back to article Cow turds fuel Blighty's hydrogen filling station embrace

Britain is about to get a new wave of hydrogen filling stations, allowing those few organisations and individuals in possession of hydrogen vehicles to top them up. According to the Times, "Britain's first hydrogen fuel station" opened yesterday. But, in fact, Blighty has previously had hydrogen stations - they just didn't …


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  1. Mike Banahan

    It's wind power (and no, not from the cows)

    Watching the BBC report on 't telly last night, the spokesman said he was the prof in charge of the pilot and that the hydrogen was made by cracking water using wind-generated electricity.

    Nowt about cow-pats.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Browns Gas?

    When I read the title I thought this was going to be an article on halving the consumption of fuel by mixing it with Browns gas (aka HHO) somehow derived from cows.

  3. michael

    it reminds me

    of some of my budget logic

    I realy want A for X but X is not acaptible to boss so

    I want C so we need B and for B we need A

    it is sooo funny

  4. TeeCee Gold badge
    Dead Vulture


    I'd like to see you try to burn methane in a diesel engine. You'd be on a hiding to nothing, try a petrol engine instead. Most petrol engines can be adapted to burn light gases with very little modification (hint: look up Compressed Natural Gas or CNG, the poor relation of LPG).

    To use a diesel, you'd need to reprocess the methane gas into a diesel oil substitute. I reckon that using same to power hydrogen manufacture is almost certainly more efficient that this approach.

    I know that world + dog is obsessed with diesels these days thanks to the CO2-cultists, but try and get it right.

  5. John Latham

    Simple solutions needed

    Cow -> Pat -> Methane -> Electricity -> Hydrogen -> Combustion -> Propulsion.

    Wouldn't it just be easier to use the cow to pull the car? But that is limited to bovine locomotive speed, compounded by direct drive/lack of gearing.

    So why not just use genetically/cybernetically engineer a speedfreak vegetarian monkey with huge legs, and use a few of them to pedal your car? They could live on algae soup or something. When they're not pedalling, they can revert to being ordinary robot-brained-monkey-butlers. With huge legs.

    I'll take one 12-engined monkey car please.


  6. Anonymous Coward

    Gas? Cowpats? Cars?

    Brownian motion!

  7. r

    It's a lot easier than that...

    For the last 60,000 miles I've simply poured vegetable oil into my Diesel car's fuel tank. One third veg oil (80p a litre at a certain supermarket) and two thirds Diesel (f*kin 119p a litre!!!) runs a dream and now cows harmed.

  8. Brian
    Thumb Down


    "Normally, hydrogen is produced in industrial quantities ... involves massive CO2 emissions, making the use of hydrogen vehicles rather pointless."

    Whether it's pointless or not depends on your goals doesn't it? Surely managing the pollutants and CO2 generated in the hydrogen production process, is easier than managing that generated from multiple sources (cars).

    It seems to me the processes involved can be kept remote from population centres, and equipment *could* be serviced regularly to keep pollution at a controllable level - unlike a lot of cars about right now.

  9. GrahamT


    It doesn't have to be cow manure for the anaerobic digesters - it could be human. There are far more humans than cows (here in London, anyway) and we already have the collection facilites - sewers and sewage works. Just convert the sewage works to turn the brown stuff to methane and Bob's your mother's brother.

    Using the methane in vehicles like LPG/LNG (LSG?) is more efficient than converting it directly or indirectly to Hydrogen. (LNG ships bringing methane/natural gas from the middle east burn the boiled off gas in their diesels, so its hardly new technology)

    This has several advantages:

    - the CO2 given off would have been anyway so no net gain

    - the methane is captured instead of adding to the greenhouse effect.

    - the waste product is an odourless compost that can be used to improve arable land (for growing biofuel crops!)

    - Less waste to be poured into the rivers and seas.

    - there are far more existing filing stations with facilities for handling LPG than hydrogen.

    You could even brew your own : Me-Thane™ to use in your "Bog-standard" <groan> car, otherwise fill up at pump number 2!

    Sorry if this all sounds a little faecesious <sic>

    Mines the brown-stained orange overalls and waist-high waders.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Petrol is 47p a litre, petrol 50p a litre

    I wonder, suppose we made an electric car as efficient as a petrol car, and we generated the electricity via some form of nuclear power. How much is the equivalent energy of a litre of petrol?

    Electricity costs

    UK Industrial is 0.0907 euros per Kwh.

