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First affordable, mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles on market as early as 2017?


January 29, 2013

Left to right: Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development, Ford, Prof. Tho...

Left to right: Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development, Ford, Prof. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development and Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Vice President of Nissan

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Car makers Daimler, Ford and Nissan have announced the signing of a three-way agreement for the development of a common fuel cell stack and fuel cell system for use in separately branded Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV). With each making an equal investment, the companies hope to have "the world’s first affordable, mass-market FCEVs" on sale by 2017.

This announcement is not only a statement of engineering intentions. In a press release, the three companies said that its purpose was also to send a message to governments and industries about the need to build more hydrogen refueling stations and infrastructure. This in itself is important because in the U.S. alone there are currently only ten refueling stations, and without adequate infrastructure hydrogen-powered vehicles would not be feasible.

Source: Daimler

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy

Only TEN refueling stations? That surprises me, because little old Columbia, South Carolina has one.

This decision leaves me pleasantly surprised - with three companies agreeing on engineering standards for fuel cells, others may very well bid to conform to the standards that result from this agreement, and that can only be good for all parties involved, the consumer included.

Joel Detrow
29th January, 2013 @ 11:00 pm PST

Good news. Fuel cells are an obvious power train. But it's kind of chicken/egg thing. Don't need hydrogen refueling stations until the fuel cell cars are on the road. And there will need to be hydrogen refueling stations before there are fuel cell cars on the road.

Not going to be easy to coordinate everything happening at once.

30th January, 2013 @ 02:56 am PST

If the silicon nano particle catalyst Gizmag covered last week makes it out of the lab hydrogen stations may be irrelevant.

30th January, 2013 @ 03:53 am PST

With home hydrogen fueling stations like the one at this site, perhaps one could do the refuelling at home? It could be the stepping stone to an infrastructure of fuelling hydrogen fuel cell cars?

I think fuel cell vehicles are cool. It is neat to have something that has water vapor as its exhaust. :)

30th January, 2013 @ 05:54 am PST

Before you put hydrogen fueling stations in, you need a cost effective method of producing hydrogen. Right now, hydrogen is coming from natural gas deposits and fracking is hardly environmentally friendly. Additionally, a zero emission vehicle is not a zero emission process if you are using coal to make the electricity to make the hydrogen. The hydrogen fuel cell efficiency equation does not factor up the massive loss due to "cell warm up". You can claim the HFC is a catalytically induced miracle, but its not. Its just an efficient burn of a fuel that takes carbon emmissions to produce. There are better solutions.

James Barbour
30th January, 2013 @ 06:04 am PST

Actually the infrastructure is already in place it's called bottled water. These guys want large Hydrogen plants to make it and ship it which is extremely inefficient even if you have self sustaining Hydrogen producing plants, not to mention dangerous to transport large quantities of Hydrogen.

But there is another way which is already in place. Why not use distilled water to fuel the vehicles and have the vehicle convert the water. A small reserve tank of hydrogen could remain after produced on the vehicle but before the engine uses it for restarting. This concept already works but is still being tested before production.

Matt Fletcher
30th January, 2013 @ 08:51 am PST

@Matt: I think you need to read a bit more on hydrogen fuel production, and why we just can't truck around water as a hydrogen source. To liberate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water takes a *lot* of power (electricity)... so the hydrogen has to be made *somewhere else* efficiently, and only then is the hydrogen stored and carried in the vehicle, where it recombines in the fuel cell with oxygen from the air, creating electricity to drive the motor, and the resultant water formed by the reaction is out the exhaust pipe.

Matt Rings
30th January, 2013 @ 10:30 am PST

algae perhaps? there are plenty of solutions,just needs co operation and keeping the oil companies out of it.....greedy gits!!

30th January, 2013 @ 10:51 am PST

It is useful in discussions of this nature to recall that water is "burned" hydrogen. To get the hydrogen out of the water (separate it from the O2), you have to "unburn" it. If your process of unburning were 100% efficient, it would take as much energy input as you get from burning the hydrogen in the first place. Of course, no such process is 100% efficient, so it takes more energy to get the hydrogen from the water than was produced in the making of the water (and on and on...).

One of the most promising methods of producing hydrogen from water on the horizon is synthetic photosynthesis. The energy input is "free" solar radiation. When/if it becomes "practical", it would appear to be much more efficient than using solar cells to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. Here's hoping.

Les LaZar
30th January, 2013 @ 12:58 pm PST

To put it into perspective, it takes about 1.5 volts per cell to electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen - at a reasonable and useful rate. If you now use this hydrogen (and oxygen if you like) in a fuel cell to make electricity, you will only get about 0.75 volts per cell at a reasonable current output. It's possible to get nearly 1.0 v. per cell if you settle for a tiny power output, but this makes a nonsense of the economics. The maximum power output (Amps X Volts) of a H2/02 fuel cell occurs at about 0.75v per cell and corresponds to an efficiency of around 50% in terms of heat of combustion of H2 to electricity conversion.

So in summary: using electricity to make hydrogen, to make electricity (again!), is very wasteful - about 75% of your power is lost to heat.

Only if your electricity is extremely cheap does this process make a lot of sense. This is why storage batteries are the preferred method, despite their cost and weight.

30th January, 2013 @ 03:30 pm PST

US needs about 5K fuelling stations alone OR 500K.

Stephen N Russell
30th January, 2013 @ 05:43 pm PST

I bet that hydrogen fueled ICE will still be cheaper of the life of the car than the fuel cell powered model.

31st January, 2013 @ 03:37 am PST
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