I wanted to post this yesterday, but ran out of time, so we’ll do this today.
On Wednesday, Raging Dave at the 4 Right Wing Wackos blog posted about GE finding a way to manufacture hydrogen on the cheap, bringing the probability of hydrogen fueled transportation a little closer.
GE says that they believe they can manufacture hydrogen at a price comparable to today’s gasoline (approx $3 per gallon), but if that is the best they can do, we have a problem, and it isn’t in Houston.
When you compress and ignite a liquid to make it combust, whether it be gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas or hydrogen, you break that liquid down to individual molecules. No engine to this day can contain the entire act of combustion. This is part of the reason your oil gets dirty; because the explosion and it’s residue blows past the piston and the ring seals and gets everywhere, and is mostly sopped up by the other petrolium product inside your engine block.
The nut of the problem is that Hydrogen ‘fuel’ is made up only of 2 hydrogen atoms (H2), a teeny-tiny molecule when compared to say, Isooctane (C8H18) (aka: gasoline), and especially N-Hexadecane (C16H34) (aka: diesel). Models here.
When you try and squish this itty-bitty thing in a combustion chamber, whole lot of it isn’t going to stick around to be blown up so that your piston will go down, it is going to leak past your rings and into your block.
What this all means is that your fuel mileage, depending on the ability of your engine to keep the hydrogen in the combusion chamber, will be anywhere from 3/4 to 2/3 that of a gasoline engine.
Do the math for $3 per gallon fuel and you tell me which one is more efficient.
For those that don’t know, Japan has some of the most stringent emmisions standards in the world. By 50-60K miles, most Japanese owned cars will need to have their motors swapped out because they won’t meet the emission standards (something the eco-socialist cultists would love to impose on us, btw).
I’ve had multiple vehicles (all Toyotas, I’m proud to say) pass the Washington State Emission Standards at 200K miles, so it isn’t that the engines are worn out at 50-60K, they’re just too worn out to meet Japan’s restrictions. There is a industry in Japan for doing quick and easy swap outs and the sheer number of these, because of supply and demand, means that it isn’t quite as expensive as it is here in the US.
Japan being like anywhere else, there is also a cottage industry for faking IDs; but unlike our problem of fake IDs for illegal immigrants, they fake automotive IDs. If you have a hopped up rice rocket in Japan, you don’t want to bring that thing anywhere near the emmissions center, so you buy a scapegoat car, one of the same year, make and model that will wear your rocket’s plates, VIN# and door bar-coded/elecronic ID tag. You drive that to the center, pass the test and then go on with your life. Some of the car clubs even have one car that everyone passes around for test day. Neat little scam some folks have imported to the US *cough-cough*.
So, your engine will slowly leak more and more hydrogen past your pistons & rings, having been built to higher tolerances so as to get the most mileage as possible from the factory, your wear will be at a faster rate than say, a gasoline engine built to lower tolerances, meaning your milage will plummet, probably shortly after 30K. This is especially so if the factory folks have installed eight to ten sets of rings on the pistons instead of the normal three to five to keep all the pushwater in the tube; all those rings grinding on the cylinder walls…ouch. And because it is built to higher tolerances, it will cost more to manufacture, and therefore, more to replace.
One other added expense of hydrogen engines is this: Take a look at the molecular structure of gas and diesel again; that (C) stands for Carbon. When you pop gas or diesel, the residue left behind is 99% burned carbon. Again, that is what gets into your oil and makes it dirty.
So when you squish a fuel made entirely from large amounts of hydrogen and without carbon you get one of the main pluses of a hydrogen powered engine: Water as exhaust, because of the mixing with oxygen molecules.
But add in the leakage problem and you get……hydrogen molecules mixing with oxygen molecules in your engine block, also known as ‘Water in Your Oil’.
Water and oil are bad things to mix. So you have to use the more expensive ‘Synthetic’ oil and change it more frequently. The vast majority of the ‘Synthetic’ oils you are paying $3-$4 per quart for are just blends (as opposed to $1.50-$2 per quart for regular oil), and those will not get you very far in a hydrogen powered car, so you can only use the pure synthetic oil (hence my prior quote marks around the word synthetic) and those cost $6-$8 a quart. Also, you’ll probably want to/have to change your oil every 2K miles in a hydrogen car because, even though most of it will evaporate due to temperature and steam out of your crankcase vent, water in any block is a bad thing. Then add the 10K mile block flushes and you’ve got one very expensive engine to maintain.
Sure, we can make cars that run on hydrogen. Hell, Ford has a Mustang that’ll run 11 second quarter-miles on hydrogen. But we have, by no sane means, perfected it enough for the soccer mom to run it around town or for Bob from Accounting to drive to work.
Sorry to be a party pooper, but Hydrogen is for breathing and swimming in, not for fueling your car.