Hydrogen Viability Right Around the Corner (Really)

Hydrogen Viability Right Around the Corner (Really)

I was foraging on and came across this article "How Hydrogen Can Save America": I started reading it, then realized it was published 10 years ago. I guess some things never change as it could have been published today. Of the 5 objectives they identify, I would say manufacturers have tackled #1 and maybe #2:

1. Solve the hydrogen fuel-tank problem.

2. Encourage mass production of fuel cell vehicles.

3. Convert the nation's fueling infrastructure to hydrogen.

4. Ramp up hydrogen production.

5. Mount a public campaign to sell the hydrogen economy.


AmpedRealtor | 14. august 2014

What happens to this country's power structure when all of us are able to affordably generate our own power to fuel our homes and our vehicles, without any reliance on the power grid or big oil? The "Hydrogen Economy" is exactly that. It's a huge infrastructure that leverages the existing infrastructure, keeps everyone employed as they are today and with a minimum of disruption, and along the way we also (not coincidentally) maintain the existing power structures and status quo. New pipelines, new pumps, new tanks, updated tankers, nothing really changes other than what comes out of the nozzle...

Then there is the fact that generating hydrogen is a process that relies intensively on CNG, methane or fossil fuels. Methane is a much, much more powerful and dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2. The flowery scenes of generating H2 by electrolyzing water is just that. If that were viable, why has nobody created a nice little H2 generator that simply plugs into an outlet and a hose bib?

Tesla's BEV future is different. In that future, we power our homes and cars by day with solar panels, and by night with battery storage. We will no longer be tied to the grid or big oil. We will never again need to drive to a filling station when we can get it from the sky above. We won't need tanker trucks, or fuel pumps, or pipelines. And if all the gas stations became charging stations, who, other than long distance travelers, would go there when most of us will charge at home? What on earth are the energy companies going to do when the day comes when we won't need their grid?

So when you read about states like Arizona trying to penalize patriotic citizens, who are doing their part to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, with an additional (punitive) property tax simply because they have solar panels, think about who benefits from discouraging energy independence. Our politicians are bought and paid for, it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you sit on. Conservative, liberal, libertarian, independent, green, blue, whatever... they are all in someone's pocket.

This is why, in my opinion, it is so important for BEVs to succeed and for hydrogen to fail. We don't need more of the same. We need something that will actually help change our direction.

JonathanL | 14. august 2014

I wonder what he would write today given the evolution of EV's that few if any had envisioned 10 years ago.

johncrab | 14. august 2014

Honda had an idea for a solar-powered, fuel-cell powered home which could use excess electricity during the day to produce hydrogen to power a fuel cell at night and fill a hydrogen car. It's a seriously cool idea. It's just really expensive.

Hydrocarbon fuel cells are the most sensible right now and that keeps big oil in business. It also would give a car greater range with the downside of running on petrol or alcohol, just a lot more efficiently.

In time this tech will be a player but I don't see it ever on the individual car level. I think Honda's home power idea will be more likely. Then if you have a hydrogen car or an EV, you're in great shape.

shs | 14. august 2014

So in Honda’s idea for a solar powered home, solar generates the electricity and excess electricity is used to generate hydrogen via electrolysis, which is then compressed for storage and then later used in a fuel cell to produce electricity, e.g. at night. That works just fine. Only problem is that after all of that, at best, you only back about 25% of the electricity with which you started.

If that same solar generated electricity was stored in a battery, e.g. a Tesla/Solar City battery backup system, you get almost all of it back. That is why those who look carefully at using batteries vs. hydrogen for energy storage claim that batteries are 3 to 4 time more efficient than fuel cells. Sure you can store energy using hydrogen, but why would you given that battery technology is so much more efficient. Maybe it has something to do with those who want to maintain the status quo relative to the way that energy is generated and distributed as AR suggests.

Hydrogen and fuel cells for energy storage is being very actively promoted right now by big money interests. Be careful who you believe. Don't fall for fool cells as Elon Musk calls them. In Elon (and physics and chemistry) we trust.

carlk | 14. august 2014

There is just one more problem of hydrogen energy storage, in addition to all those disadvantages, no one has mentioned. Who would want 5,000~10,000 psi hydrogen gas stored under the same roof their family sleeps? At least not me.

