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Going electric

Written By: - Date published: 10:40 am, April 19th, 2016 - 70 comments
Categories: climate change, Europe, global warming, sustainability, transport - Tags: , , ,

Interesting news:

Netherlands moots electric car future with petrol and diesel ban by 2025

The Dutch parliament will strive towards all-electric sales by midway through the next decade if senate passes motion into law

Dutch politicians have voted through a motion calling on the country to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2025.

The motion has only passed through the lower house of the Netherlands’ parliament, and would need to pass through the Dutch senate to become legally binding. But its success in a majority vote puts the earliest date yet on just when a major country might begin phasing out polluting transportation. …

Old Zeeland showing New Zealand the way.

70 comments on “Going electric ”

  1. roy cartland 1

    Amazing article.
    Most interesting is how the left and right of the Netherlands are arguing about how best to reach their decarbonisation target.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    By 2025 the chances are that cars sales will be dropping rapidly and very few people will be concerned about a ban on petrol and diesel sales.

    Cars are uneconomic as personal transport and we can’t actually afford them. Doesn’t matter if they’re electric or not.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      It’s bloody greenwash absurdity is what it is.

      We can ask some simple questions.

      Will these brand new electric cars be fabricated using tonnes of steel? Using tonnes of aluminium? Using tonnes of plastics? Will their tonnes of tyres use petroleum compounds in their manufacture?

      Of course, lots of the above. Steel and aluminium smelting and fabrication require massive outputs of GHGs.

      From the standpoint of reducing GHG emissions you’d be far better off reconditioning a 20 year old 1.3L Toyota Corolla for use on the roads – because although it burns a bit of petrol in day to day use, it will not require tonnes of new metals to be mined, refined and fabricated.

      And of course you are right DTB, personal motor vehicles is about as inefficient as you can get. But people want to believe that they can keep doing things the way they are doing now, except with a wee bit of greenwash making it better.

      Expect to see more of this stupidity from political leaders. Who then claim that their clever ideas are advanced and suitable ways for dealing with the climate and energy crisis coming down upon our heads.

      • Molly 2.1.1

        Dave Arthur in an article on Mother Earth News was adding an electric motor to his diesel Opel in 1979. Plans for DIY conversions were available for sale, and 60,000 were sold.

        Using parts that he had purchased for under $1,500, Dave designed and built an engine system for his Opel GT that could propel the car 75 miles or more on a single gallon of gas! Dave’s Opel was a hybrid electric vehicle. That is, the car was driven by both an electric motor and a conventional internal combustion engine. An array of six-volt batteries provided the direct power for the electric drive, while an efficient six-horsepower (hp) lawnmower engine ran continuously to generate power for and recharge the batteries. The combination of power plants made the car amazingly versatile. The batteries alone could be used for trips of under 25 miles, but the car had an unlimited range as long as the generator engine was running and the driver didn’t have a penchant for drag racing. Additionally, if the electric power plant developed a problem, the Opel could travel on the five-hp engine alone at speeds of 30 miles per hour. Dave reported that the crossbreed hookup performed so well that, initially, MOTHER’S editors were more than a bit skeptical. It was decided that the only way to effectively test the design was to build our own.

        A few weeks later, we had a hybrid engine comfortably placed in a 1973 Subaru chassis. We had decided to install a slightly bigger generator engine, but our car still averaged 83.6 miles to the gallon, ran flawlessly, and emitted a minimum of pollutants as it tooled along the highway. The idea caught on like wildfire among MOTHER readers and over the course of the next year, 60,000 people asked for plans to convert their cars. As might be imagined, technology has marched along at a pretty brisk pace since 1979, and recently we were gratified to hear that Dave has been to the drawing board again, converting the engine of a 1980 Toyota pickup into an even more efficient hybrid of electric and gas formats. The results are simply better than ever.

        As you say, the manufacture of even more cars brings up the question of sustainable resource management. But for a transition process the use of otherwise obsolete or non-roadworthy cars for this type of project is worth considering. Not least because the acquired knowledge of how this can be achieved with a minimum of new products or resources can be applied to other areas we need to transition from.

      • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 2.1.2

        Will these brand new electric cars be fabricated using tonnes of steel? Using tonnes of aluminium? Using tonnes of plastics? Will their tonnes of tyres use petroleum compounds in their manufacture?

        And powered by electricity created from a diesel generator?

      • International Rescue 2.1.3

        There’s more absurdity. Fossil fuels make up 85% of the electricity generation in Holland. That’s right, 85%. That means that these so called ‘electric cars’ are actually running on electricity generated primarily from fossil fuels.

      • Katipo 2.1.4

        This study looked at life cycle CO2 emmisions of petrol vs electric cars in the US, electric cars win hands down and that’s in a country where petrol is more accessible and electricity comes from less renewables than us.

        http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life-cycle-ev-emissions#.VxdBLRJ5ZSA

    • Richard McGrath 2.2

      “Cars are uneconomic as personal transport and we can’t actually afford them.”

      Speak for yourself. Cars are a lot more affordable to purchase than they used to be, and there is the ability to rent peer-to-peer quite cheaply now.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.2.1

        Cars are a lot more affordable to purchase than they used to be

        That doesn’t make them economic. In fact, that’s the argument that proves that our financial system is disconnected from reality.

        Economics is about using the least amount of resources to achieve the same goal. Personal cars do the exact opposite – they maximise the resources to used. Proof, in fact, that the profit motive brings about uneconomic ends.

        and there is the ability to rent peer-to-peer quite cheaply now.

        And that also doesn’t make them economic as buses and trains still use less resources to achieve the same result.

  3. Rocco Siffredi 3

    ” a major country might begin phasing out polluting transportation. …”

    Given only a small percentage of Dutch power is generated by renewables, and there is still a significant amount of coal power (2/3rds of generation), these electric cars are technically more polluting than petrol.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Nope. The electricity generators are significantly more efficient than petrol/diesel engines. The dual cycle ones at Huntly, IIRC, run at ~60% efficiency compared to a cars 30%. Sure, there’s a bit of loss at the electric motors but even inefficient electric motors running at only 90% efficiency means that coal to electricity to motion is still more efficient than directly burning fuel in the car.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        He’s talking about Dutch power generation and grid operations.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          So was I.

          That said The Netherlands are making inroads into renewable power generation. Not as great as the rest of Europe but still increasing.

          • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1.1

            You haven’t included transmission, charging and battery storage losses for electric vehicles. You know, why your laptop charger and laptop battery get hot under charge.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Well, after reading a few forum threads it appears that there’s about another ~20% accrued with transmission and charging.

              So we start off with 100% and lose 50% to the generators. We then lose ~20% of that 50% from transmission which leaves us with 40%. We would then only manage to convert 90% of that 40% into motion which equals around 36% efficiency.

              Still better than the 30% efficiency that you get from a car engine.

              When we put into effect other electric drains of a car in then the battery vehicles would get even better efficiency as they’re not going through the conversion from chemical to physical to electric to get the power to run them.

              Please note: I’m not actually in favour of electric cars. I was just pointing out that an electric car run from fossil fuelled generation would still be more efficient than a fossil fuelled car.

              • Colonial Viper

                Still better than the 30% efficiency that you get from a car engine.

                Are you sure? When was that 30% figure quoted?

                The reason I ask is that real world combustion motor efficiency is climbing fast. 15 years ago a typical 2L family car got fuel consumption figures of around 8L or 9L/100km.

                Today I see these same class of cars getting quoted figures of around 6.5L/100km or less.

                Some diesel cars – mid size or even large ones – are getting quoted figures of around 5L/100km (understanding that diesel is more energy dense than petrol).

                This mid size Mazda CX5 1400kg SUV for instance – quoted fuel efficiency is 4.6L diesel per 100km.

                http://www.auto-data.net/en/?f=showCar&car_id=22032

                • Draco T Bastard

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_efficiency#Engine_cycle_efficiency

                  Due to the other causes detailed below, practical engines have efficiencies far below the Carnot limit. For example, the average automobile engine is less than 35% efficient.

