Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars

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"Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars"

Once upon a time, some serious people used to believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) might have a snowball’s chance in hell of being a practical and affordable climate strategy in our lifetime.  Those very sincere people were used by some of the car companies and Bush Administration as part of a strategy to oppose or delay the introduction of more viable alternative fuel strategies, in particular electric cars — see, for instance, the movie “Who killed the electric car?

That isn’t to say pure EVs were slam dunks as successful mass-market consumer vehicles, particularly with the technology of the 1980s and even 1990s.  HFCVs, however, required multiple technological (and other) miracles to succeed and every plausible competitor, including EVs, to fail first (see “Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a dead end from a technological, practical, and climate perspective” and “The car of the perpetual future” “” The Economist agrees with Climate Progress on hydrogen“).  That is but one reason the absurdly expensive infrastructure will never be built — nor has any independent group ever proposed a plausible scenario under which the infrastructure would be built.  And that’s the fundamental hydrogen cars will not be practical or a cost-effective climate strategy in your lifetime.

Under the leadership of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California briefly flirted with a serious investment in hydrogen cars and infrastructure — the Hydrogen Highway.  A driving force for that alliterative but ill-fated effort was Terry Tamminen, who “headed California’s Environmental Protection Agency and was Cabinet Secretary and Chief Policy Advisor” to Schwarzenegger, who is now “the Cullman Senior Fellow for Climate Change and Director of the Climate Policy Program at the New America Foundation” and author of a recent but outdated attack, “The Myth of Battery Cars” debunked below.

The California legislature in particular sped away from the Hydrogen Highway effort once it became clear that both the fueling station and the cars were insanely expensive and not terribly practical (see “California Hydrogen Highway R.I.P.“)

Today, with rapidly advancing battery and related technology, we know that pure EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are a core climate solution since electric drives are more efficient, easily powered by carbon-free energy and indeed far cheaper to operate per mile than gasoline (or hydrogen), even when running on renewable power. And they are the key alt-fuel strategy needed to deal with the energy/economic security threat of rising dependence on imported oil and the inevitably grim impacts of peak oil (see “Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence“).  That is why pretty much every car company in the world will be introducing one or more models of PHEVs or EVs in the next 2 to 4 years, but we still don’t have a single commercial HFCV anywhere near production (see L.A. Times: “Hydrogen fuel-cell technology won’t work in cars.” Duh.).

In particular, a renewable-energy-based hydrogen fueling system capable of handling even half the cars and light trucks on the road would cost many hundreds of billions of dollars.  And it would have a cost of avoided carbon dioxide of more than $600 a metric ton, which is more than a factor of ten higher than most other strategies being considered today.  Also, the total well-to-wheels efficiency with which a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle might utilize renewable electricity is roughly 20% (although that number could rise to 25% or a little higher with the kind of multiple technology breakthroughs required to enable a hydrogen economy).  The well-to-wheels efficiency of charging an onboard battery and then discharging it to run an electric motor in a PHEV or EV, however, is 80% (and could be higher in the future)””four times more efficient than current hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pathways.

If you care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle efficiency is certainly the top strategy (along with technologies to minimize or avoid car-based transportation), but EVs and PHEVs are going to be the cornerstone alternative fuel vehicle technology.  That’s why is it so surprising that Tamminen — Director of the Climate Policy Program at the New America Foundation — would attack them.  The rest of this post is a guest debunking by my friend Felix Kramer, founder of Calcars.org and author of previous guest posts such as Everything you could want to know about the plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle announcements at the 2009 Detroit auto show.”

Rebutting Mr. Tamminen’s Battery Electric Car ‘Myths’
By Felix Kramer

We at The California Cars Initiative (and our colleagues at Plug In America and elsewhere), were surprised to see the strong critique of plug-in vehicles at the website of the influential and usually eminently reasonable New America Foundation. In his posting, “The Myth of Battery Cars” NAF Senior Fellow Terry Tamminen, who serves as its Director of its Climate Policy Program, starts off saying “it’s time to dump the battery-powered car in the same policy landfill as corn-based ethanol, and he concludes with “battery cars are no more viable at this time for solving our oil addiction on a large-scale basis than corn-based ethanol.”

