Op-Ed: Competing Automotive Infrastructure of Gas Stations, Electric Charging, and Frackogen


First EVs

First EVs

With multiple competing transportation sources, no one source will be able to provide the same infrastructure known in the past, except maybe the EV.

In the late 1800s, the horse and carriage was on the verge of its first two competitors, the internal combustion engine (ICE), and the electric vehicle (EV). The EV was an early hit, but quickly met its demise to the economics of the ICE. The next hundred years saw the build out of a global gasoline infrastructure that was truly remarkable. In the US, there were over 100,000 gas stations offering you a quick fill and a cup-a-joe to go.

So what will the future look like?

Gasoline infrastructure has already begun its slow decline and will continue to do so. The reduction in stations is currently driven by greater fuel efficiency and mega multi-pump stations. In the years to come, these stations will either share space with competing fuels or disappear all together.  This is our first glimpse in a reduction of fueling infrastructure and personal convenience.

Electrolysis vs Frackogen



Toyota promises a futuristic plan of powering the future on water. The process they speak of being electrolysis is where electricity is used to separate the hydrogen from oxygen. At the raw chemistry/physics level, you could simply take that electricity and drive twice as far in an EV. For instance, you could fill up your 300 mile Toyota Mirai OR you could fill up two 270 mile Tesla Model S. As a minimum, you will always pay double to fuel your hydrogen vehicle in this manner, and it would be nice for hydrogen if the cost and convenience ended there.

The electricity provided for the electrolysis is often described as being supplied by solar which is a great idea. For the EV, you really can fuel your car at home with this independent or supplemental solar energy source.

For electrolysis, you must first separate the hydrogen from oxygen, then compress the hydrogen either on site or transport to the fueling station, both which requires additional equipment and cost. Due to the expensive nature of electrolysis, the hydrogen will be supplied in a cheaper way for years to come. The cheaper method involves reforming the hydrogen from natural gas recovered by hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, with the hydrogen being reformed from the fracked natural gas a.k.a. frackogen.

Your source of energy does matter.  Edited: Just as coal fired electricity is unacceptable, so should be our awareness for fracked powered electricity as well as frackogen. Countries across the globe are planning for a future without coal and individuals are solving the problem on their own with supplemental solar arrays at their homes.

Frackogen is hardly the zero emission energy source, but it will provide the most likely gateway to a hydrogen infrastructure. There is a noble approach to using the methane gathered from waste treatment facilities which is an excellent use of the methane bi-product. California has mandated that thirty percent of the supplied hydrogen come from renewable sources. The bulk will come from this method, not electrolysis. Seventy percent will still come from frackogen.

With multiple energy sources powering the future, the economics will never allow hydrogen, CNG, or gas stations equal to that of the past gas infrastructure. For one, many will choose the double efficient EV that is fueled largely at home. While you might see a  charger at a fueling station, it will not be the main source of fueling an EV. This alone will greatly limit the previously enjoyed fueling on every urban corner.

EV charging infrastructure

Tesla Supercharger network by the end of 2015. Impressive!

Tesla Supercharger network by the end of 2015. Impressive!

Currently ninety percent of EVs charge at home. That is, for those who have the ability to charge at home. One of the large arguments for hydrogen or any source dependent on pumping their energy from the current infrastructure model, is to point out how many will never have the ability to charge from home. That is until you consider the ramifications of autonomous driving coupled with wireless charging.  In this scenario, the future EV could travel miles to a public solar powered charging lot, you know, the same distance you would travel to fuel with CNG or hydrogen.

While the majority of EV charging will occur first at home, and secondly in the workplace, there will still be a need for a quick charging highway infrastructure. The cost of installing the electric highway  will be a fraction of other infrastructures. Tesla Motors is single handedly giving a look at what such an infrastructure will cost and how the coverage will be used.



Hybrid possibilities

miraivolt (2)

If the all-or-nothing approach is loosened, there are viable solutions for many energy sources. Already the fuel cell is the generator with an EV at the base. By adding a moderate sized battery for daily use, the fuel cell, CNG, or gasoline could provide the quick fueling for long distance travel during the transition years thus limiting the size of required infrastructure. This approach is already being used with gasoline in half of the EVs available today with the most popular being the Extended range EV the Chevy Volt. In such a scenario, you give up the “convenience” of your pumping station on every corner. It no longer becomes part of your weekly duty to fill your auto. With sometimes months between fueling as many Chevy Volt owners will explain, fewer fueling stations can be managed. The potential for autonomous driving and wireless charging almost seems inevitable. Do not discount possibilities this could have on a pumping infrastructure as well. It may occur out of necessity.

Not everyone is willing to buy into a single solution. The global number of EVs are rapidly approaching the first million and growing. The vast majority of these drivers are completely sold on their new form of transportation. It is likely that similar groups will form with alternative choices. This will have undeniable impact on future infrastructures. The fracturing of sources will dilute the availability of pumped infrastructures. The only scenario where this changes is one where a single source obliterates all others the same way oil did in the 20th century. Range anxiety? How about not having access to your energy source at all due to lack of future infrastructure. By most studies, the next few decades will see EVs rise to 20-40% of the light weight vehicle global fleet. CNG is expected to increase its numbers as well. And gasoline will still provide a healthy percentage for legacy vehicles. Under what scenario would an additional pumping infrastructure be used even if 100% funded? Here lies the dilemma for future fueling infrastructure.