                  30% efficiency is what I heard a few years ago as the theoretical upper limit of automobile engines.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Indeed, however it looks to me like that’s already been surpassed.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I suspect your confusing decreases in mass, better gearing, better suspension and better tyres as increases in engine efficiency.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      The article I linked to below talks about the thermal efficiency of the Mazda combustion engine heading up to 60% in the near future.

                      Those other car components play an important role as well, of course.

              • Colonial Viper

                Here, it is reported that Mazda claims their current generation of vehicle engines gets approx 40% thermal efficiency.

                http://www.themotorreport.com.au/61760/mazda-petrol-engines-to-become-50-percent-more-efficient-by-2020

                The report says that their engineering teams believe it will be feasible to hit 60% thermal efficiency by 2020: that’s only one full product cycle of vehicles away from today.

                OK say that is just a PR boast – sounds to me like they will get to 45% to 50% thermal efficiency no problem within a couple of years.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Instead, Mazda will raise compression ratios from the SkyActiv G’s already-high 14.0:1 ratio to 18.0:1 – higher than some diesels.

                  to achieve that will require high octane fuels that simply aren’t on the market. To run those engines with what is on the market will probably damage the engines.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    I don’t think Mazda will release a range of petrol cars which cannot be used on the road.

                    Their current generation engines already use a range of very high tech approaches to prevent pre-detonation at high compression ratios.

                    They’ll have to get better at it of course.

                    But imagine a petrol engine which does not require the use of a spark plug to ignite the fuel air mixture. This might be less than 5 years away.

  4. Ad 4

    In Amsterdam last year I was amazed at electric vans in operation often, plus multiple recharging stations. The taxi drivers said uptake had leveled off since the subsidy removal. Still impressive.

    Plus the Bakfis.

  5. Bill 5

    On the one hand, 2025 is about 15 years too late. On the same hand (as CV points out above) electric cars are no panacea.

    On the other hand though, banning diesel and petrol doesn’t of itself entail the promotion of electric cars.

    Electric public transport + bikes (electric and mechanical) + trikes or tuk tuks (electric and mechanical) + walking + ‘welcome back Dobbin’ 😉

    Is it worth mentioning we should be reconfiguring our cityscapes as of yesterday? All those out of town retail spaces need to go and a return to local retail shops (the butcher, baker and candle stick maker) vigorously promoted.

    edit – What CV’s comment didn’t mention was that electricity supply capacity would have to increased enormously (x2 or x3?) if millions of electric cars hit our roads.

    • Phil 5.1

      What CV’s comment didn’t mention was that electricity supply capacity would have to increased enormously (x2 or x3?) if millions of electric cars hit our roads.

      The existing data shows that users of electric vehicles tend to charge them overnight, when electricity usage is already relatively low. In a New Zealand context, there will obviously be challenges to electricity supply if there is a rapid expansion in the number of electric vehicles, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as dramatic as “x2 or x3”.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Remembering that snippet of info from a select committee hearing from the UK that was available on line. The increase there was touted by engineers and climate scientists as something like x3, but that also included the impact of such things as ubiquitous domestic air conditioning… that is now being installed in new homes as standard.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.2

        The existing data shows that users of electric vehicles tend to charge them overnight, when electricity usage is already relatively low.

        Yes, NZ may have the max generation capacity to accomodate charging a million electric cars if it is done at off peak times.

        But we don’t have the hydro storage capacity for it. In a dry or even an average year, those hydro lakes would be gone.

        Nevertheless I expect that this discussion is wholly hypothetical. I never expect to see more than 50K private electric passenger cars on NZ roads in my life time.

        • Katipo 5.1.2.1

          We would have to upgrade a couple of teansmission lines but how about turning off the corporate welfare to state-teat-suckers Rio Tinto and use the saved power to jump start the transition away from fossil fuelled transport.

          • Colonial Viper 5.1.2.1.1

            Yes we can shut down a lot of power using industries, if we want to.

