Clean Transportation Permalink Submitted by Ed (not verified) on Sat, 12/28/2013 - 10:23. I find your comments about fuel cells for use in transportation "curious". You state: "In 2010, my line to journalists that “the jury was in, and the future of transportation was to be all-electric.” In 2012, my talking point was that the near-term future of transportation was to be all-electric. In 2013, I started talking about fuel cells possibly succeeding all-electric in the far future of transportation, once costs come down. In 2014, fuel cell approaches may get even more ink and undermine the aggressive uptake expected for electric vehicles. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, for if their fuel (hydrogen, methanol, or in some cases formic acid or others) can be created in low-cost, sustainable ways, fuel cell vehicles could ultimately have less of an impact on the planet, given that the power required to drive EVs often comes from dirty sources." First of all - in many ways, fuel cells are simply another form of "battery" used to power electric motors in electric vehicles. In this case - rather than recharging the in-vehicle battery - you change the electrolyte to one that is charged and "burn" it in the fuel cell. What troubles me the most about fuel cells is that you can travel over twice as far using the same amount of energy needed to make and store, for example, H+ as you can by simply using the same energy (independent of its' source) to charge a battery and send the energy to an electric motor rather than a roughly 50% efficient fuel cell. In the case of H+, most of it today is derived from reforming some of the same carbon based fuels we are depleting and are routinely suspected of adding greenhouse gasses to the planet. Your caveat that "once costs come down" for fuel cells is not much of a "prediction" since we have been hoping for this to happen for many decades. The real problem for fuel cells is that their fuel is not readily available (no - sea water is far too energy intensive to use for making H+) and even after decades of talking about it - there still is no H+ infrastructure. And besides, why would we build out an entirely new nationwide infrastructure to support one thing - transportation - when we can use the nationwide electrical grid to charge batteries (when convenient) or more near term - simply burn a little gasoline or E85 etc. on the rare occasions that we need to travel outside of the range of our batteries. As we all know, the gasoline infrastructure is 100% deployed today and will be used for decades into the future independent of what we develop today. The electrical infrastructure is also deployed into virtually 100% of the homes and garages in the country and, maybe more importantly, used for thousands of things - not just transportation. Because of this - doesn't it make more sense to leverage the existing electrical (and gasoline) infrastructure(s) and even build it out if needed (since it is required for so much more) than to develop a completely new H+ infrastructure? Don't your comments: " if their fuel (hydrogen, methanol, or in some cases formic acid or others) can be created in low-cost, sustainable ways, fuel cell vehicles could ultimately have less of an impact on the planet, given that the power required to drive EVs often comes from dirty sources." Just as easily apply to EV's and the evolving battery technology i.e.: if their "electrical energy needed to recharge batteries" can be created in low-cost, sustainable ways, "Electric" vehicles could ultimately have less of an impact on the planet" Don't solar and other clean energy generation methods already provide a pathway to doing just that? Why should we invest in a completely new nationwide infrastructure to support a 50% efficient fuel cell? I fear that fuel cells are, once again, being paraded out to simply distract from the ultimate solutions that are available TODAY with 100% deployed infrastructure. First in the form of range extended EV's (like GM's Voltec solutions) and, as storage technologies improve, less and less "range extending" and more pure EV use. Keep in mind that the needed range in an electric vehicle has a two part answer. First, enough to get you to a location where the storage system can be conveniently recharged (like home). For nearly 80% of Americans - that implies 40 miles of daily range (14,600 miles per year) - the vast majority of the time. Second, you simply CAN NOT strand a customer! The gasoline powered range extender in GM's Voltec utilizes the already 100% deployed gasoline infrastructure to insure that the customer is not stranded. This will solve the problem for the occasional drive to Grandma's house (or even a cross country drive) while providing nearly 100% electric drive for the vast majority of 80% of the countries transportation needs. Improving storage solutions will continue to increase the 80% number over the coming decade. Time and money would be better spent on developing lower mass and volume range extenders than parading out fuel cell technology that doesn't "really" work to solve the problem and seems to be perpetually decades away because of the infrastructure needed to support them nationwide. Of course, if you are an oil company - fuel cells make perfect sense. Seemingly always decade's away (while we continue to burn oil) and ultimately involving tanker trucks delivering fuel to refueling stations. Let's not continue to be duped.