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Power NASA Space Toys

NASA Tests Hydrogen-Fueled BMW 420

Posted by kdawson
from the hold-the-lox dept.
Rio sends us word that NASA has completed an 8-week test of a fleet of BMW luxury sedans powered by liquid hydrogen at Kennedy Space Center. The new BMW Hydrogen 7 sedan uses the same fuel that powers the space shuttle and reduces CO2 emissions by 90 percent, according to a news release. Its engine can burn gasoline or liquid hydrogen and can switch seamlessly between the two. From the article: "One hundred BMW Hydrogen 7s have been built, and 25 are used in test programs in the US. The cars have already covered more than 1.3 million miles in test programs around the globe."
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NASA Tests Hydrogen-Fueled BMW

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  • by ThatFunkyMunki (908716) <thatfunkymunkiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:57AM (#20170749)
    Hydrogen may be clean to use and get, but is it energy efficient to use it?
    • Hydrogen may be clean to use and get, but is it energy efficient to use it?

      FTFA:The V12 cylinder engine delivers 260 hp; the top speed of the Hydrogen 7 is 143 mph and acceleration 0-60 mph is 9.2 sec.

      I had a similar question: "What are the operating costs?"
      But unfortunately for those of us who are more interested in efficiency are in the minority; so car makers market to the folks who consider automobiles to be a status sort of thing instead of a piece of machinery.
      I can care less how fast it can go o

      • by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:08AM (#20170971) Homepage Journal
        I can care less how fast it can go or its acceleration.

        Yes you do. You want it to be able to get above 60mph and do that in a reasonably small amount of time (say, less than 20 seconds?). Otherwise, you'll never be able to take it on the interstate or most roads due to the slow speed or bitched at at lights when the light turns green.
        • "I can care less how fast it can go or its acceleration."

          Yes you do.

          Is this an American thing or something. He says he can care less - implying that he must care some - and you agree with him but phrase it as if you don't. Surely the GP couldn't care less, because saying he could care less is a completely meaningless statement.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BlackSnake112 (912158)
        Try getting on a highway/freeway where everyone else is going 65+ MPH (don't have the KPH conversions right now) and you will care about how much acceleration the car you are in has. Unless you like causing accidents. You are (well should be) responsible for getting your car up to the speed limit as quickly and safely as possible.

        There are speed up lanes most people I see go slow in the speed up lane, then stop at the end of it. Then they try to merge. This is not in rush hour!

        I do see you point though. I h
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by kannibul (534777)
          Slow drivers don't cause accidents - idiots who aren't aware of their surroundings and/or are agressive with their driving do. When did it become OK to drive like your a member of NASCAR on public streets? It's real fun when you're on a motorcycle going 65MPH, and there's some jackhead close enough behind you in a SUV and you can hear that he has a lifter ticking in his engine...
          • by Usquebaugh (230216) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:18PM (#20171933)
            Drivers that vary greatly from the average speed of traffic do cause accidents. It's not a matter of who is causing the speed differential, it's the differential itself that is the problem.

    • by Monkey (16966) * on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:03AM (#20170871)
      According to the specs on this car, it uses 3.6 kg of hydrogen per 100 km.
      • by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:09AM (#20170983)
        so that's $7.20 per 100km. Or £3.55 for 62 miles in english. Equivalent in petrol about 62 mpg. That's not bad at all.
      • by Monkey (16966) * on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:18AM (#20171095)
        And to lamely reply to my own comment, this article [motortrend.com] at Motor Trend has a FAQ about liquid hydrogen in the context of using it to power automobiles.

        According TFA, 1 kg of H2 has roughly the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. The cost per kg is estimated at $3.50 /kg using the natural gas reformation process to create it or $6.50 /kg using electrolysis. This cost is expected to drop if there is widespread adoption of the fuel source.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by GeckoX (259575)
          Expected to drop as either:

          a) demand for natural gas skyrockets or
          b) demand for electricity skyrockets

          It will NOT go down...or at least, if it does it will be purely artificial and VERY short lived.

