117 Are you any good at predicting the future?


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

If there is anything that's hard to do, it's predicting the future. A lot of people have tried it and have ended up being very wrong. But this issue is a little different. Why? Because it begins with an "if" and that changes things.

IF some kind of electric car is going to replace travel in gasoline fueled cars, which type will it probably be?

Two choices:

  1. Electric cars which run on batteries which store power.

  2. Fuel cell cars which run on compressed hydrogen, which generates electricity, which in turn runs the car.

The current issue over fuel cell cars and electric powered ones centers around the question of refueling them. I'll give you the pluses and minuses and you can make up your mind.

• Electric cars:

  • Cheaper to build and operate.

  • Recharging stations easy to build.

  • Owners may be able to afford their own charging stations.

  • Cost to drive one 25 miles runs from $0.84 to $1.32, which is $500 to $850 a year for cars driven 500 miles a week. (As compared to a gasoline driven car, which would run about $2,300 a year.)

  • Cost of car $50,000 - $100,000

  • Cost of replacing batteries after their 7 years of life: $12,000

  • Charging takes 7 hours.

  • Absolute total driving range before a recharge is 73 miles.

  • Most of weight carried is batteries.

  • IF overhead power systems are added to highways, then car arrives fully charged for local driving.

• Fuel cell cars.

  • Burn hydrogen gas; only pollution product is water.

  • Do not take long to refuel (perhaps 10 minutes)

  • Range "greater than a battery operated electric car (but how much farther the manufacturers are not saying).

  • Hydrogen cannot be compressed to a liquid; therefore tanks are filled with a very dangerous gas under high pressure.

  • Cannot be refueled by the owner; too dangerous.

  • Initial cost of car $50,000 - $100,000

  • Cost of refueling unknown; no one who makes one is saying. They seem to deliberately avoid the subject.

  • No "gas" stations available. (But if people buy the cars somebody will surely supply gas stations, and if there are gas stations, then people will buy the cars.

As you can see by the number of this string I have been researching it for a long time, but some data I cannot find. Maybe you can. It would be nice to know the cost of running a fuel cell car and how far they can go without refueling.

So what do you think? Which one is likely to win out in the long run?


Pat Randall 3 years, 3 months ago

Leave me alone in my gas powered Fords. 73 miles of power won't get you to any town of any size from Payson. Have to make a pit stop at Sunflower going to Mesa. Punkin Center going to Globe, Heber going east and I don't know about getting to Flagstaff or Camp Verde.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago


Because fuel cell cars are sometimes referred to as "hybrids" I can't make a sensible comment, but I'd like to know what you mean.

Pat, I agree. Those of us born in the last 100 years or so have have probably lived through what will some day be called the Golden Age. We have had the advantage of an Earth that was largely unpopulated and resources that were largely untapped. So we've been able to roam free in our cars and genuinely enjoy life for that and a myriad of other reasons.

It's obvious that we can't go on doing that because there are too many of us, and too few remaining resources. I sincerely believe that electric cars of some sort will appear in the very near future, and that steps will be taken to keep us free and mobile, such as lining major roads outside towns and cities with overhead wires or some way of provided power for individual vehicles.

That would allow people to get where they are going, be able to drive around town for a while on batteries, and return on the electrified major road again. It may be a way of reducing pollution and still staying mobile. Who knows?

I do not believe that fuel cells are practical because of the immense danger of highly compressed and inflammable gas. I'll tell you why in a separate post.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

Some gases can be compressed into liquid form at low pressure, but some can't. Propane, for example, is quite safe in that it liquifies at low pressure and is not really much more dangerous than ordinary liquid fuels like gasoline. In my opinion, it would require full service stations because the average person is just not qualified to mess with liquid gases under pressure. It might be a practical, inexpensive substitute for gasoline.

But hydrogen? It CANNOT be liquified at any practical pressure and temperature, so it is out as fuel, and trying to turn it into one is not too bright. Hydrogen is the simplest of all elements, just one electron and one proton; it is the primal element, the one from which all other elements were formed, most of them in the interior of stars under incredible pressure. It is NOT safe to fill a tank with hydrogen under the pressures it would take to get enough of it in the tank to move a vehicle any distance.

