Thursday, April 23, 2009

sod what works, i want my jetpack

Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles was on this week's Any Questions, Radio 4's political panel discussion programme.

Asked about the government plan to subsidise the purchase of electric cars, Pickles said

There’s hydrogen just around the corner. That’s possible. I was looking at a hydrogen Ford Transit the other day. The problem with electric cars is there’s no real infrastructure out there in order to deal with them.

That's just soooo right. I mean, whoever heard of a place to get electricity?

Whilst we can speculate about the possibility of a network of electricity cables crossing every country and outlets being available in almost every building, we can't say when such a thing would be available. Whereas we can't move for tripping over hydrogen pipelines can we?

By far the cheapest way to make hydrogen is from natural gas. It's a carbon emitting fossil fuel. Hydrogen can be made from renewable electricity, but at much worse efficiency than batteries. The cars are far more expensive to make than electric or oil fuelled ones. On every front, it's a load of arse.

Except one, that is. It sounds so much sexier doesn't it? Very futuristic, a new fuel we've not used ourselves but has been putting rockets into space. Woof woof. How 21st century, much more than the milkfloat image we get when talking about electric cars.

If we want to base our transport policy on how it would appeal to little boys in the 1960s daydreaming about jetpacks, let's go with hydrogen.


Grinnyguy said...

I have never really thought in detail about the relative pros and cons of hydrogen and electric cars. Both rely on being able to produce clean electricity to be green, and since we can't do that in large enough quantities yet I had never really stopped to think which was better.
I don't know why, but I trust you more than the Conservative Party Chairman on issues like this

merrick said...

Grinnyguy, the simple facts are these:

- hydrogen requires more electricity to drive a car the same distance; therefore until the grid is 100% renewable, it's a higher carbon fuel.

- hydrogen requires far greater infrastructure for us to change over. Electricity is available everywhere, hydrogen nowhere.

- hydrogen cars are more expensive to manufacture. Nobody will buy a car they can't afford, whatever its environmental merits.

Jim Bliss said...

I'd humbly suggest that the we need to stop carrying a tonne of metal and glass with us every time we go to the shops.

There are better uses for that energy.