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88 Comments on "Op-Ed: Competing Automotive Infrastructure of Gas Stations, Electric Charging, and Frackogen"

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Great article Mark, thanks!

I might consider adding quotes to the word “convenience” in this sentence: “In such a scenario, you give up the convenience of your pumping station on every corner.” The true convenience is, after all, home-based charging. 😉

Either way, well done!


quite alot of people don’t have a garage to charge at home… so that’s not convenient.


I’m pretty sure after almost 5 years now, there are plenty of owners who commute everyday in electric cars without a garage. Using near by rapid chargers in the path of a commute, charging at work (very useful) or anything unordinary like charging off a telephone pole (not recommended).

Charging in a garage is just the ideal method and the suburbs aren’t exactly devoid of them. It’s ideal since (excluding a lot of other reasons), getting into the car every morning or after work every day with a full “tank” of juice has proven to be far better than having to find yourself with a low tank gauge and then battle through rush hour traffic to a packed petrol station with everyone inside shopping for bits and bobs and not leaving for more than 10 minutes.

I just did that last week in my Prius. Not fun.

“there are plenty of owners… without a garage.”

I’m one. I have an extension cord going through the grass.

no comment

this isn’t a reliable scheme because there are major liability issues. so you can’t count on property managers always allowing you to do this. the better route would be for property owners to allocate a certain number of spaces to be equipped with outlets.

_I_ am the property manager. Since I bought the home and its grass, I can count on always allowing myself to do this.

There are also no liability issues. There is the Greater Internet ******* Theory, however.


no comment

how little you know…if someone walking on that property trips over that extension cord and injures himself, you might learn about “liability issues”.

but as i said, this isn’t a reliable strategy because a person can’t count on property managers allowing them to do this in general.


That’s what personal liability insurance is for.

no comment

that’s true, but you have to recognize that there is a liability issue before you would buy it.


And that is a problem that needs to be addressed. We need building codes that require new apartment/condo parking spots to be pre-wired for chargers.

no comment

agreed, just like building codes require a certain number of parking spaces per resident in multi residential structures, they should also require a certain number of outlets for electric vehicle charging. i am less keen on requiring apartments provide for level 2 charging, at present, i think that a good start would be that there be an outlet available for someone with a level 1 EVSE. when assigning parking spaces, these EV capable spaces should be assigned to owners of EVs as a priority and only assigned to non-EVs if the number of non-EV spaces is exhausted.

Rick Danger

“Frackogen” is perfect!

Thanks Mark!

M Hovis

I thought so too Rick. I heard the term first used by a contributor to a Mirai article which really stuck with me.


Frackogen . . . clever. However, most natural gas is still collected from conventional gas wells at this point. But fracked gas is a growing slice.

M Hovis

At this point 54% of gas comes from fracking. Technically that classifies as “most”


I like the term Frackogen. We should call them global warming gas stations, solar electric charging stations or Frackogen stations.


Autonomous driving and wireless charging are the solutions for not being able to charge at home?

Rick Danger

Sure. At night you, the apartment dweller, who has no access to a plug, tell your car to go to the closest Charge/Park lot, charge overnight, and come back to you when you’re ready to go out.
Very 21st century!
As someone who was born Before Sputnik, this is like total science fiction; to think that I might actually see this in my lifetime just makes me smile.
Side note: those Charge/Park lots will be able to hold many more cars per acre; since no one is driving them (and needs to exit the car), they can be parked much closer together.

M Hovis

“Side note: those Charge/Park lots will be able to hold many more cars per acre; since no one is driving them (and needs to exit the car), they can be parked much closer together.”
That is an awesome observation Rick!


On top of that, autonomous vehicles will reduce the need to store large numbers of vehicles since there will be more car sharing. It has the possibility of substantially altering our urban landscapes (and really the entire auto ownership model) with fewer cars being stored in urban areas most of the day.


It’s hard for me to envision that having your car autonomously travel to a fast-charge station to recharge itself, then drive itself back to its parking place, will ever become commonplace. Why not just install a Level 2 slow-charge point wherever you park? That would be far more economical and energy-efficient than requiring a large portion of cars to travel, daily, to a centralized fast-charge area.

Sure, at the moment EV charge points in parking lots and alongside street parking are rare. But then, PEVs are still less than 1% of cars on the road. As PEVs become more commonplace, so will slow charge points installed in parking lots and at curbside parking.

The movement has already started towards requiring new apartment buildings to install EV charge points in their parking lots. This movement will spread, and in a generation or so will be ubiquitous.

The future of energy isn’t figuring out ways to continue centralization, or figuring out ways for your electric utility to maintain its local monopoly. The future of energy production, and EV charging, belongs to decentralization.

no comment

this would make for a funny scenario as the various autonomous vehicles try forming a queue to sort out which car gets to use the charging station first and which car gets to go next. rofl!

David Murray

I do not believe the reduction in stations has anything to do with fuel efficiency. What I have seen in my area over the last 10 years is that lots of mom & pop stations are going out of business only to be replaced by mega-stations. Perfect example, we had a gas station right across the street from my job. It had 3 pumps. 6 months ago a new mega-station with about 30 pumps opened up. 2 months later the small station went out of business and several other small stations down the street went under too. So yes, there was a reduction in stations, but not a reduction in demand or number of pumps.


