One should always be leery of something for nothing. And my worry originally about the "Hydrogen Economy" came as the result of doing a little math. Since hydrogen cannot be contained readily by most substances and since, if released, it floats off into outer space, it makes sense that after ten or twenty thousand years we might use up all the water on the planet and simply be #@%%^&'ed.
Then I read that some of the major chemical companies had taken a more serious approach and were offering to attach the hydrogen to some sort of carrier molecule. Hmm. But how silly of me, isn't that called gasoline ?? (I liked the Israeli approach of using zinc metal and oxygen in the air as fuel. Heating releases the oxygen and you can recycle very much faster than is permitted electrolytically or with a catalyst. The weight to energy ratio is good and there is less pollution.)
Problem #2 Bad Math
The next step stunned me. Suddenly the NSF and the White House were talking about a national initiative in hydrogen fuels. Perhaps they saw something that I didn't but with everyone jumping up and down in support of the high efficiencies of this system, the cocktail parties in Washington must really be awesome. The concept goes something like this:
Proposed step Inefficiency %
Step 1. Create super clean petroleum based fuels 10%
Step 1. (Alternate), crack water and grow hydrogen fuels 70%
Step 2. Crack this into carbon monoxide and hydrogen 20%
(i.e. undo step 1....)
Step 3. Put this into storage and clean it up to use in a fuel cell 5-100%
Step 4. Convert into electricity 20%
Step 5. Use the electricity to run a motor 40%
Step 6. Store the extra electricity in a conventional battery 10-80%
Why not just clean up the fuel and use it for internal combustion??
Step 1. Create super clean petroleum based fuel 10%
Step 2. Burn to drive vehicle 20-40%
You want improved efficiency try this:
Step 1. Create super clean petroleum fuel 10%
Step 2. Create a Super conducting Magnetohydrodynamicdrive 10%
or mag lev
Problem #3: Pollution
Most of the proponents of this plan were saying that it decreases pollution. But clearly they were leaving out a series of polluting steps.
1. Towers to grow hydrogen fuels usually use massive amounts of electricity and chlorine plus metal free radicals as a catalyst. This leads to a serious, carcinogenic pollution hazard that thus far is problematic at best. Cleaning up existing hydrocarbons, a short term solution, fails to answer what happens to the dirt (toxic sulfur and nitrogen compounds). Do you pump them back down the oil wells or heat them until they break down?? And just how much energy do you allot for this. Hydrolysis of water is extremely inefficient and requires costly and dangerous catalysts to improve efficiency.
2. Once in the car, a series of added pollutants are created.
A. Cracking and fuel cell catalysts must be produced and then periodically disposed of as they become chemically corrupted.
B. Electronic and sensor controls for these systems extend the pollution.
C. Large lead or metal hydride batteries must be used for storing energy. These are generally poisonous.
D. Most motors and generators depend on copper wires. Copper is as poisonous as lead in many circumstances causing serious oxidative damage to the body. Unless brushless or AC motors are used, some release of copper will occur.
E. Weight of the car is increased and during recycling this becomes mixed metal waste which adds to the cost of recycling.
F. If filling stations are goofy enough to actually try and pump liquid hydrogen, each car will need a pilot light to handle the effusing gas or a tricky insulated pressure vessel to control and contain the pressure. Like steam boilers, some caution may be recommended. More pollution.
3. Hidden in the countryside would be toxic baby diaper factories, factories making the catalytic substrates and devices needed for these vehicles. It is unimaginable at this stage that they would be anything less than an ecological disaster.
Problem #4 - Cost
All of the items mentioned above radically increase cost while decreasing reliability. This would nearly double the number of subsystems in most vehicles. Weight and complexity are the right and left hand of the cost problem. No valid nonpolitical argument exists for the hydrogen fueled car.
N.T.S. (Note to self): Hybrid self induction magnetic breaking should be mandatory on all cars. It saves massive amounts of fuel regardless of system.
Doc's doom and gloom conclusion: The proposed hydrogen economy may be a simple political ploy to bamboozle the average global citizen out of his/her car. Since this vehicle is often needed for survival it means massive starvation, war and possibly worse, destruction of the earth's remaining shreds of unspoiled ecology. I hope I am wrong. In my world, mag lev cars run along streets using MHD electricity from hydrogen based fuels that are synthesized at nuclear power or solar power plants. And the streets are paved with gold!!.