          If we had natural gas in that kind of abundance, or electricity in that kind of abundance, we'd completely skip Hydrogen without question.

          Turns out Hydrogen is merely an expensive battery.
      • According to the specs on this car, it uses 3.6 kg of hydrogen per 100 km.

        To liquefy 3.5 kg of gaseous hydrogen, one would need an additional 1.5 kg even with a 100% efficient isothermal compression process. If hydrogen takes off we'll have to build a network of steam pipes like the one that exploded in New York recently. Con Ed pumps its waste heat through those pipes to large customers who use it for cheaply heating large buildings like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 30% is too much overhead to ignore.
    • by JustNiz (692889)
      Who cares? The planet is not short of energy. The sun keeps giving us gazillions of jiggawatts for free.
      The important issue here is reducing CO2 to stop the environmental damage we're doing, not making travel cheaper to the end-user.
      • I don't think there are any solar powered hydrogen plants. The key to reducing CO2 is to reduce it's use in the production and supply chain.

        If the hydrogen plant is supplied by a coal or natural gas plant, there may be little or no reduction in the net CO2 emission throughout production.

        As to the supply chain, if the hydrogen car is inefficient, the trucks that deliver the hydrogen (probably burning diesel) will need to make more trips to maintain the same demand as gasoline, increasing the net CO2 per kg.

        D
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:15AM (#20171049)
      Well, how "clean" is it, really?

      I'm not an expert on H2 refining, but the methods I know either create quite nasty and poisonous waste products or need incredible amounts of power. So unless we got some very clean and efficient way to generate power to get this clean H2, we're just back at square one. And unless I didn't sleep through physics, the 2nd law of thermodynamics tells me that this better be some really, really clean way of generating H2.

      It's a bit like the electric motor. Sure, it's the most efficient kind of engine, converting more than 95% of the energy put into it into movement, but first of all someone has to generate that electricity to run it. And that means... 2nd thermodynamic law, it would have been probably more efficient and less waste heat producing to use the primary energy source to generate movement instead of converting it to power and then use an electric motor.

      Now, it might be more efficient if you convert energy large scale than in the small scale of a combustion engine. But the question remains: Where do we get clean H2? H2 isn't available naturally on earth. It has to be refined out of molecules containing it. Water would offer itself, being quite abundant and cheap, and all that's required to get H2 out of water is electricity. Which gets us back to the question, how do we get clean electricity?

      Solar power? Would be cheap, but the production of those solar cells is creating a horrible amount of waste and they're far from efficient. Wind power? Even worse. And pretty much everything else isn't CO2 neutral.
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:40AM (#20171447) Homepage
        And unless I didn't sleep through physics, the 2nd law of thermodynamics tells me that this better be some really, really clean way of generating H2.

        It's a bit like the electric motor. Sure, it's the most efficient kind of engine, converting more than 95% of the energy put into it into movement, but first of all someone has to generate that electricity to run it. And that means... 2nd thermodynamic law, it would have been probably more efficient and less waste heat producing to use the primary energy source to generate movement instead of converting it to power and then use an electric motor.


        The 2nd Law says nothing about how efficient a process is, only that it will not be 100%.

        A power plant is more efficient than an automobile ICE. Even if both are burning hydrocarbons dug up from the ground, the power plant will be more efficient and produce less pollution largely due to the scale. It's much easier to add expensive and heavy scrubbers to a coal plant smoke stack than to the exhaust system of a car. It's easier to make an efficient engine when the weight of the engine is not a concern.

        So your 95% efficient electric engine times a 40% efficient coal plant is better than your 35% efficient ICE with much better emissions controls to boot. And that's using coal, which I'm certainly not a fan of.

