Former Tesla co-founder believes hydrogen fuel cells are nothing more than a scamMay 25, 2016
Battle between batteries and fuel cells is heating up
With clean transportation gaining momentum, the tension surrounding batteries and hydrogen fuel cells is beginning to increase. Many automakers have begun to show support for fuel cells, but others, including Tesla Motors, believe that batteries are the best solution for the clean transportation space. Tesla, in particular, has been rather outspoken concerning its support of battery technology and its lack of faith in hydrogen fuel cells. Even former members of the company believe that fuel cells may be nothing more than a gimmick and not a real solution to the transportation problem.
Fuel cells may suffer from a poor energy equation
Marc Tarpenning, one of the co-founders of Tesla who left the company in 2008, believes that fuel cells are a “scam.” Tarpenning , along with colleagues, has been investigating alternative fuels that can be used in the transportation space. This investigation included looking into the capabilities of fuel cells, but these energy systems were quickly dismissed. According to Tarpenning, fuel cells have a poor energy equation, largely due to the fact that the conventional hydrogen production process requires a great deal of electrical power, the vast majority of which comes from fossil-fuels.
Hydrogen production process is notoriously energy intensive
Though hydrogen may be one of the most abundant elements in the known universe, that does not necessarily mean this is the case on earth. Tarpenning notes that the majority of hydrogen available on earth is bound to other substances, such as water. Obtaining this hydrogen is, therefore, somewhat difficult, as energy is required to break the bonds hydrogen has formed in order to effectively utilize it as a clean fuel.
Large automakers are undeterred in their adoption of fuel cell technology
While some have decried the use of hydrogen fuel cells in the transportation space, this has not stopped several automakers from embracing the technology. Many of the world’s largest automakers believe that these energy systems hold a great deal of potential, especially if the hydrogen production process begins to focus more heavily on the use of renewable energy. In the coming years, these automakers are expected to release fuel cell vehicles throughout the world.
H2 ” poor energy eqn”.
True. But how efficient are batteries, from Whoa to Go? Mining, separating lithium etc, etc.
Three points in favor of H2. 1) Power doesn’t fade driving a motor. 2) Can come from stripping H2 off LPG, or coal, leaving carbon behind. 3) Can come from XS unpredictable electricity such as wind power.
An occasional extra is using the waste heat, say, to warm a bus.
Batteries need to be recharged using a green electricity source. Stationary hydrogen fuel cells can be used for recharging the batteries.
EV people will continue to disparage hydrogen because they know it’s a superior product and source of energy. The electrolysis process has actually been refined extremely well these past few decades, especially the within the last decade. When combined with solar, it is the only 100% renewable energy source. Also finding the “most abundant” element in the universe isn’t that difficult, one word. water. you run water through an electrolyzer.
CaliHydrogen, why aren’t batteries combined with solar a “100% renewable energy source”?
Answer your own question by calculating the number of 300 w solar panels required to recharge the batteries of a Tesla. Pick a model. I did this yesterday, and found that my solar panels could recharge batteries in six days, giving me a bit over half of one day’s driving.
Can this device drive an all electric car or would it still need batteries?
I don’t understand the sniping. The competition is ICE. Batteries and fuel cells are allies, which together allow electric vehicles to displace fossil fuel ICE in ALL applications – on road, off-road, marine, rail and aviation. We need both choices if we are going to decarbonize quickly, efficiently and achieve 100% net zero. BTW, a combined clean hydrogen/power grid and fueling/charging infrastructure will be more reliable, efficient and cheaper than trying to do it all with power.
I like the sentiment but the issue with hydrogen is efficiency. If we were to suggest that reducing energy consumption will be the next major issue after reducing the carbon output of that energy, the hydrogen process really doesn’t support efficiency and hence isn’t much of a solution. The process is as follows:
1) split water in to hydrogen and oxygen using electricity, max 85% efficient – by the way, water is a finite and limited resource and a lot of the world is in drought.
2) cool it down to liquid form – lots more energy.
3) put it in a truck and drive it to refilling stations
4) keep it cool using lots of refrigeration
5) pump it in to a car/truck
6) convert it back to electricity in your vehicle at about 35-40% efficiency.
Ignoring all the cooling and transportation, if you just take the conversion, the total efficiency is about 30%, which suggests you need to build 3 times as many solar panels and wind turbines as you would have done before. Someone mentioned splitting gas, which suggests you’re still pulling gas out of the ground.
The only benefit of hydrogen for the customer is not having to wait for your car to charge.
Water is a finite resource?
It is the most abundant.
