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Meet My Next Car

honda_fcx.jpg

They could've made it smaller, cuter, and sportier for my taste. But, this is Honda's new hydrogen car, the FCX. They say it will be for sale next year. More about it here, at CNN Money. Hey, how 'bout that American innovation?! (Anybody seen any recently?)

Posted by aalkon at May 24, 2007 11:37 AM

Comments

It's pretty neat looking, and real good to see fuel cell technology make it to the open road.

I am not sure how to pronounce "FCX". I hope they talk to Arnold, because I had thought he was interested in helping to create a network of hydrogen filling stations around California.

Posted by: jerry at May 24, 2007 6:31 AM

"Fucks?"

Honda isn't at the top of my list for insightful car naming.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2007 6:43 AM

Hydrogen poses one very serious problem: it takes a whole bunch of electricity to split water molecules to make pure hydrogen. Where we gonna get that?

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 6:46 AM

Hydrogen is probably the stupidest fuel you could ever hope to use. Well, it's not really fuel, anyhow. Fuel is something where it takes less energy to extract and process it into useful form than is generated by its consumption.

For every BTU of energy you get from hydrogen, it took 2 BTU or more to put it there.

In other words, your hydrogen powered car is going to produce twice the so-called greenhouse emissions of a gasoline powered car.

Because the electricity to extract all that hydrogen certainly isn't coming from renewable resources like wind, solar, or nuclear. Chemical extraction of hydrogen from methane is even worse.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 7:23 AM

I didn't know the energy equation worked out so poorly for hydrogen. So hydrogen only makes "sense" is we have electricity to basically throw away. Heh.

Doesn't the same rap also apply to corn ethanol (more energy to make than it yields)?

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 8:15 AM

Can we talk about the humpy shape? Kaus said soemthing about this a few months ago. Basically it looks like a Prius, which is not necessary a sensible or attractive design. But people who buy environmentally gentle cars want to be sure that everyone can see they're being environmentally gentle, so this is what we get.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 8:15 AM

Plus, it looks like a Prius, which were selling like hotcakes when this was being designed.

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 8:18 AM

It's very show about it's virtue. It's shaped like Rosie O'Donnell.

Look at the way that grill smirks so deeply. This is one smug automobile.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 8:20 AM

The Prius is the ugliest car ever.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2007 8:27 AM

Justin - indeed it does apply to ethanol. And ethanol has the added disadvantage of helping starve people in Central America by driving up the cost of their staple grain. And ethanol can't be transported by pipeline (too caustic). No, corn ethanol is nothing but pork for agribusiness.

Yeah, if hydrogen looks good to you, put down the kool-aid. You'll get much better results from a pure electric car (conversion efficiency approaches 100%) than hydrogen-combustion or hydrogen-electric (can't ever get better than 50%)

I cannot tell you how hard I cringed when Bush started stumping for hydrogen.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 8:34 AM

Actually, for you hydrogen nay-sayers, check this out:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-05/eaps-hbc052207.php

A new breakthrough in hydrogen storage technology could remove a key barrier to widespread uptake of non-polluting cars that produce no carbon dioxide emissions.

UK scientists have developed a compound of the element lithium which may make it practical to store enough hydrogen on-board fuel-cell-powered cars to enable them to drive over 300 miles before refuelling. Achieving this driving range is considered essential if a mass market for fuel cell cars is to develop in future years, but has not been possible using current hydrogen storage technologies.

The breakthrough has been achieved by a team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, under the auspices of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UK-SHEC). UK-SHEC is funded by the SUPERGEN (Sustainable Power Generation and Supply) initiative managed and led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Fuel cells produce carbon-free electricity by harnessing electrochemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen. However, today's prototype and demonstration fuel-cell-powered cars only have a range of around 200 miles. To achieve a 300 mile driving range, an on-board space the size of a double-decker bus would be needed to store hydrogen gas at standard temperature and pressure, while storing it as a compressed gas in cylinders or as a liquid in storage tanks would not be practical due to the weight and size implications.