        Which leads me to the big advantage of electricity-based transportation (whether it's electric batteries or electrically produced hydrogen from water) which is that once you have decoupled power generation from transportation, when you bring online new environmentally friendly power plants you can use this new source seamlessly with no disruption to the transportation infrastructure. Already we're producing far more "green" electricity in this country than we are using "clean" transportation, and this has happened without you even having to be aware when you flick the light switch. We should be so lucky as to be able to do the same with transportation.

        Basically what I'm saying is that electric/hydrogen power has efficiency and environmental advantages now, but also has the potential for vast improvements in the future and that's even if you keep the exact same car!

        Solar power? Would be cheap, but the production of those solar cells is creating a horrible amount of waste and they're far from efficient. Wind power? Even worse. And pretty much everything else isn't CO2 neutral.

        If you're going to look at the environmental cost of solar power, then you should include the environmental cost of acquiring oil. Adding every cost associated with ICE-based cars or coal power plants certainly do not make them look better compared to solar power.

        And what's wrong with wind power again? It's not bird deaths, those were never any more than city office buildings produce, and new designs that discourage nesting on the turbines has put it in the noise.
        • When you put it that way, I have to agree. Though still, I'm wary that in most publication ralleying support for "clean" power, all you get to see is the final product's eco balance. And that view is skewed, to say the least. Sure, those solar cells don't burn fuel, but they take up enormous space and their creation caused a lot of waste to be produced as well. I really wonder if there has ever been some research done into the "eco balance" of various sources of electricity, from raw materials of the plant
      • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:43AM (#20171485) Homepage
        > So unless we got some very clean and efficient way to generate power
        > to get this clean H2, we're just back at square one.

        A man.

        Some water.

        A very, very sharp axe.

        (And yes, it's patented, so no stealing my idea, you insensitive clods.)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Nerviswreck (238452)
        Very Good Point.

        When myself and a buddy of mine did a research project on the production of CO2, NOx, SOx, and particulate matter of various H2 production methods using a bunch of DOE data, and if my memory serves me correctly we found that using H2 fuel reduced CO2 emissions by about 15% from the most efficient current form of H2 production (Coal Gassification) as the power transfer through the H2 cells was more efficient that burning gas and the gassification process is more efficient than burning fossil
      • by cyfer2000 (548592)
        "Solar power? Would be cheap, but the production of those solar cells is creating a horrible amount of waste and they're far from efficient. Wind power? Even worse."

        Could you specify how much is "a horrible amount of" please? From what I have known, they are much cleaner than a horse or a donkey. Also the efficiency [wikipedia.org] of commercial solar power cells are much higher than that [www.upei.ca] of the grass or trees.

      • Hydroelectric power is pretty clean (aside from the local effects of the dam).
        Maybe we can construct hydroelectric plants that generate massive amounts of electricity, and use that electricity to create H2 and then ship the H2 around the country.

        Re: Solar Panels - sure they require petroleum to produce, but don't they last for a really long time?
      • by B3ryllium (571199)
        Well, there's always nuclear power. One nuclear plant is probably cleaner than the equivalent in coal-fired plants.
      • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:24PM (#20172015)
        Is it efficiency that we're after or dependence on, say, oil? As long as oil (or some other foreign nonrenewable resource) wasn't heavily involved in the process of creating the H2, isn't that a plus? As much as the sky is falling over what we're doing to the environment, shouldn't we overcome the issue of renewable energy before we focus on what it does to the environment?
    • Not very. Electric cars are about 4 times more efficient and you can power them easily from many sources : wind, solar, mains, water wheel/turbine.

      Allow me the shamelessy crib some info from wiki:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_vehicle [wikipedia.org]

      Political considerations

      Most all of today's hydrogen is produced using fossil energy resources.[20] While some advocate hydrogen produced from non-fossil resources, there could be public resistance or technological barriers to the implementation of such metho
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      It doesn't matter.
      The reductions in C02 must happen very soon. Very soon as in human time not planet time. This vehicle will make a zero impact on C02 pollution because it can not be afforded by 90% of the population. hybrids that will slow down C02 production can not be afforded by 85% of the population and high efficiency small cars are not being produced and marketed. The Smart is FINALLY making it to the USA but at a price that makes it unaffordable. It needs to be sold at $9000.00US or less to mak
    • Hydrogen may be clean to use and get

      Uh...who told you it's clean to get? The only "clean" method is electrolysis, and that requires massive amounts of electricity, which over 1/3rd in the US comes from coal. Pretty much ALL of it comes from coal in China.

