back to article Government launches hydrogen motoring task force

The UK government hopes Britons could be motoring in Hydrogen-powered cars as early as 2014, Business Minister Mark Prisk said today. Speaking in London at the launch of UKH2Mobility, an initiative to evaluate what Britain needs to make that vision a reality, Prisk admitted that the e-car is still part of the government's CO2 …


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  1. Richard Wharram

    Hydrogen is silly.

    It leaks and it isn't a very efficient use of energy. There's better ways of saving Oil and reducing CO2 than this. Top Gear gets things wrong sometimes you know :)

    1. EyeCU

      Go on then

      Tell us your vision for fuel of the future. On one hand you have lithium battery driven electric cars which rely on a there being an unlimited supply of lithium (which there isn't), readily available electricity (They are predicting rolling outages as early as 2017 in the UK as we can't generate enough), nobody ever having to travel more than 200 miles (otherwise your batteries run out) and everybody always having 4-6 hours to refill their car. Not to mention the environmental impact of mining, refining and recycling that lithium and the other required elements.

      On the other hand hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, is easy to transport and store in its liquid state, can be used to instantly fill a fuel cell in much the same way you fill up with petrol at the minute and produces no emissions except water so it's nice and clean.

      Admittedly the current ways of producing hydrogen in large quantities are poor and require large amounts of energy but if they spent the R&D money on developing new ways to make this more efficient instead of focusing on batteries it would get better very quickly. Already scientists have found that a bit of genetic engineering on bacteria can produce the results they want very cheaply and without the need for large amounts of energy. Giving more money to help research this would help speed things up and make it commercially viable.

      Hydrogen is definitely the only sensible way to go

      1. Richard Wharram

        I already did

        in a later post.

        As for that article. Come back to me when you have figures for how many cubic miles of water you would need to be constantly producing hydrogen in order to power the UK's car fleet. Never mind the costs, where would you put it?

        Pie in the sky stuff.


        mmm, pie !

        1. EyeCU

          I see you did

          Meths! Alcohol fuelled cars what a great idea. Just a couple of points:

          How many acres of land would you need to produce enough vegetable matter to accommodate the worlds needs? Land that could be used for much more important things like food. Or if you of the 'lets grow algae on the sea' kind of person, how much ocean would have to be covered with algae (along with the detrimental effects on the marine life) to produce enough? Even if you could produce enough how many chemical plants would be needed to turn said vegetable matter into alcohol. How do you transport it from fields/ocean to the plants? How much of the alcohol produced is just being used to get more vegetable matter to the places where it can be turned to alcohol, don't you think that is just an unnecessary waste? What about all the left over bits like the yeasty sludge, where do you put it?

          As for your comment about water, here's some news for you. It can create up to 10l of water waste to produce 1l of alcohol so how many cubic miles of water would you need? And where would you put it?

          Hydrogen plants could be located near the sea or large lakes and therefore have the raw materials nearby and transported in by pipe so no worries about transportation. It would be irrelevant how many cubic miles of water would be needed to produce the hydrogen as no storage would be needed because of the supply. Delivery to fuel stations could all be done by pipeline and keep an awful lot of trucks off the road. When people burn the hydrogen it produces water which evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain and ends up back in the lakes and sea so no worries about running out. Obviously the plants would have to be managed so that they don't take more water out of lakes than is being put back naturally but that wouldn't be a problem with a well managed system.

          1. Richard Wharram

            Did I say?

            That the meths should be produced from plants?

            New straw man please !

            1. EyeCU

              Still no answers

              I give comprehensive information as to why I think I am right. You come up with crap and can't back it up. Please give a good explanation as to how you plan to flood the world with enough alcohol to fuel everything without some kind of organic matter.

      2. Charles Manning

        The crux of the matter

        "Giving more money to help research this...."

        It does not have to be at all practical to ask for more funding.

        You say there isn't enough leccy to charge electirc cars. Fair enough. The grid is already maxed out just handling current loads and cannot take on charging a reasonable fleet of electric cars.

        But the power cycle from leccy->hydrogen->fuel-cell->electric motor is less efficient than leccy->battery->electric motor, so moving to hydrogen as an energy store makes the problem worse - not better.

        No matter how much R&D money you burn there are some fundamental limitations that will still screw up h fuel.

        1. EyeCU

          You missed a bit

          Did you not see the link I provided about bacteria being able to produce the hydrogen? That would mean that large amounts of electricity were not needed to create the hydrogen in the first place making it more efficient. Your argument is poor, it boils down to 'we don't know how to do this so why bother trying'. Our species wouldn't have got anywhere with that attitude. How many things have people through the ages declared impossible only to be proved wrong and we now take them for granted. My stance is quite the opposite, 'We don't know until we try'.

