Forget Hydrogen: Here They Are, The Two Fuels of The Future

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Forget hydrogen. You can mostly ignore natural gas. Even diesel may not grow much.

The two fuels that will largely power us for the next 20, maybe 30, years are already here. They are gasoline (with some ethanol in it), and electricity.

That's it. That's all she wrote.

First, gasoline

Those hallowed green visions of a gasoline-free future in our lifetime will not come to pass. We've spent a century building a global economy around oil, and it will likely take most of another century to change it.

In other words, gasoline will power some of our vehicles for a long, long time to come. It won't power 90-plus percent of our vehicles, as it does today--but far more fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel vehicles will be the single biggest contributors to reducing vehicular energy use for at least the next 20 years, probably longer.

2011 Chevrolet Volt late-night recharging in Little Rock, Arkansas, during July 2010 Freedom Drive

2011 Chevrolet Volt late-night recharging in Little Rock, Arkansas, during July 2010 Freedom Drive

Enlarge Photo

Then, grid power

After that comes electricity. It's widely distributed, the cars that use it are quite pleasant to drive, and within 10 or 15 years, the battery technology will have improved to the point that compact electric cars will have ranges of 200 miles or more. That's enough to make them vastly more acceptable than today's common ranges of up to 100 miles.

Natural gas will probably increase its share, but it may be limited in use, and possibly regional. India and Iran are increasing their production of natural-gas vehicles (NGVs), and the U.S. has domestic supplies in some regions and pipelines across much of the country.

In North America, however, it may become more common for large commercial vehicles than for passenger cars. Globally, Pike Research projects that sales of NGVs will expand at a compound annual growth rate of almost 8 percent, to total 20 million vehicles by 2016.

Goal: carbon neutrality

The end goal should be getting as close as possible to fuels that have a neutral "wells-to-wheels" carbon footprint, which is to say they release no net carbon into the atmosphere.

Today, we're a very long way from that point. But getting solid data on the wells-to-wheels carbon impact of driving one mile using different fuels (and working toward promoting fuels with the lowest carbon impact) is the right way to start.

Today, with U.S. fleet average fuel economy around 25 mpg, a mile driven on electric power is virtually always lower-carbon than one driven by burning gasoline. And that will remain the case until U.S. fleet average fuel economy doubles to 50 miles per gallon, when the gasoline car is better than power from a handful of the dirtiest grids.

But that change will take decades. And that's a major reason plug-in vehicles of all sorts (plug-in hybrids, range-extended electric cars, and battery electric vehicles) make the most sense for the next decade or two.

All about the fuel

Right now, more than 90 percent of a vehicle's carbon footprint is the fuels involved in powering it. According to M.A. Weiss et al., in their 2000 report from the MIT Energy Laboratory, On the Road in 2020: A Lifecycle Analysis of New Automotive Technologies, fully 75 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime carbon emissions come from the fuel it burns over its lifetime.

Corn Ethanol Pump

Corn Ethanol Pump

Enlarge Photo

Another 19 percent is from the production of that fuel. Extraction of the raw materials that make up the vehicle adds another 4 percent, and only 2 percent of lifetime carbon is due to the manufacturing and assembly process.

So the fuel used to power the vehicle is key.

Who are the players?

In our view, the two most viable types of fuels for the medium term are petroleum products (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) and electricity, which already has a distribution system in place.

As for hydrogen, it has enormous challenges to overcome: There's no distribution infrastructure, and it takes enormous amounts of energy to separate out hydrogen molecules from the substances they bind to, whether the source is water, natural gas, or something else. That makes its wells-to-wheels energy balance highly dubious.

Back to gasoline. In the future, it may well be blended with ethanol in higher proportions than it is today. The maximum since 1978 has been 10 percent ethanol, but the EPA last October approved a 15-percent blend (E15) for cars from 2007 to the present, and just last week extended the approval to 2001-2006 models.

But don't expect that to happen any time soon. Carmakers, small-engine manufacturers, and others launched a lawsuit asking that the first approval be overturned.

Over time, we think ethanol will become part of our liquid-fuel mix--perhaps at higher proportions yet, as much as 20 percent. But as currently manufactured, ethanol has several major issues to overcome.