      The only other source is natural gas. Guess what? Gotta strip the carbon off the hydrogen somehow, and the catalysts are not exactly eco-friendly or reuseable. It's a great way to sell more natural gas, though- which is why Bush is so thrilled wit

      • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:30AM (#20171289) Homepage
        Run your electrolysis off nuclear plants. Boom a zero CO2 emission cycle.

        "OH BUT THE NUCLEAR WASTE" you say. Who cares? Store it for 15-25 years, by then we will have cheap ion propulsion engines (running off nuclear power), to cleanly jettison the waste into mercury or the sun.

        Nuclear is the source solution to most of our energy problems. If the general public was not so misinformed and paranoid about it, and did not have so much of a "not in my backyard" syndrome, we'd be much better off right now.

        • Who needs Ion propulsion. If we redevelope the courage to explore the solar system, the technology to use Nuclear Thermal Rocket propulsion has been around since the 1960s. Read Opening the Next Frontier at [nuclearspace.com]
        • by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @01:57PM (#20173229)

          GOOD LORD! You want to fling Nuclear Waste into the SUN??? Have you tested this? What if it generates a Teenage Mutant Ninja Sun?!?!?!?

          I like Pizza, but COME ON!

          And to the other guy that wants to fling it at our intergalactic neighbors, well, you get to be the one who explains it to them when they come a-knocking!
      • Gotta strip the carbon off the hydrogen somehow, and the catalysts are not exactly eco-friendly or reuseable.

        I don't know jack about the chemistry of the process to strip H2 off CH4, but if the catalysts aren't reusable, doesn't that mean they're not catalysts? I thought the definition of catalyst was a substance that increases the yield or speed of a reaction without itself being consumed or changed by the process.
    • by zentigger (203922)
      They are not are not at all efficient to use. In fact about 1.2 to 1.4x the amount of energy is required to produce the hydrogen as the hydrogen is capable of releasing. So, of course, the emissions associated with the production of that hydrogen are also released.

      The advantage comes as large scale production of "clean" energy (ie. wind/solar/tidal) is developed. It is hardly practical to install solar panels on the roof of your car, but a large solar plant in the middle of the desert could easily produc
    • by Spazmania (174582)
      Can't be very efficient. The combination of pressure and refrigeration necessary to keep hydrogen liquified is excessive. The car will consume a lot of energy while idle, just to keep the stored hydrogen from explosively evaporating into a gas.

      On the other hand, if the cost and environmental impact of producing electricity could be reduced by 90% that might not be such a bad deal.
    • by Calinous (985536)
      Right now, not.
      Its big advantages would be very little polution in the place where the car really runs (you won't have smog in big cities, only fog).
      Once the fusion reactors start to produce energy, you could produce hydrogen in a somewhat cheaper way. It might not be as efficient as storing electricity in batteries, but it has some other advantages (like not using rare materials for battery/fuel cell).
      You could have your flying car with a hydrogen based e
  • *boggle* (Score:4, Funny)

    by ubrgeek (679399) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:58AM (#20170761)
    > hold-the-lox
    What the heck does smoked whitefish have to do with this story? Or am I missing something?
  • emissions (Score:5, Funny)

    by slapout (93640) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:59AM (#20170779)
    "same fuel that powers the space shuttle and reduces CO2 emissions by 90 percent"

    In that case, we should all be driving space shuttles to work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LordVader717 (888547)
      Obligatory link [youtube.com]
    • Re:emissions (Score:5, Informative)

      by ben_thompson21 (1140371) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:09AM (#20170977)
      I think the important thing to remember in all this is that hydrogen is effectively a battery technology and is not a fuel source. The earth has few reserves of hydrogen - it has to be created by electrolysis of water which requires a lot of power. There are other small-scale methods such as fractional distillation of air but I hope you get my point. It's simply weight efficient and cheaper for motor transport to store the energy in hydrogen that can be burned than it is in batteries. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are expensive and the charging time may be unacceptable.