I see the same trend.
One thing come to my mind thought.
If extended range EV with any other fuel is to be choose, how can hydrogen (frakogen) get competitive with the existing fossil fuel infrastructure.
If cost mather’s, there is something that can’t work to spread frakogen at the actual price of building it. Moreover if they’re only used as a suplemental energy source, it will only make them less profitable.

M Hovis

Agreed David and added the wording to reflect that. My point is not so much the minor current reduction, but more what is the future going to look like in a few decades if EVs take on a third of the current market, and new players enter like CNG and hydrogen. It is worth noting the mega stations toll as well so duly noted in the op-ed.


A better metric would be total number of pumps in the U.S., rather than the total number of stations.

It does look like consumption peaked around 2008 and has been declining since. I don’t know how this has affected pumps/stations.

More data here. Looks like we did get a spike at the end of 2014 when gas was really cheap.


no comment

one thing to keep in mind is that there was a major recession beginning in 2008, and that alone had a significant role in reducing the total number of miles driven. another factor was the spike in gasoline prices that reduced the number of discretionary miles driven a reduction in the total miles driving would have reduced demand for gasoline regardless of increases in MPG.


“With sometimes months between fueling as many Chevy Volt owners will explain, lesser fueling stations can be managed.”

I believe you meant to saw “fewer fueling stations”.

I think the corner gas station is going to consolidate into a multi-fuel location (gas and it’s kin, electricity, and H2 if it can be paid for with government subsidies) specifically including a restaurant, or at least fast food, TV’s and a “waiting lounge” feel. For the DC fast charging customers. This “energy store” will make money not so much from selling the gas or electricity directly (already the margin on gasoline is tiny), but on the amenities and high-margin snacks and food they can offer people. There will indeed be fewer corner stations selling gas, but they will have a long, long tail, and eventually will be unable to compete due to lack of amenities.

Ultimately, you have to remember the gas station’s ace-in-the-hole: it’s location. Electric driving is still driving and you still would like to easily and conveniently pull off the street.

Rick Danger

Electric driving is still driving, but it’s a paradigm shift; We already have restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. Might they have to tear up their parking lots to install the charging infrastructure? Maybe, just like we have to tear up roads that need repairing.
Charging works best when you can just plug in where you have to be anyway, and frankly, if I drive a clean EV, why would I want to go eat someplace where they dispense foul smelling gasoline or explosive hydrogen?

Rick Danger

Pardon me, Frackogen 🙂

Except… if my destination isn’t the location.

I’ve made numerous long distance trips in EVs, starting in 2012 from Mexico to Canada.

Last month, I drove 600 miles in one day from San Diego to Santa Rosa (not in a Tesla, either!!!).

So, travelers NEED a more typical fueling oasis as is the case with petroleum. I’ll buy snacks, drinks, etc., or food, for those longer charges.

Traveling with one DC quick charge after another means a near maximum charge (like filling up a gas tank) every time and 20-60 minutes of dead time.

That’s today’s reality, and likely the same basic reality for some time. Bigger batteries mean bigger kW can be accepted, and more miles added per minute of charging, but that also means that the charge is still 20-60 minutes, just further distances between charges (300-500 miles instead of 50-250).

Rick Danger

Point taken, I was thinking primarily about local, day-to-day driving.
For road trips, you’re absolutely right.

I’ve seen gas stations with an EV charging station now.

Well written article, but your discussion of hydrogen is one-dimensional. Arguing against hydrogen because it comes from fracking is like arguing against EVs because they are charged by coal. Even your article mentions this, but you don’t dig any deeper. Hydrogen can come from electrolysis, as you mention. Although it is less efficient than charging a battery, it certainly is more convenient than waiting for a “quick” charger. On the other hand, you have a tremendous cost to roll out that infrastructure. There are many facets to hydrogen – some good, many more bad – which go much deeper than your “frackogen” argument. The other option – which you didn’t even mention – is biofuels. Between alcohol fuels (e.g. ethanol) and bio-oil fuels (e.g. biodiesel), there are many interesting possibilities. Combined with the hybrid approach of the Volt, I’m surprised that this isn’t pursued at all. Just think about it – the Volt reduces your liquid fuel needs by 80-90%. Scaling up a bio-fuel (and hence renewable) to 10-20% of the gasoline infrastructure wouldn’t be so bad. In fact, many gas stations already support up E85 (85% ethanol / 15% gasoline). I don’t believe that it would require completely new… Read more »
M Hovis

All great points Brian. The deeper dig on coal fired electricity is found in the link “Your source of energy does matter”

My rant on frackogen is my pet peeve that the future will be electrolysis when IMO, the oil companies plan to do otherwise due to economics, and they are not disclosing this. I have the equal problem with coal fired electricity and I spend a fair amount of personal time helping people convert to solar.

Bio fuels certainly have a place and I suppose I left them out to your point that they will not require a change in infrastructure. Outside of my dig on frackogen, diluted infrastructure is the real question.

A vanishingly small fraction of hydrogen today is produced by electrolysis. Any reason to suspect this would change with hydrogen vehicles?

Coal, and to a lesser extent natural gas (same fracking natural gas that can be converted to hydrogen) still power much of the US grid as an aggregate. But many regional grids – particularly PNW california and northeast – are substantially cleaner than the national average; I’m curious if there are regional differences like this with hydrogen production. In certain regions an EV can be dirtier than an efficient gas hybrid or diesel vehicle; grid inputs matter.