In between he cites multiple objections and analyses many of which are uniformed or misinformed. His approach is both surprising and not unexpected.

On the surprising side, he knows better. In his years at Environment Now! and then as head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, he saw how the objections to electric vehicles (EVs) gradually fell away, and how plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) emerged as a new solution that provides a practical near-term transition for the automotive fleet. We welcomed him at the launching meeting of Plug In Bay Area in August 2006 http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/501.html where he endorsed PHEVs as “our immediate future” (in contrast to other longer-term solutions). And in his popular 2006 book, “Lives Per Gallon,” he mentions EVs two dozen times. Recounting the story of the gutting of California’s Zero Emissions (ZEV) Mandate, he cited their “value and practicality.”

On the expected side, while publicly embracing “silver buckshot” — ecumenically pursue all solutions — Tamminen has always seen the future as hydrogen-powered. In California, he succeeded Alan Lloyd as the chief cheerleader for a “Hydrogen Highway” infrastructure, and for a massive skew in government regulations and support for fuel-cell vehicles over plug-ins. Since leaving state government, he’s made the case in Canada and many other countries. Now the vehemence of his article is reflective of his remaining consistent to his vision, even as one-time allies at federal and California elected officials and energy/transportation agencies, and advocates such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Institute, have acknowledged that this solution remains a decade away and that we can get there quicker with plug-ins.

To take his points in order:

1. Batteries will always be too heavy; materials are scarce and toxic. This sounds like a comment from before 2006. Batteries are improving steadily in “energy density” and cost — by 7-15% a year, with occasional faster leaps as technologies shift. Automaker and battery makers have concluded that the supposed “lithium shortage” doesn’t exist. Nickel-metal hydride and lithium batteries are approved for landfill (not toxic) and can be recycled. The battery and motor of an EV is not always heavier than the larger engine and gas tank while you benefit from up to four times greater efficiency of an electric motor over and internal combustion engine.

2. We’ll need a giant new infrastructure; charging takes too long; we’ll get overloads and blackouts unless we spend billions of dollars to upgrade the power grid. Plug-in hybrids need no new infrastructure. According to a study from the Pacific National Lab, today’s grid has capacity to recharge 84% of today’s cars if they all plugged at night. This applies to all-electric vehicles charging at night as well, which will be true for most vehicles used as families’ second cars. Price signals will disincentivize daytime charging on late summer afternoons when the grid is at capacity. And the Tesla Roadster’s high-power charger takes under four, not eight hours to recharge http://www.teslamotors.com/learn_more/faqs.php .

3. Range matters: yes, most average commutes are 30-40 miles/day, but cars need to be able to drive 300 miles between refills. And people who live in apartments don’t have access to a charger. PHEVS l have that range by definition: when the battery is depleted the engine powers the car for hundreds of miles. The forthcoming Chevy Volt 40-mile electric range matches the drive cycle of 78% of vehicles. Tamminen has forgotten his approving quotation (page 152 of Lives Per Gallon) of Ed Begley, Jr. saying “The detractors of electric vehicles are right. Given their limited range, they can only meet the needs of 90 percent of the population.” The first buyers of plug-in cars may be drivers with garages, but the charging infrastructure is starting to arrive: The New York Times Real Estate Section reports that building management company executives say they want to be ready for the coming wave of customer demand to charge in their high-rise apartments: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/realestate/30posting.html .

4. Only small, light cars can be battery powered. While it is true that until recently, most EVs were small and underpowered, the coming wave of luxury sports cars has proven that EVs can outperform gasoline cars. The vehicles continue to be designed to be as aerodynamic as possible because that makes sense for any vehicle however it’s powered. And Tamminen gets the size issue exactly wrong. The larger vehicles have plenty of room for batteries and, and they’re the gas-gulpers. IF you switch around the usual way of looking at miles per gallon into gallons per mile, this becomes obvious. Our 50 MPG Priuses converted to 100 MPG PHEVS use 1 gallon per hundred miles instead of 2–saving 1 gallon. A 15 MPG truck that becomes a 45 MPG PHEV saves over 5 gallons per hundred miles. That’s why CalCars is now focusing largely on pickups, SUVs and trucks, including conversions of already-built vehicles.

