Apple Car: Forget ‘electric,’ think hydrogen fuel cells

“Chatter continues about a possible Apple auto, maybe as soon as 2020,” Yahoo Finance reports.

“For Yahoo Finance columnist Rick Newman ‘electric cars’ are not the cure for any auto industry ills,” Yahoo Finance reports. “Rather, hydrogen fuel cell technology is what he calls the ‘holy grail’ for automakers. While any number of them have been working on such vehicles no one has solved the problems associated with it.”

Yahoo Finance reports that Newman says, “‘Whoever can figure out how to, number one, get the cost of that hydrogen fuel… down to a tolerable level and then figure out how you fuel the thing because we don’t have hydrogen filling stations yet. That will transform the auto industry more than almost anything you can think of.'”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: See related articles below.

Related articles:
Apple working with Intelligent Energy on fuel cell technology for mobile devices, sources say – July 14, 2014
North Carolina regulators approve Apple’s 4.8-megawatt fuel cell facility at Maiden data center – May 23, 2012
New aerial images of Apple’s planned NC fuel cell, solar farms published – April 7, 2012
Apple’s massive fuel cell energy project to be largest in the U.S. – April 4, 2012
Apple patent application reveals next-gen fuel cell powered Macs and iOS devices – December 22, 2011
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011

94 Comments

  1. Yeah, well. It’s all down to efficiency. It actually requires electricity to generate the H2 from H2O. So what’s more efficient in this situation? You still have to generate electricity. I don’t personally know the auto efficiency from using current batteries versus using H2 fuel cells. But have to be ‘charged’ via electricity…
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      1. Fuel cells take a storage medium and convert it to power, they are not storage mediums in themselves. I agree that Hydrogen as a major fuel source is the future even if it may not be the immediate 10-20 year future.

          1. Umm. I think we have differing definitions.. “Fuel cell” is a device that takes some fuel (or storage medium like sugars, hydrogen, etc) and produces power. I was just trying to clarify that “H2 fuel cells” are devices that produce power from the combination of Hydrogen and Oxygen that may be stored in tanks or other containers and that they are not storage in themselves.

            1. I now understand. The use of the term ‘cell’ to describe the entire burning machine is contrary to the source meaning of ‘cell’. But we’ll skip the semantics.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell

              http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/alternative-fuels/fuel-cell.htm

              I of course was attempting to call the container holding the fuel the ‘fuel cell’ and what burns the fuel would be the engine.

              I’ve seen ‘fuel cells’ described as both the full device OR as the holding container. So now I need a name for the H2 holding container. I’ve seen it called a ‘tank’ of H2. But it is NOT simply a tank as a tank of H2 is explosive. The H2 has to be segregated into smaller spaces in order to prevent full on combustion.

              Consider both me and what I’m reading to be incomplete and confused.

    1. Viewed from the POV of automakers in, say, the 1940’s, building a nationwide system of multi-lane limited-access highways was as many here are saying “totally uneconomical.”

      So society (which qualifies as a if not THE miracle invention) invested in the infrastructure to “make it so.” I-80, baby.

      And I’ve argued the “but, but, the cost” issue with those who turn a blind eye to hydrogen. I find y’all way short-sighted.

      Hydrogen is everywhere and solar (or an other sustainable option) is available in most places. So even though the upfront costs would be ginormous, if shared by society, once localized fuel production stations are built, their cost of consumables drops to the maintenance of the physical plant and attendants.

      Note: this is one option – regional production solutions could be rolled out as well, e.g., as long we’re adding the capacity to the grid to cover the producing the H2 for the vehicles (and other uses) with non-polluting tech, you don’t need a big solar farm at every H2 dispensing facility to start to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

      I.e., the entire cost would be amortized over time and then become a net profit rather than a cost. It simply takes a long-term view of both the economics…. …and of the ecological benefits (if done, or ecological consequences if GH emissions aren’t substantially reduced – a far larger social and planetary cost than creating a hydrogen infrastructure).

      Won’t argue the left/right approaches either. The nuts and bolts of rolling it out will involve both business and gov’t – and various balances between the two can be imagined.

      So a pox on self-limiting old paradigms – let’s get on with this….

    1. Yes, hemp farming too. A great, less resource-intensive source for many car parts! 😀

      (Lotus uses hemp body parts. Seat and dash materials are viable as well. And the water and pesticide load of (non-intoxicating) hemp is a fraction of nearly all alternatives.)

      Jus’ sayin’…..