TonyR63 | 14. august 2014



Mark K | 15. august 2014

AR - beautifully stated.

Look at the bright side - if you waste 75% of your energy by storing it as hydrogen, you'll need to buy 4X more of it!

If you're Exxon Mobil, this plan sounds mighty fine.

Brian H | 15. august 2014

Methane is a non-starter in the heat absorption race because its spectrum is entirely duplicated by H2O. Which is approximately a gazillllion times more prevalent here on Earth, the Real World.

AmpedRealtor | 15. august 2014

Brian H,

You've proven pretty well in other threads that you don't have much credibility in discussing climate change because you are a science denier. Maybe we should just leave it right there.

Car t man | 15. august 2014

You want an electric car and a cheap stationary energy solution, to recharge your batteries over night. Those would be recharged from solar during the day.

karmamule | 15. august 2014

@Mark K I agree, AR put it beautifully. And, yes, to someone who makes their living as an energy provider having their consumers use it less efficiently would be quite appealing!

Zarkov | 15. august 2014


Very nicely written. Hydrogen makes more sense to me now.

Al1 | 15. august 2014

I'd say they've also started on number 5:

"5. Mount a public campaign to sell the hydrogen economy".

However tackling No 5 before they've made progress in 2, 3, 4 doesn't seem like a good strategy.

theapple | 15. august 2014

That list is missing the most important bullet points:

6. Reduce the cost of fuel cell stacks (some progress)

7. Make hydrogen fuel cost-competitive with electricity and gasoline

8. Achieve well-to-wheel efficiency that is at least as good as gasoline (wishful thinking on my part? it's certainly not essential to commercial viability...)

Tiebreaker | 15. august 2014

@AmpedRealator - Well said!

erici | 15. august 2014

"What on earth are the energy companies going to do when the day comes when we won't need their grid?"

Are solar panels on the rooftop of the Sears Tower going to power the building?

You need the grid to get electricity to the homes and businesses that don't have solar panels and never will.

erici | 15. august 2014

I would expect more relevancy of the grid due to electric vehicles, not less.

erici | 15. august 2014

I had the potential to put the grid out of business utilizing solar panels on my roof to power my home. I could just about zero-out my usage using a residential battery.

I could almost go off-grid.

But then my Tesla arrived. Now I need the grid again, in a major way. The Tesla uses far more electricity than my home does.

So much for going off-grid. At least I'm going off-oil...

shs | 15. august 2014

Certainly one of the advantages of EV is that the grid already exists and is quite capable of handing the requirements of EV charging at night. A hydrogen distribution system does not exist and hopefully never will. Of course they will say we will use the grid (and solar) to make our hydrogen via electrolysis in your garage, but that just makes the inefficiencies of the hydrogen fuel cells even worse.

Brian H | 15. august 2014

Youse guyse can live near a hydrogen pipeline or outlet. I'll pass.

Earl and Nagin ... | 15. august 2014

I don't think #1 is solved. Nobody publishes the fact that hydrogen leaks out of tanks while you're parked. Not only is this a severe hazard but it wastes that fuel. Hydrogen is the smallest element. Everything is porous to it.

The biggest problem with fuel cells (beyond the fact that they need hydrogen) is that they are very complex systems that need very precise control of pressures and temperatures in their various components. This precise control requires a lot of sensors and actuators, constantly adjusting. Sure, it can be done but it is expensive.
What we really need is some sort of simple, solid state fuel cell where chemical reactions store energy with no moving parts, in such a way that one can easily release the energy when one wants. Even better would be if one could build up these solid state fuel cells out of a bunch of little blocks that would enable coolant to flow between them to cool or warm them when necessary. These little bloc. They could be put together in packs containing enough of them to power a car for a long distance. On could simply connect them to the electrical grid, mostly at home, at night. They'd absorb a lot of electricity to be used for driving the next day. We could put in a few large, industrial-grade stations along highways that could jam a lot of electricity into them as fast as these things can take it, while we take a break from the road.
Oh, if only this technology existed. . . .
If it did, one could create a Gigafactory to make millions of them to bring costs down to make this affordable to the masses.
When will someone figure this out?

jvs11560 | 16. august 2014

Hydrogen can be our future. If you google "NJ Hydrogen Home" you'll see this homeowner has been completely off the grid for years. He uses solar panels and water. That's it. His house and cars all run on the hydrogen that he produces.