It amuses me that the naysayers always seem to concentrate on efficiences. People buy cars for other reasons. Why else would someone buy a massive car with a huge engine to pootle round town? People want to fill up like they do now, not be tied to a piece of wire for anything longer than they are tied to a rubber hose now. Then there is the arrogance of thinking that the huge amount of money being invested in products that are now being sold in other parts of the world is just a major scam to put the battery car manufacturers out of business. Or that the scientists doing the developement, have one and all, been duped by a stupid technology.
People look at efficiency because the whole point in clean technology is to stop us from all dying from the effects of climate change.
I’d like a little better tone in the conversation since I think most of us realize that we can’t know what’s coming…
Hydrogen has an enormous promise not least in combination with for example solar where instead of curtailing excess production it could be used for producing hydrogen, but let’s be honest, the processes seems to be needing quite a lot of improvement in order for this to be a good solution. If we get there, fantastic, problem with “unreliable” renewable energy sources solved as well as co2-free transportation!
..excess production is one problem, another is to solve the ‘unreliable and congested’ transmission problem – you need dedicated long distance transmission-to-multi bulk storage devices capacity in order to support convenient production – distribution of hydrogen made from multiple solar direct current ..
A fuel cell car can also have a big-enough battery pack to permit charging at home for daily commute of 30 to 40 miles, and only needing Hydrogen for longer trips. For example, a battery pack of 12 kWh and 20 C discharge power can provide 240 kW of additional power, thus needing only a small FC stack of 60-80 kW in order to save a lot of purchasing cost, yet will have a total of 320 kW of power on tap, about 400 hp to rival any “muscle car” in the market. Zoom zoom with “muscle cars” with BEV-level efficiency and still have the advantage of FCV-fast fill-up and long range.
Furthermore, right now, H2-filling stations are few and far in between, thus inconvenient for drivers to drive far to get to a station weekly. However, having a Plug-in FCV (PFCV) that can be charged daily from the grid electricity can extend the H2 filling interval to monthly instead of weekly, thus would be much more convenient for FCV early-adopters.
The very first automobiles were EV’s. BEV’s arrived even before the gasoline cars, over 100 years ago, and look at the market share of BEV (1-2%) vs the rest? FCEV’s economic model is based on quick filling fuel like the gasoline cars, with the added advantages:
1.. that FCEV’s are completely non-polluting throughout the whole fuel supply chain thru the consumption phase, while gasoline cars require a fuel that pollutes the environment from the oil well to the pipelines and tanker ships and refineries and toxic emission released by the end users.
2.. That FCEV’s use renewable-energy and will promote rapid growth of Solar and Wind energy to make Hydrogen, that will save humanity from the Climate Change calamity.
3.. The H2 fuel tank of FCEV’s are completely bullet proof and will remain intact even in the most severe, non-survivable impact, thus will spare the occupants of deaths from gasoline fires in survivable impacts.
4.. Hydrogen will end petroleum dependency and will enhance geopolitical stability world-wide.
Hydrogen or Electric options, both give cleaner greener driving into the future.
Expect however for the “Oil” companies, to drive the Hydrogen fuel option hard, as this will keep their profits sliding.
Governments who love taxing fuel, will also see this as a cash cow.
My Home generated Solar power fueling my transport, seems to be the most green and sustainable option.
Energy density will drive everything. H2 vehicle fuel blends right into a P2G model, which is the most logical thing to do. Batteries are great, but until the “magic battery” arrives with an energy density very close to diesel or gasoline, H2 is the best source. H2 blends with existing natural gas at 10% – 15% with no end user hardware mods required. Existing oil wells and salt domes provide utility grade storage with little to no up front costs. The only problem is the push-back from current petro producers and electrical utilities enjoying wheeling revenues. “Them what has the Gold writes the rules”, eh?
Sounds like what they said about computers. It’s a waste of time because all these vacuum tubes take so much space and burn so much electricity. Besides, there was only a market for a few thousand computers in the whole world…
Anyone who asserts batteries are a viable solution is stone cold stupid. I have got this figured out and the only place Tesla is going is out of business with their Chinese cohorts.
That has to be one of the most insanely stupid comments ever presented. My company produces low cost green hydrogen and desalinated sea water. Tesla stuck in the dark ages. I use ocean waves to make the energy conversion on an industrial scale. Also, now that you mention it- where does the energy come from when you charge the battery? That is right- go on and say it- your application of coal produced electricity that simply disappears with an application of Pixey Dust. The only place Tesla is going is out of business.
all will change when h2 will be produced by artificial photosynthesis, direct by sunlight. electrolysers won’t be needed, no need to make a detour around producing electric power. see