Will electric-hydrogen-hybrid cars free the gas-guzzlers like the cars of yester yore freed horses?

skylinegtr94's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 532

What the hell is going on with automobile technology these days? As many people know, electric cars are nothing new (see documentary titled Who Killed the Electric Car). Any watcher of Top Gear (the BBC version, not the pathetic American, bastardized version) can testify, the episode featuring Jay Leno put forth the idea that Hydrogen cars, not electric, are the true cars of the future. Jay Leno article from Popular Science

I'm no scientist, and you might be thinking, "but wait, didn't the Hindenburg teach us a lesson here that this stuff can be dangerous?" Not really since that had a lot more to do with the paint and other aesthetics than the fuel itself. I can only really name a handful of car companies exploring the idea of hydrogen cars. Is this really our next step for daily commuters? I personally like the idea and think that the Toyota Prius and related ilk certainly have their place and I hope that this trend of more efficient vehicles continues so that the gas guzzlers can still roam the streets, albeit with the expected sneers from their eco-friendly road going counterparts.

Things in play on a macro level are growing populations, "shortage" in petroleum, rising gas prices in a stagnant economy, auto manufacturers dwindling profits, among many others. The comical taxes placed on car companies like Aston Martin that predominantly make super cars (read: gas hogs that might get 8 mpg) was easily diverted by bringing on some ridiculous version of a Toyota IQ simply rebranded so their average lineup consumption meet the standards clearly isn't getting a message across and I applaud the manufacturers for this.

Another very popular auto company in the news lately is Fisker, notably for reaching $200MM in revenues for 2012. Nevermind the fact they were originally predicted to be closer to $1.2B, which was then cut to $400MM, it's still progress for a business that was started only 5 years ago. However, you can say this is definitely an indication that electric cars aren't quite taking hold as many have predicted.
Popular Mechanics article with Leno

I know I'm rambling here but to bring this to a point, I came across THIS VIDEO where a scientist breaks down the fact heavier cars are a big issue and shows off some ideas for lighter designs of the future. I also saw in a separate article a graph showing that American cars have gained weight at almost a 2x more than American adults (fact check needed here since I'm not sure I can believe this). His "hypercar" design should be 2/3 less in weight than the average vehicle on the road today - AND get an astonishing projected 249 mpg! Two auto companies are already working this science into future concepts which should be seen in auto shows in the near future.

What say you on the direction of autos in the US and abroad? Anyone that's ever been to Europe for example can attest that large cars simply don't have much of a place in major metro areas or other heavily populated regions. I'm personally a huge proponent of anything that can keep supercar makers like Aston Martin, Zonda, Ferrari in business without needing to constantly apologize to environmentalists.

Comments (17)

Dec 16, 2012

Cars have gotten progressively heavier, because of ever stricter safety requirements. Hydrogen is definitely a better alternative than electric, unless of course someone invented a system that could charge batteries in a matter of minutes. Also, hydrogen is no more flammable than gasoline.

Dec 16, 2012
Pwn3r:

Cars have gotten progressively heavier, because of ever stricter safety requirements. Hydrogen is definitely a better alternative than electric, unless of course someone invented a system that could charge batteries in a matter of minutes. Also, hydrogen is no more flammable than gasoline.

Good thing about hydrogen is when punctured the flame just shoots out like a aerosol can, but it doesn't spread. Not spreading actually makes it more safe than gasoline. Not to mention less toxic.

Dec 16, 2012
dest149:
Pwn3r:

Cars have gotten progressively heavier, because of ever stricter safety requirements. Hydrogen is definitely a better alternative than electric, unless of course someone invented a system that could charge batteries in a matter of minutes. Also, hydrogen is no more flammable than gasoline.

Good thing about hydrogen is when punctured the flame just shoots out like a aerosol can, but it doesn't spread. Not spreading actually makes it more safe than gasoline. Not to mention less toxic.

I did not know that, but it makes sense.

Dec 16, 2012

Sorry buddy. HFC cars are ~100k, and the filling stations run ~1MM each. Nat Gas is the only solution for TODAY. Only costs a couple grand to swap petro for NGL. And the gas itself is cheap as fuck atm.

Or we could just ask Japan and China to raise our credit limit so we can subsidize these cool toys. You may as well strap a wind turbine to the roof of your car.

Dec 16, 2012

One big point here is ability to bring the technology to consumers once the vehicles themselves are able to be produced. I think that is a huge issue for both electric and hydrogen cars at the moment since gasoline was the tech that "won" and had the big build out across the country so many years ago.