The problem with wind and solar is the fact that they are not 100% available, or predictable. This guy has solved that problem.
If you view the video, you'll see that he does not rely on CNG, Methane, or any other fossil fuel. He is completely independent of the grid and uses no natural resources, other than water which is on his property.

Hydrogen can be our future.

Al1 | 16. august 2014

"He uses solar panels and water".

What he needs hydrogen for? To store the energy from sun? Could there be a better (cheaper and more efficient way)?

AmpedRealtor | 16. august 2014

@ jvs11560,

Generating and storing hydrogen is still an inefficient process when compared to battery storage. A portion of the solar energy generated will always need to be used to create hydrogen. So you are wasting that energy to generate hydrogen for offline needs. If you had battery storage, that wasted energy used to create hydrogen can instead be stored in the battery. The creation of hydrogen is an unnecessary and wasteful step.

Mark K | 16. august 2014

Since energy has an appreciable cost, any new proposal that wastes 3X more than existing options is useless.

shs | 16. august 2014

The point is that one can generate hydrogen via electrolysis, (I was doing that in my basement chem lab when I was 14, 56 years ago) and hydrogen fuel cells have been around since the 1800s. It works, no problem. It is just that current battery technology is so much more efficient in storing that same electrical energy, and so fuel cells really don’t make sense today for the sort of energy storage applications we have been discussing. Hydrogen is not only the energy solution for the future, and always will be; it is also an energy storage solution who's time has past.

Tiebreaker | 16. august 2014

@jvs11560 - He's got 11 acres of land, uses huge low-pressure storing tanks. And yes, he uses hydrogen to store the energy from the solar cells, but that is highly inefficient.

carlk | 16. august 2014

@jvs11560 You don't think a 85 kWh batter would do the job? You don't the fact that it will lose less than 10% of the energy through the storage process vs. 75% loss from the hydrogen storage? | 16. august 2014

Hydrogen: plentiful but hard to isolate, store, transport and use. Subject to explosive oxidation.
Electrons: plentiful, easy to isolate, store, transport and use.
I vote for electrons, if I get a vote.

Haggy | 16. august 2014

Hydrogen cars are just around the corner, and they will come with software revision 6.0.

Brian H | 16. august 2014


That's the point Elon is hammering now: batteries can already outperform the best FCs can do in theory, optimized!

jvs11560 | 16. august 2014

You folks are all missing the point. Once you have the infrastructure set up, it costs absolutely nothing to make Hydrogen from solar and wind. It does not matter how inefficient the process is, or the method of storage, because it doesn't cost a dime to make it. If you were creating solar from natural gas or crude oil, then I would agree. Why is it that everyone is so gun ho for the anything Tesla makes, yet ignorant to the facts about any alternative? Those of you that criticize this technology are no better that the Tesla Haters that you complain about.

AmpedRealtor - If you are making electricity and hydrogen from free energy, and have enough excess to have a bank of batteries fully charged, at no expense and no pollution, where is the downside? This guy in New Jersey makes so much excess hydrogen that he powers his cars with it. He converted his ICE vehicles to run on Hydrogen and he has a car that runs on electricity from Hydrogen. Do you know what happens after hydrogen is burned in an ICE vehicle? The byproduct is water. I do not understand how anyone can criticize the concept. I believe he has had this system since 2006 and he has not spent any money for heat, fuel, or electricity. As a matter of fact he is able to sell the Oxygen for medical gas and gets back up to $ 20,000.00 a year from his utility company.

Please tell me the downside?

link to the story for all the open minded:

danej | 16. august 2014

@ampedrealtor wrote:
"Tesla's BEV future is different. In that future, we power our homes and cars by day with solar panels, and by night with battery storage. We will no longer be tied to the grid or big oil. We will never again need to drive to a filling station when we can get it from the sky above. We won't need tanker trucks, or fuel pumps, or pipelines. And if all the gas stations became charging stations, who, other than long distance travelers, would go there when most of us will charge at home? What on earth are the energy companies going to do when the day comes when we won't need their grid?"