To show you how dangerous it is, get this. Chemistry labs like the one I ran for eight years usually have a few gases in large tanks, the tall narrow tanks standing about four feet high that we have all seen. The gases are carbon dioxide, oxygen, and helium, which are used in a variety of experiments.

The CO2 and O2 are in liquid form, at "low" pressures. The helium, which next to hydrogen is the simplest element, just two electrons and two protons and is also inert (doesn't burn) is at 2,800 pounds per square inch. No one in his right mind has a tank of helium standing in his lab unless it is strapped to something immovable like a supporting pillar or a lab bench. And when you move a tank of helium you better know what you are doing.

One time at Northwestern while I was there an inexperienced teacher released the steel bands holding a tank of helium to a lab bench on a second floor chem lab, and then was foolish enough to swivel it a few feel from the bench and leave it standing on its own without the protective solid steel screw-on valve cover that you may have seen. Why he did that I do not know and can't imagine.

The tank tilted, fell, and snapped off its valve. the escaping gas shot out the narrow port at the top of the tank, propelling it like a rocket. It drove straight through a solid brick wall sailed through the air, landed below on a sidewalk, rocketed 78 feet along the sidewalk, blasted through the doors of the building next door, and went 127 feet down the hallway. Luckily, no one was killed.

And that was an inert gas. Think what might have happened if it had been hydrogen, which has to be compressed at an even higher pressure and is THE most flammable substance on the planet. It would have instantly filled that lab with a flammable gas which almost certainly would have blown the place apart and would have rocketed into the next building on fire.

Fuel cell cars? A pipe dream.


Pat Randall 3 years, 3 months ago

If I remember right aren't 'they' trying to close down all the electric plants that serve us now. Where will we get our electric fuel? Where are we going to get the electricity needed to run these cars and all the other things that run on electricity? Turn off your electricity at the meter for 24 hours. That will include the computer. See what happens.
Do not use a generator that runs on gas to keep your lights on. No water as the town uses electricity to run the pumps. I remember using kerosene lamps, but that is a form of gas isn't it. We had wood stoves for heating and cooking but where will we get the wood? Would all the delivery trucks,18 wheelers, emergency vehicles, boats and airplanes be required to use electricity? I think this is all a pipe dream.


Pat Randall 3 years, 3 months ago

NO more NASCAR. Yes I know they use some kind of alcohol or other fuel but how about the rest of the vehicles at the races?


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

"Where will we get our electric fuel?"

Nuclear power plants. We have an inexhaustible supply of fuel for them, and if we recycle the waste the amount of waste created by one in a year is the size of a Coke can.

And boy are you right about how dependent we are on electricity!

"Would all the "delivery trucks,18 wheelers, emergency vehicles, boats and airplanes be required to use electricity?"

Pat, when we run out of oil we will have no choice but to use something else. One thing we will have to do is to go back to railroads for long distance hauling. No 18 wheelers. Local deliveries will be by battery powered trucks. Ships will run on nuclear power. Boats? If you mean private ones you can forget about them; unless they run on little trolling motors, there won't be any. No NASCAR. What little "gasoline" remains will go for the few aircraft we can't do without.

Right now, people have their heads in the sand, wasting products that it took the Earth millions of years to produce to spoil vast numbers of people that the planet cannot support. If you were to come back in 100 years the Earth population would be 1/4 to 1/5 of what it is now, and maybe less. Forty years ago I read a study that showed that the maximum sustainable population for the world was what we had in 1919. At that time the United States had a population of 100 million.

The BIG pollutant? The one nobody ever mentions? People. Want to cut down pollution? Reduce the number of polluters.

The other BIG pollutant? Politicians with their mouths open spewing hot air. That's probably what's causing global warming.

And one last answer:

"We had wood stoves for heating and cooking but where will we get the wood?"

Recycled human heads. :-)


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