            • katipo 5.1.2.1.1.1

              Might be justified in this case.
              Manpouri which currently powers Taiwai point produces enough energy to power over 2 million electric cars 10,000km/year

      • Pat 5.1.3

        ‘The existing data shows that users of electric vehicles tend to charge them overnight, when electricity usage is already relatively low’

        That only relates to loading on a grid…the energy still needs to be generated….and if PV generation is a replacement source its not terribly productive at night oddly enough.

    • Sabine 5.2

      However, i think we need to take into account that we are not actually talking about NZ or any other place.
      We are talking about the Netherlands that have an impressive system build into their city planning to a. increase the use of bikes and feets, b. remove the need to drive the car. A country that has excellent public transport, and a population that does not seem to be personally offended by the use of a bike and will also not spontaneously combust if the use of buses, trams and trains is encouraged.

      We have two ways about going to reduce our dependency on private, single person transport. do nothing until it goes bust, or go step by step in reducing the need for a private single person transport and switch from gasoline to electric cars for the cars that will still be run in 2025.

      a few things about cars and Holland

      a. it is very expensive
      http://www.nltimes.nl/2016/02/01/survey-car-ownership-most-expensive-in-the-netherlands/

      b. more facilities are build to accomodate cyclists including large indor parking garages for bikes
      http://www.utrecht.nl/city-of-utrecht/living/mobility/cycling/what-weve-done

      c. excellent coverage by train/busses
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_transport_in_the_Netherlands

      and last and very importantly the cost of using public transport going to and form work is tax deductible.

      So its not just simply a question of outlawing a certain type of vehicle, it has been a concentrated effort now over several decades to get people away from the car.

      While not perfect, it is more then many other countries do.
      And also, i would assume that with the demand for these types of vehicles i can see some clever people working out how to use the existing vehicles and re-furbish them to work as electric cars.

  6. RedLogix 6

    There are few technical challenges to a global supergrid we cannot solve:

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/lets-build-a-global-power-grid

    http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/9722ab6b934c250bc125763300360b3d.aspx

    The only real problems are political.

    Edit:

    Building the infrastructure to supply renewable energy for all electricity, transport and industry would cost about $800bn between now and 2050, the report from the institute for sustainable futures at the University of Technology Sydney, found.

    That’s about $650bn more than continuing with the status quo. But by removing the need for fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, it would save the economy up to $740bn, saving $90bn over the period to 2050, the report found.

    Fuel cost savings would cover 110% of the capital investment needed to transition the economy.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/19/modelling-shows-move-to-100-renewable-energy-would-save-australia-money

    • Bill 6.1

      The only real problems are political.

      Hmm. And time. 35 years from now is too far away if we intend to keep going with our current levels of energy use. Politics can be turned around. Expertise can be developed.
      But “nae man can tether time nor tide”. (Burns)

      sorry for the belated edit to add qualification.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      The only real problems are political.

      Yeah, think of all the profits that won’t be made. Very political that – especially after the oil companies bought out the politicians.

  7. RedLogix 7

    On the other side of the coin there remains the question of heavy transport. Yes we can do electric cars; but heavy transport is still very, very dependent on the diesel engine. And will remain so for a long time yet. If you have a spare hour, here’s a doco about diesels that appealed to me; their interesting history and how they very much shape our global economy.

    Interesting factoid: A large container ship (carrying up to an astounding 15,000 containers) can sail twice around the planet without refuelling.

    • KJT 7.1

      A coastal container ship carries about 900 truckloads South from Auckland to Lyttelton weekly at less than 100 ltrs per mile.
      A much more efficient and sustainable use of hydrocarbons (HFO) than our, heavily subsidised, by other road users and ratepayers, trucks.

      A train takes about 30 trucks off the road, a ship 700.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        A train takes about 30 trucks off the road, a ship 700.

        While true, you can’t get a ship to Taupo. Actually, I’m not even sure you could get one to Hamilton these days.

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1

          we’re not going to determine a national transport strategy based around Taupo’s or Cromwell’s needs are we?

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.1

            I thought you were in support of re-invigorating the regions/provinces. To do that then we do need to look to the provinces and their needs to develop a national transport policy.

            • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1.1.1

              And what do you think those specific needs are going to be that we would ever down play the use of coastal shipping and high volume rail?