Wow, good stuff! Everyone, imagine this future -- then, lets see what we can do to get there!


Intros | 16. august 2014

Ever wonder why the FCV manufacturers don't come with the ability to plug in? The H2 pushers don't want FCV's that are hybrids with plug in ability as it kills the economics of the H2 fueling infrastructure. If they had plug in H2 hybrids, the H2 fueling or central fueling would not be lucrative enough for the oil corps so they would be subsidized by the government for a long time.

The current FCV vehicles being manufactured accelerate very slow, they would be faster with a larger plug in pack, yet Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and GM do not put plug in battery packs on them.

People would do like they do now with the Chevy Volt. Avoid paying for H2 which is projected to start out high and be subsidized but supposedly will later be the same cost as gas eventually. Instead folks would drive off electricity which is less expensive. Leaving the expensive H2 infrastructure un-utilized to it's full potential.

Who wants central fueling where the suppliers can shut down the NG reformers for cleaning during the busy driving season. The pushers of H2 are powerful and if they have their way H2 will be a world commodity like oil is now. H2 pushers want us addicted to central refueling where they have control over supply. They tout renewable s to produce H2 but natural gas is the economical way to produce H2 so that is why oil corps are investing in NG reserves which in turn will produce massive amounts of Co2. Then they say they will sequester the Co2, it didn't work for "clean coal" and it wont' work for NG reformation to produce H2.

Mark K | 16. august 2014

Jvs11560 - since solar energy infrastructure has a capital cost, it is not free.

Viewing the capital cost as zero once it is sunk is not a fair basis to pay to build it.

But let us assume that building the solar infrastructure was entirely free - the energy produced is still finite, so even if free, wasting 3X the energy would not be desirable, because there's an opportunity cost - the other useful work that could've gotten done with three times the energy.

So unless energy is both free and infinitely abundant, it never makes sense to throw it away when you have a better option.

It is logically provable that hydrogen is intellectually bankrupt as an energy storage medium.

This is why it's so dismaying to see the continued waste of resources on this inferior and irrational path.

The end game is already known.

danej | 16. august 2014


The issue, and the reason hydrogen is being pushed politically by oil company lobbyists:

"Currently, the majority of hydrogen (∼95%) is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming or partial oxidation of methane and coal gasification with only a small quantity by other routes such as biomass gasification or electrolysis of water."*

While it sounds like electrolysis may improve, the premise of converting solar power into hydrogen, compressing it and putting into your car - all in your garage - is inherently less efficient and more costly than today's battery technology. And, even if it can eventually work, it's not ready today, whereas Tesla has demonstrated that BEV are ready for the mass market today.

I think it irks the battery cheerleaders too that the state and federal government appears poised to bootstrap a network of hydrogen fueling stations, which will dispense that oil-company hydrogen.


* source:

Brian H | 16. august 2014

Downside? Compression and storage of your free H2 and O2, to start with. Those require state-of-the-art equipment, just for safety's sake. Don't want to live in a neighborhood where everyone is making and storing pressurized explosive gases, thanks.

Tiebreaker | 16. august 2014

@jvs11560 - That's why the New Jersey guy is using huge low-pressure tanks, on a large piece of property. Look into the link that you posted.

danej | 16. august 2014

danej | 16. august 2014

...that's not going to fit in my garage. And if I can't fuel at home, hydrogen will lose to BEV.

Wires are a pretty nice way to move energy around. Mobile storage has been the issue, and Tesla seems to have figured that out.


carlk | 17. august 2014

@jvs11560 Just where did you get this funny idea of free energy? I'd like to have some of that too.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 17. august 2014

@jvs11560, you shouldn't be suggesting we are ignorant to the facts when your facts prove we are correct.
You haven't evaluated your facts appropriately.

Efficiency makes a big difference especially when both storage systems use the same resource and recovery method. My concerns are:

Based on current efficiency which is unlikely to improve much without a huge breakthrough.

Not all countries have unlimited access to the sun, the equator and weather are huge factors
Not everyone can afford 4 times the solar panels.
Not everyone has the space for 4 times the solar panels and huge storage containers.
Hydrogen storage has many serious and dangerous implications in addition to the space for low pressure storage. Who wants a Hindenburg in their back yard!
You say burning hydrogen byproduct is water, so what, releasing electrons has no byproduct at all.