Biofuels have the potential to be interesting but today mostly require large amounts of fossil fuels to produce (particularly ethanol). Certainly can be useful as a hybrid approach.

“A vanishingly small fraction of hydrogen today is produced by electrolysis. Any reason to suspect this would change with hydrogen vehicles?” Yes, if we follow the German model where excess renewable energy is used to make hydrogen, and privately-owned electrolyzers are part of the grid controlled by the grid operator. Germany is increasingly using excess wind and solar energy to produce hydrogen by electrolysis at their newly constructed hydrogen filling stations. Since a large and growing percentage of Germany’s electric grid comes from intermittent wind and solar, there are many times when too much wind and solar electricity are generated. Rather than dumping the excess renewable electricity, the German grid operator can turn on the electrolyzers at German hydrogen fuel stations to utilize the excess renewable energy to make hydrogen. I assume that the hydrogen fueling stations pay a very, very low rate for the excess renewable energy that would have otherwise been dumped and wasted. The hydrogen produced acts like a lossy battery for excess renewable energy. When more renewable energy comes on line, there are plans to use salt caverns to store excess hydrogen for use in winter. Some of these salt caverns are currently used to store… Read more »
Mike I

Using “surplus” electricity is a great idea. The problem is that large scale electrolyzers are expensive. When you only use them part-time the fixed cost is spread over a smaller amount of product. This could bring the cost up to the cost of running the equipment full time. If the utility really needs this dispatchable load as a resource, that’s fine. I just wonder if the capital cost could be better spent on grid batteries.

…and soon there will be no “surplus” electricity. Even aside from stationary batteries, flexible demand will soak up electricity when spot prices are low. Under the DoE’s optimistic scenario, demand response is large enough to completely negate the need for stationary batteries. But since stationary batteries exist, and will only grow from here, there’s no room at the table for the Mike Brown of fuels.

M Hovis

Thanks for posting this link Sven. This is a very positive use of hydrogen opposed to reforming from fossil fuels, though we seemed to be discussing the methods more than the question of infrastructure.

No, it isn’t. Electrolysis is inefficient, and fuel cells are inefficient. So the round trip efficiency is a shadow of electricity storage in batteries, pumped hydro, or to a lesser extent supplemental heating (to displace natural gas heat) and water chillers for off-peak refrigeration and air conditioning.

But let’s say, just for pedanticism, there’s some breakthrough in hydrogen production. That hydrogen would be far more beneficial for, say, reducing iron ore, displacing coke, and skipping the transportation and storage losses (which are huge). Or, say, reducing biomass into alcohols, or biomethane, or biogasoline, which have negligible transportation and storage losses compared to Vaporfuel. Alcohols can even be sold in existing infrastructure!

When, oh when will we give up the vape-and-switch?

sven said: “Rather than dumping the excess renewable electricity, the German grid operator can turn on the electrolyzers at German hydrogen fuel stations to utilize the excess renewable energy to make hydrogen.” It’s great that the Germans are capturing some of the excess wind and solar energy which would otherwise be wasted, but what percentage of the entire national fleet of cars could be fueled this way? It’s the same problem with using agricultural waste products as the feedstock to create biofuels. That’s fine as far as it goes, but what happens when all the available excess is used up? You can’t just create more when it’s a byproduct of another industry. That puts a cap on how much fuel can be produced, and unless that cap is orders of magnitude higher than I think it is, then fuel from that source can never be anything more than a niche product. It can never supply more than a small percentage of the energy needed to run a national vehicle fleet. If you drive a PEV (Plug-in Electric Vehicle), you can “refuel” anywhere there is an electric outlet. If you drive a FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle), then you can only… Read more »

“It’s great that the Germans are capturing some of the excess wind and solar energy which would otherwise be wasted, but what percentage of the entire national fleet of cars could be fueled this way?”

Germany wants to make solar and wind account for over 50% of the electric grid mix. The greater the the percentage of solar and wind the more often the grid operator will have to deal with excess electricity. I’d rather that they store it in a much less lossy battery storage system, but I don’t know how much it will cost to scale up to to a battery storage system big enough for the entire country. It might make more sense financially in the long term to store excess renewable energy as lossy hydrogen in huge salt caverns. It’s beyond my skill set to figure that out.

A great many things are beyond your skill, as you think arbitrage is sufficient to cover the single greatest power flux in many people’s day. You even think it is sufficient to justify an entire parallel infrastructure deployment, from scratch.


Finecadmin, are you wearing your smarty pants today or just your witty thong? 😀


Thanks Sven, for reminding everyone about the wasted solar/wind energy, which Can already increase (buy bigger turbines, rather than one that Never exceeds your need, therefore Seldom provides Most of your need) and almost certainly Will regularly exceed momentary demand as more solar/wind is brought online.

Having a means to Use excess production simply makes sense, debating the Present cost or worse, minutiae, does not answer the issue of “Why would we waste free (I Know, I Know, After initial costs, blah blah) energy if there Is a way to capture it for future use. Google a bit and see how much electricity we already throw away, lossy electrolysis is another method of reclaiming that waste, -and FCV vehicles are Not the only reason for doing so.

philip d

Of course this entire comparison assumes that as the technology matures fast charging for EVs will never come to parity or even close to parity with the speed of filling with hydrogen or gasoline. I would not bet money on this assumption.