5. Plug-in cars are only as clean as the electricity they run on. This is true, but on today’s national grid (50% coal), an electric mile produces only half the CO2 of a gasoline mile. Tamminen acknowledges this is true for hydrogen as well”¦not entirely, since some hydrogen (an energy carrier, not a source) comes from reforming natural gas, which is still high in CO2. For hydrogen made electrically from water, multiple studies have shown the original electricity used to make the fuel carries a vehicle three to four times further if it’s put directly into a battery rather than cycled through hydrolysis, fuel transportation, compression, and fuel cells before they get to the electric motor that powers the car. If we ever get hydrogen created directly from the sun and algae, we’ll still be decades away from having a full infrastructure for its use.

6. Plug-in advocates aren’t looking at the cost of the entire infrastructure, just at the end use. Tamminen forgets about the ability of PHEVs and many EVs to come to the market with no new infrastructure. In contrast to this, all the hydrogen vehicles he so strongly supports need a new infrastructure, and it’s largely because of that fact that Energy Secretary Steve Chu and may others have concluded that even if multiple technical and cost issues involving hydrogen and fuel cells are solved, other solutions that are much closer are more deserving of support and incentives. Some day we might have hydrogen providing the range extension fuel for PHEVs, but even cellulosic ethanol is generally seen as arriving far sooner than hydrogen.

The biggest refutation of Tamminen comes from the growing stampede among national governments and automakers to bring plug-in cars to market. They are starting with substantial tax incentives until costs decline with economies of scale — but the gap needed to bridge is in the $5-$10,000 range, one-tenth or less the amount needed to subsidize Tamminen’s preferred hydrogen cars.

Good resources for this subject include: the CalCars FAQ, the page in Internal Combustion Engine Conversions http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html and the Plug In America FAQ

For more debunking, see Terry Tamminen is “mythtaken.”

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16 Responses to Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars

  1. pete best says:

    Here in the UK we do vans on Urban routes that use only around 1/7th of the energy that the equivilent diesel vand does and pay for themselves in 3 years and then its profit all the way. These vans can take up to a 2 tonne payload but many vans does less than 15-30 miles a day and hence the 150 mile range of these vans are perfect.

  2. Mike#22 says:

    To: Mr. Tamminen,

    I drove a Cooper Mini E for 15 miles this weekend. Later, watched it charge up in less than two hours which restored it’s 120 mile plus range–all on 100% renewable electricity–50 amps at 240 volts. http://www.miniusa.com/minie-usa/

    Plenty of room on board for swappable battery packs like those in the “BetterPlace” program. http://www.betterplace.com/solution/ So, you’re never out of gas once we add the battery shack to the local gas station or supermarket.

    The car is perfect. The electronics, motor, and batteries are from the same firm providing the Tesla components. Would be even more perfect with lithium iron phosphate chemistry batteries.

    The bidirectional inverter capability makes this product smart grid ready. So the 25 kwhs on board might keep your lights on next time the power goes.

    Repeat, the car is perfect. Fast, silent (need a whistler for the bike riders like me).

    Hydrogen?

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    Running an EV on 100% coal produced electricity would release about half the amount of CO2 per mile as does running on gas.

    Fact or myth? These guys say 60%.

    http://green.autoblog.com/2009/07/24/study-even-with-electricity-from-coal-electric-vehilces-beat-g/

    If fact, then is not the CO2 portion for EVs more like 30% of gas cars?