      So the reductions in CO2 rather depend on whether it's more efficient or less polluting to electrolyse water using energy from power stations some of which burn oil, store the hydrogen and burn it than it is to refine oil, store it and burn it.

      The emissions at the car may be reduced by 90% but the total emissions will be similar.
      • The earth has few reserves of hydrogen - it has to be created by electrolysis of water which requires a lot of power. - noone does mass-production of H2 by electrolysis. Hydrogen en mass is produced from ........... natural gas.
      • Re:emissions (Score:4, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:58AM (#20171701) Homepage Journal
        Actually most hydrogen is made from natural gas. It is cheaper to split CH4 than H20. What I want to know is how does this reduce CO2 emissions by just 80%? Burning H2 should produce NO Co2 except what was already in the air and what little you might get from burning any free CO or hydrocarbons that are naturally in the atmosphere. Heck I don't know if LH2 is lighter and cheaper than batteries.
        While cool I don't expect to see LH2 cars any time soon.

  • by BlackCobra43 (596714) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:59AM (#20170791)
    We finally have cars that are actually likely to explode violently when shot! Stallones, Schawrzneggers and Norrises of the world rejoice!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, hydrogen is much safer. In case you didn't realize, gasoline is also highly combustible. However, which would you rather have combusting in your car? Gasoline, which will take over and destroy the entire car? Or hydrogen, which is less dense than air and will rise, creating a single vertical pillar of flame, leaving the rest of the car unharmed?

      I remember watching a video of the two types of cars burning. The gasoline one didn't make it at all, while the hydrogen one just shot flame for a few seco
    • by roman_mir (125474)
      Chuck Norris can make your head assplode without any hydrogen. He only needs to point at it and BAM!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:59AM (#20170797)
    Quote: "and reduces CO2 emissions by 90 percent,"

    OK, where did the other 10% come from?
    • Burning rubber.

      Think of what this means:
      • No carbs. No intake. They can run underwater!
      • No turbo. Just pour in more LOX
      • Reverse thrusters for easy braking... AND you can fry the guy who pulled out in front of you with your rocket wash.
      • Cold drinks
      • No more A/C
      Downsides? Strip mining Antarctic ice. :(
    • by JesseL (107722)
      In a piston engine, small amounts of lubricating oil will always sneak into the combustion chamber. Usually by leaking past the piston rings or valve seals.
  • Expensive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wiggles (30088) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:00AM (#20170813)
    Even if they do come out, unless they sticker under $40k, nobody's going to buy them. Nice idea, but way too impractical.
    • Even if they do come out, unless they sticker under $40k, nobody's going to buy them.

      You do realize this is made by BMW, right? Most of their cars are already over 40k and even their cheaper ones can approach $40k once you add-in a few options.

      In any case, I don't think that's really the point. I'm sure this car is just a concept car, proving that it's possible. Developing cars like this gives them good press and if hydrogen cars begin to make sense economically then they've got a headstart on working with

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dwlovell (815091)
      Although I understand the point you are trying to make, these are Liquid Hydrogen versions of their 7-series sedan. The normal gas-guzzling 7-series has MSRP of 75k-122k, so I think the people already buying the 7-series (plenty) will be happy to buy the cleaner version.

      http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/overview.aspx?ye ar=2007&make=BMW&model=7-Series [msn.com]

