Battery electric vehicle advocates don’t think hydrogen-powered EVs make sense. Morgan Spurlock has created a short documentary to see if hydrogen power for cars is actually bullsh*t.
As crazy as it sounds, battery electric vehicle (BEV) advocates don’t think that fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) powered by hydrogen make any sense. The fun part is that many of the same arguments that conventionally powered car proponents put forth to counter the sensibility of electric cars are now being employed by the BEV crowd. To say that the BEV folks hate hydrogen is not an overstatement. They ask where the hydrogen will come from. Toyota and Morgan Spurlock address this in a fun short film showing that manure is one possible source.
Fuel cells need hydrogen, and methane has hydrogen in it. Just like water. However, the fuel cells need only hydrogen and air and getting the hydrogen out of methane requires a chemical process. Steam and heat are the two main ingredients in the process that strips away the hydrogen for collection. Anyone with a basic understanding of nuclear power plants, gas-fired power plants, or renewable energy plants burning trash or wood knows that heat and steam along with a turbine are how electricity are made. Even large-scale solar plants use steam to power turbines that spin and create electricity. The heat and steam created by the energy from solar energy could just as easily be harnessed to process methane (called reforming) into hydrogen as it can be to run a steam turbine.
This whole hydrogen powered fuel cell car movement was created by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and its associated government agencies. They are the people that come up with zero emission vehicle mandates that manufacturers are ordered to follow in order to sell cars in the state. Having started out with the general idea of reigning in air pollution, CARB came up with a plan that rewarded certain clean ways of fueling and powering a car. The time to refuel and the range between refueling are two key parameters in the formula that CARB uses to reward car makers for their zero emission cars. It turns out that fuel cell electric vehicles blow battery electric cars out of the water when it comes to these two key areas. Thus, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and other large automakers have gone down the path of producing what CARB wanted.
Commenting on his documentary, Morgan Spurlock said “This project gave us the opportunity to dive into a world that most people don’t understand but has the potential to change our world… I think this short film is pretty compelling evidence of what could be possible in the years ahead.”
Toyota’s fun video is a nod to the green energy and green vehicle movements’ dislike of all things carbon, and in some cases dislike of cars. The general message that Toyota wants to convey here is that to call BEVs somehow cleaner than FCEVs is bullsh*t.