  4. Chris says:

    Electric cars are certainly an important part of the solution to climate change and other environmental problems, but only on a relatively small scale. We cannot replace every gas car with an electric one, we need better alternatives for long distance travel and cargo transport, like electrified rail.

    http://selfdestructivebastards.blogspot.com/2009/10/electric-cars-in-small-doses.html

  5. J.A. Turner says:

    Battery advances are being announced at a breath-taking pace, now that it’s clear that there will be a market for lightweight, high-capacity batteries. My main problem with my PHEV is that there aren’t enough places to charge it, and my normal round-trip commute is twice the battery range. I happen to be on vacation this week and lucked out: the motel I’m staying at has one outlet that I can use to charge my car. We do need some incentives for businesses to offer charging stations, or for charging station companies to set up charging station networks with subscriber-based services. We are indeed approaching a tipping point where batteries will be good enough so that PHEVs, EREVs and BEVs will be practical and attractive. Even with the $10K price of the lithium battery pack, my Prius cost me less than what the Volt is expected to cost even after the $7500 tax credit (which I didn’t get on my car). A capability similar to the Volt and less costly (and on a proven, reliable platform–the Prius) has been available for a YEAR now. I think it’s more patriotic to buy a battery made in Massachusetts rather than pay for lots more foreign oil. I just wish that more people would see it that way and be willing to make the sacrifice financially to promote PHEVs.

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Nissan has partnered with eTec to install 12,750 charge points in five states by the time their Leaf EV comes to market.

    France is spending $2.2 billion to install charging points. I think one writeup of the program stated two charge points for every car in France.

    Serious money is moving into creating places to charge. That, to me, is a signal that electricity is in, hydrogen out….

  7. Felix Kramer says:

    Thanks, Joe, for including this (prepared with Ron Gremban, CalCars Technical Lead). Readers may want to see another critique from Paul Scott of Plug In America, which is found as a comment at the Tamminen article and at http://evsandenergy.blogspot.com/2009/09/terry-tamminen-is-mythtaken.html

    – Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative (currently suffering from mail problems)

  8. Jeff Wishart says:

    Both Mr. Tamminen, Mr. Kramer (and Joe) have it wrong.

    Mr. Taminen’s prediction and suggestion that EVs and PHVs be ignored as the near-term (and possibly medium-term) vehicle solution to reduce oil use and associated GHGs is demonstrably false since, as Mr. Kramer points out, so many new vehicles of these types are on the market or in production. If EVs and PHVs (in their current form) weren’t viable, we wouldn’t be seeing the industry interest that we are.

    However, the long-term solution should be a vehicle that uses no fossil fuel whatsoever and yet still provides the full range of today’s vehicles (when has man ever accepted a new technology that does less than the one it is replacing?). So Mr. Kramer is wrong to retaliate by saying the hydrogen-powered vehicles are unlikely (apart from his throw-away line “Some day we might have hydrogen providing the range extension fuel for PHEVs, but even cellulosic ethanol is generally seen as arriving far sooner than hydrogen.”)

    What both sides fail to grasp is that hydrogen and battery technologies are complementary, not competing technologies. Indeed, they need each other to make up for the drawbacks of each. Fuel cells are indeed more expensive than batteries while also being less efficient (the “four times more efficient” meme is most certainly incorrect, especially since no fuel cell vehicles will be built without batteries), although both are much more efficient than the ICE. However, the energy density of hydrogen is several times higher than that of the most advanced battery. Thus, unless there is a revolutionary breakthrough in battery (or ultracapacitor) technology, range will always be an issue for battery-powered vehicles but not so much for hydrogen-powered vehicles. The 7-15% improvement is unlikely to make up for the gap and adding more battery cells to a vehicle to increase the range is an exercise in diminishing returns.

    I have no doubt that we will see a large increase in market share of EVs and PHVs in the coming years. And I applaud this. But the time will come when resource scarcity and/or climate changes will demand that we end the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation purposes. And so would it be prudent to cut off all funding for fuel cells when we know that we will need/want them someday? By all means, most of the funding should go to battery technology at present. But the car of the future will have a fuel cell AND a battery (and potentially an ultracapacitor as well). Therefore, saying that we shouldn’t be funding fuel cells for transportation research is as short-sighted as the Luddites that assert that we won’t run out of oil and climate changes won’t be so bad in criticizing the emergence of EVs and PHVs.

    Advocates on both sides should accept the limitations of their chosen technology and embrace the other–we are all on the same side after all.

