h2 tanks then maybe??

Let's just get the hell away from polluting fuels. As well as fuels that are geographically scarce. Try standing in your garage for a minute with the door shut if you don't believe me... actually don't do that you might cause yourself harm.. Anyway if thats just one vehicle how about like in Asia where I live with more than 600 people per sq km, many driving polluting gasoline fueled vehicles.

RE: unlikely...
By shin0bi272 on 6/28/2010 6:30:09 AM , Rating: 2
once battery tech becomes better then

that's what they said in 1903 when the first electric vehicles came out...

The real problem
By wiz220 on 6/28/2010 11:32:56 AM , Rating: 2
I think the real problem, for many areas, will be water shortage. For example, in the southwest U.S. they are already facing drought, where is all of the water for making hydrogen going to come from? Will they divert the scarce resource away from crops or the drinking water supply?

RE: The real problem
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:23:25 PM , Rating: 2
People don't seem to mind wasting water on their lawns. As I went to work one morning in a rainstorm, I saw one of my neighbor's automated sprinkler systems was running full blast.

The problem with hydrogen is that it simply doesn't work. Its not inexpensive, its not practical, and it will never ever be practical.

Oil companies love the idea because it makes them look like they're "green", government likes it because the rubes there think its high tech, and citizens are being teased with the false technology, meanwhile we still drive gasoline cars, and will continue to do so while we are repeatedly told we will have hydrogen cars in 2015, then 2020, then 2030, then 2050, etc...

I think...
By shin0bi272 on 6/28/2010 6:36:25 AM , Rating: 1
they misplaced a decimal point in their estimate

Study: 6,700 Fuel Cell Vehicles to be Sold Annually Within 10 Years

There I fixed it for you

RE: I think...
By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 3:06:18 PM , Rating: 1
Then they will recall them because they're leased only, then they will quietly crush them over the protests of the former owners.

Its the EV-1 all over again people. Don't fall for the hype. Government, big oil and the car companies have incestuous relationships, they don't want electric cars on the road.

Fuel Cells
By nykyr on 6/28/2010 1:22:26 PM , Rating: 2
I have heard this hype for the past ten years. Until the Japanese or Korean come up with an affordable and sustainable unit we will be talking about fuel cells for the next 25 years. Let's see what happens when Honda and Toyota start pushing their fuel cells cars into the market in 2012 and perhaps we can revise our thinking. Good luck

Fuel Cell Cars
By nykyr on 6/28/2010 1:25:44 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps 67,000 cars and they will most probably be either Japanese or Korean.

By monkeyman1140 on 6/28/2010 2:57:14 PM , Rating: 2
The only true path is battery power, but the oil industry pushes government to back hydrogen fuel cells because they know the technology will never be practical nor cheap.

There's no better strategy to keep people on gasoline for the next 100 years than to lobby the government to push for a failed green technology.

It's possible...
By Daniel8uk on 6/28/10, Rating: -1
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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