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Comments (72)
  1. A well written and very detailed article.
    As for electricity vs E85 in New Zealand? With regular gas at $5.80 USD/gal here, people will not pay a premium for E85. I believe electric vehicles will triumph much quicker down here than in the USA.
    I'm confident it'll be a 'one horse race' here soon, when electric vehicles start to appear.
    For example, there's a yank living in my city (New Plymouth) who went to all the effort and expense of importing a flex-fuel car from the USA in order to run it on E85. He explained how disappointed he was that no one sold the fuel here. Chances are, no one will either.

  2. Interesting analysis. What I'm missing though is peak oil. An increasing chorus of less and less fringe experts is warning that it's neigh or maybe it even already happened. That makes it worrying that gasoline is widely believed to stay dominant for decades to come unless ethanol could pick up the slack which as the article states is unlikely. The effect of the first signs of peak oil is mentioned though: increasingly volatile oil prices as the markets grow more and more nervous. At the end of the day it doesn't matter though for the energy mix in transportation in the next decade. The industry is just not prepared and even if people are desperate for alt fuel vehicles in an oil starved economy, the capacity to build them or to produce alt fuels is just not in place. The intermediate solution might be rationing of scarce transportation fuels.

  3. What an awesome and thoughtful breakdown of the current options for fueling vehicles. It really puts in to perspective what will be achieved by EVs (something) and Hydrogen (nothing).
    One item that I was less comfortable with was the "free-market" comment. If we are going to control MPG using CAFE standards, I don't really see that as a free market anymore than I see EVs with a $7500 rebate as free market.
    I didn't understand the comment that 90% of the carbon output from a car comes from the fuel. And in the next sentence that number changes to 75%. Is the 75% number for 2020 and the 90% number for 2010? What did I miss?
    John C. Briggs

  4. John,
    Great analysis as usual, though I would add two itmes to it: there is no likely way for your two "winners"--gasoline or electricity--to replace diesel in the goods movement industry, which is the backbone of the economy. Maybe with renewable diesel there can be a significant displacement of petroleum, but diesel will probably remain a predominant for the next half century. For some of the economic facts, check out my client, Diesel Technology Forum at And to edge hydrogen out, electricity (specifically batteries), have got to come a long way in durability, cost and range, which gives H2 an opening to wedge its way during the next couple decades. Virtually every major auto company in the world is betting that way.

  5. Methinks is fully supported by the fossil fuel folks. Nice disguise though.

  6. Due to rapid refilling, range and utility / performance characteristics, hydrogen will be used more and more, starting with commercial vehicles, then moving down to personal vehicles.

  7. @Michael,
    Do I understand you correctly? Every major car company is betting that hydrogen will edge out battery powered cars? If so, what evidence is there that that hydrogen is their bet rather than electricity.
    John C. Briggs

  8. @John Briggs: The "more than 90%" of lifetime carbon footprint attributed to the fuel combines 75% for the fuel burned + 19% for production & transportation of that fuel. Sum = 94%.

  9. @Jason: Can you point me to studies of the total wells-to-wheels carbon profile of a mile driven on H2 under various production scenarios? I'd very much like to compare it to the models prepared by EPRI/NRDC for plug-in vehicles. I have been told by several energy researchers that absent multiple new nuclear plants, or truly gigantic solar-powered refineries, the carbon impact of H2 is worse than that of gasoline. It's better for the automakers, of course (no tailpipe emissions except water!), but they tell me it's worse for reducing greenhouse gases. Would love to see a well-argued refutation, though.

  10. @Michael: Thanks for the nice words. Same challenge to you as to Jason: Can you point me to wells-to-wheels analyses of the carbon impact of miles driven on H2 under the various production scenarios?

  11. @John: Though you're right about diesel. Where I said "gasoline" I was often sort of intending "gasoline and diesel," and didn't discuss renewable diesel. Sorry bout that ... topic for another piece.

