The fuel prices go higher and higher, they keep telling us the planet is getting warmer and warmer, we know we can’t maintain this type of society and yet not a great deal of people really seem to care. We don’t buy smaller cars to save the environment, we buy smaller cars to save money on fuel. With the Toyota Prius still in hot demand (so much so, that the resell value of the car has in some cases been higher than the purchase price!) and the release of the new Honda Civic Hybrid now a reality, it seems that Hybrid and non fossil-fuel cars are actually going to be more than just a fad. As Jeremy Clarkson famously said when he was reviewing the brand new S series Mercedes, the S class Mercedes always has all the technology that we should expect to see in affordable cars in the next 10-15 years, and yet, it is still using fossil-fuel!? His observation was that alternative fuel is, at least at the moment, nothing but a fad to improve the car industry’s image. Although I don’t agree with him 100%, he does have a point. Toyota has been pushing the whole “we care for the environment” agenda a fair bit in the last couple of years, and although they have put it a lot of dollars into research and development of hybrid and generally eco friendly cars. They still have no problem being the top seller of 4WDs. I guess, its all about $ at the end of the day.
One of the new alternative fuels that is being taken seriously is Hydrogen:
A colorless, highly flammable gaseous element, the lightest of all gases and the most abundant element in the universe, used in the production of synthetic ammonia and methanol, in petroleum refining, in the hydrogenation of organic materials, as a reducing atmosphere, in oxyhydrogen torches, and in rocket fuels.
I like the “most abundant element in the universe”! So we are not going to run out of Hydrogen anytime soon. Makes a great deal of sense to use it to power transportation right? Not according to Ed Ring from EcoWorld.com. Ed believes that Hydrogen is not the solution given the complications and the inefficiency of the technology.
Efficiency – Hydrogen is produced from something else, either electricity and water, biomass or fossil fuel. A fossil fuel source doesn’t address the problem, and there isn’t enough land to produce enough biomass hydrogen to meet the need. That leaves electricity and water. The problem here is that we are consuming electricity to generate hydrogen, which drives an auto fuel cell to produce electricity to run the car’s electric powertrain! The end-to-end efficiency of this process is an unimpressive 40 percent.
Storage – No immediate solutions for storing useful amounts of hydrogen in a car exist, and a viable commercial solution is a long way off. We’re a lot closer to viable electricity storage solutions for automobiles (better batteries, ultra-capacitors. Also see “efficiency,” above.)
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