M Hovis

Agreed Phillip. I chose to leave speed out of this conversation and though I did not put a specific time into the future, I am generally speculating around 10-20 years, or “decades” as I loosely phrased it. Outside of my side dig on frackogen, I wanted to discuss the likely reality of a shared infrastructure in that time frame. What it looks like beyond that is unknown. The reality of a shared infrastructure 10-20 out is just inevitable. What it looks like, time and technology will tell.

Here’s an interesting article about why America’s oil use has dropped.


Some reasons given:

* Vehicle fuel efficiency has increased by about 25%.
* Retirement of the baby boom generation has reduced miles driven.
* People in their 20s and 30s now prefer to live closer to city centers.
* From baby boomers to millennials (Gen Y), public transit use has doubled.
* Wind, solar, and other renewables have started to put a dent into fossil fuel consumption.
* US oil production has exceeded imports since 2013.


I question that the younger generation turning more to mass transit and less to owning their own cars is actually due to any cultural shift in preferences. I think it’s more due to the long-term economic downturn, especially the high unemployment rate among teens and young adults.

Sure, if you ask, many youngsters will say they “prefer” not to own a car. But that masks the reality that it’s mostly by necessity, not choice. Youngsters may not want to admit they’re too poor to afford a car, or they may have even rationalized to themselves that they actually prefer it.

Marc, your op-ed frowned upon using fracked natural gas to make hydrogen, yet made no mention of using the same fracked natural gas to charge EVs at night. California’s electric grid mix gets 44.31% of its power from natural gas, and only 18.77% from renewables. The “Your source of energy does matter” link in the article shows a pie chart of the U.S. energy mix for 2012 and 2036: natural gas will increase from 24% to 44%, while renewables increase from 6% to only 13%. Fracked natural gas will be used to make a much larger share of the electric grid mix regardless of whether or not hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become popular. That same fracked natural gas will be used to make electricity to charge EVs in the U.S. Why is it bad to use fracked natural gas to make hydrogen, but not bad to use it to make electricity to charge EVs? Currently, California law requires that hydrogen be made from 33% renewables, not the 30% you stated in the article. California projects that 46% of transportation hydrogen will comes from renewables by 2015. As stated above only 18.77% of California’s electricity comes from renewables. California grid mix:… Read more »
M Hovis

Sven, these are great questions.

1) To be clear, coal is the worser of the two evils. This is found in the first link as you noted. A frackogen powered FCV is better than a coal powered EV. You will find this in the last link comparing the Volt to the Mirai.
2) At the same time, the message being delivered about hydrogen on the street is that it is going to be made from water a.k.a. electrolysis. There needs to be an understanding where your hydrogen comes from.
3) A fracked powered EV is not better than a frackogen powered FCV. I added a comment to reflect your remarks.
4) An electrolysis powered FCV is the only thing equal to a solar powered EV. This is the implied solution that could happen with excess wind and solar but will not be the method of choice by the oil companies.
It is an op-ed and I know I put it heavy on the definition of frackogen to flush out this understanding. I am very driven to discuss where our energy comes from.


“A fracked powered EV is not better than a frackogen powered FCV. I added a comment to reflect your remarks.”

I respecfully disagree. An EV will cover twice as many miles for the same amount of fracked natural gas, if not more. That alone makes it better. Not perfect, but better.

As a counterpoint, the natural gas electric plant that powers an EV will emit smog producing NOx, acid rain producing SOx, VOC (volatile organic compounds), cancer and asthma causing particulate matter. Steam reforming methane will emit no NOx, SOx, VOC, of particulate matter. How did you calculate that an EV will cover at least twice as many miles as a hydrogen FCV on the same amount of fracked natural gas? If that were true, then an EV powered solely by natural gas generated electricity would have well-to-wheels CO2 emissions that are less than half that of a FCV powered by hydrogen made solely from steam reformed methane (SRM). Yet when I look at Argonne National Labs GREET2 WTW analysis (which CARB uses to set policy) the natural gas SRM powered FCV emits about 230 grams of CO2/mile, while an EV powered by a natural gas combined cycle electric plant emits about 190 grams of CO2/mile. Most natural gas plants in the U.S. are not the more efficient combined cycle plants (50% efficiency), but the much more common single cycle plants (40% efficiency), which would make the above 40 gram CO2/mile difference in CO2 emissions even smaller. The FCV CO2 emmissions… Read more »

sven said:

“As a counterpoint, the natural gas electric plant that powers an EV will emit smog producing NOx, acid rain producing SOx, VOC (volatile organic compounds), cancer and asthma causing particulate matter. Steam reforming methane will emit no NOx, SOx, VOC, of particulate matter.”

So will the power plants which generate the power to produce, compress, store, re-compress, and dispense the H2 fuel. And the fossil-fueled vehicles required to transport that H2 fuel aren’t exactly running on rainbows and sunshine, either.

Given that H2 loses about 3/4 of its energy in all the intermediate steps required to get it into the “fool cell” vehicle, it’s certainly not hard for the EV powered by a natural gas power plant to be twice as efficient in well-to-wheel energy efficiency!


“. . .it’s certainly not hard for the EV powered by a natural gas power plant to be twice as efficient in well-to-wheel energy efficiency!”

