Wednesday, March 30, 2005

GM to produce hydrogen cars

General Motors is planning to produce and sell a lot of hybrid cars - in which the burning gas recharges an electric motor. Today, however, GM also signed a $88 million deal with the Department of Energy to build 40 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and to improve the technology. Shell Hydrogen LLC will provide them with five Hydrogen gas stations across the U.S.
Note that the hydrogen motors are based on this fascinating chemical reaction:
  • 2 H_2 + O_2 -> 2 H_2 O
An amazing feature of this reaction is that it does not involve carbon - the element that has recently been identified by the "progressives" as the ultimate source of evil (such as the so-called global warming as well as life itself). The hydrogen fuel cells have been used by the astronauts from the very beginnings of the space program in the 1960s, and the barriers that have always prevented this technology from spreading to the car industry and elsewhere were always economical in character. It is about 4 times as expensive to produce hydrogen. My friend George has a rather informative description of the situation at the web page of his house:

I can imagine that it will become cheap to produce hydrogen and this clean technology will dominate in 10 years or so. Nevertheless, it is still easier for me to imagine that these projects will remain a fancy and overly expensive demonstration of the hypothetical possibilities - and further progress will be based on conventional motors that produce CO_2.


  1. Lubos:
    Regarding hydrogen fuel cars. It is NOT a question of what chemical or physical way we use to drive our cars, it is a question of where we get the energy to provide for transportation of goods and people. The economic cost effectiveness is even less relevant. When the world is nearly exhausting the last few drops of petroleum underneath the crust, how much one gallon costs would be the least of item that comes to your mind.

    Whether it is gasoline or hydrogen, the chemical itself is not an energy source, but merely a carrier of energy. When we burn fossil fuel, we are merely releasing the solar energy captured by plantations in ancient times. Or we can burn wood freshly harvested from the forest, then we are utilizing solar energy of current time, same is true for hydroelectric power stations. If you are talking about producing hydrogen using electricity, which is in turn produced by fossil fuel burning power generators. Then what's the different from burning fossile fuels in your car directly, other than that the indirect hydrogen method is more wasteful, produces more pollution and ultimately deplete our natural resources more rapidly?

    Ultimately there are only one possible source of energy: Nuclear energy. We are either talking about

    1.Utilizing solar energy in different direct or indirect ways or forms, which ultimately comes from the thermonucear processes in the sun. Or we are talking about

    2.Energy collected in artificial nuclear processes in various reactors, using nuclear fuels mined from the crust of the earth's crust, like Uranium. Or

    3.Utilize energy collected in the earth crust, due to the natural decay of radioactive elements in the earth crust. Another form of nuclear energy.

    I think approach 3, which oculd be more economical, has been ignored so far. There is a tremendous amount of heat and energy release in the earth crust. A small percentage simply radiate into space. The vast majority of that energy is currently released in destructive form of energy releases: Volcanos, and tectonic plates movements that causes Earthquakes and tsunamis.

    Our earth is a giant nuclear reactor and many people don't realize it. Uranium 238 alone counts for 4 ppm of the earth's mass. U234 counts just alpha of that, i.e., 137.036 times smaller, but is still a huge amount. Natural radioactive decay of those elements create a huge amount of energy annually.


  2. Correction:

    I meant to say U235 when I said U234. Anyway it is an interesting observation that the ration of abundance of U234, U235, U238 on the earth is almost exactly:

    alpha^2 : alpha^1 : 1

    The discrepancy is less than 0.01% in the above relationship. Why there is such a conincidence? No one knows. And I am probably the first one noticing that coincidence. If all the elements have one origin and then continuously decay off at different rate, then the conincidence wouldn't hold for very long as the abundance changes over time. However if there is a source continuously replenishing them, then the number may reach an equilibrium over time and so the ratio may reflect some physics relationship.


  3. I agree with the point on quantoken that hydrogen fuels are *less* efficient than fossil fuels simply because energy is still required from conventional power sources to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen has plenty of hidden costs in terms of logistics and imperfections in transmission efficiency, etc. Hence the hydrogen initiative, using today's technology, merely shifts the burden of pollution away from consumers who commute in their cars to the big bad power industry who stoke the power plants with coal and oil.

  4. 36 Greenpeace protesters, intent on disrupting oil-trading in London, got more than they bargained for:,,2-1487741,00.html

    What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

    “We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

    Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

    I guess the oil-traders were simply expressing their point of view...

  5. Dear anonymous,

    I am usually against violence, but not as a fundamentalist. I must admit that this news about the Greenpeace ecoterrorists that received a proper thrashing was a kind of good news for me.

    It's good that there exist some feedback mechanisms - mechanisms that remind these ecoterrorists that what they're doing is a little bit over the edge and it does not have to be tollerated all the time.

    No surprise that these Green cowards are crying if someone does something that should have been done to them so many times in the last several decades.

    All the best

  6. Yes, I completely agree with what you say.

    Did you notice the ludacris hipocrisy of the protesters? They went in there with rape alarms tied to helium balloons to disrupt the trading and, when kicked out, say: “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.” Listening!!? You have got to appreciate the irony in that.

    I can't put it any better than one of the traders having his beer: "Sod off, swampy!". Lovely!

  7. Quant, nuclear is not the only option aside from fossil fuels. You forgot wind, hydroelectric dam as well as tides, and solar (as in photovoltaic).