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    • And cani just say, I'm going to miss the days when engines were simple enough to troubleshoot at home. You needa goddamn PhD to even describe what's going on ina hydrogen fuel cell. πŸ˜€

    • I think the attraction to hydrogen is the ability to refuel a vehicle quickly, the way we can now with gasoline. Yes, it's a cryogenic liquid, but a liquid nonetheless, so it can be pumped into a tank in the car in relatively short order. DC fast chargers are really getting complex now - liquid cooled cables, etc. And the charging time is still long enough that you don't stand by your car while it "refuels." You have to find something else to do for a little while. That's enough of a paradigm shift that people resist it. So hydrogen fuel cells can leverage the motor and controller development going on, while "fixing" the recharge time problem.

      As to the lithium issue raised by the article, there are plenty of other battery chemistries that show lots of promise. Lithium was driven by the excellent power density it gave for electronics. After all, a Tesla Model S battery pack is just a shit-ton of the same 16500 cells in your laptop! But for applications that aren't as size critical, there are other choices coming available. For example, this zinc-air battery:

    • Your point, that gasoline was much, MUCH less convenient early in the adoption of gas cars, is well taken. The local convenience store is a quite recent invention. But having reached that level of convenience, I think it's really difficult to get the general public to "go backwards."

    • Before I bought my Tesla, I was more than a little worried that recharging would end up being way less convenient than refueling. I had visions of spending hours at superchargers regretting my purchase and wishing I could just pull up to a gas station, pump, and drive off in a few minutes.

      But now that I've owned it for a few months and have taken a cross-country road trip, I realize my fears were unfounded.

      For day-to-day driving, I've never needed to charge anywhere except at home by plugging in overnight. It's actually more convenient than a gasoline car, because I'm charged up every morning and never need to stop to top up the tank before going somewhere. There's a supercharger just down the road, but I've never used it.

      Charging stops really only become necessary on road trips, but they're at least two to three hours apart, and I actually found the breaks relaxing. I'd pull into a supercharger, plug in, use the restroom, grab a bite to eat, maybe look at my phone for a bit, and by the time I was feeling recharged myself and ready to hit the road again, the car was ready too. Even after eight straight days of driving, I didn't mind it at all!

    • the international trend is for decarbonisation of the transport task. Early commercial success is with EVs but hydrogen is not lost. The cost is not economic yet but it will be. It is economic for heavy vehicles and I think increasingly we will see it in big rigs

    • Hi Chris and yes I am. I also work for new vehicle distributors in NZ so am reasonably connected, excuse the pun, to new technology trends. When I am back at my PC and not on my phone I plan to write a fuller response to your questions. It is an interesting space to be working in.

    • I've had my Model S for just under 4 years. Charging on trips has never been an issue. However, it does change how I plan my routes. I plan around Supercharger locations and/or schedule extra days to allow over night charging. That rules out many alternate routes. You're not going to see many (any?) Teslas on US 50 east of Eastgate, Nv., for example.

    • There are five international trends in the motor manufacturing world at present. These are:

      - decarbonisation (EVs, Hydrogen and other technologies)

      - connected vehicles, that is a range of safety assist technologies

      - vehicles becoming over time more autonomous (although fully autonomous vehicles go any where at any time on any road is still a long way off)

      - younger age (gen Y) less likely to obtain their drivers licence

      - fleet/ride share vehicle ownership models changing.

      On the decarbnonisation front, EV's are considered by many manufacturers to be a transition technology. This is mainly due to resources for batteries being a limited/finite resource and that electricity generation in most countries can be carbon intensive. Recycling of batteries is of less a concern as whole new industries are springing up to recycle or reuse lithium iron batteries.

    • It's easy to start thinking of our current situation as normal instead of a temporary "energy splurge." I think it's fair to say that everyone, certainly all first-worlders, use more energy than they produce. (Produce is actually a misnomer..."capture" is perhaps a better word. The sun produces energy by sacrificing mass. Everything else is exactly a zero sum game.) Even our collective efforts to capture wind energy fall short of supplying our needs. The difference between what we use and what we capture is supplied by stored energy which has accumulated for millions of years. As you note, exploiting this stored energy is so convenient now because we collectively spent an entire century building out infrastructure to make fossil fuels convenient.

      There are really only two things we know for sure:

      1. This stored energy source is finite and will run out eventually--sooner if we deplete it faster.

      2. There is no such thing as "credit": When fossil fuels stop making up the difference between what we use and what we capture, we will use less energy than we capture.

      A corollary is that in a post-fossil-fueled world we will need to own the entire process of capturing, storing, transporting/distributing, and using energy.

      To successfully transition to whatever follows fossil fuels, we need to identify, prototype, standardize, manufacture, and build out a replacement for conveniently prepackaged energy. To avoid disruption to critical services like food delivery to grocery stores, power to hospitals, and transportation fuel for police and fire services, this process needs to be complete by the time access to fossil fuels becomes an issue. Ideally, all of society will have transitioned to whatever follows. This implies that at the time of depletion, the replacement will have been in place for long enough that there is a robust selection of used vehicles, and few if any people still rely on the energy subsidy that fossil fuels provide for any life sustaining purpose.

