What is still holding back fuel cells?

Price. Even for an underpowered putt putt it would cost upwards of $30,000 just for the fuel cells.

Cost. No one is willing to pony up the bucks and research talent needed to do the necessary research and development.

Energy. No one is willing to build all the power plants required to create the hydrogen.

Safety. Hydrogen is dangerous stuff.

Engineering. Solving the problems of energy density, brittleness of the container metal over time, efficient creation of hydrogen in mass quantities and distributing it safely and cheaply. Building safe, reliable cars that have enough places to buy fuel and get decent range and cost a decent amount of money.

Economics. Adding hydrogen fuel cells is not a solution to energy problems, any more so than building a factory to make nickel-cadmium batteries. A hydrogen fuel cell is just a really cool, powerful battery. The battery takes more energy to make than it gives up as power. So does the fuel cell.

No. Hydrogen used in fuel cells presents a lower risk than does petrol.

Although hydrogen has large explosive limits, it diffuses rapidly in air.

A spilt mixture of volatile hydrocarbons is potentially very hazardous. It is easy to ignite and does not disperse quickly.

Hydrogen fuel cells are expensive compared to what we have already in vehicles, however hydrogen is a convenient way to store energy produced by power stations.

Safe, portable hydrogen storage for one. It’s being worked on, though. At my job, as a matter of fact. Practical fuel cell powered cars are a few years out.
Fuel cells are being used as stand-by power sources quite a bit right now, mostly at data centers and hospitals, etc.
Cost is coming down pretty quickly. Large corporations (mine included) are being cautious, but they’re keeping their fingers in the pot.

What about this.

It would seem to solve a number of the problems people have mentioned here. No storage of hydrogen and thus no danger of an explosion since you could extract the hydrogen in the car as needed from a tankful of sugar water. And the suger could be made from agricultural waste. It doesn’t solve the problem of the expensiveness of fuel cells but mass production might solve that.

So platinum is not a problem?

What ever happened to storing hydrogen in aerogell?

Expense more than anything. The problems with safety and storage can be overcome. However since the economy is based on oil there is not hurry to switch over to some experimental process. Eventually I’m sure fuel cells will become as affordable as petrol engines, I’m just not sure when eventually is…

Here’s an (upcoming) laptop fuel cell that can run a computer 2-3 times as long as a battery, and has just been approved for use on airplanes.

Is platinum a problem? AFAIK it’s currently used in catalytic exhaust converters in practically every car in the US. What’s the problem?

I was once told that fuel cells require an inordinately large amount of it, thus driving the price way up, also, that most engineering efforts are towards cutting down the amount of platinum needed without destroying the efficiency, or life-span, of the cell.

Expensive? The price will drop once there’s sufficient demand.

The only reason I see that is fuel cells are still not very efficient.

If you want to check out a working fuel cell for under $60 check here - http://www.fuelcellstore.com/products/teacher_student/classroom_index.html#basic.

It comes complete with the fuel.

For 12 V upto 2 ams - check here - http://www.fuelcellstore.com/products/index/portable_product_index.html

BTW - I have no affiliation whatsover with that store. Just that I’ve tried out some of their fuel cells and had a good experience.

No, no, that is the problem, I was told. Because it requires a precious metal, no increase in demand will really effect the price. And if you want a cheaper fuel cell you need to use less platinum, which will either make the cell much less efficient, or, cause it to carode and die much quicker then normal.

I think we can expect the market fo fuel cells to skyrocket now. I finally sold my few shares of Ballard Power stock a couple of weeks ago.

I worked for a while as a science writer, and wrote this article attempting to explain the various reasons why they haven’t taken off, without getting too technical. It’s a couple of years old, so some of the tech details might be out of date now.

The vast Stonecutter Conspiracy. :rolleyes:

I haven’t read any of the links yet, but I think a major problem involves chickens and eggs. Or Catch-22. Or whatever you want to call it.

Simply, we don’t have hydrogen-powered cars because there is not enough demand for them. Demand won’t increase until they can be refuelled anywhere, any time, at a reasonable price. No one wants to build an infrastructure to provide nation-wide refueling stations because there are not enough vehicles to support them. In short, there are no refueling stations because there aren’t enough vehicles because there aren’t enough fueling stations.

At least, that’s the way I see it. You could probably make the same point about electric cars. Aside from their short ranges, where do you recharge them? You’re pretty much limited to your home area.

I think what we need is for “national resolve” to reduce our dependence on petroleum. But Americans, being lazy and self-centred, have no reason to resolve to use alternate forms of energy as long as petroleum is relatively cheap.

As far as I’ve learned, safety is not the issue. For some reason people are afraid to be sitting on a tank of hydrogen, but willingly sit on 20 gallons of gasoline without fear. I think it has something to do with the Hindenburg…oh the humanity!

Price and efficiency are the main culprits, although a local company has been installing them on a test basis and plans on marketing them rather soon. Check out http://www.dtetech.com/energynow/portfolio/2_1_1.asp