Argument: 0-emission hydrogen cars can slash emissions, fight global warming

Issue Report: Hydrogen vehicles


Prof. Otto G. Raabe. Center for Health and the Environment. “Honda promises hydrogen sedan in ’08” isn’t just about another electric car.” USA Today. 16 May 2008 – These cars are not the battery-powered vehicles with puny power and without air conditioning or heat. They aren’t dependent on gasoline, like hybrids. The only vehicle emission for the hydrogen fuel cell is plain water. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Because hydrogen fuel can be made from water via electrolysis, all that is needed is plentiful electricity. The United States has enough nuclear fuel in the form of plutonium-239 and depleted uranium to supply all of our electrical power needs for the whole century using modern, safe nuclear power plants.
  • No more mining is required because plutonium can be extracted from retired nuclear weapons.
  • With nuclear-power-produced electricity, there won’t be any pollutant greenhouse gas emissions, acid rain and particulate air pollutants.

This is the true environmentalist vision: Electricity from clean and safe nuclear power. Pollution-free autos. The end to dependence on foreign oil. Why is our country not briskly moving ahead to accomplish this dream?

“Independent tests validate BMW Hydrogen 7 emissions well-below SULEV”. 28 Mar. 2008 – Independent tests conducted by engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory on a BMW Hydrogen 7 Mono-Fuel demonstration vehicle have found that the car’s hydrogen-powered engine surpasses the super-ultra low-emission vehicle (SULEV) level, the most stringent emissions performance standard to date.

“The BMW Hydrogen 7’s emissions were only a fraction of SULEV level, making it one of the lowest emitting combustion engine vehicles that have been manufactured,” said Thomas Wallner, a mechanical engineer who leads Argonne’s hydrogen vehicle testing activities. “Moreover, the car’s engine actively cleans the air. Argonne’s testing shows that the Hydrogen 7’s 12-cylinder engine actually shows emissions levels that, for certain components, are cleaner than the ambient air that comes into the car’s engine.”

It was not an easy task to measure the Hydrogen 7’s emissions. “A gross polluter is easy to measure, but the cleaner the car the harder it is to test,” said Don Hillebrand, director of Argonne’s Center for Transportation Research. “Most labs test at the SULEV level. Argonne’s vehicle testing facilities are unique in that they are able to detect even trace levels of emissions. In this case, it was near-zero emissions.”

After an extensive evaluation by BMW, “Argonne’s Advanced Powertrain Research Facility was found to be the only public test facility in North America capable of testing hydrogen vehicles at these low emissions levels,” said BMW’s Wolfgang Thiel, manager, operating support emissions analysis. “Zero is a very small precise number – we are pushing the boundaries of emissions testing.”

Renee Schoof. “Hydrogen cars could rule road by 2050, slash oil need, panel says”. McClatchy Newspapers. 17 July 2008 – As the cost of filling up skyrockets, a government-backed study released Thursday says America could nearly eliminate its need for gasoline for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs by 2050 if the government helps build a market for hydrogen fuel cells and other technologies.

The study by the National Research Council of the National Academies, the government’s adviser on science, medicine and engineering, looked mainly at the future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. It concluded that with about $55 billion in government support in the next 15 years, hydrogen vehicles could be competitive with gasoline-powered ones and common on the roads by 2050.

Congress asked the advisory body to look at prospects for hydrogen and alternatives that could have the largest impact by 2020. The experts group’s findings are a best-case look at low-carbon fuel options at a time when President Bush and some members of Congress are pushing for expanded searches for domestic oil.

Light-duty vehicles use 44 percent of the oil used in the United States and emit more than 20 percent of the carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas causing global warming. The report said hydrogen alone could eliminate more than 60 percent of this oil use and carbon by 2050. If the nation used hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels as well, by the same year, carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks could be cut to less than 20 percent of current levels and they’d need almost no oil.