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2014-11-18. A Road Test of Alternative Fuel Visions.

posted Nov 29, 2014, 7:55 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 29, 2014, 7:58 AM ]
By Kenneth Chang. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. Excerpt: Hydrogen Cars Join Electric Models in Showrooms.  ...General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Daimler and Hyundai, ...After many years and billions of dollars of research and development, hydrogen cars are headed to the showrooms. Hyundai has been leasing the hydrogen-powered Tucson sport utility, which it describes as the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell car, since June, for a $2,999 down payment, and $499 a month. (That includes the hydrogen. A lease on a gas-powered Tucson is about half as much.) This week, Toyota is introducing a sedan called Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese. ...The Mirai will go on sale in California this year for $57,500 — cheaper than the Tesla Model S. ...Battery electric cars and fuel cell cars are, at their cores, both electric cars with the inherent advantages of electric motors — jack rabbit acceleration, near silence and zero tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. The difference is where the electricity comes from. ...Instead of storing their charge in batteries, the fuel cells in hydrogen cars are miniature power plants, generating a flow of electricity in the chemical reaction of combining hydrogen and oxygen into water. The oxygen comes from the air; the hydrogen, compressed at 10,000 pounds per square inch, is stored in tanks. The exhaust from the tailpipe? Water that is clean enough to drink. ...A kilogram of hydrogen contains as much chemical energy as a gallon of gasoline, but fuel cells are more efficient than internal combustion engines, so fuel-cell cars like the Mirai have a 300-mile range, comparable to present-day gasoline cars. Filling up at a hydrogen pump takes about the same few minutes as filling a tank of gas, instead of hours plugged in to an outlet.  ...A fleet of 119 fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Equinoxes that General Motors introduced as a demonstration project in 2007 has covered more than three million miles, with the odometers on some of the vehicles passing 120,000 miles. ...In an interview with MIT Technology Review in 2009, Dr. Chu said fuel cell cars needed “four miracles,” including an economical, renewable source of hydrogen. Most hydrogen today comes from stripping hydrogen atoms off natural gas molecules. That produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct and undercuts the goal of reducing greenhouse gases. Solar-powered electrolyzers to split water into hydrogen and oxygen would eliminate greenhouse gases but would be more expensive.  ...A hydrogen station in Fountain Valley, about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, is in front of a wastewater treatment plant, because the hydrogen comes from human waste. After bacteria digest what has been flushed down toilets to produce a mix of carbon dioxide and methane, the gases are cleaned up and fed to a different type of fuel cell that produces electricity, heat and hydrogen, and the hydrogen is piped to the pump. That demonstration project, producing about 200 pounds of hydrogen a day, helps fulfill California’s mandate that a third of the hydrogen for cars come from renewable sources....  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/science/earth/hydrogen-cars-join-electric-models-in-showrooms.html.