Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hydrogen Energy Future : Honda Gets It, GM CEO Obama Doesn't

Gosh, and I am so perplexed why now-government-controlled American car-makers are in the financial dumper, except for the now-ended "clunker" cash orgy of course.

Obama administration shuns hydrogen, but car company thinking 'long term'

Bloomberg News

Honda Motor Co. is backing hydrogen power for the cars of the future, waving aside a decision by the Obama administration to drop the so-called fuel-cell technology in favor of battery-run vehicles.

"Fuel-cell cars will become necessary," said Takashi Moriya, head of Tokyo-based Honda's group developing the technology. "We're positioning it as the ultimate zero-emission car.

Honda, the only carmaker to lease hydrogen-powered autos to individuals, opened a production line last year in Tochigi prefecture to make 200 fuel-cell FCX Clarity sedans, the model being leased in a trial in Los Angeles.

The Obama administration sought to eliminate hydrogen-station funding and instead lend $1.6 billion to Nissan Motor Co. and $465 million to Tesla Motors Inc. to make electric cars, and give $2.4 billion in grants to lithium-ion battery makers.

"Honda has a propensity to think very long term," said Ed Kim, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, Calif. "It's also part of the company culture that if they've made a decision they think is correct, they'll really stick with it."

Honda is not alone. Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG, General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. say hydrogen, the universe's most abundant element, is among the few options to replace oil as a low-carbon transportation fuel.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in May his department would "be moving away" from hydrogen as it's unlikely the U.S. can convert to the fuel even after 20 years. Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn predicts electric vehicles may grab 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020. Honda hasn't announced plans for a battery-powered car.

Hydrogen, made mainly for industrial use from natural gas, costs about $5 to $10 per kilogram for vehicles in California, more than twice an equivalent amount of gasoline. The Energy Department estimates future prices for hydrogen will fall to $2 to $3 a kilogram, Toyota said.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Aug. 5 his company plans consumer sales of fuel-cell cars within six years. Toyota, like Honda, is making "exponential progress" with fuel-cell technology, Justin Ward, manager of Toyota's U.S. advanced powertrain program, said.

Battery-powered electric cars are farther along in the market. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. started selling the i-MiEV last month. Tesla sells a $109,000 Roadster and Nissan unveiled its first electric car, the Leaf, this month. It plans limited sales of the model in Japan and the U.S. next year.

Honda says hydrogen vehicles match the refueling style drivers are used to: filling up in minutes at a service station. Nissan's Leaf recharges fully in 30 minutes with a fast-charger, or up to 16 hours on a household outlet, said Tetsuro Sasaki, senior manager of Nissan's battery test group.

The Clarity is available in the U.S. only in Los Angeles, where drivers can use about 16 hydrogen stations. The 5-passenger car has a top speed of 100 miles an hour and goes 240 miles, more than double the 100-mile range of Nissan's compact electric car. Through July, Honda leased cars to 10 drivers for $600 a month.

Meanwhile, BlackLight Power's breakthrough electrochemical technology to produce hydrogen in abundance has been validated independently in academia (not to mention attracting six licensing deals for their technology).

And in Italy :

Italy has come up with world’s first hydrogen power plant. This power plant is situated in Fusina, near Venice in the Veneto region of Italy. Enel is constructing this power plant producing no undesirable greenhouse gases. It is Italy’s largest power company with a track record of fifty million power and gas customers. Enel is procuring hydrogen from an accompanying production from Polimeri Europa’s petrochemical plant. This hydrogen will be brought to the establishment by especially built pipelines. Polimeri produces a wide range of petrochemical products, and its ethylene-cracking process will be responsible for the hydrogen feedstock. This hydrogen power plant will be operational in 2010. It will provide power to 20,000 households.

This hydrogen power plant is an off shoot of the Environment and Innovation Project known as Hydrogen Park. 7.4 billion euros will be assigned for the whole project by 2012. Another 40 million euro plant will be established on the line of Enel’s existing coal-fired power station in Fusina. It will have an investment of 4 million euros from the local Veneto region. According to Enel this power plant will save the emission of more than 17,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. This power plant has a capacity of 12 megawatt and burns hydrogen gas in a turbine developed in partnership with General Electric.

UPDATE : New commenter Greg Blencoe visits with a link to his hydrogen information and advocacy blog, Hydrogen Discoveries. Thanks Greg.


Anonymous said...

The Clunker program sold over 400,000 cars...put 2000 GM workers back to work. Maybe we need a Clunkers program for the democrat and republican parties. Throw all them out of office and start over.

Greg Blencoe said...


Thanks for writing about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Here is a short article that includes all of the progress Toyota has made with hydrogen fuel cell cars. They will be coming to market in 2015 and "affordable."

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.

Greg Blencoe said...


You're very welcome!

By the way, I forgot to mention in my comment yesterday about a way that the hydrogen fueling stations can be built without the federal government or the oil companies.

And that is through hydrogen fueling station cooperatives. While I have changed the numbers around a little, the concept is described here in a post I wrote last September.

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.

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