    [JR: Nah. EVs and PHEVs are fatal to HFCVs -- that has been widely understood for a long time. I've always said the HFCV program should be a long-term basic research effort to deliver the multiple breakthroughs still needed. But that's not what the program has been for a while. It's mostly money down the toilet.]

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    Jeff, there’s a very good chance that we will have EVs fully capable of replacing hybrids in the not distant future.

    The Tesla S will be available with 300 mile range. And based on the Tesla Roadster one should be able to recharge at home in less than five hours. That would take care of almost everyones daily driving.

    I don’t know if the S will have exchangeable battery packs, but there is no reason why a 300 mile range car could not. Battery changes are very rapid, faster than filling your gas tank. An EV with 300 mile range and exchangeable batteries makes coast to coast travel very doable.

    The only issue with achieving this sort of performance at an affordable price is battery cost. Panasonic has just stated that they are going to be able to manufacture EV batteries for half of current cost due to being able to use current technology and manufacturing capabilities. That’s the “50%” decrease that we’ve been promised when adequate manufacturing scale is reached. And if Panasonic can do it, others can as well.

    I’m just not seeing the limitations that you are….

  10. Jeff Wishart says:

    Bob,

    If companies like Better Place are able to make the battery-exchange system work, this would go some way towards alleviating the “range anxiety” that EV owners would feel. But this requires a massive outlay for infrastructure (along the same lines as that required by fuel cell hybrid vehicles (FCHVs) that supposedly eliminate them from contention (at least in Joe’s mind)), not to mention the herculean task of getting the car companies to all agree on a standard battery pack and location inside the vehicle.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible; I am just saying that Tamminem and Kramer and Joe all seem to have such unjustifiable certainty about the horses they have in this race. I would argue for a distribution of R&D dollars that favours EV and PHV research heavily but that still includes dollars for fuel cell and hydrogen for transportation purposes research.

    I also think that 300 miles, while laudable, is still inferior to current vehicles on the market. I agree that costs will come down and specific energy and energy density numbers of batteries will improve, but the latter are unlikely to be able to match the incumbent ICE performance. That is why I advocate for a powertrain that uses the high specific energy and energy density of hydrogen along with the high efficiency and transients capability of batteries and ultracapacitors.

    Furthermore, if we are allowing promises/conjecture of future advances in battery technology, we must provide the same courtesy for fuel cells. If you follow the advances of companies like Ballard Power here in Canada, you will see the same type of increases in performance that you quote for Panasonic.

    I am surprised that you don’t see the limitations of the Model S: its range will be roughly half of the Toyota Camry (non-hybrid version), while costing some two and a half times more. That seems pretty limited to me.

    The costs will be alleviated (at least somewhat) when the externalities of fossil fuel-powered vehicles are internalized, and so it’s the performance that concerns me most. Bridging that gap in range is just unlikely with battery power alone, in my opinion. Thus the combination powertrain that for which I advocate.

  11. Jeff Wishart says:

    Just noticed that the Model S base model that costs $57,000 will only have a 160-mile range. The 300-mile range means a much larger battery pack than for the Roadster, and this premium is expected to raise the price to $65,000. So now, the Model S has half the range and is over three times the price of the Camry. Personally, I would love to own one. But I still think it’s limited, and will be a hard sell to the masses.

  12. mike roddy says:

    I’ve never heard of Tamminen, but certainly know Amory Lovins of RMI, who has been beating the hydrogen drum for a long time, and brought a lot of people down the hydrogen highway. It may as well have been the Hershey Highway for all the good it did.

    If he’s finally backed off, it’s news to me. What took him so long? Did he not know anyone capable of basic engineering? The reason I’m curious is that he’s such an impressive guy, who gets many other things right.

    The other issue is: Why do US EV’s have to be Teslas or oversized family cars (The Volt)? These cars mean we’re born dead if we’re hoping to compete internationally, since GM wants $40k for the Volt, and Tesla a lot more. Even the Tata $2k gas car makes more sense to a typical consumer than either of these. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tata modified it for the US market as far as safety feature, etc, raised the price to $5k, and scooped the market. The US auto industry is poised to blow it one more time.