    Energy per litre of petrol

    34.8 MJ/Litre

    1 Khw is 3.6 MJ, so the energy equivalent in electricity is 88 euro cents per litre. About 70 pence a litre in the UK currently for the electricity energy equivalent of a litre of oil.

    1 Barrel of oil is $114, and contains 159 litres, of which 27% become petrol, 10% kerosene, 15% diesel, lets lump those together to make it easier to calc. 52% becomes fuel, = 82.7 litres = $1.37 a litre = 86 euro cents. But then it must be lower than this since they sell the tar and lubricating oil too.

    Beeb says UK tax is 63p a litre, that would make petrol about 50p a litre = 62 euro cents.

    You know we're not that far off the point where it becomes cheaper to run electric cars than petrol cars. Looking at nuclear, I assume the french wholesale price is lower due to their nukes. Industrial 0.0607 per kwh. That works out at 59 euro cents a litre. about 47p per litre.

    So to sum up:

    1. Oil 50p a litre

    2. Nuclear electricity 47p a litre.

    Even renewables may be cheaper than oil very soon.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    A capital idea.

    We can also extract the urine (ammonia) for refrigerants and make stirling engines.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    It would be a lot easier to capture all the CO2 from one source - agreed.

    Then store it underground under high pressure until it becomes liquid and then use it for fuel or to make plastics for shrink wrap or computers or the little toys you get in Christmas crackers.

  13. Jon Axtell

    The best way

    The best way to cut back on all the pollution and green house gases caused by motoring is to cut back on the motoring. More public transport, less individual cars. Better designed housing estates and villages/towns making it easier and convenient to walk to do your shopping/working and therefore less car journeys.

    Also, another point electrically splitting hydrogen wouldn't be too bad if it was split at a central depot and shipped to the stations as no power would be lost in it's transportation as opposed to the energy losses currently experienced in the national grid. But then there is the problem of keeping the hydrogen since it will leak out slowly. Fill a hydrogen car up and don't use it - in a few weeks time you'll have no fuel! You might find yourself talking in a very high pitched voice when standing around at a hydrogen station!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the Future...

    ...where are the flying vehicles that are powered by nuclear fusion or anti-matter reactors ??

  15. Vladimir Lushnikov

    What about algae?

    One must not forget that research is being done into algae farms which produce hydrogen... Even if there was an equivalent of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) then surely there would not be overproduction of hydrogen?

    Just imagine, instead of having a pond in your garden, you have a weedy thing that produces hydrogen for your car... (*chuckles*).

  16. 4a$$Monkey


    Giant solar farms in the sahara provide electricity to water electrolysis plants on the coast that produce Hydrogen that could be shipped round the world.

    Result low cost "green" fuel and a massive income to otherwise quite poor African countries.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @r "It's a lot easier than that..."

    So what car do you have and did it affect the performance ? Of course it's cheap (and you're buying at a supermarket and paying for the plastic packaging) because there is not VAT on vegetable oil, let alone fuel duty.

    I've started using Shell V Power Diesel and I can see the difference - it costs me more and I've got a nice collection of Ferrari toy cars for my kids. Performance/efficiency improvement is so marginal that's counteracted by me replacing my Michelin Energy tyres with some that have decent grip.

    We want less cows - need to grow crops to feed people, not to feed cows in order to feed people (the old 8KG grain to produce 1KG beef).

    We can't grow crops for fuel either - because we need the crops to eat for ourselves.

    Whatever happened to the European Grain mountains ?

    I guess we could use Nuclear Power to generate the electricity to get Hydrogen from water, but that's storing up problems for 10 generations away...

  18. Matt

    Methane and diesel

    According to a friend he runs his Land Rover on an LPG diesel mi, so in that case I imagine Methane is usable with diesel.

  19. 3x2

    While you all

    make persuasive arguments - I'm going for "monkey butlers"

  20. Anonymous Coward

    BUILD THEM NOW (with nuklar reaktorz too!)

    I wants more nuclar reaktoz!

    Look mutant powers may grow themselves but hey were better off with nuclar power to speed along the process. However i must agree that their is less than zero evidence my children will be able to fly as a result of nuclear power.

    That said i still wants them, lots of them, producing hydrogen and electricity and stuff. Energy security suggests that its a good idea and oh yeah it'll save the world n stuff apparently. I still think the energy security argument is better though. Just before we announce it though we should set up some uranium mining companies, get in on the low side, screw that insider trading stuff!