  12. @John Voelcker,
    Thanks for the clarification about carbon footprint. It really shows the staggering amount of fuel that cars (even the Prius) use over their lifetimes.
    The car may weigh 3,000 or 4,000 pounds, but many times that weight in gasoline will be used over the lifetime of the vehicle. It is deceiving because you never really see the gasoline go in or appreciate how much is used.
    John C. Briggs

  13. just because something is hot now doesn't mean it will always be so. I agree Gasoline/petrol/diesel will still be hte main fuel though part of it will b from waste biomas not wells. I am not so sure on electic though. There's a lot of hype but we are years away from getting the costs weight down and realiability up for battery technology. Some people will rush into buying electric cars, find it isn't the answer they thought it was, back off from buying more and put others off and the manufacturers will have a heart attack and stop investment. The time for electric cars could be in 10 years time but I worry that the rush to get them out now before the technology is mature could kill them. Happy to be wrong.

  14. @Reece,
    There are some very happy RAV-4EV owners that would be happy to tell you that the time for EVs was ten years ago, not ten years from now. There is a lot of evidence that they are right.
    John C. Briggs

  15. @JV Here's a good site for WTW analysis of H2 and other fuels. Even though its a H2 promo site, the reports are 3rd party and well peer-reviewed. But another factor is that, particularly at the retail level, folks are not buying WTW but vehicle range, performance overall functionality. That's where H2 wins, beside being zero emissions at the tailpipe as w/elecricity.
    @John Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, GM, Nissan(!) and Hyundai are all putting fuel cell vehicles on the market (a la the current Leaf/Volt launches) starting 2015. The auto companies see EVs are urban, limited use vehicles and FCVs (which are also EVs, of course) as true replacements for our current ICEs. Infrastructure is the main remaining challenge, though more in the US than Japan or Germany (which are both stepping up to build the initial refueling stations).

  16. @JV When you're ready to go on the renewable diesel opus, let me know and I'll hook you up with the guys from Neste Oil of Finland. #1 right now w/NexBTL (currently on sale in the EU blended as premium diesel and being used as R100 in Helsinki buses).

  17. Forget Hydrogen?? You are in for a surprise or maybe you'd prefer simply not to look. Biggest ever H2 trials are about to start in the UK March 2011.

  18. Michael,
    OK, so there is still some on-going effort in fuel cells, but hardly comparable with the EV movement which started shipping in November 2010. To say that you are going to ship a FCV in 2015 is the rough equivalent of saying, maybe, someday. If any company was to say, today, we are going to start shipping EVs in 2015, they would be laughed at, and rightly so.
    Automotive fuel cells are so impractical that Ulf Bossel and his colleagues banned their discussion from the European Fuel Cell Forum. This is from a guy that is in the business of making fuel cells.
    The only good that has come out of the investment in hydrogen is that we now know that it is deeply impractical and inefficient. Time to leave that on the back burner and that is where the auto companies have it.
    John C. Briggs

  19. What a complex issue this is. The first metric is cost, which can be quite volatile. This breaks down to the cost of the fuel, cost of the car, and the future costs of both. The second metric is carbon output. This is still something without a standardized well to wheel method. The third metric is pollution (sans CO2). This is actually where California started the problem solving. CO, NOx, particulates, and unburned hydrocarbons, all have a negative impact on humans and the environment. The fourth metric is national security (foreign trade?). If other countries control the supply of oil to the USA, all other issues may be irrelevant. We have seen this in 1974 with oil, and Europe has seen it more recently with Natural Gas. Very scary. Too bad we didn't stay scared.
    So as we gaze into our crystal balls, it should be with some humility.
    John C. Briggs

  20. There is one simple fact. Solar and wind derived energy can be utilized to create hydrogen on a local basis. Distributed hydrogen fuel production and the 15,000 hydrogen stations mentioned cost approximately the same as one month of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the capitol expenditure transportation fuel becomes essentially free as the solar and wind energy inputs are provided by nature. With a hydrogen infrastructure in place relatively free zero polluting transportation fuel will be secure in the future. No other fuel will be!
    John Gotthold

  21. This is a reasonable estimate of things to come. Short of having a government like China, which tell its people what to do, only the free market is capable of sorting out such a complex problem. Investors in start ups are use to having failures and successes, let them take the risk. Government regulations and interference by there very nature are ham handed, at best.

