EV vs FCV vs CNGV Part I – Infrastructure

MAR 24 2013 BY MARK HOVIS 12

 

We are living in a time of bold experimentation as EVs, CNGVs, and FCVs ( Fuel cells vehicles) evolve together into a new and exciting utility-transportation ecosystem.  With the recent symbolic change of heart by the DOE on FCVs, it is worth making some comparisons.

There are many differences between these emerging technologies with the largest being infrastructure.  I find it a bit amusing when many argue against the cost of an EV charging infrastructure, yet say nothing about the overwhelming cost of a FCV infrastructure, not to mention the freedom.

Move Along Gas Cars, Nothing To See Here

Unparalled  Infrastructure Freedom

Fueling Station Freedom

CNGVs have been around for years and very successfully for fleet vehicles.  Expect to see this sector grow.  Still, hydrogen and CNG will happen at a well regulated fueling station.   EV charging can and will happen first and foremost at the home. The second most important growth will occur at private businesses for employees. This is why the DOE EV Everywhere EV challenge is so important. EVs can and  will happen at restaurants, libraries, schools, theaters, rest stops, parking decks, places of business, and at specialized charging stations (think gas station equivalent). Charging station freedom will always separate EVs from other forms of transportation. There is no getting around this fact.

Every Engineering school should have one

What Every University will have

Regulatory requirements

There are large compliance differences between installing a home charging station and a public one.  This is true for EVs but even more so for ICEs, CNGVs, and FCVs. Expect at best to find CNGs and FCVs in the same places you would find a gas station, NOT in the ever-expanding places that can host an EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment).  While a level 2 public EV charging station can cost from $4,000-$10,000, a FCV charging station currently cost around $3,000,000 (that’s a lot of zeros). CNG will be similar to the cost of providing a gas fueling station. The cost includes much more than the pump itself.  This is yet another reason the infrastructure of EVs will be unparalleled with any other type of fuel currently  being considered.

Fueling Time

Fueling time certainly is a fair argument and one would quickly conclude that anything is faster than EV charging. That is before one overcomes the  charging  advantages of plugging in and going about your business. Studies show that 80% of EV adopters are charging at home. By understanding the advantages of home charging you will effectively reduce time wasted at any facility designed specifically for fueling of any type. The next step is to provide simple L1 chargers where employees are parked for eight hours or longer per day. This is however a long educational process. Though hundreds of thousands of users are making the change, the vast majority will only convert when the electric (or any) infrastructure and fast charging/fueling are in place. This is still around 5-10 years away or around the introduction of the first viable FCVs minus an FCV infrastructure. The cost of future batteries will vary based on technology but the size, weight, and speed of charging will be more than cut in half in that time period.

Home charging stations

A Chevrolet Volt Gets A Boost Overnight

A Chevrolet Volt Gets A Boost Overnight

One of my early fascinations with the Honda FCX Clarity was its ability to establish a home hydrogen fueling station powered by a combination of solar and natural gas.  Though sure to be expensive and no word on real availability for years, what a bold paradigm shift to be able to fuel at home!

Now compare that to being able to plug a Chevy Volt into an existing 110 outlet in your garage and it kinda loses the thrill. Honda saw sales of its fuel cell-powered FXC Clarity jump 150% in 2012 to 5 units from 2 units in 2011. The Honda Civic CNGV also works in conjunction with a home charging station that can be purchased for about $4500 installed and compresses natural gas at a rate of .4 gallon per hour equivalent. That will give you about 100 miles per 8 hours. In 2012, Honda sold 1,907 Civic CNGVs  built at the auto maker’s  Indiana plant. That’s about double the volume Honda delivered in the previous three years.

EV studies have shown that 80% of EV drivers currently charge at home.  Home chargers are and will be the real breakthrough in infrastructure. Home chargers will be a must, for once you have experienced the ease of home charging, you really never want to go back.   Honda has produced the Civic CNGV for years and is now reaching a pentacle of  1907 units sold. Compare this to the 23,461 sales of the Chevy Volt in its third year to put things in perspective.

Now for those installing their own solar powered charging station, gas, hydrogen, or CNG will never be able to compete economically nor environmentally.

Costs

Cost will be largely based on supply and distribution. Long term, the supply of gas and CNG will diminish leaving electricity and hydrogen.

Because hydrogen has less energy per unit volume, distribution costs are higher than those for gasoline. Most hydrogen is produced either on-site or near point of use, usually at large industrial sites. Distribution arrives by pipeline, high-pressure tube trailers, or liquefied hydrogen tankers. Pipeline is the least expensive way to distribute hydrogen; the last two, while more expensive, can be transported using different modes of transportation – truck, railcar, ship, or barge.    No Thanks!

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12 Comments on "EV vs FCV vs CNGV Part I – Infrastructure"

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I can never understand why people think hydrogen is the future. Even if by some miracle they bring the cost of the vehicle down to where people can afford it, there is still a huge issue: The cost of the fuel. With electric vehicles you can convince people to buy an EV or PHEV because the fuel costs will save them a ton of money over time. But how do you convince people to buy a vehicle that is more expensive than a gas vehicle, and the fuel costs more too? Here is the real issue. For the longest time everyone thought that the reason to move to an electric car was for environmental reasons. Well, Fuel-Cell vehicles are much the same. The differences is that electric vehicles have some real advantages beyond just being environmentally friendly. I’m not sure that fuel-cell vehicles do. An electric car will save you a bunch of money on fuel. A fuel cell vehicle will not. An electric car is cheap and easy to fuel at home, at grandma’s house, or at the movie theater. Fuel cell vehicles will not be. An EV is simple and reliable. I’m not sure fuel cell vehicles will… Read more »

Many of the very few people that are actually able to drive HFCVs today (mostly celebrities in LA) get their hydrogen for free or subsidized to be very cheap. So the realities of fuel cost are lost on them.