If it is twice as efficient in WTW energy efficiency, then why doesn’t the EV have half the WTW CO2 emissions of a FCV? Please answer this one question for me. If you can’t answer it, your math is wrong and the EV is not twice as efficient.

comment image


OK, you caught me. I was “shooting from the hip” a little when I said EVs are 2x more efficient on natural gas than FCEVs. I was going on memory, and have not done the calculations recently. Since you graciously provided links, I will read through them and try to have a more accurate comment in the future. It sounds like you agree that EVs are more efficient, though, which was really the point of my post. If the EV will go farther than the FCEV on the same natural gas, then the EV IS better than the FCEV.


Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t all those nasty byproducts from burning coal, and not from natural gas? There is no nitrogen or sulfur in methane, so you can’t produce NOx or SOx by burning it. All those byproducts are from the coal fired acid rain days of the 70s. So this line of reasoning is pointless.



No particulates either.


Natural gas does contain some nitrogen, and the air used for combustion is made up of nitrogen and oxygen. Processed natural gas does contains a very small amount of naturally occurring sulfur, and the sulfur-based odorants that are added to give it that rotten egg smell, while unprocessed natural gas (also used in electric generation) can contain higher levels of sulfur. Natural gas combustion also produces some particulate matter, but it’s low. As stated in the comment below coal is far worse than natural gas.

Per an EPA report on natural gas combustion:

“Natural gas consists of a high percentage of methane (generally above 85 percent) and varying amounts of ethane, propane, butane, and inerts (typically nitrogen, carbon
dioxide, and helium).”

“The emissions from natural gas-fired boilers and furnaces include nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), trace amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM).”

Pages 2 and 3 of the EPA report give a concise and detailed explanation for each type of emission:

M Hovis

That is covered in the first link. Coal is by far the worst of the evils. That does not make natural gas free from emissions. sven covered this pretty well above.

M Hovis

Mine is more the concern over 1) the escaping of methane in the fracking process as a harmful GHG. This can be controller if we choose to do so. The problem is we are not paying attention to the rate that methane is leaking from the wells due to incredible boon. I hope Europe pays closer attention to this controllable problem than the US is.

2) My second beef is the potential danger of contaminating an aquifer. This is like saying a nuclear reactor is completely safe and can never ever run wild. It is completely safe until it isn’t. Even Fukushima could have been avoided with better safety measures in place but it happened all the same. The practice of fracking may never cause the seepage of millions of toxins into an aquifer, but if it does solely for the sake of energy, sorry is not going to cut it.

Again, I wished we had discussed infrastructure more on this one.

Bill Howland
Yeah, I’m freinds with Mark, but I’m on the other side of the aisle here on most points, but agreed that oversimplifying a problem is of no real help. No argument that I want horizontal hydro-fracking to stop, and all ‘slickwater chemicals’ publically documented. Especially in populated areas, or where there is the remotest possibility of contamination of Ground Water. The industry’s track record of late has been beyond horible, having destroyed Butler County in Pennsylvania as one example. But I’m equally appalled that people are worried about ‘supposed pollution’ of other items, when there are more direct sources of polution that affect real people that absolutely no one cares about here, other than the rare ev owner who posts here, and one person who posts often, namely me. The other problem I used to worry about, polluting Nuclear Plants – is a problem that given time will solve itself – especially if more catastrophes happen. Even though it is against the law to criticize Nuclear Power in Japan, or for Doctors to list radiation exposure as a cause of death, the fact remains that elevated levels of Radioactive Cesium are now in the drinking water for the 35 million… Read more »
Bill Howland said: “…elevated levels of Radioactive Cesium are now in the drinking water for the 35 million greater Tokyo residents.” Just because it’s “elevated” doesn’t mean it’s elevated to a dangerous level. In about 85% of the mandatory evacuation area around Fukushima in Japan, the background radiation level is “elevated” to less than what it is naturally in Denver, Colorado… which has about twice the normal sea-level background radiation level simply because it’s at a higher altitude, with less atmosphere to filter out the UV and other ionizing radiation. Where is the panic at people in Denver exposed to “elevated levels” of radiation? There isn’t any, because the news media isn’t screaming hysterically about “RADIATION!!” dangers for people living at higher altitudes. (Nor, similarly, for airline crew who are frequently exposed to relatively high levels of radiation while flying.) Of course, it also helps that the Denver area does not actually have a higher incidence of cancer than the national average. Japan’s safety levels for radiation are 10 x lower, that is ten times more sensitive, than the standards used in the USA. To suggest that Japan makes a policy of ignoring the dangers of radiation is… not even… Read more »
Bill Howland

Yup, you’ve just increased your percentage.


sven asked:

“Why is it bad to use fracked natural gas to make hydrogen, but not bad to use it to make electricity to charge EVs?”

1. FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) are only about 50% efficient in using the energy in hydrogen to power the car, even after all the losses of energy that come before the frackogen gets into the car. Compare to a gas-fired power plant’s 60-65% efficiency. Even with 7% grid transmission losses, using electricity from a gas-fired power plant is still far more efficient, because of all the intermediate energy-wasting steps needed to convert and transport the fracked natural gas to hydrogen dispensed into a FCEVs. The well-to-wheel analysis will show that the EV is something like 3 times as efficient in use of the power in the fracked natural gas.

2. No place on the grid is 100% gas-fired. All areas have at least some clean, non-polluting energy from nuclear and/or hydroelectric power. And grid power will only get cleaner in the future. Frackogen power? Nope, it will always be fossil fuel powered.

