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Electric and Alternative Vehicle Fuels


This is an interesting way of putting it. Fuel cells take the same inputs as an engine that burns fuel and all produce some useful energy, some waste heat and some byproducts. Hydrogen ( whether used in fuel cell or Internal Combustion Engine), battery and hydrocarbon fuels all store chemical energy, none of these technologies actually store electricity directly as (for example) a capacitor does.

So this statement "Unlike petrol, hydrogen does not actually fuel the vehicle, but acts as a storage medium for electrical energy like a battery. " is wrong on two counts. Firstly hydrogen does fuel the vehicle and secondly the battery does not store electrical energy. Journalists should not write about matters that they do not understand.

For simplicity compare the hydrogen fuel cell engine to the hydrogen burning ICE. Both take in hydrogen as fuel and add oxygen from the air. Both produce mechanical energy to move the car, waste heat and water. In both cases electrons are transferred from hydrogen to oxygen.

This stripping hydrogen of electrons (acting as a reducing agent) also happens with burning hydrocarbon fuels with oxygen (acting as an oxidising agent). So burning petrol is the same process as the other two from a oxidation-reduction point of view.

For the two hydrogen engines the difference is the process in between the same inputs going in and the outputs coming out.

H2 Fuel cell
H2 + O2 —> [(cell) ----> electricity ----> (electric motor)] ----> turns crank shaft + H2O + heat

H2 + O2 —> [(ICE)] ----> turns crank shaft + H2O + heat

Note the chemistry is grossly simplified.

You can write the same sort of schematics for burning hydrocarbons as you can for burning hydrogen in an ICE. The format and processes are very similar but if you burn a hydrocarbon (generically CxHy) you must get some CO2 as an output too. If you don’t want CO2 to be released you must not burn hydrocarbons.

Assuming you are going to use hydrogen as a fuel choosing between fuel cell and ICE tech (there are both types of vehicles in production) you may want to consider things like efficiency, safety, cost etc but misrepresenting fuel cell tech, as the journalist has done, only confuses.


The thought cycle?
Do you fix something with what you now know can work?
Or do you look for a different way?
(Apologies! there is no pun in suggesting this is ‘lateral thinking’)

Who needs to worry about recharging or refilling on long trips?
No one if you change the way we travel longer distance.

There are many ideas to embed power in all main highways to directly energise a vehicle that are technically possible, but economically unlikely.

Closing all long distance roads and forcing all but local travel to mass transport by electrically powered rail is 100% within all our exisiting technology, economically possible and political suicide. Smaller vehicles, less range, less battery materials make this more likely if we are resource limited.

Reality is any solution being acceptable providing we are the ones who do not need to change. That is until we have no choice. Miracles might also happen!

It is good that hydrogen might be part of a solution, but so might new battery technologies based on more common materials such as carbon nanotubes, or iron oxide or???

P.s. on hydrogen economics - no tax, no capital costs and free power
My rough take is it’s 1kg of hydrogen in a fuel cell gives less than 20kWh of electrical energy released and needs at least 55kWh of pure electrical energy to make.

There is some reasonable detail on Wikipedia re the efficiency of hydrogen production, options and fuel cell efficiency. The science reinforces that we have some way to go in understanding the resource demands that might be made by a hydrogen economy. Eg Platinum, nickel in producing hydrogen. Assuming we don’t hide behind the current convenience of making hydrogen from hydrocarbon fuels. What byproducts - CO2 is the big one. Might as well burn coal and return to steam powered cars.


Batteries are certainly chemical energy storage, but the process is invisible to the end user, the capacity is measured in kilowatt hours, a common measure of electrical energy, and the output potential and current is measured in volts and amperes, a system which is understood by most who paid attention in high school. Simple and easy to understand.
Start talking about ORP and you’ll have a confused audience.

Commonly available capacitors are not used for storing electricity either, as their capacity is miniscule, although one day supercapacitors may become useful for storing electricity on a significant scale. There is already a Lead-acid battery on the market that incorporates a supercapacitor to overcome some of the deficiencies of the Lead-acid chemistry. I’m not sure it will be useful for EVs though, due to its weight.


If the exact mechanism behind these energy systems is not important then why did the journalist mention it? If oxidation-reduction is of no significance to the core issues to the common person why did he go there at all? I didn’t bring up either but commented on the confusion generated by the author in doing so and getting it wrong.

I also thought it would help to point out that while there are most important differences between hydrogen tech and burning hydrocarbons some that the author infers do not exist. We ought focus on the ones that do.

Hydrogen is a fuel and whichever way you turn it into usable energy there is no reason to liken it to a battery when the comparison misunderstands the operation of both. A fuel cell isn’t a battery, better to look at batteries and cells and ICE as they are without any pointless simile.


