Motoring Discussion > Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) Green Issues
Thread Author: LINGsCARS Replies: 13

 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - LINGsCARS
Automotive Management posted this "news" item (actually PR as usual), about some hydrogen powered vans for the post office. Thought it may make a nice discussion:


Zero-emission hydrogen-fuelled vans arrive on UK market:

Vans that use hydrogen to fuel an internal combustion engine rather than used in fuel cells to power batteries have arrived on the UK market, albeit in very small numbers.

They will cost £45,000 more than the standard petrol-fuelled equivalent models.

The Royal Mail is to trial two of the new converted Ford Transit vans,while the manufacturer attempts to find buyers.

The vans are built by specialist engineering firm Revolve, but as Paul Turner technical director at the company admitted, selling them wasn’t going to be easy.

“There is no re-fuelling infrastructure and the garages won’t create an infrastructure because there are no hydrogen vans for sale," he said.

"We have decided to stand up and do something and hopefully in the future things will improve.”

The vans have a range of about 85 miles but also retain the original petrol tank, so won’t be left stranded.

Revolve is covering the usual warranty on the engine and hydrogen parts while Ford is guaranteeing the rest.

The vans, based on the 2.3-litre petrol variant, have a supercharger added, while either two or three hydrogen tanks are fitted under the load-floor so not impacting on cargo space.

Revolve said it will be offering a discount for bulk buying.


- Ling
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - LINGsCARS
And, this was my comment on that website:


I have a BSc in Applied Chemistry and an MSc in Environmental Management, so have some qualification to comment on this issue:

Hydrogen is a poor fuel for motor vehicles. Why?

The energy density is low. Note the very poor range regarding the post office vans.

The gas is made largely from hydrocarbons. Therefore the source is oil-based in the main.

The creation process and storage is very energy intensive as the gas must be kept super-cooled and compressed at a high pressure. Same in the "petrol" station place.

Due to the small atomic size (the smallest atom) the leakage rate is high, as very little can effectively contain it. Therefore when one of these vehicles is left parked, the gas will effectively evaporate.

The transportation cost and carbon footprint is far higher than normal hydrocarbon fuels as it will need specialist truck and as the energy density is low, you will need more of them for the same calorific value.

Storage on the user vehicle must be safe, the gas is highly explosive in air, (see the Hindenberg) so there are additional dangers in an impact, or in a fire, or with aged systems. Compare that to diesel cars where benign (atmospheric pressure) and standard containers and piping can be used.

Hydrogen is odourless and colourless, escapes will not be noticed until an explosion occurs, so mercaptans (as in domestic gas) will need to be added to ensure releases are noticed.

Hydrogen burns with an invisible flame, so even if a leak ignites it may not be noticed until it becomes catastrophic.

A hydrogen fire will be incredibly hard to extinguish.

There is no refuelling infrastructure, as noted.

Refuelling would have to be incredibly stringently overseen - we are not talking about hard to ignite hydrocarbons like diesel (and less so petrol).

There are probably many more drawbacks compared to traditional fuels.

The carbon footprint is actually far higher than either petrol or diesel (the same applies to grid-recharged EVs).

...and thinking about it, a further danger is that a Hydrogen leak into the car will asphyxiate you if concentrated (but will probably explode first as it will almost always spontaneously combust in contact with air), so really need to make that gas very smelly which alone will put many people off. There will always be a lingering smell, as those mercaptans are the smelliest substances known to man... and if an H2 leak gets on to your skin in liquid form (in any significant quantity), say bye bye to that part of your body, it will super freeze and snap off. MIND YOUR FINGERS, TECHNICIANS. May need full hazchem suits to work on these systems when charged. Imagine if a pipe is disconnected by accident... or in a few years by a home mechanic!

Hydrogen is also very likely to dissolve INTO many metals, making them very brittle over time, which leads to a nasty bang at some stage.

Loverly juberley stuff, who wants THAT H2 in your car? Even the safety stats I tried to look up are jumbled, as Hydrogen seems to change its form and effects over time - phenomena occur randomly - very jumbled data. H&SE will have a field day. How the fire brigade should react to a car fire or damage is unknown, but I think cars may have to carry warning HazChem signs with the suffix "E" which means "Evacuate". Hope the Post Office is well insured. Postmen are well known to keep their vans in tip-top shape after all...

Hydrogen fans, either you stupid or you are dreaming. Dream on.

Hydrogen will not become a good fuel for road vehicles, as many of the issues above are currently beyond the ability of cost-effectiveness to address.

This is simply a PR adventure for the Post Office.

I would recommend that the firm spending money on this technology does a full assessment of the future use of Hydrogen. It seems to me to be a fast-track to bankruptcy.