  22. Mr. Voelcker - the subject of diesel vehicles not finding their way to the U.S.A. marketplace should be explored at length. I cannot understand why we cannot have high mph diesels. The standard reasoning is that it is too expensive to produce clean diesel units. Is it really more expensive than the gas variants and EVs being foisted on us. Would love to see this subject thoroughly hashed out.

  23. @John, I doubt anyone has rerun the hydrogen numbers with the latest information on H2 production technologies and fuel cell efficiencies as achieved by GM, Daimler, Toyota, Honda, etc.
    Once industrial and commercial vehicles adopt H2 as a fuel and install their own infrastructure, personal vehicle adoption will follow, due to its convenience and superior performance in rapid refilling, greater range / cost and greater utility and performance / cost.
    Consumers care only that costs drop below a certain threshold. Once below that threshold, they consider other aspects like rapid-refill, range and utility / performance. If the cost is higher, but the cheaper alternative lacks those thresholds of rapid-refill, range and utility / performance, then consumers will raise their cost threshold in order to meet their thresholds for convenience and performance.
    Conventional analyses just don't apply to disruptive technologies. It requires vision.

  24. @John Gotthold (too many Johns on this forum)
    Energy from wind and solar is not "Free" as is often claimed. Personally, I have solar panels on my house and the cost of the electricity is at least $0.30/KWH making it one of the most expensive forms of energy available today. That said, it is still pretty cool.
    However, if I needed to fuel EVs with solar panels, I would need to double or triple the amount of solar panels on my roof. Pretty bad as it is A) expensive, and B) will not fit on my roof.
    To do the same with using solar panels to make electricity for hydrogen production would take 3-4X as many solar panels as for an EV. This means 6 to 12 times as many solar panels as I have today. In other words, impossible.
    Hydrogen's inefficiency makes it a non-starter. You cannot even think of using an expensive resource like wind or solar to make hydrogen, it would price itself out of the market.
    I am not sure why people are so married to the hydrogen concept. Is is because the government spent years marketing it to the US public? But they didn't know then what we know now. After a lot of government investment, it is now clear that hydrogen will not work economically. Of course, the FCX Clarity beautifully shows that it works technically.
    John C. Briggs

  25. @Jason,
    Sounds like a religion discussion rather than a technical one. Science does not apply to the things that I am discussing. Go away science and rational thought. You must believe. Amen.
    John C. Briggs

  26. Great discussions.. I have also been giving this some thought over the past couple of years. Currently we only have one major player in the USA and that is gasoline. We will need all the alternates available to wean ourselves to new fuels. CNG, Bio Diesel, E85, Plug in Hybrids and pure electrics will all get there share. Unless we hit Peak Oil and then everything changes.

  27. @Dean Warde: Here are two articles we've published on why small Eurodiesels are unlikely to reach the U.S. market in large numbers:

  28. First John, if you're looking for an impartial WTW analysis that shows the clear benefits of several hydrogen pathways, you should know to check out the Argonne National Lab's site. They have done extensive analysis on dozens of pathways and concluded that WTW (not just WTT) favors several hydrogen pathways.
    Without fuel cells, the US and the world will never maximize any clean energy portfolio. Simply put, fuel cells enhance every other clean energy option. And hydrogen energy offers significant benefits in terms of storing renewable energies that batteries can't match.
    (Pete Barkey, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association)

  29. First John, if you're looking for an impartial WTW analysis that shows the clear benefits of several hydrogen pathways, you should know to check out the Argonne National Lab's site. They have done extensive analysis on dozens of pathways and concluded that WTW (not just WTT) favors several hydrogen pathways.
    Without fuel cells, the US and the world will never maximize any clean energy portfolio. Simply put, fuel cells enhance every other clean energy option. And hydrogen energy offers significant benefits in terms of storing renewable energies that batteries can't match.
    (Pete Barkey, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association)

  30. We agree that gasolin with increasng amounts of ethnol wil be the dominate fuel for decades. It takes tha long to transition the fleet to a new fuel. When zer-emisson vehicles becomea major part of the fleet, they will run on batteries and fuel cells. Electricty and hydrogen are equally important. From well to wheels, it is cleaer and more efficien to make hydrogen from natural gas than to mae electriciy from natural gas. Visit and read our Progress Report and Well to Wheels documents for ac-based information.
    Chris at CcaFCP

