Monday, October 8, 2012
PLUG-IN EV VERSUS HYDROGEN CARS
Dan Bent sent me an article from MIT's Technology Review comparing hydrogen versus plug-in electric cars. The timing was perfect, because I today participated in a couple of sessions of the Electrochemical Society gathering at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Convention Center.
But first, I had breakfast on the beach at Waikiki:
You could hardly see Diamond Head from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel because of the volcanic haze.
I also had lunch at Orchids with Connie and Harry Olson:
The Electrochemical Society (ES) is now 110 years old, and the meeting in Honolulu of 4,000 conferees is record-breaking, underscoring the expanded interest in this field. As I mentioned yesterday, the next President of this organization will be Tetsuya Osaka (left) of Waseda University. It would have cost me a registration fee of $760, but Tadashi Matsunaga (right) found a way for me to get involved at no charge. He provided the featured one hour plenary lecture today on "Cell Bioelectrochemistry and Biomagnets."
Discussions with experts in this field, and that article indicated above, reinforced my contention that a fuel cell powered car can take it five times further than one using lithium batteries. While various automobile companies are continuing to pursue the dream of hydrogen cars, and the consensus is that fuel cell vehicles will overtake battery based ground transport by 2025, I harbor doubts that the cost of fuel cells and hydrogen will become competitive by that date. Someday, yes, but but not so soon. In the meantime, I also think that plug-in EVs have flaws, especially in Hawaii where the cost of electricity is 300% that of our national average.
So what, then, can be the ideal bridge to eventual hydrogen cars and planes? Not sure about aviation, but I have long suggested that the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) is the most sensible transition system. Methanol is the only liquid fuel capable of being utilized by a fuel cell without reformation, and is more cost effective to produce from biomass than ethanol. A gallon of methanol has 140% more accessible hydrogen than a gallon of liquid hydrogen. I wrote this article for the Huffington Post nearly four years ago. Alas, Irvin Barash (left) and I must be the only two individuals who can appreciate this vision. I specifically asked Dr. Bryan Pivovar (right), who won the Charles W. Tobias Young Investigator Award, and is on the staff of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, about the potential of the DMFC for cars, and he was particularly discouraging. He also thought that hydrogen was not all that expensive. Well, I guess as in SETI and cold fusion, I must be chasing another rainbow when it comes to the DMFC.