Science Questions

Is a hydrogen-based infrastructure expensive?

Sat, 8th Oct 2011

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Question

Ceylan Sonmez, via Facebook asked:

I am curious to know how the cost of production of these hydrogen cars will be reduced to a degree where it can compete with electric cars, the production of which is approximately 10 times cheaper...How will the automobile manufacturers be convinced to produce these cars in line with that? How will the low energy per unit volume problem be adressed? I can see all the positive sides to it certainly, but how will the producers, engineers, in short, the industry, respond to that? Thank you.

Answer

Mark -   Well itís a little bit of both, but I think itís more market forces than anything else.  About 5 years ago, I think the first proper hydrogen fuel cell car was technically launched and they were about $1 million each.  But just now, Toyota are selling them for just over $100,000 each.  So, in a few years itís gone down 10-fold in price.  Weíve only got to stick with it.  The fuel cell market is absolutely sky rocketing and itís those fuel cells which are the key element in hydrogen powered car.  What the fuel cell does is it takes the hydrogen, usually stored in a compressed cylinder,   and really efficiently turns it into electricity which then drives the electric motor.  The fuel cell is around twice as efficient as a combustion engine, so you could have a hydrogen powered car using a combustion engine that just burns the hydrogen, but itís much better to use a fuel cell.  Of course, this is very new technology.

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