Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a waste of time and money, and explosive

Preface. Below are several articles about hydrogen.  Today in 2019 it is still far from commercial.  A massive amount of infrastructure needs to be in place before people will consider buying hydrogen fuel cell cars, and because of explosions in South Korea, Norway, and California, building this infrastructure is going slowly.

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Reuters. 2019. Explosions and subsidies: Why hydrogen is struggling to catch on in Korea. Accidents and infrastructure are holding it back. Reuters.

SEOUL — Aiming to cash in on a major push by South Korea to promote fuel cell vehicles, Sung Won-young opened a hydrogen refueling station in the city of Ulsan last September. Just one year on, he’s thinking about closing it down. Sung’s new hydrogen station is one of five in Ulsan.

The government paid the 3 billion won ($2.5 million) cost – six times more than fast charging equipment for battery electric cars – and the two pumps, located next to Sung’s gasoline stand, see a steady flow of Hyundai Nexo SUVs daily.

EvSung hasn’t been able to turn a profit, hamstrung as the equipment can only refuel a limited number of cars each day.  Refueling takes about 5-7 minutes, but the next driver must wait another 20 minutes before sufficient pressure builds in the storage tank to supply the hydrogen or the car’s tank will not be full.

That means only about 100 fuel cell cars can be fueled a day, compared to up to 1,000 at his gasoline stand. Many drivers can also not be bothered to wait 20 minutes and leave without a full tank.

If those impediments to commercial viability were not enough, a fatal hydrogen storage tank explosion this year has spurred protests against the government and Hyundai’s ambitious campaign to promote the zero-emissions fuel. In May, a hydrogen storage tank at a government research project in the rural city of Gangneung exploded. It destroyed a complex about half the size of a soccer field, killing two and injuring six. A preliminary investigation found the blast was caused by a spark after oxygen found its way into the tank.

One month later, there was an explosion at a hydrogen refueling station in Norway. This week, a hydrogen gas leak and subsequent fire at a South Korean chemical plant caused three workers to suffer burns.

Potential station operators have gotten cold feet since the explosions.

Szymkowski. 2019.  Following hydrogen facility explosion, fuel-cell vehicle owners left stranded. The explosion happened in June, but some owners have been forced to park their cars due to lack of fuel. cnet.com

An explosion at a hydrogen fuel production facility shows the industry has a long way to go before fuel cell-powered vehicles can truly be considered a reliable alternative to the internal-combustion engine.

Green Car Reports reported Thursday that hundreds of fuel-cell vehicle owners had no choice but to park their cars due to a hydrogen fuel shortage. The explosion, which happened in Santa Clara, California, this past June, effectively choked the supply of hydrogen to fueling stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The stations have been dry ever since.

2005. A Committee on the Present Danger Policy Paper:  OIL & SECURITY by George P. Shultz, former secretary of state, and R. James Woolsey, former CIA director

To have an impact on our vulnerabilities within the next decade or two, any competitor of oil-derived fuels will need to be compatible with the existing energy infrastructure and require only modest additions or amendments to it.

Although there are imaginative proposals for transitioning to other fuels, such as hydrogen to power automotive fuel cells, this would require major infrastructure investment and restructuring. If privately-owned fuel cell vehicles were to be capable of being readily refueled, this would require reformers (equipment capable of reforming, say, natural gas into hydrogen) to be located at filling stations, and for natural gas to be available there as a hydrogen feed-stock. So, not only would fuel cell development and technology for storing hydrogen on vehicles need to be further developed, but the automobile industry’s development and production of fuel cells also would need to be coordinated with the energy industry’s deployment of reformers and the fuel for them.

Moving toward automotive fuel cells thus requires us to face a huge question of pace and coordination of large-scale changes by both the automotive and energy industries. This poses a sort of industrial Alphonse and Gaston dilemma: who goes through the door first? (If, instead, it were decided that existing fuels such as gasoline were to be reformed into hydrogen on board vehicles instead of at filling stations, this would require on-board reformers to be developed and added to the fuel cell vehicles themselves — a very substantial undertaking.)

It is because of such complications that the National Commission on Energy Policy concluded in its December, 2004, report “Ending The Energy Stalemate” (“ETES”) that “hydrogen offers little to no potential to improve oil security and reduce climate change risks in the next twenty years.” (p. 72)

Senate 109–385. November 16, 2005. High costs of crude: the new currency of foreign policy.  U.S. Senate Hearing.    39 pages.

[ Much of the above, and in addition: ]

R. James Woolsey:

We should forget about 95 percent of our effort on hydrogen fuel cells for transportation.

Hydrogen fuel cells have real utility in niche markets for stationary uses. But the combination of trying to get the cost of these one-to-two-million-dollar vehicles that run on hydrogen down, at the same time one coordinates a complete restructuring of the energy industry so one has hydrogen at filling stations, and does a complete restructuring of the automotive industry so one has hydrogen fuel cells, is a many decades-long undertaking.

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3 Responses to Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a waste of time and money, and explosive

  1. Felix Moreno says:

    Nice to see I’m not the only one talking about all these, just wrote a similar article 2 weeks ago.

  2. Dr Scanlon says:

    As seen at r/collapse

    “level 1
    6 points ·
    5 hours ago


    The article is removed, WTF.

    level 2
    3 points ·
    4 hours ago
    · edited 4 hours ago

    Google the title (in your link) in quotes. Then hit the google ‘cached’ drop-down. Boom!

    Try this link
    level 2
    6 points ·
    4 hours ago

    AAE: Always Archive Everything. Everything interesting, anyway. Here you go: http://archive.li/niNLg For something as useful as that, it’s good to make a local backup as well in case archive.li gets nuked at some point. One never knows. Keep backups of your backups.

    See r/DataHoarder and r/ArchiveTeam for more info.
    level 3
    6 points ·
    4 hours ago

    I have it in PDF, I was freaked out because it was removed. It stood there since 2016 and poof.
    level 4
    3 points ·
    4 hours ago

    Ah yeah, it’s a bit odd. Best explanaiton: the attention the piece was getting caused her site to get the “hug of death” one too many times and she took it down. I suspect New Scientist threatened to make a copyright claim since it was published there (she was just hosting it). It could of course also be Winston Smith coercing her into tossing it down the memory hole. I’d wager it’s option B. New Scientist has a nasty paywall.”