The UK-SHEC research has therefore focused on a different approach which could enable hydrogen to be stored at a much higher density and within acceptable weight limits. The option involves a well-established process called 'chemisorption', in which atoms of a gas are absorbed into the crystal structure of a solid-state material and then released when needed.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2007 8:39 AM

Amy, that's a good development, but it doesn't address the fundamental problem for fuel cell vehicles which is getting enough hydrogen in the first place. Hydrogen tends to bond very strongly with other atoms and the process of separating these bonds to get pure hydrogen is very energy intensive. If somebody finds a way to do this easily and efficiently (which my limited chemistry knowledge suggests is a non-trivial problem), then fuel cell cars quickly become an appealing alternative.

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 9:07 AM

Yeah, if hydrogen looks good to you, put down the kool-aid. You'll get much better results from a pure electric car (conversion efficiency approaches 100%) than hydrogen-combustion or hydrogen-electric (can't ever get better than 50%)

Basically, a hydrogen fuel cell is a longer lived, less polluting battery that probably offers quicker recharges and most likely weighs less pound for pound for the same amount of energy storage. The electrical energy for the fuel cell comes from the same place as the electrical energy for the battery: a solar/hydro/wind/nuclear/clean coal burning facility.

You do need more electricity for the fuel cell than for the current batteries, but you arguably have better benefits: quicker recharge, weighs less, no pollution, etc., as I mentioned above.

Plus the babes.

Posted by: jerry at May 24, 2007 9:46 AM

Amy - I never mentioned the storage of the hydrogen. As Justin said, it's the EXTRACTION of it that's the problem.

The enthalpy of formation of water is lower than the enthalpy of combustion. In other words, it takes more energy to get they hydrogen out of water than it produces when it turns back INTO water.

This is also true of methane (CH4, lots of hydrogen by mass) and pretty much all hydrocarbons.

And that energy has to come from somewhere. And if you are aiming for "carbon neutral" then your choices are quite limited.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 9:53 AM

I drive a big, gas gushing car and always will if they’re available, but…

My 3 year old car has less than 10,000 miles on the odometer. The commute to work is less than 4 miles round trip and I limit leisure driving as much as possible.

Posted by: Roger at May 24, 2007 10:02 AM

Brian is correct. In order to get hydrogen you have to produce it by using gas, wind, or solar energy. It defeats the whole purpose. It wont be your car using the gas, but gas will still be indirectly used to power your car.

I'm also a little bit sick of hearing of the greatness of hybrids and why the Americans never got on board. Hybrids are considered nothing more than halo cars, and despite the success of the Prius hybrids have never been considered true alternatives to the internal combustion engine. Prius is here because Toyota is a motherfuckin' genius company. They see an error (i.e. the Tundra vs the Titan, Scion vs Celica, Ford Ranger vs Tacoma) and they correct it quickly. They serve niche customers and mass customers with refinement. I have never read an op ed by any of the respected car journalists taking hybrids seriously and these guys predicted the downfall of American car companies pretty damn well and decades before the mainstream media caught on.

Posted by: PurplePen at May 24, 2007 10:35 AM

The problem is actually the granola crunchers, who nixed Gerald Ford's suggestions for nuclear power and serious work on alternatives during the oil crisis. We've had time to come up with solutions. I'm not an engineer, but I'd love an alternative to putting on knee pads for the Saudis.

And nuclear power is safe, clean, and affordable. And we should be running our country on it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2007 11:10 AM

Amy - you're going to be hard pressed to find disagreement here.

But the environmentalist movement is anti-nuke simply because they are anti-growth. And nuclear power would enable insane growth.

Paul Ehrlich: "Giving society cheap, abundant energy ... would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun."

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 11:29 AM

Nuclear might be the answer, but sadly the topic is politically radioactive.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at May 24, 2007 12:18 PM

But the environmentalist movement is anti-nuke simply because they are anti-growth.

No, that's not how the causation flows, the environmentalist masses are anti-nuke because of the radiation and all that. The average person in the movement isn't anti-growth as an end in itself (trust me, I live in Northern California); they're anti-growth in effect because they don't want to cut down any more trees, mess up any more water, kill any more frogs, etc. Some of the leadership may think differently.