      • Gristle 7.1.2

        Don’t put all your eggs in shipping.

        The world’s 15 largest container ships produce more sulphur dioxide pollutants than 50 million cars.

        About the only good thing to come from these ships using bunker oil is that the petroleum companies don’t dump it as a waste product in the distillation process.

        US government considering requiring ships to have an alternate fuel for passage within 200km of shore.

        • RedLogix 7.1.2.1

          My point is that the extraordinary thermodynamic efficiency of a big ship engine, which exceeds 50% (compared to typically less than 25% for most other engines), has had a remarkable, and not widely understood, role in shaping the modern world.

          Over their lifetime, big diesel engine container ships are cheap and efficient. I’m all for less polluting alternatives, but potential replacement technologies have a rather high hurdle to leap.

          DtB suggests nuclear power, which is all well and good from a purely operational perspective, but even the military struggle with their total lifecycle costs.

          • Colonial Viper 7.1.2.1.1

            Without big freight ships, even ones going just six or seven knots, globalisation as we know it is history.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.2.1.2

            DtB suggests nuclear power, which is all well and good from a purely operational perspective, but even the military struggle with their total lifecycle costs.

            My first suggestion was wind and I think it’s possible to get even those huge container ships moving under wind alone.

            There are already SkySails for shipping which help quite a bit.

            Dutch company looking at sails

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      Trains can run on electricity. In fact, electric trains have far more torque than diesels. Then there’s ships which have a readily available power source that’s been in use for millennia – wind. Also, shipping is the one place I’m not averse to using nuclear power – as long as we can get better waste disposal.

      That just leaves the local delivery which would still need to be done by trucks and we’ve been using one solution to that for over a century. Another solution is quick charging. Both of these solutions work because the trucks will actually always use the same delivery route to the delivery centres away from port and train station where further delivery would then be taken up by light vehicles.

  8. ianmac 8

    I imagine that the big Oil companies and car manufacturers will smile, sit back and not do anything to block a change-over.

    • Phil 8.1

      Who do you think it is making all those electric cars?

      Smart is a division of Mercedes. Tesla has deals for technology and platform with a bunch of companies including Lotus (who, in turn, are ultimately owned by the same company that has major shareholdings in Mutsubishi and Honda).

      • ianmac 8.1.1

        Fair enough Phil but surely those huge oil companies have a stake?

      • ianmac 8.1.2

        And the batteries produced by TELSa are lithium ion cells but I hear the an Aluminium storage cells are said to be cheaper and the raw material is far more available than the rare lithium. If very much cheaper, then the ball game will change hugely don’t you think?

        • Phil 8.1.2.1

          surely those huge oil companies have a stake?

          You’re exactly right.

          Those companies (Shell, Chevron, BP etc) have built up significant investments and stakes in alternative energy. They’ve got a head-start on the competition because they already have the infrastructure in place to deliver to consumers whatever ‘product’ is used to power our vehicles in the future.

  9. millsy 9

    IMO, we should be looking at electric scooters. golf carts, mobility scooters and tuktuks (neighourhood electric vehicles) to get round. Cars are more efficent for long distance journeys and carrying loads.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Cars aren’t efficient at all. You want to go long distance, get on the train which will also be electric.

      • Phil 9.1.1

        Trains are really efficient in situations where you want to move a lot of people all at once to or from the same locations, i.e. peak-hour commuting.

        But when was the last time you, for example, took a train at 1pm on a week day in Wellington? There’s more staff on board the train than passengers. No way is that more energy efficient than moving those same people in half a dozen cars.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.1

          Last time I was on a train at 1pm on a weekday it was packed. Same goes with the buses. In fact, I just got off a bus that had standing room only.

          I expect the use level to increase as trains and buses become a) more reliable b) more frequent allowing better timing and c) more comfortable as the old trains are removed and replaced with new ones.

          I also see a lot of traffic jams in the middle of the day when a lot of people are trying to move themselves via cars. They would have been better off using public transport.

          I live in Auckland but I’ve observed the same traffic patterns in Wellington when I’ve been there (now that is more anecdotal than what you said as I’ve only been to Wellington about 5 times with three of those simply passing through).