I think your efficiency numbers for natural gas plants are a little inflated. According to Wikipedia, combined cycle natural gas plants are 54% efficient in base-load operation, in contrast to a single cycle natural gas power plant which is limited to efficiencies of around 35-42%. A big majority of natural gas plants in the U.S. are single cycle since they were traditionally used as peaking plants, for which combined cycle in not suited for. But now that natural gas is replacing coal for base load in newly built plants, I assume more they are building combined cycle natural gas plants for base load. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_cycle Lensman said: “The well-to-wheel analysis will show that the EV is something like 3 times as efficient in use of the power in the fracked natural gas.” No way. As I said in a comment right above, the gold standard for WTW analysis is the Argonne National Labs GREET2 WTW analysis, which is used by CARB to set it’s policy. GREET2 shows that hydrogen made from steam reformed natural gas is only slightly more inefficient in a FCV than an EV powered by electricity from a combined cycle natural gas plant (CCNG). The difference would be… Read more »

“Frackogen” is cute. I suppose we should also think of a catchphrase to disparage EVs that charge via coal-fired electricity. Maybe “coaltricity” will work.

I am unsure why many EV advocates seem to think that the involvement of oil companies with hydrogen production is some sort of self-justifying disqualifier. The most profitable companies in the world aren’t just going to disappear; if they want to transition to hydrogen, nuclear, or any other option that’s better than oil, I’m all for it.

M Hovis

Coal fired electricity is even worse and is covered in the link.

The difference being that we have that one on the radar and are doing something about it on both a global and an individual level.

“Most profitable companies are not going to go away.” No truer words are spoken. It does not mean they will do the right thing on their own.

There are many proper reformers of hydrogen, reforming from hydraulic fracturing is just not one of them. I am all in on coaltricity. Even add a term for fracked powered electrcity while we are at it. It is a conversation that needs to be had until it is dealt with. Being that coal is the largest of the two evils, I have written on it earlier and will continue to do so. So is fracking. Pumping billions of gallons of tainted water under our aquifers is safe, until it isn’t…


For the foreseeable future (several decades), gasoline and diesel will still dominate the transportation sector. I see bio-fuels taking over before completely switching to a different paradigm.

A lot of work is being done with algae and bio-mechanical constructs (franken-bacterium) that directly make bio-diesel and alcohol from waste.

Autonomous and ride-share ideas will happen with or without EVs.

no comment

i tend to agree on the proposition that gasoline will be here for the foreseeable future. i am critical of EV enthusiasts who pitch an “all or noting” view because most people will look at that as being a somewhat nutty type of reasoning that might cause to look at EVs in general as being a “moon beam” technology. what the Volt shows, in my opinion, is that EVs can be, and is, offered in a practical package that doesn’t require the driver to change his lifestyle.

i view the route to EVs as being evolutionary and not revolutionary with the Volt being the best current “pebble” in that route.


Both EV and FCV will require hydrocarbons to operate in the near future. Most baseload power in the US is natural gas plants. When you recharge your car its from a coal fired or gas fired plant. IMO, solar will not replace baseload power, it will probably reduce need for baseload to heat and cool homes. Hydrogen will most likely come from some hydrocarbon as well.

Now if they can reduce charging times to be like filling up a gas tank, then I think it’s clear EV charging would win. But that’s not clear. I see no roadmap from any company to get there.


It seems almost inevitable that competition will drive down EV charge times to the neighborhood of 10 minutes or less. In fact, competition already has driven it down at a rate which I find surprising.

Just Google [ultra fast charge battery] and you’ll see plenty of articles about lab demos of batteries that can charge plenty fast enough. But nobody is yet talking about putting such batteries into mass production. It may take a generation or two until we can fully charge a 300+ mile range EV in 10 minutes or less. But I have no doubt eventually we’ll get there, even if I may not live long enough to see it.

no comment
what actually happened 100 years ago is that electric vehicles were marketed mainly to women. the way ICE cars worked 100 years ago was that you had to manually crank the engine to a high enough rpm so that the internal combustion process would be self-sustaining. that was a somewhat hazardous process. what electric vehicles could do was start without requiring cranking. what did in the electric vehicle was that they figured out how to use electric engines to start internal combustion engines. in essence, today’s ICE is really a hybrid between an ICE and an electric motor: the “starter” in an ICE is actually an electric motor. the decline in “gasoline infrastructure” has more to do with the changing economics of gasoline stations. it is not “evidence” that people are moving to alternative energy sources. for example, today’s gas stations (which are modeled after the old “7-11” convenience store concept) are very different from the “service” stations of the past. gas sales is a low margin business, so the big gas stations are able to operate on lower margins that can drive the small guys out of biz. increasing fuel economy probably plays a role, but the big stations… Read more »

Well fan boy or not, It just doesn’t make sense to insist on charging time as the main objection for EV.
Since about 90% of EV owner charge at home when they , eat, relax, watch TV, play with the kid or sleep or love.
Seems like everything is a waste of time for some people, but the truth is that they just don’t value time as it’s true value.
In other words, some people need to get a life.

no comment

even if what you state is true, you can’t sell a car based on the proposition that 90% of the time, 80% or 90% of drivers will have nothing to worry about.