I note that you can’t substantiate your assertions.

So you concede that your terminology was somewhat less than exact.

Yet you repeatedly can’t substantiate what you assert.


Inasmuch as, in both cases, the primary power source doesn’t directly drive the wheels, it’s accurate enough. I suspect that, in the case of hydrogen vehicles, the fuel cell can’t supply enough power for acceptable acceleration.

Does getting bogged-down in semantics advance discussion?


Yes, there are bigger problems to solve.
I have read that the hydrogen fuel cells produce ‘heated’ water. How wonderful. Sitting in a driverless car sipping your own home made tea as the miles whisk by.

A better battery with cheap readily obtained materials is possibly all the step change needed. I’d still settle for a club car (multi use) and battery assisted bike.
For those long trips - just hook up the hydrogen fuel cell trailer? Or order a Holiday-Uber. Wonder if they have trade marked that option?


I can easily substantiate the comments I have made, and so can others if one does thorough research rather than looking for articles/websites which supports one own views.

If one does a simple search, articles like these can be found.

Universities which have mine engineering and environmental science degrees also have libraries which contain mining industry journals which also makes interesting reading. Librarians will be able to assist one in finding relevant articles in these journals.

Also, when say a ‘reference’ makes comments such as…

'The primary sources of lithium are from the Atacama Desert in Chile, and the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. These are two of the deadest places on Earth. It’s not exactly that nothing lives there, but’

where both statements are factually incorrect, the validity of all other information can be questioned.

Having spent 10 days in the Atacama desert last year, it is far from being a place where nothing much lives (deadest place on earth)…even in those areas where there has bern virtually no rainfall for 80 years. Here is an example of the place where nothing lives:


When one provides references, one heeds to ensure they are factually coreect and can be relied in. If not, they have as much value as the sands in the desert.


If the journalist did not misrepresent the situation clarification wouldn’t be required. But rather than enter the bog lets leave it.


Your evasiveness does you no credit. Substantiation is your responsibility, not mine. You do the search. You nominate the source.

Be careful though, anti-EV “studies” typically have denialist links. They’re easy to debunk.

For a real-world audience, the journalist’s language is accurate enough. Clarification isn’t required. If it really bothers you, when he says electricity, just think energy.


A relevant series:


I live in a region of coal mines and power stations. That’s probably why any suggestion that coal power does less harm that renewables disgusts me.

Limiting discussion to batteries and fuel cells, the question comes down to cost versus benefit. Environmental harm is a substantial component of cost.

Any production process has some extractive industry component. So what are they made from and what are the impacts of mining/refining/transporting materials?

Nothing lasts forever, so what is the comparative service life? Tesla’s projected battery life is 5 years or 100,000 miles. The fuel cell in Toyota’s Mirai is warrantied at 100,000 miles. Both degrade over time, whether in service or not.

Clearly, we can’t just dig stuff up, use it once, then throw it in a hole, so what is the impact of recycling? Of course, before that becomes a real question, we’ll need to get our recycling act into gear.

Next is full-cycle efficiency. As mentioned above, batteries are typically 80% efficient. The figure for fuel cells is around 30%. Power from renewable sources might be close to free, but needing to build more than twice as much capacity is going to have impacts.

This is just off the top of my head. I haven’t answered every question. I haven’t asked every question.


Have you ever read the cost/benefit analysis of the proposal for a coal mine or gas field? You have never seen so much self-serving claptrap, cherry picking and obfuscation.

If anybody has wondered where the phrase “privatise your profits and socialise your losses” came from look no further. It is a sad reflection on our State governments of all political colours (who hold nearly all decision making power on extractive industry proposals) that such nonsense has been waved through for years.


Totalitarian capitalism tends to value the environment solely for its potential to externalise costs. As a free sewer or dump, for example. Both major parties are captives of business interests.

That’s why I specifically mentioned environmental harm. If we don’t care for our environment, it will bite us - hard.

My favourite is a planned additional coal loader for Newcastle port. The plans showed the new loader several metres higher than existing ones. When questioned, the answer came back: “sea-level rise”. Where’s the face-palm emoji?


New breakthroughs in energy storage. Of course we’ll have to wait to see if it is economically viable.


Just so the antis have something to chew on:


Really? :slight_smile: maybe he’s just trying to close the rear hatch … they can be troublesome at times I guess …



Interesting point. Everything breaks down occasionally. The more moving parts, the shorter the time between occasions. :grinning:

Then again, maybe that was just the easiest way to move a vehicle that had yet to be charged up. :smirk:


… or maybe they don’t stockpile them with batteries in or batteries connected … or maybe the equivalent of push starting a battery car is charging it via the regen !! hard work …


Continuing the theme:

They’re such easy cars to drive and nothing seems to fall to bits.