These points are just the beginning of hydrogen shortcomings. I for one would love to use hydrogen if it measured up. Even appropriate as a range extender for my Tesla. It must first have the following virtues:

Be produced without a heavy environmental cost as it is currently. Electrolysis of water works for me.
Be produced at at least 60% efficiency including compression and delivery. Northern countries!
Have no dependence on oil or gas resources.
Be safely available for every household that needs it. (Never want to go back to weekly station visits to refuel)

Clearly you need to reconsider your evaluation of the facts you presented. Most of us were quite aware of them and better understood their implications to our lifestyle, so we are certainly not as ignorant as you claim!

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 17. august 2014
shs | 17. august 2014

I think for some that hydrogen and fuel cells are magic, something new and wonderful that is just around the corner. Batteries are not magic as we have them in our flashlights forever, our cell phones, etc. Nothing new and magic about batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells may be presented as a new breakthrough that uses the most abundant element in the universe and has water as the only byproduct. The fact that fuel cells were invented in 1838 and the nearest source of “free” hydrogen involves a trip to the sun, is an inconvenient truth. The competition between batteries and fuel cells has been going on for centuries now and batteries has clearly won in terms of efficiency, practicality, etc. That is not likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

jvs11560 | 17. august 2014

To Clear the air. I am referring to the Mr Strizki's house. If anyone bothered to read my post, you would see that I wrote that there is an initial cost for the infrastructure. After that, the energy is 100% free. Virtually no maintenance costs.

He is also able to sell the excess back to the utilities. He has been refunded up to $ 20,000.00 back from his utility company in one calander yeare. He runs his car, home heat, and even cooking from the energy that he creates from solar. Say his initial cost was $100K. He would have already made back his investment.

Just imagine building a power plant using solar, wind, lithium ion batteries, and hydrogen.

Why is everyone fighting this technology? If you look at the link that I had posted, this guy has been of the grid since 2006. Hasn't bought any fuel for his vehicles and gets a check back from his utility co. He is also able to sell the oxygen for medical gas.

If the sun was out everyday, and the wind was more reliable, you would not need the hydrogen element of this model. Since the wind and sun are not predictable, I believe this is our future.

Please bear in mind, that Mr Strizki does not use wind to run his model. If he did, it would be and even better prototype.

Grinnin'.VA | 17. august 2014

@vs11560 | AUGUST 16, 2014

"You folks are all missing the point. Once you have the infrastructure set up, it costs absolutely nothing to make Hydrogen from solar and wind."

"Please tell me the downside?"

OK. The link you provided contains:

"Located on an 11-acre plot of land in the rolling hills of Hopewell, New Jersey, the Hydrogen House operates by collecting solar energy from a 21-kilowatt array of solar panels mounted throughout Strizki's property."

"Strizki's system stores the hydrogen in 11 reused low-pressure propane tanks, similar to those found at a typical gas station."

Downside #1. Land Costs and Taxes

I live in a Washington, DC suburban development. My house sits on a 1/5-acre plot of land. The county assessment for this land is $200,000. That's less than 2% of the size of the Hydrogen House plot. I'd guess that installing something similar to the Hopewell, NJ Hydrogen House would require more land. The county charges me real estate tax on my land. It's most definitely NOT free.

I don't know what a 21-kilowatt array of solar panels costs or what space it requires. But I'm very confident it's NOT free.

The same is true for the 11 reused low-pressure propane tanks used for the Hydrogen House.

Downside #2. Equipment Costs

I kind of vaguely recall reading that hydrogen refueling stations are rather expensive compared with Tesla Superchargers. Whatever the home counterpart of this is for the Hydrogen House, it's certainly NOT free. Ditto for the electrolysis system for generating separating hydrogen from water.

Downside #3. Land Use Restrictions (Zoning)

I haven't tried to do such a thing, but I would not expect the county zoning bureaucracy to allow me to place such a collection of tanks in a residential community. If I were super wealthy, I suppose I could bribe some local officials and get such a project approved. But that most certainly wouldn't be free.