  13. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike, there was a time back in which a lot of us looked for something to replace petroleum for personal transportation. Hydrogen, biofuel, and electricity were the three options (compressed air and flywheels received minor consideration).

    Biofuels, as soon as someone did the “reality math” and found that we couldn’t run our cars off agricultural crops and also eat, fell away as a major solution.

    Electricity just didn’t look promising. Battery technology limited us to very heavy lead acid battery packes, 30 mile ranges, and long recharges.

    That left hydrogen, inefficient and problematic as it is, as the most viable solution. Lots of problems to be solved, especially the cost of fuel cells, but at least the promise that one could take renewable electricity and power a carbon free vehicle.

    But batteries improved, greatly improved, and reality shifted. In fact, I think few took EVs seriously until the Tesla hit the road. Once that happened it was possible to see that hydrogen just wasn’t the future. (Baring some huge unforeseen multiple technological breakthroughs.)

    I don’t know when Lovins switched his support from hydrogen to electricity, but RMI’s “Hypercar” has been discussed for quite a while. And it’s a hybrid.

    As for car size, you gotta’ make what the buyers will buy. Moving from gas to electricity is a major, major shift in the way people travel. Asking them to also move to tiny cars at the same time would greatly decrease the speed of changeover.

    As for size/overseas competition, US car manufacturers already make smaller cars for overseas markets. In fact, Ford has brought several of their smaller, more efficient “overseas” models to the US lately.

  14. Greg Blencoe says:

    Toyota, Hybrid Innovator, Holds Back in Race to Go Electric
    New York Times – August 20, 2009

    “Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in place to recharge them.

    Executives also say that Toyota’s reputation for reliability could be tarnished if the company forged ahead with an unproven technology.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/business/energy-environment/20electric.html?_r=1

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog

    [JR: Care to double our $1000 bet from 2007 -- "Greg Blencoe wins if hydrogen fuel cell vehicles hit 1% of new sales of the typically-defined car and light truck market in the U.S. during 2015 or any year before. Joseph Romm wins if it is 2016 or any year after"!

    You left out a lot from the NYT piece:

    But electric-car enthusiasts say Toyota is being unnecessarily cautious, ignoring technological breakthroughs that would allow it to develop electric cars more quickly. Advances in batteries, as well as in the strong magnets needed for drive motors, have made electric vehicles viable, automotive analysts say. Technology is also being developed that will drastically cut down charging times.

    “There’s a potential for electric cars to be easier and cheaper to make than conventional cars, because their structure is simpler and they use fewer parts,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, a professor of environment and information studies at Keio University in Tokyo.

    Moreover, he said, battery production technology is no more complicated than that of semiconductors, which are already mass produced.

    “Toyota could launch an electric car tomorrow if it wanted to,” Mr. Tateuchi, the former race car engineer, said. Regretting his gas-guzzling creations, he founded the Japan E.V. Club 15 years ago to urge automakers to produce zero-emission cars.

    “Toyota tells people the age of electric cars is not yet here,” he said. “That’s not true.”

    Meanwhile, conditions for a wider adoption of electric vehicles are falling into place.

    Consumers appear more interested in buying eco-friendly cars. A string of studies has shown that most of the time, most people drive well within the range of current electric cars.

    Governments around the globe are supporting the technology with subsidies and by setting ever more stringent emission standards. Infrastructure projects to build battery exchange and recharging stations are starting up.

    And there is an environmental imperative: Though the newest Prius can travel 50 miles to the gallon, as a hybrid it still uses gasoline and emits carbon. Sherry Boschert of the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association said a survey of 49 scientific studies found that electric vehicles released 24 percent to 65 percent less carbon than hybrids, when the electricity they used was taken into account.

    “Whether you smoke a lot or you smoke a little, you’re still a smoker,” Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said at the Leaf’s introduction, in a snub to Toyota’s hybrid technology.

    Both Nissan and Mitsubishi have their own reasons for rushing out an all-electric car. Having invested little in hybrids, they hope to leapfrog straight to the next technology.

