The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Is Hydrogen the Way to Go?

I am interested in new ways to fuel cars and trucks and buses. I am interested because I was raised in a nation that believes in personal transportation. So I am often captivated by articles which tout the next big breakthrough in energy sources, including new ones... maybe especially new ones...

A power station in each home?

The story is about using the hydrogen derived through a kind of photosynthesis using an artificial leaf.  And the idea is to not fear hydrogen, to view it as very safe, even though we were once taught that it is very volatile. And we have that Hindenburg exploding back in 1937. Anyone who ever attended a Led Zeppelin concert watched that burn repeatedly in the background while the band played. We've seen that newsreel countless times.

The inventor of this artificial leaf says our fears are groundless, that hydrogen is not all that dangerous. And, in fact, claims the following about the Hindenburg disaster:

Hindenburg? That wasn’t the gas burning, Mr. Nocera said, plunging into this notorious dispute: “All the hydrogen was gone immediately. What you were watching was the shellac on the Hindenburg burn.”

Only the link provided with that quote doesn't support that contention. In fact, it disproves it:

"Their calculations indicate that, if fueled by the paint alone, the airship would have taken roughly 40 hours to burn completely, rather than the 34 seconds it took for it to be consumed. In the lab, they burned replica pieces of the Hindenburg‘s outer covering, which confirmed their theoretical calculations—and indicated that the paint alone could not have fueled the fire."

So what are we to believe? The scientists who say it's safe or the scientists who say it isn't? And that, my friends, is our predicament as consumers. After all, we are the ones who will ultimately choose the future path of personal transportation.

A number of years ago, Honda built a few prototypes of a hydrogen powered car, called an FCX Clarity, I believe. It found some volunteers willing to pay a rather high lease rate to test these cars for them. Each car was rumored to cost between $120,000 and $140,000 to produce... Of course, if they entered general production, that cost would fall rapidly but it still would be expensive.

When I was being impressed by the hybrid vehicles by Toyota last week, I was negatively impressed by the cost of them... to me, as a consumer. The one I test drove was over $40,000. I am not a rich man, I do not look at cars over $30,000 in any meaningful way. I have friends who do, however, and I would like to be able to afford one at some point in time.  But you cannot recoup the difference in cost between a conventional car and a hybrid in a few short (and, therefore, reasonable) years. You'd have to keep the car ten years or more. Maybe less, as gas prices continue to rise. But, if you mostly drive in the city, 10 years to break even would be about right. By "break even" I mean break even on the cost difference between conventional and hybrid models. I generally change cars after 5 years, myself...

I am not rich, as I pointed out, so these calculations are important to me. Still, I think hybrids are the reasonable future and the hydrogen fuel cell? Not Ready For Prime Time Just Yet.

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