          1. Richard Wharram


            Methanol can be produced in a range of ways.

            From Methane.

            From plants.

            From Carbon Dioxide + Water + Electricity.

            It's so simple that people can invent new ways to make it all the time. Whichever way is chosen the end product is the same.

            Hydrogen is also quite simple to make. However, for every advantage you give for Hydrogen, Methanol has the same advantages, BUT, it also works with today's engine technology. Hydrogen does not. For Hydrogen to replace petrol the whole motoring industry and supporting infrastructure would have to change. For Methanol to replace petrol, very little would have to change and it can be done incrementally.

  2. Mad Mike
    Thumb Up

    Filling a tank.

    Yes, hydrogen may well cost a lot in electricity to produce, but at least you could fill a hydrogen car in less than the 4-10 hours it takes for an electric one. Would probably have a longer range on a 'fill' as well. I don't see why a hydrogen car needs to have additional batteries above an ordinary one to get up hills. Surely, this depends on the size of the hydrogen cell? If the cell is only sized to propel the car on the level, extra power would need to be stored at this time for release when driving up hills. Presumably, the answer is simply to have a large hydrogen cell?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Think of it this way. One of my books on car tuning says that an Escort (Mk. II?) uses 8hp to travel along the flat at 50mph (probably with streamlined cars it's better). Now think about when you need to pull onto a motorway, or drive up a hill; the same car uses maybe 70hp.

      It seems a great waste to make a fuel cell capable of producing 70hp of power continuously because you sometimes accelerate onto a motorway or need to go up a hill. I think a battery for these occasions and a fuel cell for normal operation, plus reasonable charging of the battery is a good idea (fuel cells being very expensive items).

      1. PC Paul

        "It seems a great waste to make a fuel cell capable of producing 70hp of power continuously because you sometimes accelerate onto a motorway or need to go up a hill."

        So why not have the fuel cell split into zones of say 20hp each, and control the gas flow into them as needed? A relatively small battery could absorb the extra power (if there is an optimum point they run at rather than being variable?) and use it to give a small kick when needed too.

        As for Hydrogen not providing a use for excess wind power on windy days, how about using it to generate and compress hydrogen to be supplied to the locals at a discount as compensation for having the turbines nearby? Could see a shift in perception if there were material advantages to living close by...

        1. Charles Manning


          Fuel cells are extremely large and expensive.

          It is way easier to have, say, a 30hp fuel cell that can deliver the 20hp base load and provide an extra 10hp to charge a battery for extra loads.

          Of course if fuel cells ever got to the point where they are smaller and cheaper than batteries then the battery could be discarded.

  3. EddieD

    Kryten says..

    A bit old, but kinda sums up my feelings.

    With the sound up NSFW. Really. With no sound, pointless...

  4. Richard Wharram


    Use a normal engine with a different fuel. Like Meths.

    Electric car for the wife's school and Tesco runs and I'll keep my proper engine. Sorted :)

  5. Frederic Bloggs


    Since this government is hell bent on sticking windmills everywhere, and the National Grid is shitting bricks about how it is going to cope with all this unpredictable power, the obvious thing is to get windmills to generate all the hydrogen. Yes, I know that makes the H2 more expensive, but we aren't going to get any decent quantity of working nuclear reactors anywhen (never mind soon) to generate it economically. Making H2 out of wind and storing it would make the best of a bad job and one might as well subsidise something useful.

    If the stored H2 isn't used for transport it could still become an on demand gas turbine based storage system to add to the few (and inadequate) pumped water storage stations we already have.

    1. ravenviz

      I think they're called wind turbines these days.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Frederic Bloggs

      "the obvious thing is to get windmills to generate all the hydrogen. "

      "Making H2 out of wind and storing it would make the best of a bad job and one might as well subsidise something useful."

      "If the stored H2 isn't used for transport it could still become an on demand gas turbine based storage system to add to the few (and inadequate) pumped water storage stations we already have."

      Now (if you're hell bent on using Hydrogen) *sounds* like a plan.

      I'll caution that backbone gas transmission networks (not the bit that runs to peoples houses) either run at 1000s of PSI or transport as a liquid (as in LNG). But as Hydrogen is as bit a PITA to pressurize or liquify as it is to store in the first place you've swapped one problem for another.

      OTOH it would create *storage* in a form simple enough for politicians to understand. Storage is one one thing anyone building a network based on *unreliable* sources needs a lot of. Note not all sustainable. for example geothermal is not "renewable", as its ultimate heat source is the radioactive decay heat of rocks. Not something you can "renew" without setting off a nuclear bomb. The core heat source should still be good for a few billion years.

