1. Post #1
    Wow, never heard of THAT joke before
    SekritJay's Avatar
    April 2010
    902 Posts
    Welcome to the Facepunch Think Tank! This is the first of what will hopefully become a regular series of threads in the Mass Debate folder, focusing on outrageous but plausible 'what-ifs' of largely contemporary issues. I hope that the Facepunchers who reply to this will approach the topic with intellectual rigour and level-headedness that is unfortunately rare among many forums of similar size, but the occasionally bout of flippancy is encouraged to stop people such as myself from descending into a pit of their own arse. Or something. Eccentric opinions and heated debate are encouraged! I will follow each scenario with a series of questions which will hopefully make it easier to debate the topic in areas which are not immediately obvious, but feel free to pose your own ideas relevant to it.

    There are 800 million vehicles in the world that essentially run on a technology nearly 200 years old, so it is fair to say that, contrary to many people's beliefs, they must have an absolutely huge impact on the environment. Scientists, engineers and ecologists however, believe that hydrogen powered vehicles, which only output water as a waste product, is the future of transport, and indeed examples exist in the high-tech labs of today's motoring giants, or futuristic vehicles, designed to be kind to the environment.

    And yet we never considered the impact of such a technology in the world. Many scientists have said, protesting the use of geo-engineering projects, that we shouldn't be performing what is essentially a vast unsupervised experiment on the only climate we have ever known. Other's contend that we are too far gone to consider the long-term scientific investigations needed, that we should enact such projects now.

    So for this edition of The Think Tank, my question is this: what if all 800 million vehicles, in a stroke, with all necessary support facilities in place (refuelling stations, hydrogen facilities etc), were to run on hydrogen? What would be the environmental consequences of suddenly pouring gallons of water into the low-level atmosphere? Hydrogen is a highly explosive element - how would we adapt our daily lives around something so dangerous? What would be the political consequences of hydrogen affect states whose economy receives much of its income from petrochemicals, particularly in states such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia? Would hydrogen engines be a panacea for the auto-industry, or would it drive it to rack and ruin?

  2. Post #2
    Proudly supporting the JIDF
    Dennab
    July 2010
    22,111 Posts
    I would guess that it would become foggy a lot, and that you would need a hell of a lot of energy to make all that hydrogen.

    Also Hydrogen is quite safe relative to say petrol. Both are still flammable and explosive.

  3. Post #3
    Collin665's Avatar
    January 2008
    2,339 Posts
    Probably volcanoes.

  4. Post #4
    Where are you going to get the Hydrogen from? You need to expend at least as much energy from extracting it from water as you will get back when burning it.

  5. Post #5
    Wow, never heard of THAT joke before
    SekritJay's Avatar
    April 2010
    902 Posts
    I'm not quite arguing that front. I realise hydrogen in reality is very difficult to extract and to make use of. What I'm asking is the possible consequences of hydrogen suddenly becoming the main fuel on the world economy, assuming technology was available to make it easy to extract and make use of

    But you raise a valid point all the same. Hydrogen will always be fairly difficult to extract. Hell we have trouble extracting fresh water from seawater, let alone converting oceans into fuel

  6. Post #6
    Gold Member
    The Aussie's Avatar
    May 2010
    3,345 Posts
    Although we could use the waste water in times of drought, and having a leserly drive around a third world country would be hugely beifical.

    Edited:

    Sorry about the spelling, i just got up.

  7. Post #7
    I'm not quite arguing that front. I realise hydrogen in reality is very difficult to extract and to make use of. What I'm asking is the possible consequences of hydrogen suddenly becoming the main fuel on the world economy, assuming technology was available to make it easy to extract and make use of

    But you raise a valid point all the same. Hydrogen will always be fairly difficult to extract. Hell we have trouble extracting fresh water from seawater, let alone converting oceans into fuel
    If you're going to ignore the difficulties in getting it in the first place you may as well ask "what if cars ran on magic?"

  8. Post #8
    Wow, never heard of THAT joke before
    SekritJay's Avatar
    April 2010
    902 Posts
    I think we're kind of getting off track. I'm tacking really more to the debate on the environment rather then the economics/science of the fuel itself. I have always held the belief that we shouldn't be performing one vast unsupervised experiment on the atmosphere - it's just as important to consider the consequences of our solutions as finding the solutions themselves. I didn't come off quite as clear on that as I'd hope. Food for thought though

  9. Post #9
    The process of making the Hydrogen batteries themselves is damaging to the environment though. The current factories dump tons of heavy metals into the water supply.

  10. Post #10
    OvB
    Facepunch resident scientist
    OvB's Avatar
    March 2007
    12,773 Posts
    The process of making the Hydrogen batteries themselves is damaging to the environment though. The current factories dump tons of heavy metals into the water supply.
    Hydrogen would be stored in tanks. You're thinking of Lithium Ion batteries that electric cars use.

  11. Post #11
    Hydrogen would be stored in tanks. You're thinking of Lithium Ion batteries that electric cars use.
    Ah, I stand corrected.

  12. Post #12
    Pass along
    commander204's Avatar
    May 2008
    4,065 Posts
    If it will have an Impact? Always. Anything you do has an impact, now obviously the question would be if such an impact would greatly damage our current ecosystem.

    I personally don't believe so.

    Each year the continents evaporate around 70 km^3 of water. Now would 800 Million engines that also give off water ( Which is not necessarily vapor ) significantly change this?

  13. Post #13
    OvB
    Facepunch resident scientist
    OvB's Avatar
    March 2007
    12,773 Posts
    I feel like the impact of water vapor would be minimal in contrast to the impact of current carbon emission.