Hope this makes sense. Discuss!

- Ling
Last edited by: LINGsCARS on Mon 22 Feb 10 at 16:43
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Old Navy
It takes vast amounts of electricity to produce hydrogen, no such thing as free or clean propulsion. If the electricity is produced by nuclear power you still have to deal with the spent fuel rods.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - FotheringtonTomas
>> Zero-emission hydrogen-fuelled vans arrive on UK market

They're a dead duck, unless there's a large surplus of (non-transport) "green" energy available, which there currently isn't. To make the hydrogen otherwise needs input. Electricity storage seems the way forward right now.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Zero
I think hydrogen is the fuel of the future.

It meets the primary requirement of easy fill-up of a vehicle - IE quick (under 5 minutes) easy tp provide fill-up locations, and easy (and light) to transport around as fuel.

Electric powered vehicles will always be hampered by re-charge times. *IF* HM gov gets its act in gear and gets nuclear power stations built, the Severn barage wave generator and offshore wind farms by the gazzillion, should produce enough electricity to produce the hydrogen.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - rtj70
The future will no doubt be a combination of hydrogen and nuclear to provide the power to extract the hydrogen.

But what is the impact on the environment/atmosphere if we crach H2O to create the hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen goes somewhere.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - LINGsCARS
"The Oxygen goes somewhere".

Oh, God help us :)

You think we might create an Oxygen rich atmosphere? That means everything will begin to spontaneously combust.

This is silly argument, are you serious????

If you are really worried, all that excess O2 will eventually recombine with the Hydrogen when it is burnt and make - Ta Daaaaaaaaa: Water! But the amount of difference this makes to the atmosphere is too small to measure, and is massively outweighed by the energy and carbon used to make the Hydrogen in the first place.

If you are that worries about the atmosphere, suggest you stop f***ing!
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - car4play
Hi Ling
I know it's been a long and busy day for all of us. You do make a valid point here of course. I happen to completely agree with you.

But please is it possible to be a tad nicer to Welshy? He is one of our new mods and so too has had a long day. This is his first day here too. As I said on another thread no one would want to watch a punch up between people in this forum. Not while they are having a beer in the car park so to speak.
We don't all have a degree in chemical sciences or whatever. I'm just asking that you are especially courteous to those who don't maybe know as much as you, or else haven't expressed something in the way you would have understood it.

He might be more thick skinned than all this so it may be just us getting over-worried that things may get out of hand.
Good to see that the swear filter works ok! Even if not meant as a swear word.

But don't stop your posting. It is a very interesting discussion.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - rtj70
No I wasn't ling ;-)
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - FotheringtonTomas
>> I think hydrogen is the fuel of the future.

I'm not at all sure about that. Complexity. Waste. Danger.

>> It meets the primary requirement of easy fill-up of a vehicle - IE quick (under
>> 5 minutes) easy tp provide fill-up locations and

Swap battery, Sir?

>> easy (and light) to transport around as fuel.

Hydrogen may be "light", but the container ain't that at all.

>> Electric powered vehicles will always be hampered by re-charge times.

Cue Renolt and their up-coming electric battery vehicles with leased batteries - you can charge the things at home, or swap them for (a) fully charged one(s) at a garage (in 2011, apparently).

I said this in another place - imagine if all the garages open now, selling petrol, ran instead an exchange battery system - for standardised batteries. Drive in, slide out battery, slide charged one in, pay, go. Garage man plugs extracted battery in and re-charges it.

>> *IF* HM gov gets its act in gear and gets (many more) power stations built

Yes, but it's still very inefficient and complicated to use hydrogen as a fuel.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Zero
> Swap battery, Sir?

have you seen the size of a battery pack? its about the size of a pallet and weighs a lot. How many of those can you store at the filling station? New ones and used ones.
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Fenlander
Hmm if these pallet size battery packs were all made to a roughly standard form that would slide out from the rear/underneath something like a one man hydraulic lift pallet mover would be ideal for a quick swap by a *recharge station*. It's an idea for a small business??
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Bellboy
>> Hmm if these pallet size battery packs were all made to a roughly standard form
>> that would slide out from the rear/underneath something like a one man hydraulic lift pallet
>> mover would be ideal for a quick swap by a *recharge station*. It's an idea
>> for a small business??
>>>>> or ideal to have them half inched in the night instead of having a cat cut off noisely
 Hydrogen fuelled vans (and cars) - Fenlander
Yep if we see thefts of the pallet movers it will be the batteries to go next. Round here plant thefts are usually preceeded by thefts of ramped 2.5T builders trailers.
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