Sunday, 9 January 2005

God, please let this happen!!

The last time I saw anything about purely hydrogen-driven cars, it required a flame-retardent vest when filling the tank. They say in this article that the problem of explosion has been dealt with, though they don’t address the “filling the tank” issue specifically. The guy quoted below seems awfully optimistic, but they do have a fully-functioning prototype, though it sounds like it would cost $1 million or more if you wanted one now:

GM, which has been slow to roll out hybrid products, is using the Sequel to try to win some of the attention for hydrogen, Brooke said."We're reaching out to show that this is truly doable," GM technology chief Lawrence D. Burns said. "We're talking about a real car. It's not affordable yet, but I can assure you it's doable."

In 2002, GM showed a fuel-cell concept car called the Hy-Wire that consisted of an 11-inch thick “skateboard” chassis that contained all the working parts—one-tenth as many as in a conventional car—with a body simply bolted on top. But the Hy-Wire was rickety to drive and could never have met federal highway standards, let alone satisfied demanding buyers.

The Sequel's biggest single advance, Burns said, is a compressed-hydrogen storage tank that can hold enough fuel to give the car a range of 300 miles. That is twice as far as the range of older versions of fuel-cell cars, and is considered the threshold distance to be marketable. With liquid hydrogen, the range could extend to 450 miles, Burns said. The Sequel also has a more powerful stack of fuel cells than previously possible, cutting 0-to-60 mph acceleration time to fewer than 10 seconds, comparable to most conventional cars.

GM is also working on the technology to produce and assemble the Sequel, hoping to be able to build 1 million a year by 2010, Burns said.

The hybrids have always seemed like a transitional technology and if it’s possible to get us to a fuel that doesn’t have any emissions (other than water) and that eliminates our need for oil altogether, so much the better.


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There’s been a lot (though maybe not enough) of talk about hydro powered cars over the last several years. But why cars? We use oil to generate power for all sorts of things. Why not convert some of those to hydrogen fuel cells first and see how it works out?

Another question. If we were to convert to hydrogen, or discover some other abundant source of energy that could replace oil, what would happen to the middle east? You know far more about international economics than I, but wouldn’t that completely devastate an entire region of the globe, sending them further back into the dark ages than they already are? Without oil, what are they going to sell? Sand? I guess the easy, or knee jerk, answer is “Who gives a flying f*ck?” but at some point, I think we probably have to.



Oil has a lot of uses. As you noted, it’s used to generate power but it is small when compared to nuclear, coal and natural gas. I can’t remember exactly how much, but I believe it’s less than 10% of the power generated in the U.S. It’s also used to make plastics and other things. My guess is that if we quit using gasoline altogether, we’d end up still buying some from abroad. The price would be far lower.

As for the Middle East, they would still have resources in the form of natural gas reserves, but they wouldn’t have the kind of market control in that that they now have in oil. They do have the world’s largest reserves, if memory serves. They would have to apply themselves to redirect their economies away from oil and towards the shipment of liquified natural gas.

Our ability to adopt new technologies would act as a wake-up call to them: we will not sit back and let them mess with us with impunity; alternatives exist and technology will provide them. Perhaps then their people will insist on having governments that focus on educating them so that they can get a modern, diversified economy that doesn’t turn on oil.

At this point, most of this is wishful thinking, but it does show that cartels, mixed with authoritarian governments, have very large downsides once alternatives are developed.

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