I want a fully electric car. One that can go 200 km at highway speeds on an over-night charge. I might accept a chargeable hybrid: one that has sufficient battery capacity to go 100 km or so on a full charge before the gas engine kicks in.
I have decided I don’t want a hydrogen fuel cell car. I thought fuel cells were a good idea a few years ago. But now hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just another way for the oil companies to sell really expensive processed oil.
Batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, gasoline: they are all different ways to make energy mobile for consumption in a vehicle. Hydrogen *could* be produced without oil, but it won’t be: the fuel oil companies will see to that. Electricity, however, already has a lot of centralized methods of production that are much more efficient than processing and burning gasoline and hydrogen. Even coal, the dirtiest of the electricity generating options, can be made more efficient than burning gasoline, and far cheaper than any petroleum based hydrogen will ever be. The only problem today is how best to store electricity in the car in an efficient manner.
Hydrogen powered vehicles have the same basic problem as electric ones: efficient energy storage. Hydrogen gas is tough to compress and store in a way that will give the same kind of range as gasoline. But the advantage to electric vehicles is that they have the *potential* to remove oil from the equation entirely. And regardless, producing the electricity directly is about three times more efficient then producing hydrogen to put in a fuel cell vehicle which then produces electricity.
Modern batteries are *almost* good enough for my 200 km range that I’ve noted above. A vehicle based around such batteries could be built today for about $100,000. You can order one today, if you want: the technology exists right now. Fuel cell vehicles are still hard pressed with current technology to achieve the same range…and the best available today would cost more like $1,000,000. The industry experts say that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are probably at least 30 years from being practical.
What prompted this rant? I just finished watching Who Killed the Electric Car, a documentary mostly about the death of the GM EV-1. Ten years ago, there was already a fully electric car with a growing support infrastructure available in the United States. That car was lease only, and when the leases expired GM took every one back. They then systematically erased all evidence that the car had ever existed, going so far as to destroy every returned car. Once the cars were all destroyed, GM fought tooth and nail to overthrow the Zero Emissions laws in California. The final nail in the coffin was when the U.S. Federal Government took California to court to erase their ZEV laws for good. George Bush and his oil-company crony enriched administration saw to that.
I strongly recommend taking the time to watch Who Killed the Electric Car if you see it in your TV schedule. It isn’t fun or exciting…but it is thought provoking.