          And a high-speed electric train between Wellington and Auckland will be far more efficient than an aircraft.

  10. Bob G Hirst 10

    Hydrogen Fuel cells are a vastly more efficient method of powering transport than rechargeable lithium battery powered electric motors..
    A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle vehicle can be used overnight to power a household.
    Hydrogen fuel cells have been used in vehicles since 1995 – Mercedes tested a fuel cell powered vehicle in 1995 driving from the West Coast to the East Coast of the U.S.
    The Toyota Mirai has been on sale in the U.S. and Japan since early 2015. It exceeds 300 miles range or nearly 500 kms on a single tank and takes 3 minutes to refuel.
    If there was political will to roll out refilling stations it could replace battery powered electric cars with their inherent problems with charge time and reducing battery storage capacity and battery life from rapid charging.
    Hydrogen refueling stations can use on-site hydrogen generation or the hydrogen can be transported to site in large tanks. This can be done readily as was the case with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling stations in NZ in the early 1980’s.
    Hydrogen is safe (it implodes to form water, it doesn’t explode) it is abundant, inexpensive to produce, and the only emissions it produces is water vapour.
    It could be used for aircraft, ships, and trains. The space station used fuel cells for power generation.
    Why is this option not debated as our future energy and transportation option?
    NZ could set the standard for the world using hydrogen as our primary vehicle fuel. source.
    Who will start the debate?

    • pat 10.1

      would seem there is an opinion they are not superior to direct electric….

      2008 – Professor Jeremy P. Meyers, in the Electrochemical Society journal Interface wrote, “While fuel cells are efficient relative to combustion engines, they are not as efficient as batteries, due primarily to the inefficiency of the oxygen reduction reaction. … [T]hey make the most sense for operation disconnected from the grid, or when fuel can be provided continuously. For applications that require frequent and relatively rapid start-ups … where zero emissions are a requirement, as in enclosed spaces such as warehouses, and where hydrogen is considered an acceptable reactant, a [PEM fuel cell] is becoming an increasingly attractive choice [if exchanging batteries is inconvenient]”. The practical cost of fuel cells for cars will remain high, however, until production volumes incorporate economies of scale and a well-developed supply chain. Until then, costs are roughly one order of magnitude higher than DOE targets.[114]

      In 2008, Wired News reported that “experts say it will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming, and we can’t afford to wait that long. In the meantime, fuel cells are diverting resources from more immediate solutions.”[115] The Economist magazine, in 2008, quoted Robert Zubrin, the author of Energy Victory, as saying: “Hydrogen is ‘just about the worst possible vehicle fuel'”.[116] The magazine noted that most hydrogen is produced through steam reformation, which creates at least as much emission of carbon per mile as some of today’s gasoline cars. On the other hand, if the hydrogen could be produced using renewable energy, “it would surely be easier simply to use this energy to charge the batteries of all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.”[116] The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2009, “Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars.”[117] The Washington Post asked in November 2009, “[W]hy would you want to store energy in the form of hydrogen and then use that hydrogen to produce electricity for a motor, when electrical energy is already waiting to be sucked out of sockets all over America and stored in auto batteries…?”[118]

      The Motley Fool stated in 2013 that “there are still cost-prohibitive obstacles [for hydrogen cars] relating to transportation, storage, and, most importantly, production.”[119] The New York Times noted that there are only 10 publicly accessible hydrogen filling stations in the U.S.[86] Volkswagen’s Rudolf Krebs said in 2013 that “no matter how excellent you make the cars themselves, the laws of physics hinder their overall efficiency. The most efficient way to convert energy to mobility is electricity.” He elaborated: “Hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green energy”, but … you need to convert it first into hydrogen “with low efficiencies” where “you lose about 40 percent of the initial energy”. You then must compress the hydrogen and store it under high pressure in tanks, which uses more energy. “And then you have to convert the hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell with another efficiency loss”. Krebs continued: “in the end, from your original 100 percent of electric energy, you end up with 30 to 40 percent.”[120]

