Hydrogen: Not as Green as it Seems

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BMW’s new hydrogen-powered luxury sedan is about as environmentally-friendly as a diesel truck. Spiegel reports:

The new car caters to the pleasing fantasy of customers spoiled by high-horsepower engines: That they can conform to ecological standards without making any sacrifices, burning "clean" fuel to their heart’s content. Advertising images display the Hydrogen 7 against a backdrop of wind turbines and solar panels. But the image is one of deceit. Because the hydrogen dispensed at the new filling station is generated primarily from petroleum and natural gas, the new car puts about as much strain on the environment as a heavy truck with a diesel engine.

  • The whole hydrogen myth is slowly being exposed. Hydrogen is not a source of energy, but rather an energy storage method that is inconvenient for a normal automobile. It’s just a fancy battery that doesn’t work very well.

  • tps12

    Sure, hydrogen comes from fossil fuels right now. Calling it a “fancy battery” is exactly right, but that’s not a hit against hydrogen and fuel cell technology, it’s the whole point!

    Right now, cars run on oil, full stop: we could replace all of Texas with one huge solar farm, making the national power grid 100% green, and we’d still be dependent on oil to fuel our automobiles.

    Removing that oil dependency by building cars that run on hydrogen (or any other “fancy battery” that can be “charged” from any source and operates cleanly) is a necessary part of reining in our polluting and moving toward renewable energy.

  • crzwdjk

    But we already have very effective ways of running things without oil. Electricity, for example. Subways and light rail are electric, and have no inherent dependence on oil. Plus they’re much more energy-efficient than cars: you wouldn’t have to cover nearly as much of Texas with solar panels. And you wouldn’t have to pave over nearly as much of the landscape either.

  • Plus, wind power is mostly produced during the hours when people need to commute via subway/light rail. Effectively eliminating the need for energy storage.
    Part of the energy inefficiency of automobiles is the sheer size of the vehicles designed to move 1 person around (or a few people in that rare art of carpooling). Even if we could electrify cars – we would still need to manufacture millions of vehicles and maintain milions of miles of roads. Fuel is only part of the problem, its the car itself that must be slowly phased out.

  • tps12

    Don’t forget sailboats.

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