  31. Too bad Pete Barkey gave us the main ANL web-link. It would be nice to find some actual data. ANL is quite large.

  32. Well, here is a start of a more substantive discussion.
    This references but does not cite a CEC (California Energy Commission study). Be interesting to get that link.
    Right off the bat it shows BEV using 2000 BTU/mile WTW. This is 0.585 KWH/mile or twice the amount used by real BEV like the LEAF. Wonder how they justify that.

  33. A prognostication based on a study from 11 years ago?
    Couldn't the author have found a more recent study to base his article on? Don't get me wrong, I like electrons, but anything, including H2, is better than
    imported petroleum from the volatile Middle East.
    What about the constant clamor about 'Peak Oil'? Is
    that just more crisis mongering?

  34. KIA, 2015, FCVs commerically available
    Japan building 100 hydrogen fueling stations
    Hawaii, becoming GM center for hydrogen infrastructure
    Germany, England, Norway.
    Hydrogen wins.

  35. @John Briggs, it's not a religion, it is true vision. The Chevy Volt still can't be justified versus a Prius on a capital and maintenance cost analysis. It has value to its customers that goes beyond cost, which means Volt customer's cost threshold was met or adjusted when the lower performance and styling of the Prius failed to meet their other thresholds. It's not a religion, but these other thresholds are factors that aren't represented in conventional analyses, so your science is insufficient.

  36. @John Bailo & others... In the end, nobody's certain what will ultimately prevail and when. Wow, Kia promises a FCV in 2015, that must mean hydrogen has won! Japan has far more than 100 charging stations now for EVs, too. The Germans are working on EVs as hard as harder than they are for FCV, or have you not noticed the hybrids and EVs coming. And yes, long before 2015...
    As a consumer, we all win when technologies improve and, while my long-term preference might be FCV, I wouldn't bet much on it, either. Simply pointing our extremely small gains (which are much smaller than expected 5-10 years ago BTW) on FCV doesn't mean much. The coming years will matter, not one's current biases. Every fuel has significant disadvantages. Great article, John.
    That said, get the A4 here in a diesel ASAP and our second car will be electric this year or next. If FCV make it to market in volume, I'll be right in line.

  37. I think the chart here is typical of what I have seen.
    "Why a hydrogen economy doesn't make sense."
    Note that the author is in the fuel cell business and so I think it should be given some credit.
    Anyway, if you start from 100 KWH of renewable electricity and try to power an EV, you have 69 KWH by the time you get down to work. In the case of a FCV if you start with 100 KWH of renewable electricity, you have only 23 KWH of electricity by the time you are ready to apply traction to the tires.
    Clearly, FCV are going to use 3X more electricity to do the same job. Not very efficient. Also note this is not a well-to-wheels analysis but a sun-to-wheels analysis.
    John C. Briggs

  38. This article is a fail. We will live to see the author recant his absurd statements about gasoline. Hydrogen is the fuel of the 21st century. If Mr.Voelcker is in the fuel cell business, then he should get out after writing article that so heavily favors the old guard,” maybe someday for hydrogen, in 15 to 20's" BS.
    I'm sorry if I'm coming off strong, but come on! All the piece are there to make hydrogen work today, not in some future that never gets here. This article could have been clipped out of a road and track mag from 1982!
    We can build a hydrogen based economy or keep giving money to people who what to destroy America. You said a single hydrogen station cost what 2 million? Only because of red tape. What a load of doodoo.