Me, I don't see how you can worry about the environment now, and not be pro-nuclear power. The problem of radioactive waste is trivial in comparison to all of the bad things associated with fossil fuels.

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 1:02 PM

Justin -

In any political movement, you have your leaders, your true believers, your useful idiots, and your underinformed followers.

The leaders and true believers of the "Environmental Movement" are your ZPG (or NPG) anti-growth, anti-industrial types who want to go back to the subsistence-farming ways of their ancestors.

The useful idiots spew every platitude without any knowledge of the meaning or any comprehension of the agenda.

The followers are the ones who do not know or care about the leadership, but feel that the for-public-consumption aims of a group are worthy and deserve attention.

You may be against the radiation. But I'd bet you dollars to donuts that the leaders and true believers are against it for the reason that Ehrlich (a True Believer himself) stated. The environmentalist whackos view humanity as a virus that needs to be wiped out.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 2:02 PM

I usually just lurk but this is one that's near and dear to me. I am extremely glad to see hydrogen cars being marketed.

My understanding is that nuclear power has what was once considered an "unfortunate byproduct"; namely hydrogen. Atoms were combined to reprocess it into water, thus lots of water outprocessing. It doesn't take a huge, megawatt reactor to create hydrogen, so there can be many small plants using old, still fissionable material and REPROCESSING some of what we now consider nuclear waste to make hydrogen.

I agree with the people who say we're putting our heads in the sand thinking that we can travel down the road to the future without nuclear power. It's clean, cheap, and if we take one quarter of the money we are spending on the war in the middle east, petroleum exploration and tax credits to unreasonably expensive and inefficient solar and wind power processors we could build five plants a year and solve these problems we're having.

I'm as much an environmentalist as anyone else. I think that environmentalists have so much invested in their unworkable solutions that they can't see the forest for the trees at times. No pun intended.

I'm not a nuclear engineer but I sleep with one.

Posted by: Laurie at May 24, 2007 3:02 PM

Laurie I have an irrational fascination with Pripyat. As much as everyone talks about how the land is untouchable, the truth is they touch it all the time... Every piece of scrap metal or glass or sturdy wood that hasn't been rusted, broken or rotted has been picked clean in recent years for sale on a black market. And this in an economy that no one's calling a depression.

What I'm saying is that accidents are going to happen, and Chernobyl proves that when they do, you can't just set aside a region of the world and pretend that people won't want to get at it anymore.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 3:13 PM

I agree Crid, and there's no fixing that mess that I've heard of. But there are future generations of Nuke Power already on the drawing board that will make those problems go bye-bye. We can clean up ALL of our nuclear waste via reprocessing. And the likelihood of another Chernobyl is small. The (weapons grade) reactor was in what amounts to a tin shack. Our cores, France's cores, in fact all of Europe's cores, are buried under 20 feet of twisted rebar and concrete that you couldn't blast through with an A600 Airbus. I couldn't agree with you more that these safety issues are paramount, but our alternatives leave so much to be desired. And I'm tired of bending over for the middle east and watching the price at the pump eat into my hard earned beer money. We have to do something, no solution is perfect, so we have to pick one that is least offensive to the planet. The varying opinions on what that means have us at a stalemate that needs to be broken.

Posted by: Laurie at May 24, 2007 3:47 PM

> a stalemate that needs
> to be broken.

I respectfully disagree.

OK, there's no way to disagree with you outright, but I think that it's tough to pick the righteous team.

Not being the religious type, I don't think the planet is capable of taking offense. Sure, we can poison and choke a lot of life, but that's been going on for thousands of years. We're told the deserts of Iraq used to be called the Fertile Crescent.

An oil economy poisons a whole lot of the planet for a short time: The poisoning in many broad areas (those without industry or a gas station on 'em) is something that the flora and fauna will adjust to for a few generations (or a few dozen). But a nuke disaster fucks up a small area for a LONG TIME... Much, much longer than humans are likely to live on the planet anyway. So humans will "always" have to deal with Chernobyl.

We can get carried away with this. The dinosaurs didn't do their business with us in mind. But when casting your vote, I think you should cast it on what's best for your descendants, that is, people. The Middle Eastern stupidities were going to have to be dealt with someday anyway. Who doesn't think Africa --for all its insanity-- should be so luck as to have more oil?

