Have you read the new article published by Reuters today? They are claiming that electric vehicles are at a dead end and that hydrogen powered cars using fuel cells are the real answer. You can see the article here.
I’ve posted my response and am waiting for it to be approved. In the meantime you can read it here:
Even if using hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is feasible, this article makes some big false assumptions. As others have mentioned, creating an abundant supply of hydrogen along with the means to deliver it is quite difficult — unless of course you use readily available fossil fuels to produce that hydrogen. Existing gas stations could generate hydrogen from unleaded gas, diesel, biodiesel, or potentially natural gas. All of these methods miss the mark as they will result in emission of greenhouse gasses.
Take this a step further and lets be super optimistic and imagine that we have found a way to produce an abundance of hydrogen without polluting our atmosphere. Well, even then we have two new problems. Some hydrogen will be leaked either through production, distribution or from storage tanks inside and outside of vehicles. See this article from Science Magazine: http://www.caltech.edu/content/hydrogen-economy-might-impactearths-strat… which discusses the negative impact on our ozone layer from released hydrogen.
What about all the water vapor that will be created from these hydrogen powered wonder-cars? Not only is water produced, but very hot water vapor as steam. Whether the amount released will be enough to contribute to climate change is debated, it does warrant consideration.
Our biggest challenges seem to be cultural, not technical. People want to purchase a vehicle that offers the range that they rarely need. Most of our time is spent driving locally (for most of us, there are of course, exceptions). If we need to go further we can use an auto-train, take a bus, train, or plane. If we need one we can rent a car in our destination city or where available use a car sharing option.
Even with our existing culture (in America) EVs can assuage our needs and wants. Tesla has shown us that not only are EVs with 300 mile range possible, but they can be quickly charge in route — for free if you are lucky enough to be traveling in an area with Tesla solar charging stations. Battery technology will continue to evolve as will our ability to generate electricity from renewable sources. EVs are here to stay even if their acceptance takes a bit longer than many of us hope.
I want to also take a minute to clarify some things that other commenters have stated above. Firstly, the Boeing 787 uses a different battery technology than what is currently used in electric cars. The technology used allows for denser storage of energy but is less safe. I don’t believe anyone is questioning the fact that gasoline has a higher energy density then batteries.
Oilfield discoveries peaked in 1965 at approximately 55 billion barrels per year. The rate of discoveries of new sources of oil has fallen since down to 10 billion for each year from 2002-2007. The fact that we are getting better at exploiting past discoveries (the reason why production is increasing in the U.S.) is only good news in the short-term as it means that we are using it up faster. Add to this the global growth of vehicle sales, especially in China and we can see that more cars, more drives and less production of gasoline will cause a real problem. In our lifetimes the price of oil is likely to increase considerably as demand grows and supply wanes. In our children’s lifetime oil will not be a realistic alternative.
Some would say that future generations will deal with these problems and that technology will provide solutions. We say this in one conversation while discussing how to save money for our children’s college education in the next. Clearly we have concerns and responsibility for their future. Getting to the point where renewable alternatives to fossil fuels are as good or better will take a long time. This is why it’s so important for all of us to come together and support alternative technologies now.
We have been part of the problem for our entire lives (some less then others) as we depend on petroleum every day. Are you willing to be part of the solution?