I’m not anti fuel cell, per se. But I am against hydrogen as a fuel for ground transportation. It’s just a very poor energy carrier per unit volume, and building a new and expensive fueling infrastructure for high pressure compressed hydrogen gas or cryogenic liquid hydrogen is just bonkers.

Instead I would like to see progress on direct alcohol fuel cells or even gasoline fuel cells. Basically fuels cells whose fuels come in the form of standard temperature and pressure liquids. That way we could leverage the existing liquid fueling infrastructure and do away with wasteful combustion in our EV range extenders.

Nice article. I look forward to other installments. Is this realy EV versus FCV and CNG, or do you mean EV vs FCV vs CNG? I always try to keep an open mind and am a bit perplexed when HFCV advocates don’t just prefer CNG vehicles, since CNG has many of the same advantages and disadvantages of HFCVs but much lower costs. I’d like to see a good analysis of CNG (ICE) versus HFC. Would also like to see a comprehensive analysis of PHEVs/EREVs such as the Volt with HFCVs. Seems to me the only advantage hydrogen legitimately has over EVs is fueling time and PHEVs solve that problem. Finanlly it would be interseting if you could try to compare the advocates and lobbying groups for the different technologies. While I do encounter people trying to sell EV conversion kits or charging stations, the vast majority of the EV advocates I encounter are simply owners and enthusiasts that really appreciate the benefits of the technology. Much less frequent, but similarly with CNG drivers, they are interested in lower polution and operating costs, and CNG was cost effective for them (though similarly prices EVs are becoming available). However with hydrogen, it’s… Read more »
Is the Honda FCX Clarity an EV with a HFC range extender? Someone needs to do a study on the amount of time a car spends parked during the day. (assuming parked all night) My car is parked all night from 11pm to 7am. (8 hours) When I get to work it’s parked from 8am to 5pm (9 hours). If I had a Nissan Leaf with 75 mile range and I had access to a 240v charging station at home and work my Leaf would always be fully charged when I get behind the wheel. Once charging stations are found at locations where people park their cars while they shop, work, eat or sleep, it will become common place to have your plug-in vehicle topped off at all times. You won’t have to think about where your next charge will take place. You won’t have to worry about forgetting to plug in at home. You just drive off to your destination and when you park you plug-in…. You can’t top off an ICE vehicle when you park it but you can with an EV “if” we had enough charging stations. How many is enough? IMO, 1 out of 10 parking… Read more »

One of the big negs of EVs being the only car at home is risk.
Say Johnny falls out of the tree in the back yard and breaks his leg –
you need to drive to the ER poste-haste – OH GEE, the EV is out of
charge and range!

The beauty of ICEs is the existing liquid fuel infrastructure and the
security it provides in being able to go on the fly.

This is why I went Volt – BEVs make sense as a second or third car
at home IF you have that ICE backup. I don’t care if you have a charger
or AC plug at work or at the mall – there’ll still be those times when you
have to go somewhere and you don’t have enough charge. Naturally,
Top-line 85kwh Teslas reduce that anxiety a whole lot , but that point
is quashed by the $110,000 price of admission and the long waiting list.

The EREV/PHEV solution makes the most sense for a car that one can
rely upon in today’s existing environment.

I’d be open to purchasing a CNG vehicle, provided I had a choice of something other than a Honda Civic. Plus, I’d want to refuel it at home, and that PHILL unit by Fuelmaker leaves me rather cold. It was designed for 50 hz use, and the compressor at 60 hz is spinning too fast and the compressor fails before its time. Supposedly the new hydraulic units are going to be more reliable, but the supposed $500 per unit price has not come into effect yet. The cheapest hydraulic unit I can purchase today is $6000. Now at 2 gge its more than I would need, (and I don’t think this unit can provide the 250,000 btu / hour @ 1/4 psi input. I think it needs 2psi). But this is almost ‘purchasable’. The other wildcard is how long will natural gas prices stay low? Since very few GEN 3+ Nuke plants will be built in this county, I don’t hold out much hope for cheap Hydrogen anytime soon. So I don’t see why anyone goes nuts over hydrogen. There’s so little CNG available that we still have to wait for practical vehicles. EV’s are the most practical “Alternative Fuel… Read more »
I’ve owned a Honda Civic GX (CNG) for six years. It is fine. But, it is a Civic and if it doesn’t do what you want it to do, then it is not for you. In the San Francisco area, we have multiple options for public fueling. For all my purposes, the infrastructure is fine as long as I don’t go beyond Chico in the north, Reno to the northeast and San Diego in the south. I have no need for PHILL, so I didn’t have to deal with that question. The cost advantage is somewhat mitigated by some strange pricing of Honda maintenance. With a little time on CNGforums, you can find ways around the $850 fuel filter ripoff. Then the car becomes a bargain. In every way other than fuel delivery, it is a Civic and one marketed to fleets. This means no frills, so know what you are getting. The idea of a PHEV is good, but it is a complex mechanism. A BEV is much simpler and should be a better value. I would certainly prefer this to the NGV 90% of the time. For the other 10%, there is car sharing and car rental. I… Read more »