Thinking out loud.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 5:08 PM

"Honda isn't at the top of my list for insightful car naming."

Nice pun!

"My understanding is that nuclear power has what was once considered an "unfortunate byproduct"; namely hydrogen. Atoms were combined to reprocess it into water, thus lots of water outprocessing. It doesn't take a huge, megawatt reactor to create hydrogen, so there can be many small plants using old, still fissionable material and REPROCESSING some of what we now consider nuclear waste to make hydrogen."

Ummm. The radiolysis which breaks water - "heavy" or "light" - in a reactor also frees Oxygen. Light water reactors actually have to ADD Hydrogen to drive the reaction the other way by maintaining a surplus, because free Oxygen is corrosive to core metals. So a PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) is a net USER, not producer, of Hydrogen.

There is no free lunch in this issue. If you want to go somewhere, you will not be physically able to afford to go surrounded by 4500 lbs of SUV, no matter what propels it.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 24, 2007 7:10 PM

Unfortunately, those people who mentioned that hydrogen is not a viable fuel are correct. It's the second law of thermodynamics. No getting around it.

Sure, it's clean. BUT, it takes more energy to extract H than can be extracted from it. And the energy used to make it is usually polluting or greenhouse gas producing. Nuclear might work to extract H. But even then, it would likely cost more to use nuclear energy to extract hydrogen (and then use it in a car) than it would be to use nuclear to charge your electric car directly. Though it still could be an alternative to gasoline because it is clean.

The only way it can become really viable is if someone finds a massive deposit of hydrogen trapped somewhere. That's possible but unlikely. Most naturally occuring H is bound to other atoms or has floated off into the upper atmosphere.

Posted by: Ian at May 24, 2007 7:54 PM

Y'know I never bothered to answer the last question.

There's plenty of American innovation, it just isn't under the hood. It's in the server room.

Intel and AMD are in a new race. First it was performance per dollar, then performance per clock cycle. Now the big metric for servers is performance per BTU.

Those new Intel processors are putting out double, triple, quadruple the performance for the same or less power consumption and heat output. Which means faster websites, faster businesses, faster research, and less energy usage.

Processor tech is someplace where the rest of the world can't lay a glove on us.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 8:48 PM

I am not a granola cruncher and I have thorough distaste of the messiah mantle hybrids were given when they first came around. They were niche cars, like Ferraris, not a viable solution to our car culture. That being said I am against nuke power. Perhaps it was the Goiânia accident that was close to my own home that has inspired these feelings. It was never a nuke power accident, but it was radioactive nonetheless and minuscule in its nature. Remembering that shit always brings back very distasteful memories for me.

I'm ok with oil for now.

Posted by: PurplePen at May 24, 2007 8:55 PM

Ya know the earth is one giant magnet, isnt there some way to use the earths magnetic feild as a propulsion system?

Posted by: lujlp at May 24, 2007 11:45 PM

Dangly, ear-ringy things that you hang from your chakras... Maybe stuff that looks like southwestern jewelry with lots of turquoise. The jewelry tunes in to the motion of the magnetic field from the earths molten core, and you'll be able to psychically will yourself across the landscape. Especially during leap years... It's technical.

But even then, it'll be cheaper to get to Paris than Indianapolis.

Posted by: Crid at May 25, 2007 2:19 AM

"Dangly, ear-ringy things that you hang from your chakras... Maybe stuff that looks like southwestern jewelry with lots of turquoise. The jewelry tunes in to the motion of the magnetic field from the earths molten core, and you'll be able to psychically will yourself across the landscape. Especially during leap years... It's technical."


Sometimes I heart you, Crid.

Posted by: Kimberly at May 25, 2007 1:40 PM

lujlp: TANSTAAFL.

And considering that the earth's magnetic field is pretty much stationary relative to any give fixed point on the surface, and too weak to pull anything of significant mass, you'd need an electromagnet the size of Mars to get anywhere.

Which would be cool, if life were Katamari Damacy.

Posted by: brian at May 25, 2007 2:19 PM

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