Oh dearie me

Another report from the scientists.

Car companies are raising false hopes of emission-free motoring in order to continue profiting from large, fuel-hungry vehicles, according to a study.

Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells are not expected to be available widely until after 2050 because of the high cost of the platinum in their catalysts. Battery-powered vehicles will also remain a niche product because of their limited battery life.

The University of Oxford study, edited by Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, found that the most effective way of reducing overall emissions from motoring would be a “drastic downscaling of both size and weight” of conventional petrol and diesel cars.

The actual report is here.

SOFCs offer two major advantages over PEMFCs:
no need for a platinum catalyst (see section 5.1) and
greater fuel flexibility without the need for external
reforming. SOFCs’ high operating temperatures and
consequent lower durability and long start-up time,
however, pose significant hurdles to use in
automotive applications[64]. Advances in materials,however, have made it possible to create
intermediate-temperature (IT) SOFCs, which
operate at 500-750°C[47]. The lower operating
temperature of IT-SOFCs, and consequently the
faster start-up time, greater durability, and lower-cost
materials, makes this technology a possible
candidate for automotive applications[47]. IT-SOFCs
offer greater efficiency, fuel flexibility, and tolerance
of impurities than PEMFCs, and unlike PEMFCs,
they do not require external fuel reforming when
run on fuels other than pure hydrogen. IT-SOFCs
face the challenge, however, of reduced activity for
oxygen reduction at the cathode (that is, poorer
performance in the absence of a catalyst) compared
to high-temperature SOFCs[103]. Because of their
still-relatively-long start-up time and bulkiness
compared to PEMFCs, however, IT-SOFCs in the
automotive sector might be suitable only as auxiliary
power units (APUs), such as for refrigeration units
in heavy-duty lorries[44].

Oh dear. They seem not to know that this problem has already been solved. By using Yttria/Scandia stabilised zirconia (rather than the Yttria stabilised they are talking about here) you both get faster cycling times (and less cracking and thus a longer lasting fuel cell) and also higher ionic conductivity in the fuel cell. Thus neatly solving all three problems.

And, yes, of course I am biased because this is the day job talking, but IT SOFCs for use in automotive applications, as the power train, not just auxiliary, are thus a great deal closer than the 2050 this report assumes.

That\’s why we\’re trying to build a factory to get the scandium that everyone wants, see?

The larger point is of course that one should beware the experts and their plans: for there\’s no one so expert as to know everything.

7 thoughts on “Oh dearie me”

  1. A smaller version of you larger point is that one should expect to treat with scorn and derision anything under the impimatur of “Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser”. Perhaps one should except his work in Surface Chemistry, where he presumably did know what he was talking about.

  2. Where will the energy for producing hydrogen come from?

    If you’re switching to a hydrogen economy (somehow) you can have an intermediate step of internal combustion engines powered by hydrogen, so long as you can prevent hydrogen brittling (?) of the engine block. You don’t instantly have to leap from IC to fuel cells.

  3. Where can you invest in Yttria/Scandia stabilised zirconia????

    Tim adds: Just send me money. $10 million or so would be nice….the cost of our planned plant.

  4. “drastic downscaling of both size and weight” of conventional petrol and diesel cars.

    Can I have a subsidy for the Elise I’m thinking of buying? Small, light, only a 1.8l engine?

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