© www.hydrogenassociation.orgA BP/Praxair Hydrogen fueling station: creating an infrastructure for a hydrogen economy is one of the biggest hurdles.
But costs are going down. Carmakers plan to produce 500 vehicles in the 2010 to 2012 "pilot commercialization phase" at about $250,000 each, McCormick says. The "early commercialization phase" starting around 2013 is expected to see each manufacturer produce perhaps 10,000 vehicles costing around $50,000 in the first year, then dropping to, hopefully, much lower numbers by 2015.
"Fuel and fuel-cell costs and a lack of fueling infrastructure are still problematical but solvable with strong political will and close industry and government cooperation. Efforts to figure out these and other problems—onboard hydrogen storage, for instance—have a way to go. A recent survey by Fuel Cell Today found that more than 160 hydrogen stations are likely to be up and running by the end of the year worldwide. A German web database, HyWeb, says the total number of stations existing, planned, or already shut down is 289.
"GM’s research vice president Larry Burns, on the other hand, has said the U.S. would need about 12,000 fueling stations to meet 70 percent of the country’s hydrogen fueling needs—a fairly small number considering there are an estimated 170,000 regular gas stations in the U.S. As to fuel costs, GM has said that at $5 per kilogram (kg) of hydrogen (a kg of hydrogen has the same energy content as a gallon of gas), fuel-cell cars potentially could provide transport at about 10 cents/mile, assuming the fuel cell has about 2.5 times the efficiency of comparable gasoline engine. And fuel-cell costs, computed on the basis of producing 500,000 units annually, have been estimated by DOE now to be about $107 per kilowatt (kW) a lot less than the baseline $275 per kW estimate of 2002, but still far above the 2015 target of $30 per kW (very roughly the ballpark cost for today’s internal-combustion engines).
The auto manufacturers are not alone. Many strategic thinkers, energy analysts, industry leaders, farsighted politicians such as California Governor Schwarzenegger, investors and venture capitalists agree the best long-term option for a carbon-less, non-CO2-producing economy is hydrogen, and that the time to start phasing it in—building infrastructure, training technicians, educating the public, regulators and politicians—is NOW. Everything else is pretty much transitional: useful and necessary, but ultimately it will have to give way to, or be complemented by, hydrogen.
The Revolution Has Started
The good news is that the revolution has started, with budding, albeit still very expensive, examples sprouting Johnny Appleseed-style all over the globe. Examples:
"The next three Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010, and London in 2012 will feature hydrogen-powered vehicles, including buses, probably some VIP cars, with both fuel cell and internal combustion engines, as a determined push to help force hydrogen into the transport system and the public’s consciousness;
"California fuel cell developer Altergy Systems in Folsom this summer unveiled the world’s first automated high-volume fuel cell assembly line for small hydrogen fuel cells for telecommunication and utility companies and governments. Altergy says automation and volume cuts the cost of the units in about half;
"In New Jersey, inventor and long-time hydrogen developer Mike Strizki is now showing visitors his house in Hopewell converted to grid-independent solar hydrogen operation (including hydrogen fuel production for his fuel cell car), subject of a long story May 20 in the New York Times magazine. It’s pricey: the conversion cost are about $500,000, Strizki says, but his next project by his company, Advanced Solar Products, in the Cayman Islands is likely to cost less than half of that. Other solar hydrogen houses have been built or converted on Long Island (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy), near Wiscasset, Maine, on Stuart Island, Washington, in Indonesia, and, decades ago, in Freiburg, Germany, and Switzerland;
"H2Gen Innovations, Inc., a six-year-old company in Alexandria, Virginia that sells advanced onsite generators that produce hydrogen from natural gas more efficiently than traditional technologies, recently sold seven units to produce hydrogen needed to help clean up nuclear weapons byproducts at DoE nuclear facilities;
"Iceland, generally regarded as the New Frontier of the coming global hydrogen economy, expects to be able to offer hydrogen-fueled rental cars via Hertz for tourists next spring, and it is equipping a whale-watching tourist ship with a fuel cell for on-board power generation as a precursor and test bed to eventually converting its fishing fleet, mainstay of Iceland’s economy, to fuel-cell power. Both Iceland and Norway have ordered a couple of dozen Toyota Priuses converted to hydrogen from a California company, Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, for fleet operations and testing, along with hydrogen cars—both fuel-cell and internal-combustion engines—from DaimlerChrysler and Mazda;
"Hydrogen fuel cells are even taking to the air in Europe: two teams, one in Turin, Italy, sponsored by the European Union, and another organized by Boeing and headquartered in Madrid, are planning to experimentally convert a very light Czech two-seater and an Austrian motorglider, respectively, to hybrid fuel cell/battery electric engines, with the fuel cells for both coming from a British company, Intelligent Energy.
As Europe’s parliamentarians said with their May vote, we need an energy revolution—one with hydrogen as a central technology driver.
PETER HOFFMANN, editor and publisher of the monthly Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter, has written two books on hydrogen, The Forever Fuel: The Story of Hydrogen (Westview Press, 1981), and Tomorrow’s Energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and the Prospects for a Cleaner Planet, (MIT Press 2001, Foreword by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin).
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