Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fuel Cells 2014 V. 2003

In 2003 I published my book Hydrogen Hope or Hype ?

It is still a very good primer on energy, sustainability, and fuel cells.   You see Thermo does not change and the book is based on thermo not some junk Al Gore dreamed up in his convenient untruth.

Over the past decade the one technology that did emerge that was not covered in the book are lithium ion batteries in vehicles.  I covered my thermodynamic analysis of this technology in my now famous US Senate Testimony

Toyota and several other companies such as Honda and Hyundai re introducing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles next year.  There is a great debate between Elon Musk of Tesla and Toyota whether fuel cell vehicles are better or worse than battery powered EVs.   My answer is both are bloody expensive but the EV is less bloody expensive.  I feel pretty confident to predict that battery EVs will outsell fuel cell cars 10 to 1 in the next decade.   I also feel confident to say that plain old vehicles together with non-plug in hybrid vehicles will outsell EVs more than 50 to 1.

The amount of money Toyota will lose on each sale of its fuel cell vehicle is greater than the amount Tesla will lose.  Toyota and the other large auto companies are selling fuel cell vehicles at a loss to promote goodwill and to have a defense one day should they get sued (as the tobacco companies were sued) for knowingly harming the health and wellbeing of people.

Folks the great hope in personal transportation remains more efficient gasoline, diesel, ethanol, methanol, DME, CNG, propane, or ethane propelled vehicles and that car share, carpooling, and car abandonment will come about to reduce the need for ever increasing oil refining and consumption.

I had a couple of interesting discussions with folks who are close to transportation fuels and energy markets and they stated that the “wise” hedge fund money is betting that in five to six years (2020) oil will be at $70 a barrel and not $150 a barrel.   There will be a global diminishment in the growth in the demand for refined petroleum used in transportation due to engine improvement and changes in social behavior.   I tend to agree that oil prices peaked in 2008 and that the real market value of oil is approximately $80 a barrel.   Of course if world war three breaks out because Mr. Obama new found “Levant Strategy” is a failure we could see $200 a barrel oil very quickly.   Remember Mr. Obama refers to ISIL not ISIS.   Levant is derived from French meaning the rising.  We are back to the 1930s when the Rising Sun was causing havoc in the Far East.  Now we have the Neville Chamberlain of 2014, who talked nonsense in Cairo in 2009 allowing  havoc in the Middle East.   I just pray we all wake up to crisis and irradiate the cancer.

I do see the further hybridization of the drive trains in vehicles with micro and moderate hybrids taking a good share of future sales.   I also see that alternate fuels other than diesel and gasoline will propel more private vehicles and large fleets.   Big Oil is headed to becoming a little less big but will still remain big.   I also see that unless I win the lotto I will still be driving my 1999 C 280 Mercedes that is still valid 20th century technology.   I only drive 5,000 to 6,000 miles a year so I am not the average Yank in a Tank stuck in traffic.  By 2020 I also predict that Tesla will have a realistic stock price and that this stock price will be no more than the price of oil per barrel.  

We can easily change our driving behavior and we can easily improve the fleet efficiency.  But we cannot easily convert to Fuel Cell cars on a hydrogen highway even if the governator says so.


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