No, not quite.

Debunking various greenwash claims can be complicated but even so this is something of a howler.

What the ad copywriters are talking about is not carbon dioxide, but carbon monoxide. This is nasty stuff in large quantities, to be sure. But it isn\’t warming the planet. What BMW\’s hydrogen car does "in tests" is emit gas through its tailpipe that contains less carbon monoxide than the surrounding air. In fact, somewhere deep in the system the engine breaks down carbon monoxide. Well done, guys. But it is not cleaning the air in any sense that you or I might understand it. Sure, hydrogen cars don\’t emit much carbon dioxide either, but very large amounts are emitted where the hydrogen is made.

Umm, hydrogen powered cars don\’t emit any CO2 at all. The "pollutant" is going to be dihydrogen monoxide, that terribly scary material that kills hundreds of thousands every year.

11 thoughts on “No, not quite.”

  1. The cars don’t emit C02, but the power plants that make the electricity that crack the water to make the hydrogen do.

    What’s that? Nuclear power??? Never! It’s eeeeevil dontchaknow…

  2. Most modern cars have catalytic converters so good that in cities the air coming out of the tailpipe has less unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, NOx, etc. than was in the “clean” air that went in through the intake vents.

    The only real point to this claim is that the cars are now not a source of pollution in cities (although when the knackered old taxis, buses and lorries are scrapped, the air quality will improve to the point where these cars again become polluters).

    I also wouldn’t call CO2 a “pollutant” (because if you do you’ll have to call dihydrogen monoxide a pollutant, and that is such a twisting of the word that it would have to win the New Labour Award For Appropriate Use Of English In A Government Press Release).

  3. And I always get suspicious when some trivial factoid in a story is wrong. It shows that the author was blathering.

    The 2008 Detroit Auto Show (actually the North American International Auto Show) took place over two weeks in January 2008. There is no way that this could be construed as ‘over the summer’. IOW, he phoned in parts of this story. But which parts, we ask ourselves . . .?



  4. That H2O is nasty stuff, responsible for far more deaths than CO2, and a worse greenhouse ‘gas’ also. I think it should be banned immediately.

  5. Lots of people drown every year while swimming/boating, every now and then there is a terrible flood that kills lots and lots of people, some people even drink so much water that they poison themselves, so that dihydrogen monoxide stuff really should be on the dangerous substances list.

  6. As MW points out whether something is good or bad, or a pollutant or not, depends on where it is and how much of it there is, as well as what it is.

    Hydrogen cars will be polluting, unless there is a pollution free way to make the hydrogen, alhough the pollution doesn’t come out of the car’s tailpipe.

  7. Actually, factually, water vapor is much more of a greenhouse gas than CO2…however, since it evaporates and condenses on it’s own scheme, no big problem.

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