    Nissan is introducing some hybrids that use Toyota’s technology, but Mr. Ghosn said he hoped the Leaf would be the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. The Leaf travels up to 90 miles an hour, goes 100 miles between recharges and carries a price tag of $25,000 to $33,000.

    Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV was released in limited numbers in Japan this year.

    The California-based start-up Tesla Motors has also been selling electric cars on a limited scale. In late 2010, General Motors plans to release the Volt, meant to travel nearly 40 miles on batteries before a small gasoline engine starts up to provide electricity.

    Meanwhile, Toyota’s new president, Akio Toyoda, has become a big promoter of the company’s fuel cells, which he calls the “ultimate” technology. But fuel cell cars, which produce electricity from hydrogen, would take even longer than battery-electric vehicles to commercialize.

    Some experts predict that the auto market will soon be divided among competing technologies. “Small electric cars will be used for short distances within cities, with hydrogen cells powering big buses,” the Development Bank of Japan forecast in 2008.

    Others say that once automakers commit to mass production and drive costs down, electric cars could dominate the market. That could require Toyota to speed up its electric car plans, they say.

    “You don’t see many competing technologies survive in a key market for very long,” said Mr. Shimizu, the Keio University professor.

    And more often than not in the history of innovation, a change in the dominant technology means a change in the market leader.

    “Electric cars are a disruptive technology, and Toyota knows that,” Mr. Shimizu said. “I wouldn’t say Toyota is killing the electric vehicle. Perhaps Toyota is scared.”]

  15. Greg Blencoe says:

    “In a press release today (September 9, 2009), Kia Motors announced that the company has joined Toyota, Honda, Daimler, Hyundai, General Motors/Opel, Ford, and the alliance Renault SA and Nissan in signing a ‘Letter of Understanding’ that calls for the initial hydrogen fueling infrastructure to be built by 2015.”

    http://hydrogendiscoveries.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/kia-joins-other-car-companies-and-signs-joint-letter-of-understanding-calling-for-initial-hydrogen-infrastructure-to-be-built-by-2015/

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog

    [JR: Please, please, somebody build our fueling infrastructure 'cause, like, if you don't, well, then, like nobody in their right mind would buy our product since, well, where can people possibly get hydrogen, particularly hydrogen dispensed with expensive, energy-intensive compressors at the absurdly high pressures we've impractically built our cars with.]

  16. Jeff Wishart says:

    A belated response to Joe’s blithe dismissal of my arguments with a “Nah. EVs and PHEVs are fatal to HFCVs — that has been widely understood for a long time.”

    Understood by whom–you?

    [JR: I used to help oversee the entire DOE clean vehicle program including hydrogen and hybrids and EVs. I have spoken to a more than a hundred of the country's leading experts on alternative fuel vehicles in the past several years, first in researching my book, "The Hype About Hydrogen" and then in the course of dozens of talks on the subject. I have read many dozens of studies on HFCVs and AFVs. So I repeat, it has been widely understood by the majority of the independent authorities on the subject based on my personal conversation with them and my review of the literature.]

    I would submit that the fact that the majority of automotive OEMs continue to develop FCHVs means that your statement is patently false. The same argument against Tamminem’s assertion that EVs aren’t viable goes for your assertion that FCHVs are “dead” (your words) because of EVs and PHVs (Remember, PHVs can be fuel cell-based too!). You may believe it to your core that FCHVs won’t be around for decades, if ever, but the plain fact is that many people, and especially people in the automotive industry (which you are not in), disagree with you.

    (BTW, I think my acronym is better than yours: the ‘H’ (hydrogen)in yours isn’t needed, since no other fuel is currently being considered for transportation fuel cells on any scale, while the ‘H’ in mine refers to the hybridization of any vehicle that has a fuel cell in its powertrain that I am certain (as a powertrain engineer) will be the case)

    I am also interested in a clarification of how money directed towards fuel cell research has been “money down the toilet”. Can you explain why this is so?

    [JR: We've spent a great deal of that money on accelerated demonstration of technologies that won't be commercial. We've also spent more money in general on the "D" than FCVs warrant, given their extreme unlikelihood of ever being a major contributor to addressing our transportation or climate problem.]