  39. @James Yarger,
    John Voelcker put out an open call for data showing that the carbon footprint hydrogen is reasonable and the costs as well. So far the data shows the carbon foot print is too high and the costs as well.
    The article does not claim that hydrogen power doesn't work. Clearly hydrogen power works, but not very well.
    It is also worth noting that FCVs are basically EVs. So when you get your EV FCV home for the evening, you can either recharge the battery directly from the socket, or indirectly by using electricity to make hydrogen and then using the hydrogen to make electricity again. Clearly you will want to charge the battery directly since it takes 3X the electricity use the hydrogen method.
    If the battery in your EV FCV is large enough (say 16 KWH) you might never need to use a drop of hydrogen in your daily commuting. But at least it is there for longer trips. But then you have to ask yourself, is it really worth having in a fuel cell in your car? How about just going back to gasoline for the longer trips, like, say, the Chevy Volt. Or switching battery packs, like ,say (gulp) project Better Place.
    John C. Briggs

  40. Maybe the car companies should get their products off the recall train before worrying about lawsuits on what fuel to manufacture for. :D

  41. Support the Open Fuel Standard to put more than 100 million FFVs on the road in 10 years and eliminate middle east oil imports.

  42. @John Briggs.
    The only way producing hydrogen by any means is more expensive and has a "larger foot print" is to allow for whole lot of externalities ok. The carbon emissions from the well to the pump have to left out. The human factors have to over looked as well, the increase in asthma in children, and cancer. The carbon emissions of the entire production and the effects that happen from leaks all a lot the way have to be over looked.
    What we need is consumer demand to make the market change. Not another narcissistic hydrogen articles. We are living on a world browned from tomorrow’s child. Their world is entrusted to us to make a livable place. To over look all though effects is the only way you can say that hydrogen is more expensive

  43. @James Yarger,
    Please educate away. But first, I think we should agree that hydrogen does not come from the ground. So the whole Well-to-Wheel argument is a little off track. Secondly, the data from Ulf Bossel (a fuel cell expert) shows the opposite of your argument.
    No impassioned argument changes the data. We are all very familiar here with accounting for externalities and Ulf does that very well as his starting point is renewable energy.
    The fact that Japan is doing demonstration projects does not show that this is necessarily a good idea.
    John C. Briggs

  44. This article states a higher probability of outcome. We use 140 billion gallons of gasoline each year and making PHEVs FFVs as well offers us even more options towards reducing imported oil.

  45. Thanks for finally showing my second post, and talking about the link that I posted in my third, thanks for being fair.
    The link you've posted is four year old and shows transportation and liquefaction as barriers. Hydrogen can be produced at the point of purchase. The well to wheels does make sense, you have to include externalities and your not.
    Hydrogen filling stations are being built that get their electricity for electrolysis from renewable resources on the spot, using technology that is off the shelf at this point.
    No amount Ludditism changes the current data. Bossels argument is out of day, and so are you, I’m starting think “Green Car Report” shouldn’t consider changing its name to the “Green Washing Report”

  46. @James Yarger,
    Ulf Bossel chart uses renewable energy as the starting point. Please let me know what "externalites" and "wells" you are talking about. Starting from Renewables like Ulf does, there is no well (for hydrogen or electricity). Exactly what externalities are you talking about when referring to EVs running on renewable energy.
    John C. Briggs

  47. In November 2010 a coalition of over 30 stakeholders, including the world's leading automotives and other well known companies, provided confidential and proprietary data, which was subsequently independently analysed by McKinsey and Company, to determine the best options for cleaner power-trains for cars in Europe.
    You should take a look at it - it will perhaps help to modify some misconceptions about the use of hydrogen contained in the article and subsequent comments.
    It is called "A portfolio of power-trains for Europe:
    a fact-based analysis" sub-titled
    "The role of Battery Electric Vehicles, Plug-in
    Hybrids and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles'
    It is an unprecedented, fact based study and is available here;

  48. Jon,
    Thanks for the report. Great stuff. I started reading it and was struck by this statement.
    "The value of the FCEV over alternative
    power-trains in terms of TCO and emissions (including the cost of the hydrogen infrastructure) is positive beyond 2030." Actually consistent with John Voelckers discussion above regarding the next 20 years.
    John C. Briggs

  49. Interesting discussions but a lot of biased views on how the world will develop. I got myself a BEV this weekend as a car number 2. A great experience with the Mithsubishi this weekend and I am looking forward to drive it for the years to come. However, the "promised" range of 150 km is far off for my driving purpose. 60 km was what I got by using the car my way. That means a family of four, winter climate with heater on, normal driving, some shopping bags and steep hills back home (400 m climb). I expect more range in warmer climate, but still the car is far from a car that I can use for all purposes. Even if battery improves fourfold. So I will rather opt for developing hydrogen further, and I am much more confident that I will replace my car no. 1 with a Fuel Cell car rather than a battery car.

