Like all empires in the last throes of bellicose expiration, Jaguar land Rover is throwing vital resources (that it doesn’t have) at a pre-failed research project. Jaguar Land Rover has christened this doomed hydrogen fuel cell research as, Project Zeus. However one must say Jaguar Land Rover is naval gazing, not looking upwards towards the sky and is more likely to get struck by thunder and lighting if this pre-failure of a project ever succeeds. And project Zeus will never succeed in bringing hydrogen fuel cells into the Jaguar Land Rover fleet. Rather like the Daily Car Blog, project Zeus will flicker and burn.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, our Sun, not the scoundrel ridden newspaper, the actual Sun in our solar system, has a chemical composition that is 92 percent hydrogen. It may well be an abundant element, however, hydrogen is a pain in the arse to produce. It’s a pain because it is difficult and expensive to make. For example, you need storage, vast storage at near cryogenic temperatures because it has very low volumetric energy density.
The storage containers need to be highly pressurized. Hydrogen happens to be very combustible, that’s why the Sun loves it so much. If hydrogen fuel cells happen to become mainstream, you have a Hindenburg in the making. However modern technology has made hydrogen relatively safe to handle by the average joe. A number of hydrogen filling stations have cropped up. But filling up a Hydrogen car is much more expensive than petrol and diesel.
Because hydrogen contains less energy per unit volume than all other fuels, transporting, storing, and delivering it to the point of end-use is more expensive on a per gasoline gallon equivalent (per-GGE) basis. Producing hydrogen centrally in large plants cuts production costs but boosts distribution costs. However, the only emission a hydrogen car produces is water.
But that isn’t the full picture, hydrogen cars are also known to emit nitrox oxide, which chemically related to nitric oxide, the very emission that the auto industry is running away from. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked into hydrogen cars as a viable alternative to diesel and petrol, back in 2003. The MIT study concluded that even with aggressive research “a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will not be better than the diesel hybrid (a vehicle powered by a conventional engine supplemented by an electric motor)”.
So that begs the question… what is jaguar Land Rover doing here? Jaguar Land Rover’s plans are allied to BMW who will release a hydrogen-powered X5 in 2022. But this could be a geo-political issue. The German car industry, in particular, BMW has long fanned the combustible flames of Hydrogen as an alternative fuel and a way to meet emissions laws. Project Zeus is backed by a £73 million government research grant.
Germany is a big backer of hydrogen fuel and is investing $9 billion into numerous projects to get hydrogen into more fuel tanks. As is the European Union. The elephant in the room here is nitrox oxide. After the German car industry committed fraud on an industrial scale with the dieselgate scandal, Germany now wants to now introduce “friendly nitrox-oxide” in an effort to reduce emissions. Goodbye, nitric oxide hello acid rain.
As Elon Musk said of Hydrogen fuel cells, they are a “stupid idea”.