    Mutant super powers, energy security and transport infrastructure that produces water as a by product, may even irrigate that southern sperm shaped urban desert they laughingly call the "Capital".

    There may be arguments against it, they may even be good but i dont care, i just wants my energy security, my transport security a new economy to run the next boom and of course mutant powers

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Methane and diesel

    You cannot run a diesel on pure methane, it needs a twin supply.

    Oil, of some type, which provides the burn at idle, and then gas can be used to provide the additional power. Problem is you can get too much power so the gas has to be very carefully regulated if you don't want to destroy the bottom end of the engine.

  22. Anton Ivanov

    A few points which seem to be missing so far

    Re: Bullsh*t

    There is a problem with using BioGas methane for fuel and it is getting all the sulphur out. It is present in a variety of disgustingly smelly compounds which cannot be removed at the same time. So the idea of burning it straight there and then actually has a lot of merit because they all become sulphur dioxide which can be dealt with using the same tech as in modern coal plants.

    Re: Methane and diesel

    OK, so he should be expecting a visit from the (ex) chancellor henchmen. LPG and CNG is not used as a primary diesel fuel source. It is an add-on which drastically improves particle emissions and providers much cleaner output than regular diesel. It also improves considerably fuel consumption, emission and performance during acceleration and in low revs. It can be retrofitted to most diesel engines and can bring up even an ancient diesel engine to nearly Euro4-5 spec. It has been used widely around Europe in public transport for decades and is legal everywhere except one country - UK. In the UK you can have an LPG graft onto your diesel on a boat, generator or anything else but a car. After all, anything that really improves emissions and is good for the environment is not to the chancellor tastes as it decreases what he robs in broad daylight at the fuelling station.

  23. peter

    Veg Oil

    It costs more than Diesel in Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Makro, etc. Just from checking the websites right now. £1.10 per liter for dirt cheap rapeseed oil.

    The straight vegetable oil SVO is more expensive than Diesel and waste vegatable oil WVO is being collected by suppliers to resell. There was about enough oil being delivered to the imaginary chip shop to power the lorry delivering it, the myth of everyone powering their cars off the local chippy never worked unless only one guy in a town wanted the waste oil from all the providers.

    I got a cheap Citroen ZX with a Bosch fuel pump (without any intent to use SVO/WVO) , so could run 50/50 or higher SVO/Diesel with no modifications or cold start problems. There is no cheap oil at the moment.

  24. Andrew Webster

    Mad max.......

    hmmmm never thought mad max 3 would turn out to be accurate, wonder if the programme at Birmingham uni is run by professors Master and Blaster

  25. Geoff Mackenzie

    @peter - Cheap veg oil

    Don't buy from supermarkets - there's a cash'n'carry near me will sell large drums that should work out far better. I've not done the maths (my vehicles are petrol burners so I only took a passing interest) but we're talking bulk, cheaper packaging and cash'n'carry prices so I reckon their cheapest fayre can't be more than 70p a litre, and a nice big drum is handier for fuel use anyway. Wish I'd noted down the prices so I could be more precise, but this has got to be worth a look.

  26. r

    veg oil

    @anon coward

    "does it affect performance". Well my wife hasn't complained yet, why do you ask?

    Oh, you mean has the car's 0-60 time been affected. Haven't a clue mate - I stopped watching Top Gear when I grew up. If is slower then I haven't noticed.


    I didn't want to mention any supermarket by name but Tesco were the ones selling at 80p per litre (in fact they had some at 59p per litre a couple of weeks ago but it kept on selling out) bizarely this is on 1 litre bottles. The 3 litre bottles were more expensive per litre - go figure.

    The big-name supermarkets round here seem to collude on the price of veg oil. Over the last 3 years it's ben remarkable how the prices have increases have been identical. Currently they all charge £2.95 for 3 litre bottles.

    In any case price (for me) is not the only reson to use veg oil. The overiding factor is that it is not a fossil fuel. I only wish I had the car converted to run on 100% veg oil when I first had it.....

  27. mahoney

    skip the middle man

    a cow, a couple of lawn chairs and some bungee chords... you've got yourself a vehicle that even the greenest of green granola-eating hackysack-playing tree-hugging hippies would be totally jealous of.