      This is actually a smart way to do this. It will be expensive to manufacture new technology like this, so start with the sector of the market that is u
    • by immel (699491)
      A stock (gasoline-only) BMW 7-series easily starts at over $75,000 [bmwusa.com] USD. The top-end ones with V12 gasoline engines start at $120k, and people still buy them. Granted, it's a niche market, but these things still sell. I understand your point, though; The ones modded to run on rocket fuel will cost a lot more, possibly out of the price range of everyone except collectors.
    • We're talking BMWs here. The standard model is over 40k.
  • because the responsible oil companies will still control their fuel.

    at least that was an argument made in the Who Killed the Electric car movie, more or less. They also implied the thing was like 40 years away from being available. Since I gather it will be disected on here anyway, just wondered how thin it would be sliced, as it were.
    • it at my greater than, and didn't preview the title.
  • by Antarius (542615) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:00AM (#20170823)
    The solutions is right here:

    The new BMW Hydrogen 7 sedan uses the same fuel that powers the space shuttle and reduces CO2 emissions by 90 percent
    If this remarkable fuel powers the space shuttle and reduces CO2 emissions by 90 percent, then simply send up more space shuttles! Duh!

    If we send up a shuttle per year, we can pollute as much as we like! The plants will take care of the other 10%!
  • Internal Combustion! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by josquint (193951) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:04AM (#20170877) Homepage
    I like the fact that it uses a standard(ish) internal combustion engine. Most of the work seems to be focused on fuel-cell/electric vehicles. While eleectric is probably the eventual future, I think dual-fuel systems like this would be a very good transition.

    Not to mention i rather like my rough loud piston engine... sometimes. Granted, I will be weined off and eventually learn to like the quiet boring (but REALLY high torque) electric motor.

    It was weird enought driving the company hybrid with CVT transmission, no shift points and odd engine RPM sequences makes driving less-than-intuitive. I find myself having to look at the speedometer far more with that than any other car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LordVader717 (888547)
      I actually got to talk with someone doing research on hydrogen fuel systems for BMW, and he explained that because so many companies were dependant on making the thousands of parts for the combustion engines, there was a lot of lobbying to steer the research in that direction.

      Of course, it's also currently the most viable option, as fuel cell systems are about ten times as expensive, but until we find a way to make the fuel cheap enough, and without emitting even more CO2, they're both moot.
      • by josquint (193951)
        I never thought of this from a manufacturing standpoint, and that is very interesting. Re-tooling and redesigning all the core components is expensive, this is basically "off the shelf".

        I think you're very corrent in finding a cheap/less-CO2 producing fuel though... I've seen quite a shift to propane in Canada, I wish this would be more popular in the US. It seems a decent interim fuel as almost all cars can run on it, and they burn cleaner and last longer.
  • by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:05AM (#20170913) Homepage
    but why does NASA need a fleet of luxury BMW sedans?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by niceone (992278) *
      ut why does NASA need a fleet of luxury BMW sedans?

      Well, lets say you're an astronaut and your car's in the shop, but you really need to drive cross country to hunt down the new girlfriend of your ex-lover - one of these would be ideal.
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      They don't, but who else is making hydrogen cars?
  • Well, much like electric cars, I'm wondering: Does this actually help? I mean, petroleum burning is actually fairly energy efficient. OK, so you pollute a bit. But ... so do power stations. And last I checked, your average power station, producing hundreds of mega watts, is actually substantially less efficient than a (relatively) small petrol engine.

    So, you're presumably using rather a lot of oil, coal or natural gas, in order to make these things run. Is that actually helping our environment at all? Or

    • by skiingyac (262641)
      I think NASA has some other vehicles which burn liquid hydrogen, the little bit used for some BMWs is probably not even noticed.

      Seriously though, I think the theory is that once cars can burn something environmentally friendly like hydrogen (burning it is clean), and the infrastructure to make/transport it is in place, then its almost trivial to later switch between making the hydrogen using coal or whatever vs some better (but currently more expensive) method. Plus, hopefully centralizing the pollution ma
    • by Cadre (11051)

      And last I checked, your average power station, producing hundreds of mega watts, is actually substantially less efficient than a (relatively) small petrol engine.