Dec 16, 2012

Cool stuff with the carbon fiber. But just to clarify, carbon fiber is very strong, true. But is also very rigid/stiff. This is good in some things, but bad in others. Stiff = Brittle. Brittle = no bueno in crashes. Food for thought.

I personally cannot wait for the day of Hydrogen cars. But I also agree that LNG seems to be the closest thing in the pipeline.

Dec 16, 2012
dest149:

Cool stuff with the carbon fiber. But just to clarify, carbon fiber is very strong, true. But is also very rigid/stiff. This is good in some things, but bad in others. Stiff = Brittle. Brittle = no bueno in crashes. Food for thought.

I personally cannot wait for the day of Hydrogen cars. But I also agree that LNG seems to be the closest thing in the pipeline.

Here's an interesting argument by Ferrari last year on aluminum v. carbon fiber - http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/industry...

Dec 16, 2012

I really think the biggest break will be in battery technology. If we can find a lighter battery with much higher storing capacity then all electric cars will become much more attractive and a real alternate to the cars we have today. Hydrogen is pretty sweet too.

Dec 16, 2012

I'm actually surprised that I seem to be the only person who sees the future of automobiles for what is reality, and the future of automobiles has little to do with the fuel. The real future of automobiles is the autonomous vehicle, which is a car that drives itself. When the large majority of Americans finally switch over to autonomous vehicles (and the technology is already here and proven) these automobiles will be able to highly maximize fuel efficiency, vastly improve traffic flows (which is a major drain on fuel efficiency), and revolutionize parking and safety.

The victorious fuel will be merely secondary--or even tertiary--to the revolution in transportation that will be felt with the autonomous vehicle.

FWIW, hydrogen will ultimately win the day when it can be efficiently created with fusion nuclear reactors. So, within a century, hydrogen will win the fuel race. It is by far the most effective fuel thus far conceived for cars.

    • 1
Dec 16, 2012

Great add to the thread. Saw this on Top Gear as well when the took a BMW around their test track. Definitely a reality that's coming but I don't think people will be so quick to adopt. People will always want to actually drive their cars rather than take some kind of glorified mass transit on America's highways in my opinion.

Dec 16, 2012
skylinegtr94:

Great add to the thread. Saw this on Top Gear as well when the took a BMW around their test track. Definitely a reality that's coming but I don't think people will be so quick to adopt. People will always want to actually drive their cars rather than take some kind of glorified mass transit on America's highways in my opinion.

Agreed that the transition will be painfully slow for many. Adoption will be the quickest in major suburban sprawl areas like Washington, DC metro, Atlanta metro, Dallas metro, Los Angeles, etc., where rush hour traffic is a nightmare, and the slowest in rural and smaller suburban towns like greater Kansas City and Grand Rapids, MI.

I think of it like cell phones--it took a solid 20 years for cell phones to become universal. Many people fought them, knowing that the moment they got a cell phone they would always "need" a cell phone. I think the transition will be obnoxiously slow to autonomous vehicles, but ultimately people will never want to go back once they've had their car drop them off in front of their office building and then go find a parking spot or once they've had a car rapidly and safely whip them through rush hour traffic while they read a book.

    • 1
Dec 16, 2012

I spend 3k/year to run my Audi a8 which was roughly 90k. Why would I pay 100k for a Civic that spits out water vapor just to save a few bucks at the pump? The opportunity costs are just hilarious.

Dec 16, 2012
BTbanker:

I spend 3k/year to run my Audi a8 which was roughly 90k. Why would I pay 100k for a Civic that spits out water vapor just to save a few bucks at the pump? The opportunity costs are just hilarious.

Because it won't always cost $100,000, just like computers don't cost $50,000.

Dec 16, 2012
BTbanker:

I spend 3k/year to run my Audi a8 which was roughly 90k. Why would I pay 100k for a Civic that spits out water vapor just to save a few bucks at the pump? The opportunity costs are just hilarious.

Real subtle there

Dec 17, 2012

Electric is winning right now in a landslide, I believe because Toyota (and now GM, and many others not far behind) realized that between electrification & going hydrogen, electrification allowed for a more seamless transition. It started with hybrids like the Prius that still used gas, continued with plugin hybrids like the Volt which can legitimately run on pure electricity but still have a backup motor, and now you see Tesla and Fisker putting their models out, and Tesla may actually have made a winner (Fisker Karma sucks IMO).

Dec 17, 2012

Electric has won politically in that the Obama administration has singlehandedly bailed out the industry. Other than that electric is highly unpopular with the masses.

Dec 17, 2012
Comment

Pages