    Ed Bagley Jr. just got serrrrrved

  28. Neil Stansbury

    Hydrogen fuel is a stupid idea

    You have to be completely mad to think hydrogen is the future of vehicle power. In fact the whole solution is just plain bad engineering.

    The only way we currently know to generate large amounts of *clean* hydrogen is via electrolysing water, splitting into it's constituent 2H2 + 02. This process is ~30% efficient.

    Then, assuming you aren't generating it at the pump, you need to either compress it or refrigerate the hydrogen to transport it - both of which require energy - not least to power the vehicle infrastructure itself.

    Then, either a highly pressurised or very cold highly flammable liquid is pumped and stored in the local petrol - err hydrogen station - wonderful terrorist targets - they'll burn very nicely - think of the Hindenburg.

    After that, Grandma has to be comfortable handling this highly flammable liquid and storing it in her car - hoping it doesn't all evaporate or explode in hot weather or fire.

    On board the car we pump (yet more cost, complexity & failure points) the hydrogen and combine it over a fuel cell (that is effectively a battery), which itself is less than 50% efficient (and the efficiency drops proportionally to the power draw), to create electricity that is then sent to a bulk standard electric motor.

    Thus excluding distribution: 100% -> 30% -> 50% -> Electric Motor

    The alternative is instead of converting the electricity to Hydrogen - just store it in a battery (which can be up to 80% efficient) on the car and send it straight to the electric motor. No production or storage of highly flammable cold/pressurised gases, no mechanics for pumping fuel, no expensive crash-proof hydrogen tanks, no tricky pressurised fuel seals for the fuel caps (Challenger anyone?)

    Thus: 100% -> 80% -> Electric motor

    Aside from the safety, complexity, reliability and performance (see issues, what happens when solar cells become so cheap we can integrate them onto a vehicle shell - where can you store that energy? Or how about vibration dampers that pick up the vibrations in passing traffic and trickle charge batteries with it?

    Hydrogen fuel is just a plain stupid idea. Period.

    In fact the only people that justifiably think hydrogen is the future of vehicle power are CEOs of the large oil companies, because if we all start charging our cars up at home or work, they won't have anything to sell us, and even less reason to visit their little shops to buy a 2 day old sandwich.

    Unless they're getting into the property business, they need us to buy hydrogen or their dead - and they know it.

  29. ImaGnuber
    Thumb Down

    On your bike!

    For god's sake get off your fat... and get a bike.

    Or build a lightweight four-wheel base and stick on some pedals, a light body, and a big easy-grip steering wheel with a big red button horn in the centre. Just about any toy shop can provide a prototype.

    Lazy buggers.

    However if people start switching en masse to bikes then I hope the gov provides a tax disincentive for super-size spandex cycling shorts.

  30. Andus McCoatover

    Hydrogen cars hit by marketing disaster..

    Oh, Bugger.

    How to make a decent ad. for the new Ford Hindenburg???

    (Unless, of course the fuel comes from them Concrete Cows. Butta course, they are only indigenous to Milton Keynes)

    If you want real green motoring, read on, dear vulture-lovers:

    Mate of mine made a wooden car. Wooden chassis, wooden seats, wooden gearbox, wooden engine.

    Natch, it 'wooden' go. (Can't believe I wrote that, and then didn't delete. Sodding hell....)

    -Gorrit already.

  31. chris

    Use the cow to tow the car instead

    May I humbly suggest an alternative?

    Use the cow to tow the car instead

    We have a crop surplus, we have to pay farmer NOT to grow it.

    The cow exhaust is wonderful for roadside gardens or verges

    The resultant plants are havens for endangered insects, which are eaten by endangered birds

    which privide us with birdsong

    which provides us peace and harmony

    Its easy to be green

    just takes a re-think.

  32. GrahamT

    @Anton Ivanov

    My comment was meant tongue in cheek. Maybe I should have used the joke or coat icon.

    However, I can't let a challenge pass: How about pushing the smelly methane through activated carbon filters - the carbon being made from the waste CO2 - then burying the carbon in landfill thus:

    - removing the smell

    - reducing the carbon load

    - laying down future coal reserves for our descendents.

    (yes, yes, completely impractical, I know)

    Also, I seem to remember, from school chemistry, bubbling sulphur compound solutions through ammonia (from the urine) and the sulphur precipitating out. But that was 40+ years ago, so the chemistry might be wrong, and I'm sure the ammonia compounds formed would be just as smelly.

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