      You checked wrong. Your standard automotive engine is around 20% efficient[1]. Fossil fuel plants vary based upon their design but typically are in 35-40% efficient range[2]. In addition, power stations will have better pollution controls than an automobile.

      References:

      1. http://mb-soft.com/public2/engine.html
      2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel_power_p lant (See Bibliography)

      The solution we need to be working towards is more nuclear for the power generation and hydrogen generated from electrolysis

  • Fuel Costs (Score:2, Insightful)

    What's the cost per mile for the fuel? It seems to me that the practical consideration that makes or breaks any technology for oil replacement is the cost per mile of the fuel. What ever that cost is, it's got to come pretty close to gasoline if anyone expects a majority of people to make the switch.

    I suspect with all the research into ethanol, and the availability of dual fuel ethanal/gas cars, ethanol will get there first. I have certainly read/heard of crunchy rich enviromental types who already use et
    • by djupedal (584558)
      "Yay for hydrogen and nasa though."

      eh?

      BMW made the cars and the hydrogen systems. B M W You know, that car company from another country?

      All NASA has to do with this story is some 'testing' - you know...get in, turn the key, drive around in circles, smile for the cameras, grab some stickers and promo sheets...could have been the Girl Scouts.
  • by Gman14msu (993012)
    Don't get me wrong, hydrogen fueled vehicles are a great thing for the future but we really need to look at the overall environmental impacts of the hydrogen fueled vehicle. Right now the life cycle emissions of a hydrogen car depend heavily on how the hydrogen is created. While the vehicle itself may have no emissions, the process of creating that hydrogen can be nastier for the environment than a gas powered car. If you are creating hydrogen from coal power plants or compresses natural gas (which is th
  • I guess that's the point, isn't it? They'd have a handy refueling station on-site. Is NASA going to go into the business of building the infrastructure for the country?

    Still the same freak niche as poultry farms running vehicles on chicken crap methane or neo-hippies burning McDonald's grease. Maybe even less efficient since hydrogen isn't so much a fuel as energy storage?

  • Geez, German taxpayers aren't supporting NASA. US Taxpayers are. So, why couldn't NASA do this with an American car?

    Come on.

    What a joke.
  • Inside the box (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:18AM (#20171093)

    Do you get the feeling that manufacturers are stumbling around in the dark a bit when it comes to replacing the 'classic' automobile? "Gosh, Juergen... let's run our century old internal combustion engine on a new fuel! We should make it unnecessarily large and capable of blinding (and unnecessary) performance! Ausgezeichnet!!" and off they go to spend millions on an idea that isn't sensible in the grand scheme of things. It would be far better to rethink the automobile altogether. It's possible to design something very small and lightweight - like the www.twike.com - except with the benefit of hundreds of millions of euros design and research. A true "personal" vehicle would be far easier to propel with electricity or extremely small internal combustion engines. It would also require significantly less fossil fuel to manufacture (because we can't make plastic out of hydrogen...)

    I can hear the naysayers now: "But it'd get squashed by a Hummer." or, "I need a high performance car." But the reality is that *if* scientists are right and we've reached Peak Oil, fuel is going to get incredibly expensive and shortages will become a regular occurrence. Once that happens, companies will start to aggressively compete to create a solution and the car will evolve into something that fits the new reality of a fossil fuel depleted world.