      The prevailing attitude seems to be that we can wait to start this process until access to fossil fuels becomes a problem. This would seem to invite apocalypse into our homes and offer it a cup of tea.

      Perhaps I have wandered a bit. The point is that a transition from an established system (where we are trust fund babies spending down a very large "energy bank account") to a system in its infancy (where we get a frigging job and pay our own way) is coming. Inconvenience relative to what we have now will be part of that equation, particularly in the early days. Things will get less inconvenient as the replacement system matures and as people get used to the new way of doing things.

      Accepting the inconvenience of a transition avoids the much greater inconvenience of not having something to transition to when the time comes.

      That's Plan A. Plan B involves a lot of might even call it a culling. Plan B makes inconvenience look like a best case scenario.

    • I've seen some noise around using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier. This eliminates some of the problems with hydrogen storage and transport. Check out the round trip efficiencies here. Presumably both hydrogen and ammonia could be produced in a distributed fashion.

      It's worth noting that fuel cell cars are EVs. Hydrogen is just the energy storage mechanism. I suspect there's nothing stopping the manufacture of a fuel cell car with a moderately sized battery that can be charged at a level 2 or 3 charger. (A "plug in hydro-hybrid".) This would also allow the vehicle to exploit regenerative braking. Maybe this is what they already do. I confess I don't know too much about fuel cell cars.

      The advantage of batteries is their round trip efficiency. The disadvantage is the energy density and the time it takes to charge. A plug in hydro hybrid would be able to exploit the high-round-trip efficiency of a battery EV charge for commuting, while retaining the ability to refuel quickly using a lower round trip efficiency energy carrier on road trips. If commuting were highly efficient and road trips somewhat less so...that might be a good path forward.

      My rule of thumb, unproven: Densifying energy costs energy...meaning you have to collect more energy to do the same work. It might be that these lower-efficiency technologies see increased market penetration as our energy collection infrastructure is built out. Think of the cost of putting solar panels on your roof to charge a battery EV vs. the cost of panels which must power a hydrolysis machine, and a compressor, and a chiller... which one is likely to catch on early?

    • Very thoughtful post buzzkill! Couldn't agree with you more especially using your analogy:

      The point is that a transition from an established system (where we are trust fund babies spending down a very large "energy bank account") to a system in its infancy (where we get a frigging job and pay our own way) is coming.

      At some point the "big trust fund" will run out if use it irresponsibly, so we have to start investing from that fund now while it still has funds.

      Also, welcome to Cake πŸ˜‰!

    • Fascinating, buzzkill. You seem to know a lot about this. I thought I did until you got into ammonia, which I didn't know a thing about. Your link was interesting but I was feeling that since I had never read about ammonia as an energy source, I needed to back up a step to get more basics. This link helped me understand your paper more.

    • I have always felt hydrogen was a better alternative than lithium battery technology without even factoring in the environmental cost of Lithium mining and the disposal of millions of lithium batteries. Even without this as a factor, Hydrogen seems to be a more effective and cleaner solution in sourcing energy.

      The last time I debated this topic I brought up the fact how battery technology ultimately pulls from the grid resulting in sourcing from coal but was reminded many states use alternative energy for the grid. Although this may be a fact, the process of converting water to hydrogen outside the confines of grid sources of energy creates a more portable and scalable solution when one looks at the ubiquity of potential sources of clean energy coming online.

      From thermal, to solar, to biomass; the scope of a decentralized network of energy sources converting water to hydrogen to transport clean energy to large containers in filling stations to dispense energy into vehicles at a fraction of the time of a battery recharge has always seemed promising.

      I fully realize the drawbacks of Hydrogen to include fuel instability during transport and the cost/difficulty of conversion at the source but when one thinks of the cost of building new battery charging stations vs. retrofitting existing gas stations with hydrogen tanks supplied by local alternative energy sources, the benefits of a hydrogen future seem to outweigh the costs of a technology reliant on grid sourced battery technology.

      Could hydrogen fuel cells ever overcome the political and cultural fixation with the sexiness of battery tech? Not sure, but I do know we will continue to see fuel cells used for smaller deployments in bus lines and other smaller scale implementations. Whether it will ever reach mass adoption, one never knows but it certainly seems like a cleaner alternative all the way from extraction to execution.

    • That was definitely fascinating. I read through a lot of the comments too. People were wondering, like I was, about the production and disposal of batteries.

      I didn't know Elon calls them fool cells. πŸ˜…

    • I guess first the used batteries will be used for other things and then when they are pretty useless for anything else then we'll have to create special recycling plants for them. It'd be my guess that we'll create a disposal fee for them just like we do for tires. As used batteries become more ubiquitous there'll be more money to be made from recycling them. I don't see them being as useless as tires however but a serious concern nevertheless.