News

Mass-market hydrogen-powered car at Earth Fair

 

Of the several factory-manufactured cars parked with their hoods up at the 2015 Earth Fair in Woodside on Saturday, March 28, electric motors powered all of them. "OK," a reader might say. "This is 2015. What else have you got?"

One car did not require a plug on a wire to recharge. The Mercedes Benz F-CELL, which is not available in the United States, runs on an electric motor, but derives its electricity from an on-board hydrogen fuel cell, a type of battery.

To refuel this car, the driver must stop at a service station that pumps hydrogen, park next to the pump, grab a hose with a nozzle on the end, and connect it to the car's fuel tank after opening a small door along the rear side of the car's body.

In short, the hydrogen powered car is ready for prime time. All that's needed is a network of hydrogen fueling stations and a customer base who own hydrogen-powered cars, neither of which exist at the moment.

It's a chicken-and-egg problem, and the California Fuel Cell Partnership is taking it on. "We determined that stations must come before vehicles, and the stations must be customer-friendly locations that are convenient to home and work," says the website. The 32 members in this partnership include vehicle manufacturers, hydrogen suppliers, fuel cell developers and government agencies such as the California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board.

Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are expected to be selling hydrogen-powered cars in California in 2015, said Jennifer Hamilton of the fuel-cell partnership.

And by the fall, a small network of hydrogen pumping stations may be on the Peninsula, including in Woodside, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos, according to a state report. The Energy Commission, acting on legislation enacted in 2013, is engaged in establishing a hydrogen infrastructure in Berkeley, the Peninsula and parts of Los Angeles.

The owners of the Skylonda station will be spending around $2.8 million to remodel the site, with $2.1 million of that coming from Sacramento, according to Colin Armstrong, president of British Columbia-based Hydrogen Technology & Energy Corp. The company joined with property owner Kalaf Properties in bidding for a Skylonda facility after the Energy Commission decided that it wanted a station in Woodside.

At the Earth Fair, Ms. Hamilton talked with the Almanac from behind the wheel of the Mercedes F-CELL. "It's just like driving a (gasoline powered) car," she said. "What's different is knowing you're driving a zero-emissions car." That and the plethora of decals on the outside dropping hints to the observer that this vehicle's exhaust consists of water vapor.

The F-CELL has a range of about 240 miles and refuels in three to five minutes, according to a brochure. Ms. Hamilton said she has driven the car round-trip between Sacramento and the Bay Area. As with electrically powered vehicles in general, the car has regenerative braking, she said. In other words, the car can recharge the battery a bit when the vehicle is decelerating.

There are preconceived notions out there on the dangers of hydrogen as a fuel, and one of her jobs is informing the public about it, including emergency first responders. One key difference between hydrogen and gasoline is the behavior of the vapor. Both are flammable, but gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can settle around an accident site, whereas hydrogen is 14 times lighter than air, she said.

Environment champs

At the Earth Fair, Portola Valley and Woodside named their environmental champions for 2015.

Woodside's champion was Jason Mendelson, who organized the Earth Fair and was quite embarrassed to be so honored. "I do like to hear myself talk, but this is a little much," he said. "I guess they knew I'd be here so that'd be a plus for this thing."

Portola Valley Mayor Jeff Aalfs announced Adeline Jessup as that town's honoree. Ms. Jessup, an early member of the town's Architectural and Site Control Commission, is remarkable for her passion and stewardship and "a giant" upon whose shoulders today's volunteers stand, Mr. Aalfs said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:10 pm

H2 is much safer than gasoline.

We had to build an infrastructure for gasoline too.

This is a much better thing.

By the way, it does NOT have to be EV OR H2.

We should develop and keep ALL CLEAN RENEWABLE alternatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

How is hydrogen for vehicles produced?


4 people like this
Posted by Maurice Miner
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:37 pm

But I always thought that hydrogen gas does not exist in the wild - all hydrogen atoms have been oxidized or otherwise chemically merged into other compounds (e.g. H2S - "rotten egg" gas).

What is the energy required to harvest pure H2 gas or liquid, and how much of that energy input is lost in the conversion to motive force (energy used) in this type of vehicle?

There is no perpetual motion machine, despite any amount of wishful thinking about rainbows and unicorns.

Massive amounts of cheap, reliable power are required to produce pure hydrogen.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:37 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

There are a number of ways hydrogen fuel is produced. As Maurice notes they all take energy. As noted in the accompanying link unless that energy is produced by renewable energy hydrogen is not considered a renewable fuel.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm

H2 can be made in many ways.

Bags with catalyst in it heated by sun.

Bags with algae in it heated by sun.

Water heated with solar panel juice with copper / titanium electrode.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

google it here:
Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Hydrogen is not a fuel in the same sense that coal or petroleum are fuel, since those can be found and burned right away. Hydrogen is more of an energy storage and transfer medium, similar to a battery. Hydrogen can be extracted from natural gas with a steam reforming process, or cracked from water. The former uses much less energy than the latter. If you use biogas for the methane and renewable energy to heat the steam, then this is a sustainable process.

The efficiency of a fuel cell installation can be up to 90% in some applications, but those used in cars are typically about 50% efficient.

There is some heat that needs to be removed as well as the water that is produced. Perhaps we should require these cars to collect their tailpipe water so it can be used for landscaping!


2 people like this
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Hey Donald,

I see a day when we can just fill the tank with water.

better yet,

when we just run on "harvested energy."


Like this comment
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

The brits have now got a Hydrogen filling station
powered by solar.

Take a look:

Web Link

Hyundai is marketing a car in Australia that will have it's own
solar powered refueler.

Web Link




Like this comment
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Produces Hydrogen from solar.

Web Link

I like living in the Park Forest...


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2015 at 5:01 am

The Mercedes-Benz F-CELL is available for lease in California. I understand that there are also pre-owned cars available already.


Like this comment
Posted by Irvin
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Regarding the comment about H2 not being a 'renewable' fuel. I see the writer's point, but by that same criteria, battery electrics that are not powered by 100% renewable electricity are not running on renewable fuel either.

Only bio-fuels meet the 'renewable' criteria for internal combustion engine vehicles.


Like this comment
Posted by Tim Hitchcock
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Virginia Tech researchers have developed another method of using corn stover (the parts left in the field) to make HYDROGEN.

Better, cheaper, faster, smaller, etc.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Irvin:

ding ding ding!!! Absolutely right yet still everyone pushes EV as "renewable." It's NOT. Unless ALL of the power comes from power from renewable sources. In California, at best, 45% comes from "renewable" resources. Yet all these folks are pushing EV. Can you say "scientific illiterates?" Yes, EV reduces carbon emissions because most of this state's non-renewable power comes from natural gas. But, it is hardly "renewable" at this point.


Like this comment
Posted by Keith Malone, California Fuel Cell Partnership
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

Currently, most hydrogen in the United States is made from natural gas and, as such, has a carbon footprint, but it's less than half of gasoline's footprint. Web Link

California requires that at least 33% of the hydrogen being sold at stations must come from renewable sources (splitting water using wind or solar, extracting from biomass like agricultural waste or sewage). Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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