    I don't think adapting existing designs t hydrogen is the answer for one moment - the infrastructure would cost billions, the technology would cost billions, and it doesn't solve the root problems: 1. Our transportation devices are wasteful and 2. We're turning a blind eye to the benefits of mass transportation, and 3. Planned obsolescence has trained generations of vehicle purchasers to devalue six or seven year old cars as "old" and replace them unnecessarily.
  • by E++99 (880734) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:26AM (#20171215) Homepage
    Using earth-based H2 power doesn't make a lot of sense, since there's no real energy-efficient way to make it. However, what if we (seriously) built enormous space tankers capable of making the trip to Jupiter and scraping H2 out of the surface of its atmosphere and compressing it into liquid to bring back ginormous amounts to earth? It's a long round-trip, but if there was a fleet making continuous deliveries, at some point this would scale to to the point where it was an incredibly cheap form of energy. The only real downside, is we're making the Earth no longer a closed system -- what will be the long-term effect of the added H2? Will the world's algae keep up with the loss of oxygen as we burn all of that?
  • 90% CO2 reduction? Where is the other 10% coming from?

    And exactly how do they store the liquid hydrogen? Did they use up all the luxury trunk space with a vacuum-lined flask? That would explain why they chose a luxury car-- the other ones didn't have the room.

    BTW how many miles can one go on a tankful of that stuff? It's mighty light,e ven in liquid form, so there's not a whole lot of energy in a standard car tankful.

  • by AaronW (33736) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:34AM (#20171351) Homepage
    The problem with hydrogen today is that most of it is made from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas, so the process of making pure hydrogen releases CO2. Also, I would think moving to a fuel cell would be much more efficient than an internal combustion engine, though at this time more expensive.

    Sadly right now I have not seen any affordable technologies that can eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels for cars (though electric cars are coming down). We can't grow enough ethanol to fill our tanks (over 20% of all corn in the US goes to making ethanol, and the national average of ethanol use in fuel is about 3%).

    Hydrogen is really an energy carrier rather than a fuel. It still is not that practical as a fuel since it requires refrigerating it to a very low temperature or compressing it to a very high pressure (both of which require a fair amount of energy to do). And hydrogen loves to leak. It will seep through the smallest holes and has a habit of making metal brittle.

    -Aaron
  • Statements like that, while factual as far as the tailpipe are concerned, are really fallacious.

    That statement should really be, "only 20% more CO2 emissions that a normal car", or "only x grams of nuclear waste produced per mile." There's no way, unless the H2 was produced via nuclear-produced electricity, that the car really produces less CO2 than burning gasoline. We only have 2 ways of making H2 right now. Electrolysis and essentially burning natural gas. Burning natural gas (due to the relatively l
    • by njfuzzy (734116)
      Economies of Scale (literal, versus numeric).

      A single engine burning fossil fuels, multiplied by thousands of cars...
      Or a single power plant burning fossil fuels, powering thousands of cars.

      Guess which produces less emissions?
      • by caseih (160668)
        What you say has yet to be proved. Given the current strain on the grids, etc. I know Alberta, Canada studied the issue and found that unless things concerning electricity production changed dramatically, electric cars everywhere would increase emissions by almost double the current values. So ultimately, economies of scale may make it viable, but until a better battery/storage system is found, I really don't think we'll get there. Hydrogen just has a poor density for energy, despite its explosive poten
  • I still think the compressed air powered car looks the most promising. And I think we should focus on producing and delivering cheap electricity, then base our transportation on that.
  • with hydrogen cars -- they demoed a H2-powered 7 series [bmwworld.com] back in 2000.
  • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @03:40PM (#20174611)
    Have you ever watched a shuttle lunch? All that smoke and fire and exhaust plume you see is NOT coming out of the Shuttle Main Engine. The bulk of the power is coming from the solid boosters. Those boosters burn solid fuel which is basically rubber and aluminum powder. The shuttle does burn a lot of H2 but the main propellant is solid.

    Remember the Hindenburg disaster? It was a hydrogen filled envelope that caught fire but the envelope was covered with guess what? Rubber and aluminum powder or "rocket fuel". All those flames and smoke you saw where the solid rocket fuel burning.

    In the case of both the shuttle and the Hindenburg the hydrogen combustion was a minority of what was going on and in both cases mostly invisible o2/h2 combustion leaves no big visible fire ball and no smoke.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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