  50. @Truls,
    Ah the fondness of not yet existing technology. The hydrogen car of the future remains perfect in our minds because it is not tainted by the realities of actually existing. Do you want to bet that the first hydrogen cars will have some disappointments of their own when, and if, they arrive?
    John C. Briggs

  51. Gasoline and Ethanol only because the lobbyist buy the best politicians money can buy. Think about whom these giants represent and how large their so called 'Carbon Footprint' make on the direction as to what happens in our daily lives via politics in Washington.Regarding EV about the US being short sighted on making us less dependent on oil.First the US power grid system is the same system that has been around for 70 plus years. It's old, fragile and outdated. Now the automotive industry wants to put even more load on this dying system by having us plug in our EV cars to it. Has everybody forgotten about when we have those hot summer days when people are ask to cut back on using power?! My god people what a short memory we have!!Now think about that EV you bought that has 80k plus miles on it. Most auto manufactures only warranty these for 100k miles. Who in their right mind is going to want to buy a used EV with these many miles knowing that it will cost 5-6K dollars to replace the battery bank? Plus this will be taken into account when it comes time to trade in your EV. Who do you think will take the hit on this? It sure won't be the dealer! There goes your savings for those MPG's you saved at the pump.

  52. I think the easiest way to reduce gas consumption significantly is by adjusting volumetric efficiency via the cars computer. Most people pay little attention to the way they drive and as a result have nowhere near the minimal fuel consumption capability of the vehicle. By generating a light foot acceleration profile via the computer maximum fuel efficiency is guaranteed.This profile could be overidden by a tps for higher acceleration.

  53. I'm interested to know if anyone addressed the potential dilema of running out fossil fuel due increased population and thus demand?

  54. I'm interested to know if anyone addressed the potential dilema of running out of fossil fuel due increased population and thus demand?

  55. Umm.... Electricity is not a "fuel". "Electric" cars are not "clean". They are coal burning. How can you be expected to be taken seriously with such a banal statment.

  56. @Heywood Jeblomie: See discussion of comparative wells-to-wheels carbon load of an electric vehicle driven even on a dirty grid vs. a 25-mpg gasoline car. The former is lower under all circumstances. We have covered this in numerous articles and comments on GCR. Before you criticize, it's often useful to inform yourself on the facts.

  57. John- My point is that electric cars are not "clean". They may be "cleaner", but so are natural gas cars. And any article that calls electricity a "fuel source" can't possibly be expected to be taken seriously. That kind of nonsense wouldn't be accepted on a 7th grade science paper.

  58. I just read this article again and am astounded by the absolutely ridiculous statements about electricity being a "fuel"
    "In our view, the two most viable types of fuels for the medium term are petroleum products (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) and electricity, which already has a distribution system in place."
    Electricity is an energy transfer medium. It's not a fuel in any way matter or form. That's like saying that fuel for our cars today is internal combustion.
    BTW-- what happens in the electric car when it's hot out and you have the A/C cranking and the radio playing while you're stuck in traffic? How do those batteries hold up at 0 degrees F?
    Look, you guys are free to play with your toys, just don't ask the taxpayer to subsidize this nonsense (including ethanol).

  59. @Heywood: Your comments would be worth replying to if you didn't hide your identity behind a 6th-grade sexual insult and provide non-existent e-mail addresses. It's too bad, too; I'd like to have that debate. Drop me a private line using your real name if you want to have it: john (at) highgearmedia (dot) com.

  60. Bull sh hydrogen, is the most ubundant gas in the universe, has the range it is the end game of this fuel problem. Has the range emits water as exhaust, This technology has existed for 150 years! Battery cars are the Segway for fuel cell. Honda insight. Range and zero emissions.