  2. Finally, a plausible explanation for why Apple would enter the car business.

    At Apple’s solar electric plants, they make extensive use of hydrogen fuel cells for energy storage. It’s a relatively new technological frontier: so I bet by working on this frontier, Apple has made several technological breakthroughs with hydrogen fuel (and patented it!) The next question – how can Apple use its unique fuel cell innovations to build a quality product, that customers will love, and copycats cannot easily steal? By making hydrogen fuel cars, that’s how! Brilliant, Apple.

    1. If you are thinking of the Apple Data Center in Maiden, NC, those are not hydrogen fuel cells. Their fuel is biogas, mostly methane. It is harvested from landfills and hog farms in North Carolina.

  3. there is that great thing about charging your electric car from your own solar panels and not having to pay the hydrogen man. with hydrogen there still seems to be a gas station owner and a pump – with electric cars we can get away from this.

  4. Toyota’s current market cap is about 18.1 billion USD. Apple has about 175B in cash or highly liquid securities, most of which is outside the USA.

    If Apple wanted to get into the hydrogen fuel cell business, the biggest hurdle would be regulatory clearance.

    -jcr

    1. Apple doesn’t need to buy Toyota. Very admirably, Toyota have said anyone can use their fuel cell patents without charge. The Toyota Mirai is already available to buy, and the Japanese Prime Minister has already bought one.

  5. “Currently the dominant technology (95%) for direct production is steam reforming from hydrocarbons.” 2006 was 11 million ton worth and nearly half was consumed for oil production . Am sure someone else has accurate 2014 figures . There’s 7-8 other methods to produces hydrogen without using hydrocarbons but yada yada . To have fuel cell cars today is kinda bait and switch ?

  6. The problem with hydrogen is that it is not an easily transportable fuel. It would make more sense to use as a fuel powering stationary generating plants to supply electricity for electric cars without the CO2 downside. I think better batteries capable of fast charging in minutes are not far off from practical use.

    Another solution is swapping out battery packs at recharge centers, which can be done in a few minutes with a properly designed battery packs and recharge facilities. This solution is quite feasible, requiring no missing technology yet to be developed. It is all a matter of motivation and determination to do it.

    1. On the other hand Hydrogen does not required the huge transportation infrastructure required for other fuels since it can be produced practically on-site. Toyota is promoting Fuel-cell technology by releasing their tech royalty free to any vehicle manufacturer and potential fueling station companies. Apple could use that as is or as a starting point for their own tech. Their current fueling speed is 5 minutes per fill-up for about 200mile range which is comparable to the inconvenience of current petrol based refueling systems.

      1. Hmm. The vid above must be more recent.. Seems refueling is less than 5 min (avg. 3min) and range per tank is 300 miles. Seems more convenient than electric cars for those that don’t have home charging points..

  7. I ran this vehicle as an oxy-hydrogen hybrid for 7 years. On demand, no storage and ran off the vehicle battery. The first internal combustion engine ran on hydrogen. The first patent was back in 1806 – yes really. Oxy-hydrogen helped win the war in WWII against the Germans in the Africa campaign by extending the range of the tanks between refueling using “little black boxes” on the military tanks that held the oxy-hydrogen systems.

    Go to peswiki.com and search on” Report: Robert Pritchett” to get to – http://peswiki.com/index.php/Report:Robert_Pritchett%27s_Mileage_Results_from_Hydroxy_Boost_Addition

    It is time you got educated on what is real instead of repeating untruths about the technology. It is real. It works and it works well enough to do the job safely and efficiently and it has worked well for at least two centuries! No need for storage. No need for distribution.

    1. No matter what you use for an energy source and a storage source and power train, everything comes down to total amortized cost per mile for a system that is safe & quick to use over the life of the vehicle. Plug in ALL your numbers for solar, battery, hydrogen, fuel cell, etc. systems and you can see which is lowest cost. Currently natural gas, gasoline & diesel fuel are the only fuels that work economically for a vehicle that is driven 100-150 miles a day.

      Drive a lot & you need a large quick energy source. Drive a little and you can tolerate a lot of things, including a bicycle.

      Want to charge your car off your own solar cells each day for 100 miles/day, then I hope you have a very large area for the solar cells plus the cash to pay for solar cells and possibly the batteries to store the power until you come home if you don’t want your utility company issues.

      It this issue of low cost vehicle power were easy to solve, outside of internal combustion engines (which can run on hydrogen), it would have been done a long time ago.

      My personal guess as an engineer is there will have to be multiple new major innovations in energy production, storage & delivery to make a major change happen. This has been analyzed to death in auto companies, colleges, utilities & the gas industry. Making a practical low cost, easy to use new energy system for vehicles is really really hard and not in the cards until new innovations make it economical.

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