Monday, September 27, 2004

Test drive provides a feel for fuel cell cars

(Link courtesy of Dew Kid) goes on 400-mile Southern California trek

By Miguel Llanos

TORRANCE, Calif. - As far as test drives go, this was going to be a long one. Five days across, and at times crisscrossing, the congested roads of Southern California. Not something to look forward to, you might say, but in this case it was. I was stepping into what carmakers call the automotive future: a car powered by non-polluting hydrogen and fuel cells.

This is a pretty good view of how far fuel cells have come and how far they have to go. I didn't realize that hydrogen fuel cell cars drove an electric motor. If that is the case, a fuel cell/electric hybrid scenario could certainly speed production especially if vehicles could plug in to recharge the battery bank.

Be sure to read the article because it has many fine points and a slide show with the features of the Honda FCX.


ElTigris said...

I read similiar articles but couldnt find that exact link. You are right Don ..a fuel cell vehicle does use an electric motor. For the rest of the audience ...The three variants currently being addressed are hydrogen powered cars, hydrogen hybrids, and fuel cell units. Hydrogen powered cars are simply internal combustion engines much like we have today, instead they burn hydrogen. Hydrogen hybrids operate the same way as the gas hybrids agian instead they use hydrogen for the engine which turns the generator - which produces power for the electric motor - that turns the drive wheels. The power is stored in an electric battery bank. It sounds more complicated but its more efficient for energy usage. The advantage of the fuel cell is that the fuel cell "reactor" eliminates two key components, it takes the place of the engine and the generator. Hydrogen and oxygen go in and electricity and water come out. Since there is no moving parts you have an advantage in weight, size, maintenance and big boost to reliability (theoretically). However today the efficiency of fuel cells is still not quite up to the cruising range of the old gas hybrids and straight gas engines of today. They could probably make one that is comparable but the cost would be way too expensive to own one with the materials needed. Work still needs to be done in physically downsizing them as well as the same time cheaper materials that will boost electrical power output from the hydrogen and oxygen tanks you have to lug around, or whatever containment storage system they use. Plus we have my view expressed on hydrogen production problems in earlier blog comments, and with now oxygen, which is further a much more volitale component to store (With pure oxygen EVERYTHING burns, alot of common item stuff - rather explosively if enough is present). There are clear advantages... but we still have homework to do. I would say industrial freight hauling trucks, large delivery vans, and buses will be the first to convert, then finally cars and even motorcyles being the smallest conveyances, when the technology matures enough for the cost. Im sure alot of harley enthusiasts consider the last part a veritable sin however *chuckles*

ElTigris said...

sorry about the long spiel..but I forgot one thing on Dons last comment... the batteries could take advantage of the fast charger systems they are developing today. Charge time should drop to 3 hours or less instead of 8.

ElTigris said...

sorry about the long spiel..but I forgot one thing on Dons last comment... the batteries could take advantage of the fast charger systems they are developing today. Charge time should drop to 3 hours or less instead of 8.

The Moody Minstrel said...

The only foreseeable problem with that is:

If more people start driving cars that require recharging, that means an increased load on the existing power grid, which means a need to increase power production. Does that mean more coal-burning or nuclear power plants? Or do they start damming up more rivers?

I hope they're pushing alternative power development as hard as they are alternative car motor development.

Don Snabulus said...

In an age of asymmetrical warfare, the grid is becoming a silly idea. It should be kept in place for stopgap measures (like 4 hurricanes hitting your state), but we can and should decentralize power using wind and solar. If every new home constructed in the US had 3kW of solar panels, plugging in wouldn't be a problem at all. It would be well under 10% of the cost of the home and would pay for itself in a matter of a few years.

Couple that with passive solar and better insulation and efficiency techniques and our energy needs could go way down. It would take a different mindset, but the technology is already here.

DewKid said...

Yeah, I wish I could put up some solar panels. Living in Southern Cal. where the sun is practically year-round, its just silly that they aren't there by default. There are a few homes around that have them, but probably less than 1%.

ElTigris said...

this is where we run afoul two concepts in a capitolistic society ... you have economics of decentralization running up against the centralization for profit motive. The energy companies want a monopoly on energy just like oil companies want to keep their large slice of the pie. They will move very slowly or oppose this decentralization as much as possible. One quote I heard long ago was... we would embrace solar power if we could figure out a way to make it illegal to generate your own power from the sun. Its shines everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Big Tycoon:

That's easily solved...snuff out the sun!

Oh crap.

Anonymous said...

Mr Burns:


DewKid said...

Your link to the article changed to something bizarre. Now when I click it, it takes me to: drive provides a feel for fuel cell cars

I'm not sure I ever actually tried the link before, 'cuz I had already seen it, so maybe it was always like this.

Don't make no nevermind to me, but I thought you'd like to know!

Anonymous said...

Philrod Piddlewaif:

You're just jealous...and totally inconsequential!