  61. A great article, but I wonder why natural gas is not included as a fuel for the future. The US Geological Survey just increased its estimate of Technically recoverable gas in the Marcellus Shale to 84 Trillion cubic feet, this is 42 times the original 2002 estimate. Natural gas can be compressed in the home or dispensed at fueling stations, both Ford and Honda have made bi-fuel cars to run on both CNG and gasoline. NG can also be used to power fuel cells instead of expensive hydrogen. The cost of NG is at an all time low in relation to oil and does not fluctuate as much as oil and is produced domestically. Yes, we do import some NG from Canada.

  62. Thanks for the good words. We do give a nod to natural gas in the piece, but there are significant concerns with the hydrofracturing methods to retrieve it in the U.S. and Canadian deposits. "Fracking" is highly energy intensive, and it is customarily done by injecting a number of substances--sometimes including diesel fuel--into the ground to surface the gas. Many Americans who rely on wells for their drinking water have severe concerns over fracking and, as one example, New York State has banned it anywhere in the watershed that feeds the New York City water system. In other words: There's no free lunch, and we believe conservation is still best.

  63. There is a new technology coming out of Calgary from a company called Gasfrac Energy Services, it involves using LPG (propane) as a fracking fluid. New York state just repealed the ban on fracking, but you are correct about not permitting drilling in the NYC Watershed. But, the state is just being cautious since NYC runs the largest unfiltered water system in the country. Conservation is great, but we need to develop these home grown energy resources and reduce our dependance on foreign oil. Since one of the largest uses of crude oil is for transportation, abundant, domestic NG in cars and trucks would conserve our oil for other uses.

  64. Furthermore, I don't understand why ethanol continues to be subsidized. Over half of the annual US corn crop is used to make fuel, which increases the cost of food while millions go hungry.

  65. Additionally, ethanol requires lots of energy to produce and transport not to mention depleting the midwestern aquifers beyond the point of replenishment. Lest we not forget the fertilizer being used to grow corn that could be better used for food crops.

  66. The corn is grown to feed animals. Animals eat the corn after the ethanol is extracted.

  67. Alvin: There are many ways to make ethanol, but I'm not sure you're right that the animals "eat the corn" after the ethanol is "extracted." Today's ethanol refineries destroy the corn in the process of extracting the starch to get the sugars from which ethanol is produced. See here for more details:

  68. A rise in the price oil is what causes the increase of the cost of food, not ethanol.

  69. I agree that higher oil prices can increase the cost of food since oil is used throughout the supply chain. But when 50% of the corn crop is used to make ethanol, how can it not affect the price? Corn and it's derivatives (corn oil, corn sweetener) are found in many processed foods, if ethanol was not produced, the price of corn would drop. It's simple supply/ demand.

  70. Neither the article nor comments mention methanol. MIT’s comprehensive report on The Future of Natural Gas found methanol would be the best transportation use of natural gas. As a Major Recommendation, the report said, “The U.S. government should implement an open fuel standard that requires automobile manufacturers to provide tri-flex-fuel [methanol, ethanol or gasoline] operation in light-duty vehicles. " Methanol is cheaper per mile driven than gasoline, can be made from our glut of natural gas, and could avoid $500 Billion per year of payments to foreign oil producers using their monopoly power. The tri-flex fuel cars would cost only $100 more than gasoline only cars, and could pay back that $100 in far less than one year.

  71. I only found "Conversion of natural gas to methanol, as widely practiced in the chemicals industry, could provide a cost effective route to manufacturing an alternative, or supplement, to gasoline, while keeping CO2 emissions at roughly the same level.", nothing about the relatively non-toxic ethanol that NASCAR uses being worse than methanol.

  72. I've got an opinion!
    Time to stop slathering us in oily goo!
    With updates, 2/26/14

    When you take into account the amount of money that is spent on energy in the US annually, approximately $3.04 Trillion dollars. That is 95 Quads at an equivalent of 8 Billion gallons of gas per Quad, (this per the EIA, and Robert Godes of Brillouin Energy). It is easy to see how much resistance the oil companies and the Nuclear power folks might muster.
    Much of this may be new to you. I understand that, but please consider these things. You want innovation that will change the face of the planet? I think that at last count 656 patent applications can be viewed for LENR alone. On another note I added number 17, not because it generated

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