M Hovis
What Djoni is referring to is having a superior solution 80-90% of the time with an inferior solution 10-20% of the time is preferred by many. It is very unfair to declare there will be no solution in the near future where this discussion takes place. It is fair to consider the quick charge infrastructure as inferior. Maybe it won’t be, but fair to take that side. You must however, consider the superior solution 80-90% of the time as well. I worked in manufacturing primarily with automation of machines and inspection. It was common to show huge cost savings, quality improvements, etc., only to find people stuck on the 10% that the old process did better. After driving electric for over three years now, my “over all” fuel time is much less than it was prior to going electric. The sacrifices made for 3% of the long distance trips are worth it for me and many others. Some will hold onto the 10-20%. It is a paradigm shift that some, maybe many are not willing to make just yet. It is important however, to frame the argument in the same time period whatever that might be for all technologies. This… Read more »
no comment
what i am stating is that most people want transportation that is reliable *all* of the time, if you tell someone that they will be able to use a car without problem 90% of the time, they probably won’t want that car because the 10% where they might have a problem might be a very big problem at the time it occurs. it is the EV enthusiast who engages in the kind of stochastic reasoning to which you are referring. what strikes me as being a bit unfair is to look at the current state of FCEV technology and assume that it will remain in that state for all time. maybe FCEV won’t pan out, but it offers convenience features that make EV technology more acceptable to the masses. there is a point at which auto makers are not well served in trying to appeal to the EV enthusiasts because the interests of the EV enthusiasts are sometimes so far removed from those of the general public. the general public is primarily concerned with getting from point A to point B conveniently and reliably. a few weeks ago, i read an article posting from the guy who compared the Leaf… Read more »
M Hovis
A couple of things. As I have repeatedly stated that one compare the technologies on the same time line. The last link in the article compares the current EV technology to the current FCEV technology with a head-to-head of the Chevy Volt against the Toyota Mirai. Totally overlooking the difference in price, on range, fuel time, performance, GHG emissions, cost of ownership, and driving freedom, the Chevy Volt EREV is the clear winner with no reliability issues that you speak of. Given we are looking 10-20 into the future on this one, I always assume that FCVs will be price competitive as well as work out their technical shortcomings like the use of platinum. The question posed, is whether there is a path to abundant infrastructure? Given the same timeline for an EV, I don’t know the scenario where you say an EV will not be reliable 10% of the time. The example of driving an 80 mile city car long distance is a bad one. 10-20 years into the future 200 mile BEVs with a quick charging infrastructure is a workable solution. A BEV may be inferior still to the ICE in fuel time, but the EREV will always… Read more »

“…how many will never have the ability to charge from home.”

This is rather myopic. It’s like predicting, in the horse-and-buggy era, that many will never have any place to park a car even if they bought one.

It will require far less transformation of our streets and cities to install an EV charge point virtually everywhere cars are parked, than the transformation required three generations ago to make cities automobile-friendly.

sven said: “I think your efficiency numbers for natural gas plants are a little inflated. According to Wikipedia, combined cycle natural gas plants are 54% efficient in base-load operation, in contrast to a single cycle natural gas power plant which is limited to efficiencies of around 35-42%.” I humbly admit to a mistake. I must have been remembering some discussion of a theoretically achievable efficiency in combined-cycle plants. I see that 60% efficiency is a goal that hasn’t quite been met yet. “…hydrogen made from steam reformed natural gas is only slightly more inefficient in a FCV than an EV powered by electricity from a combined cycle natural gas plant (CCNG).” Your so-called “gold standard” assumes that most of the energy loss is in producing the hydrogen. On the contrary, the “back end” has by far the highest portion of energy losses. After generation, the hydrogen must be compressed, stored, moved, stored again, moved again, stored again, re-compressed, and finally dispensed into the fuel cell vehicle, losing energy at every step. Also, the fact that hydrogen leaks past all seals (or even slowly right thru the wall of a steel tank) also contributes to the back-end loss. Many details and… Read more »

GE claims 61% efficiency with these turbines operating from ~85 – rated output level. They can also ramp from idle to rated load in about 10 minutes!

They are crazy.



Greater efficiency is always good news!

Lensman, why do you constantly start a new thread instead of posting a response to the original thread? Lensman said: “Many details and hard data on back-end losses can be found in these articles: . . . http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/hydrogen-economy-fuel+cell/480 Pay particular attention to that last linked article. It says that only 30% of the energy is lost in the process of electrolysis, yet 80% is lost overall. No matter how much more efficient steam reformation is than electrolysis, it can’t possibly raise the overall efficiency that much. Either your ‘gold standard’ is wildly off, or else the Energy & Capital analysis is.” Lensman, you’re comparing a recent peer reviewed well-to-wheels CO2 analysis by the most preeminent scientists in the field of energy at the world renowned Argonne National Labs with a decade old back-of-the envelope calculation of some dude who posted an article on a financial investment website and who didn’t list any of his scientific or engineering credentials, because he apparently doesn’t have any? Really? His calculations are crap and OBVIOUSLY WRONG. He claims that 80% of energy is lost overall. Part of his reasoning for that claim is as follows: “So if we wanted to use “hydrogen” in a… Read more »

Install all the hydrogen stations you want, Sven. We’ll pull copper through them after the auction.

Rex Wilson

“Frackogen” is a very correct term for Hydrogen produced from Natgas produced by Fracking.

Let’s send this to Toyota and popularize this term. Similarly FrackGas and FrackOil should be used to differentiate from conventional fuels produced vertically drilled wells.

Soon Toyota will learn and start selling EVs again.