Wednesday, April 29, 2015

‘Fueled By Bullsh*t':  Toyota’s Video Defending Hydrogen Cars Is Funny But Misleading - by Joe Romm

Toyota has launched a new video series, Fueled By Everything, attacking critics of its hydrogen fuel cell cars, which include Tesla CEO Elon Musk and myself.  Episode 1 is actually titled “Fueled By Bullsh*t” (and directed by Morgan Spurlock!) and is about how you can literally run Toyota’s new hydrogen car, the Mirai, on cow manure.

Well, as Toyota admits online, you could run your car on hydrogen from cow manure, except “it’s not commonly used in the US to create a biogas needed for this process.”  D’oh!

Actually the whole ad, while amusing, is so misleading as to qualify as BS itself.  Hydrogen is one of the worst possible energy carriers imaginable to run a car on for several reasons,  as I and others have explained repeatedly — today, 95 percent of hydrogen comes from natural gas (in a process that emits carbon dioxide); carbon-free hydrogen is quite costly; carbon-free hydrogen fueling stations are even more incredibly expensive than regular hydrogen fueling stations (which is why so few have been built); hydrogen has unique safety issues that necessitate specialized handling; hydrogen is incredibly difficult to store; and making hydrogen from renewable electricity is wildly inefficient.
On its website, Toyota acknowledges that its critics are saying “Hydrogen is inefficient.”  But the company doesn’t respond to the charge here.  Instead, it “responds” here to the charge Elon Musk, CEO of the electric-car company Tesla, made back in 2013 that hydrogen fuel cell cars “are so bullsh*t.”  Except Toyota doesn’t respond to a single one of his specific arguments.

The fact that Toyota can run its Mirai on hydrogen from cow manure doesn’t mean that the whole system makes any sense whatsoever from the perspective of delivering an affordable and practical mass-market car, let alone one that could provide cost-effective CO2 reductions.

For those who haven’t heard the inefficiency argument before, a 2006 Scientific American article I wrote with advanced-hybrid guru Andy Frank explains that “the entire process of electrolysis, transportation, pumping and fuel-cell conversion would leave only about 20 to 25 percent of the original zero-carbon electricity to drive the motor.”  But in an electric vehicle (EV), “the process of electricity transmission, charging an onboard battery and discharging the battery would leave 75 to 80 percent of the original electricity to drive the motor.”  So the hydrogen car is more like one-third as efficient as the EV.

Electric Energy Requirements for Electricity-Based Fueling (Credit: Advanced Power and Energy Program at UC Irvine) Click to Enlarge.
Put in more basic terms, the plug-in or EV “should be able to travel three to four times farther on a kilowatt-hour of renewable electricity than a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle could”!

Read more at ‘Fueled By Bullsh*t':  Toyota’s Video Defending Hydrogen Cars Is Funny But Misleading

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