      Thumbs up for the thinking. It's not my preferred plan but does the parts in place working together better.

  6. Big_Ted

    Its a bomb I tell you......

    What a great idea hydrogen is...................not

    It burns explosively, just imagine being in an accident, your first thought is "is it leaking, am I going to die."

    Petrol is bad enougth but not as likely to blow up.

    What we really need is the swapable battery solution, you pull into a station like a carwash and your battery pack is dropped and another sloted in, should be possible in less time than filling with petrol plua no need to leave the car at all.

    The battery packs could then be recharged using cheaper overnight power and even local green energy in the right places.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Er.. I think you will find that hydrogen, for a flammable gas, is not that explosive. People have done tests... H2 has a relatively low flame speed and it is, as we know, very light. This means that even if one manages the correct stoichiometric mixture, one has to ignite at that exact moment, otherwise the H2 will have bogged off somewhere else - meaning no explosion.

      People that stress about H2 in vehicle tanks should perhaps look at this: or

      Neither of these videos are the one I wanted (that illustrates the point most graphically). It shows someone shooting tracer rounds into a standard H2 cylinder, comparing that with a similar propane cylinder. The upshot being that the propane explosion was *much* more erm.. interesting. The H2 cylinder just split along its rupture line, there is some blue flame and then it stops. The cylinder is still cylinder shaped and has not disintegrated into shrapnel like the propane example.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Replacement Battery packs?

      Yea what a brilliant idea.

      I pull into the fuel court in my brand new milk float, take the shiny new empty pack out and replace it with some 8 year old pack that's been in 1000's of charges and has it's capacity reduced to 50%.

      If the packs are shared amongst the populous then no-one will take any care or responsibility for their upkeep, and they'll all be ruined.

  7. Ben Bonsall

    ditch the renewables feed in bonus scheme, and give grants or tax breaks to build hydroden cracking and storage to the renewable companies instead, helping to smooth the output from the renewable sources and also kick start hydrogen car schemes.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hydrogen created naturally..

    By those with Lactose intollerance.. So I'll just drink too much milk and power the car with me f**s...

    1. Big_Ted


      thats methane you dipstick..........

      1. Preacher

        it is you who fail Big_Ted

        Most intestinal gas is a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide, very little Methane (if any)

      2. wiggers

        Methane is fine...

        You just need a reformer to use it.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          re Wiggers : Or use in a gas injection system

          Like the CNG systems.

          Works on a normal engine

  9. Steve Renouf
    IT Angle


    The car could be generating it's own H H 0 - a la Joe's Cell technology

    1. Richard Wharram


      ...maybe that's just a crock of shit.

      1. Steve Renouf

        Wrong aspect

        I wasn't referring to the "Orgone" aspect, I was referring to the H producing process (by electrolysis - which is a well-known process and which variations of the Joe's cell are doing today in any number of vehicle's that have been modified by their owners).

        The point I was making is that the car manufacturers could easily incorporate this technology, if it wasn't for the power that the oil companies wield, rather than making customer's fill up a large storage tank by BUYING the H that *could be* produced by the car whilst driving!


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally I don't know why we've been wasting time with electric cars, too expensive to buy and produce, battery life cycle is a nightmare (both cost and environment) and the charging that takes hours and hours.

    Hydrogen is the way forward. It could be produced at the actual filling station as well, which would further reduce the transportation, although I accept this is not a cheap option. It's the closest option we have to petrol/diesel to the extent of minutes to fill and a tank will last a while.

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Electrolysis is expensive

    Current nuclear capacity is near the end of its life, and there will be a gap before replacements are ready. We could use electricity from natural gas to create hydrogen but that would just make the coming power cuts worse. It would be cheaper to reform natural gas into hydrogen directly without converting to electricity as an intermediate stage. Even better, run cars off natural gas.

    Most cars can have a natural gas storage added, and you can then switch between gas an petrol as needed. Gas storage is bulky so it does not has the same range as petrol, and the storage does cost some space. It is not for everyone, but it is tested and working technology (I used it decades ago in New Zealand).

    The obvious reasons why this could never happen in the UK is it does not require everyone to buy a new car, does not provide a use for surplus wind power on windy days and does not require everyone to sit at home and freeze five days per year.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Hydrogen. Fuel of the future

    And having listened to Robert LLewelelyn's rant it *always* will be.

  13. Paul Naylor

    No ta

    I'll wait for 2015 when the Mr Fusion comes out...