Downside #4. Safety Concerns and Insurance

Again, I'm not sure, but I'd feel unsafe with my back yard occupied by solar panels and hydrogen storage tanks. Has anyone ever tested these tanks when they leak in the presence of a spark? Would it merely burn, possibly setting my house on fire? Or would it explode? I'd guess that such concerns/risks just might cause my home insurance premiums to go up. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it would NOT be free.

BTW, I think home hydrogen generation and storage system should be compared with a similar capacity system using electric batteries and a Tesla Supercharger scaled back to be installed in a home environment. I would guess that a home SC would cost less. And the technology involved is more advanced than the hydrogen system.

Ron :)

AmpedRealtor | 17. august 2014

@ jvs11560,

You don't need hydrogen to create the future you're talking about. Replace the hydrogen with batteries and you have the same outcome, using a fraction of the space, at much lower cost, and at a higher efficiency (meaning you need fewer solar panels, for one, which brings down costs). Why are you so resistant to seeing that we already have the tools needed to accomplish this?

Hydrogen is abundant in the universe, yes, but there are more electrons in the universe than hydrogen atoms. Storing that electron with minimum loss, where it can be immediately accessed when needed, makes much more sense than using that same electron to crack a molecule of water in order to store the H2, to be later used in a fuel cell to re-generate a small portion of that original electron.

You mentioned this person received a refund check of $20,000 from his utility the first year. That would never happen here in Arizona, where the utility will not buy back your energy if you produce more than a certain percentage beyond your actual usage. So that pig doesn't fly, at least not here.

I am not being negative, I'm being realistic. I saw the NJ hydrogen guy on a documentary some years ago. It all sounded great, but with no path to make it a reality for anyone else. That's the key. If the technology cannot be packaged and disseminated in an affordable way to many people, it will not be viable and will not become a mainstream. Batteries are the key here, as they will enable residential energy storage in a compact and cost effective manner. They also don't require the storage of explosive gas on 11 acres.

There's a reason why the concept you present has not taken off. | 17. august 2014

I tried to find out the "vampire" loss of Hydrogen, but was unable to find something I could understand. This report is quite interesting:

This paper covers high pressure tanks and how the loss increases with both temperature cycles, fill cycles, and age.

It appears all tanks leak so some degree and it gets worse with any changes (temp/fill/age). I couldn't figure out how much loss would occur before you would need to replace the tank. From day one they leak, so there is a daily loss, although I couldn't resolve this into an actual number like 1% per day.

Likely a much smaller concern, but if the freeway is filled with Hydrogen cars only making water, do cars retain that water on-board or dump that onto the road? Would it make for slick roads all the time? Maybe it's water vapor - does that increase the humidity with all that water vapor being expelled? Are there parts of the car that will become moldy due to the high moisture levels?

Lastly how does one service a Hydrogen car? While air-bags with small explosive charges require careful service procedures, I wonder how you deal with the Hydrogen system that has far higher explosive potential, both physical and chemical. Since it's also an EV, you have high voltage/high current cabling as well. I wonder how many mechanics are going to want to work on this beast? Will there be a home repair manual for the car? Do I have to have it shipped to a special facility to handle repairs? | 17. august 2014


You comment "Once you have the infrastructure set up, it costs absolutely nothing to make Hydrogen from solar and wind." is a little like saying once we have our StarGates built, traveling to the Andromeda galaxy will be simple.

Look how long its taken to EV charging infra built out, and that when 90% of it was already in place, and with the exception of Tesla, I am not sure anyone has figured out how to make money at it.

Even if you get past the large-scale generation issue, H2 infrastructure will have huge up front costs around transportation, storage and distribution which makes it really difficult for anyone to make any money at this any time in the near future.

You have to admit that the link you posted is a corner-case--its not going to work for most people, both in terms of capital cost and space requirements.

Finally, the pushback you sense is that most folks on the thread see FCEVs as a cynical ploy to stall BEV adoption by incumbent manufacturers and big oil as opposed to any kind of commitment to alternative fuels.


Brian H | 17. august 2014

Key to understanding the ability of hydrogen to leak is to note that a H+ ion is just a naked proton, which is like a golf ball in a stadium compared to neutral atoms of a container. Lots of vacant space for it to exit through.