      In 2014, journalist Julian Cox presented an analysis that challenged this assumption[which?], calculating the efficiency of hydrogen to be only half that stated by government estimates.[121] Cox wrote in 2014 that producing hydrogen “is significantly more carbon intensive per unit of energy than coal. Mistaking fossil hydrogen from the hydraulic fracturing of shales for an environmentally sustainable energy pathway threatens to encourage energy policies that will dilute and potentially derail global efforts to head-off climate change due to the risk of diverting investment and focus from vehicle technologies that are economically compatible with renewable energy.”[121] The Business Insider commented:

      Pure hydrogen can be industrially derived, but it takes energy. If that energy does not come from renewable sources, then fuel-cell cars are not as clean as they seem. … Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. Gas stations need to invest in the ability to refuel hydrogen tanks before FCEVs become practical, and it’s unlikely many will do that while there are so few customers on the road today. … Compounding the lack of infrastructure is the high cost of the technology. Fuel cells are “still very, very expensive”.[122]

      In 2014, climate blogger and former Dept. of Energy official Joseph Romm devoted three articles to critiques of hydrogen vehicles. He stated that FCVs still have not overcome the following issues: high cost of the vehicles, high fueling cost, and a lack of fuel-delivery infrastructure. “It would take several miracles to overcome all of those problems simultaneously in the coming decades.”[123] Most importantly, he said, “FCVs aren’t green” because of escaping methane during natural gas extraction and when hydrogen is produced, as 95% of it is, using the steam reforming process. He concluded that renewable energy cannot economically be used to make hydrogen for an FCV fleet “either now or in the future.”[124] GreenTech Media’s analyst reached similar conclusions in 2014.[125]

    • Thom Pietersen 10.2

      Splitting water into hydrogen is inefficient it takes a lot of energy to break the molecular bond – otherwise it extracted form natural gas etc. (so still requires releasing bound up carbon) It’s relatively expensive to store (compression and cooling) and has a low energy density by volume as a result compared to liquid hydrocarbon fuels – this is why it has been slow on the uptake.

      Aluminium Air batteries might be the future energy density-wise if they can solve anode issues – however, aluminium is relatively expensive to produce (though highly abundant and relatively non-toxic.

      Push bikes all. And village planning.

      • Colonial Viper 10.2.1

        Yep footpaths and skateboards; tear up kerbside lawns and let people plant veges and fruit trees.

      • Draco T Bastard 10.2.2

        Hydrogen Fuel cells don’t actually use hydrogen directly. What they use is usually a simple hydro-carbon (methane usually) which breaks apart easier than water and the breaking is done in the fuel cell itself. I believe that the end results of the reaction is carbon, carbon dioxide and water.

        • Thom Pietersen 10.2.2.1

          You are correct holistically for a particular type (though not for the core process of the pure hydrogen process bar the electrolyte) – and that’s the problem. Methanol, alkaline solution (the type used by Apollo), carbonates, and solid oxides. They all require varying degrees of energy inputs and catalyst agents (often platinum) to ‘free’ the hydrogen. So your end results depend on this – I think efficiency tops 80%,

          Wind, tidal, solar, mixed with saturated hot salt storage and HVDC transmission, and dare I say, liquid fluoride thorium nuclear fission – is probably where we should look.

  11. Shifty 11

    I would prefer to rollerblade or skateboard to get around. It’s such a pity that we can’t, or can only do so late at night

  12. Ad 12

    After a decade thrashing my old Volvo S80 sedan, I am in the running for a new car.
    We are a one car operation at our place, with some cycling.

    We commute on the electric train into town every week day.

    But it is time for a new car. No way of getting round it.
    – I’m not going for a Leaf as they are weak and butt ugly.
    – I like the Highander PhEV’s – reasonable grunt but not a lot of kilometer capacity.
    – I can’t afford the new BMW as they are still all brand new

    My budget is between $20 and $30k.

    Currently I’m heading for a 2012 Hyundai sedan – there’s a few in Diesel.

    Failing that I’m going to regress into a 2010 Mercedes sedan, and just enjoy it.

    Any car suggestions, people?

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