  14. Perpetual Cyclist

    Hydrogen is a bad answer to the wrong question

    There is no efficient way to make hydrogen. There is no long term way to store hydrogen. (It leaks out of containers too quickly), It's energy density is quite low so you need large heavy tanks to give practical range. There is no infrastructure to distribute hydrogren, and you cannot retrofit existing vehicles to run on hydrogen (to my knowledge). It is inherently expensive.

    Compressed natural gas is a mature technology. Vehicles can be retro-fitted. Range is practical, national distribution network already in place. Duel fuel vehicles can have increased range. Widely used in parts of the developing world already.

    Of course natural gas is a fossil fuel, we currently import an ever increasing percentage of our supply, but global supply has not yet peaked (unlike oil). At present, it costs about half as much as oil per unit energy.

    Unfortunately, CNG is not the long term answer to personal motorised transport. We are at the peak of industrial civilisation and beginning the downslope. 30 years from now, there will be very few cars on the road, anywhere in the world.

    1. Alfie Noakes
      Thumb Up

      Despite you being a "cyclist" ;) i'll give you a thumbs-up for pointing out the weaknesses of H2, and checkout the Jermins who plan(ned) to make C/LNG out of those nasty "carbons" -

      Just gotta ramp up the new-kew-laaars for an on-going supply of car-juice!

  15. arrbee

    The problem with widespread use of h2 is that you end up with comparatively large amounts leaking into an atmosphere ready to react with it in all sorts of interesting ways.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A few points

    People are scared of Hydrogen because it's combustion range is *very* wide. At roughly 4% H2 in air will burn (so not much of a leak to start a fire. H2 leaks *easily*). Above 18.3% it will go bang. It keeps going bang up to 59% but keeps burning up to 74% (KK Kuo principles of combustion 2nd Ed pg 400). The flame is nearly colorless (like superheated steam) so you could start to cook before you realize. But on the upside Hydrogen disperses quickly (*much* lighter than air) so with enough wind blowing it'll be below its minimum combustion limit before trouble starts. If not you get a *very* large cloud of burning gas.

    I'll note LNG is normally sourced from the ground but it does *not* have to be and and a report funded by British Gas (reported in El Reg) reckoned the UK could source 50% of its *existing* demand from anaerobic digestion. Weather this could be ramped up even *further* is a big question. But could it go further? Keep in mind this is not *increasing* the CO2 when it's burned as it was already in circulation to begin with and it's the *rising* CO2 level people are concerned about.

    I'd suggest Hydrogen is a crappy way to store energy, which tends to be why its "captured" in various other chemicals. A better question is *why* do people consider it an option and the point of use *convenience* is basically it. It also has that guilt soothing "Look. I am driving but *no* CO2 comes from my exhaust pipe" quality (AFAIK *all* H2 stations in CA actually convert natural gas in a highly energy intensive way then compress or cool it in an equally energy intensive way but that's not the drivers problem. They are *trying* to be "green").

    I don't know the answer but I'll make a few observations.

    *if* its a fuel make it a *liquid* or shallow cryogen to leverage the well developed industrial base for handling such things. So far people have have either chosen chemicals they already know about and adapted standard IC engines to use them or built reformers to get at the H2 and feed it into an H2 fuel cell. People have *started* to look at bacteria based fuel cells running on *sugar* which seems a much better option. The process becomes one of *extraction* rather than manufacture though fermentation.

    I'm not sure anyone has tried "designing" a fuel from scratch (EG room temp liquid, less global warming than CO2, easy to make with low energy processes etc) but I suspect it'll be pretty tough.

    If you're going with batteries some kind of *standardized* exchangeable battery pack *needs* to be sorted out. Most important it should be spec stuff like dimensions, mass, *minimum* W/Hr, max temperature etc, but should not specify *chemistry*. Ultimately if someone puts out a "battery" pack which is actually a packaged fuel/generator/IC engine so what? We're in smart battery territory here, not a lump you get from KwikFit.

    I'll note that in the pre-owned car market not many people face the comment "No one buys this model. You can't get the engines," unlike laptops and their batteries. Anyone got some NiCd's for an old Toshiba?

    And please don't forget about kinetic energy storage. Very high speed flywheels don't have chemistry that degrades over time, and do regenerative breaking *easily* and can be mass competitive. Packaged in contra-rotating pairs they can eliminate any handling issues with gyroscopic effects. They can fail safe if the vacuum is broken and multiple options exist for the wheels, the motor/generators and the electronics to give a Nickel/Lithium/scarce-resouce-of-the-week design.

    Stop because I don't think any government should be putting money into this option. It's not that it has an issue, it has so *many* issues. It's greenwash.

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