Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘hydrogen highway

BC Transit offers Hydrogen Buses for sale

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BC Transit 1000

I saw this story on the CBC News last night so that’s where I am linking to. It gets picked up by the paywalled press too, of course, but what I think is interesting about this version is the commentary from Eric Denhoff President and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association..

While these buses may have saved some greenhouse gas emissions, the admission that the hydrogen had to be trucked from Quebec offsets that a bit. Hydrogen is of course freely available everywhere: extracting it, packing and shipping it is, of course the expensive bit, and itself consumes lots of energy. And the trucks which drove back and forth across the continent were diesel powered. There is also a plant in North Van which vents hydrogen it produces as a byproduct which is not clean enough for the finicky fuel cells.

What annoys me about the web version of this story is that is misses the correct attribution of responsibility. The TV news had quite a bit about the decision by Gordon Campbell to buy these buses and have them run in Whistler during the Olympics. It also mentioned the complete failure of the “hydrogen highway” that he announced with Arnold Schwarzenegger that never materialized.

The Province always has money for these ribbon cutting, PR fluff type projects. Obviously just not enough money for Whistler’s transit system to keep running the things. There is never enough money to run transit in BC but every so often they go all loopy and buy a bunch of white elephants. Several different iterations of CNG buses wished on to Vancouver before they got one that actually worked reliably. Even though the emissions from diesel buses fitted with mandatory control equipment now equal the tailpipe performance of CNG. Not that there is much wrong with air quality in Vancouver.

It is also worth noting that the CBC web version mentions that there is a Plan B if BC Transit can’t find a buyer, which I would think is the most likely outcome.

NOTE This post has been corrected after correspondence from Eric Denhoff (April 28, 2015)

Hydrogen highway hits roadblock

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San Jose Mercury News

Four years ago this piece of nonsense started. Gordo tried to climb on board with his own Olympic Highway to Heaven – or Whistler anyway. And in all that time not one hydrogen fuelling station has opened. Which is just as well as there are not too many hydrogen cars either.

In February, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, a non-partisan agency, recommended the Legislature not fund the program this year because “the administration has little visible progress to show.”

Of course the BC Liberals kept very quiet about that. Or perhaps Arnold forgot to tell them.

There are just 175 vehicles in California running on hydrogen, nearly all of them experimental and in government fleets. Retail sales are about 10 years away by most expectations.

And if you had the misfortune to jump on to any of the earlier alt-transportation-fuel programs, you might have noticed that there are fewer CNG, Propane and Methanol pumps at gas station these days. Indeed, the poor folks in Creston who bought Ford single fuel CNG cars have been without refuelling facilities for some years now. That is because in the tight margin gas station business you really want to be able to sell Mars bars and car washes to make some profits – and there really is no commercial justification for pumps that no-one is going to use very much.

What I find really interesting is the size of the story. It would appear that there are some new sources in North America that do not have to boil things down to a couple of slugs. I wish we had more like that here.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 1, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Electric Cars

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Lengthy, thorough and highly positive piece on electric vehicles. Basically it takes the line that you either have to build your own car conversion or buy an electric bike. Which must make some local manufacturers a bit miffed.

UPDATE October 25

Watching the CBC News this evening, I learned that the real problem is with Transport Canada who have refused to allow IT or Zenn low speed vehciles on the roads in Canada. IT have given up and will close the Annacis Island manufacturing plant and go off shore, Zenn in Quebec (approved in the US undert the same rules that Canada adopted years ago) is on the point of giving up on Canada. And, of course, I cannot find this story on the CBC web page

But the best bit for my money is the article’s debunking of the nonsense of the “hydrogen highway” that the Province and Arnie are pushing

Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen is not an energy source. The gas is bound up chemically with other compounds such as oil, gas and water. It needs to be separated from those compounds, which requires more energy than hydrogen provides. Hydrogen is a net energy loser, and the amount of hydrogen needed to power automobiles in North America would be staggering.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 22, 2007 at 4:04 pm

IOC satisfied housing and road problems resolved

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Vancouver Sun

Oh well that’s all right then. The games can go on. Just forget everything that Vanoc and the IOC said about sustainability and legacy and all that environmental stuff. Some of us were cynical enough at the time to think that was just window dressing and the IOC have now shown that we were right.

The games – if it snows – will go ahead and the tv revenues will roll in – and the sponsorships are all sewn up now so there’s plenty of cash and hospitality suites for the fat cats.

Of course, we still face a major housing crisis in the region, but there will be enough beds for the athletes and the tv crews. At least for the few weeks that the IOC actually gives a damn about.

The legacy will be a much faster highway. There will be lots of expensive condos popping up along it for years to come and those people will quickly fill it up and slow it down again. Which is probably a good thing since the only problem with the old highway was the lack of common sense among those who feel themselves to be exempt both from the laws of the road and those of physics.

Oh and the highway might well have a hydrogen filling station on it too. Won’t that be nice. One of the sponsors may well manage to borrow a hydrogen car for a day so they can have a photo op. It won’t be much use after that but it will have served its purpose.

Meanwhile CN will have got out of its commitment to operate the rail line. There may or may not be agreement to keep the odd tourist train running now and then. After all the type of tourist it attracts is not too bothered by the fare. There will not be any kind of real passenger service of course: nothing to offer the now booming population growth of the area any kind of alternative to the Sea to Sky which will still see horrendous accidents and rock falls. And irregular, unpredictable closures. Though they may be able to clear up the mess a bit quicker by relocating some cops.

2010 could have been an opportunity to do better and to showcase to the world how serious we were about it. Instead they are going to see us for what we really are.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 14, 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Olympics

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