  14. Post #14
    Each year the continents evaporate around 70 km^3 of water.
    uh the exact same amount falls again as rain

  15. Post #15
    Why so Sirius?
    SIRIUS's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,767 Posts
    Well, electric cars are better, but hydrogen cars would be interesting... all that distilled water though...

  16. Post #16
    stupid10er's Avatar
    January 2010
    3,533 Posts
    is the expelled water pure?

  17. Post #17
    Why so Sirius?
    SIRIUS's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,767 Posts
    is the expelled water pure?
    its literally just h2o

  18. Post #18
    Gold Member
    Turnips5's Avatar
    January 2007
    7,087 Posts
    Use thorium-fuelled reactors to produce the electricity needed for electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen to use in vehicles.

  19. Post #19
    Jabberwocky's Avatar
    June 2007
    2,748 Posts
    I feel like the impact of water vapor would be minimal in contrast to the impact of current carbon emission.
    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't water vapour better at trapping heat than CO2?

  20. Post #20
    OvB
    Facepunch resident scientist
    OvB's Avatar
    March 2007
    12,773 Posts
    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't water vapour better at trapping heat than CO2?
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/fea...r_warming.html

    Hmm, you have a point. I guess it still needs to be widely studied before we ditch one greenhouse gas for another.

  21. Post #21
    Gold Member
    Zero-Point's Avatar
    March 2006
    7,169 Posts
    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't water vapour better at trapping heat than CO2?
    That's always been a concern of mine as well, that and one has to take into consideration what might happen to the drier regions when, suddenly, OHFUCKHUMIDITY! Many species of plants and animals require certain humidity levels to function properly, so jacking the levels waaay up might have a negative effect within certain biomes. It's probable that we'd develop a method for storing the exhaust water for later use (watering plants, simply dumping it into city water systems for re-circulation, emergency drinking water, the list goes on).
    As for creating it, what we need is a greener way to make it, hydrogen itself is only a "convenient" way to transport that energy so that it can be used on-the-go. I say "convenient" because there's tons of factors involved in storing, transporting, and (if need-be) venting hydrogen gas safely. Hydrogen burns rather quickly and if pressurized would be a rather nasty addition to any vehicle wreck.

  22. Post #22
    What's brevity?
    ironman17's Avatar
    June 2006
    18,662 Posts
    Use thorium-fuelled reactors to produce the electricity needed for electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen to use in vehicles.
    I dunno about the whole nuclear battery thing. If those things got damaged in a car crash there could be a mini-meltdown or at least a radiation hazard. Even though thorium's probably not as radioactive as uranium and plutonium, it's still hazardous, isn't it?

    And about the hydrogen thing, storage seems like an issue. You'd need plenty of energy to store hydrogen in a compact state, wouldn't you?

  23. Post #23
    Gold Member
    Dennab
    February 2009
    3,687 Posts
    Hydrogen cars won't be a reality until a cheap and environment friendly method of extracting it from water or another source has been found. Even then, the switch from petrol to hydrogen will be tough. Too many people live off the money made from crude oil, and while oil will still be needed for products such as plastics, removing petrol removes a huge amount of profit for the industry (at least as far as I know).

    I'm not saying Hydrogen cars are a bad idea, I'm just saying that in their current state they are unpractical and only serve as a way for car makers to dick wave about how environmentally friendly they are.

    As for the effects of mass hydrogen being released, I guess it would only result in more fog or rain? I'm not too sure, but a lot of scientists tend to over-do facts, like how a few were worried that the first nuclear bomb would turn the atmosphere into a fireball.

  24. Post #24
    Memento audere semper- audaces fortuna iuvat.
    lapsus_'s Avatar
    February 2010
    7,819 Posts
    Would be real nice if we could swap all the carbons emissions with H2O ones. Problem is, you don't want to car crash packed with a highly explosive material.
    Beside that, I think it will be a forced step sooner or later, as carbon fossils are disappearing from earth.
    Not too bad for all the nations who sustains on the carbon fossils market, plastic is still needed, and I think it will be needed for much, much time.

  25. Post #25
    Gold Member
    Dr Magnusson's Avatar
    July 2008
    2,693 Posts
    The problem is that it takes a lot of energy to split H[SUB]2[/SUB]O, which is the energy that is expelled when the hydrogen and oxygen atoms are excited and bind again. The reason why hydrogen fuel-cells are interesting is that they could potentially be refilled from a central source, which would allow for much grander and more effective plants. Much like centralized electricity generation. We just need to find a strong renewable source of energy and make the hydrogen extraction process as efficient as possible.

    The process of replacing the fuel system the entire world automobile runs on is not something that happens overnight.

    Would be real nice if we could swap all the carbons emissions with H2O ones. Problem is, you don't want to car crash packed with a highly explosive material.
    Like fossil fuels?

  26. Post #26
    I dunno about the whole nuclear battery thing. If those things got damaged in a car crash there could be a mini-meltdown or at least a radiation hazard. Even though thorium's probably not as radioactive as uranium and plutonium, it's still hazardous, isn't it?
    He's not talking about putting nuclear reactors in cars, he's saying use Thorium nuclear power stations to electrolyse the water.

    And about the hydrogen thing, storage seems like an issue. You'd need plenty of energy to store hydrogen in a compact state, wouldn't you?
    Uh no? Just stick it in pressurised canisters like we do with every other gas.

  27. Post #27
    DylanWilson's Avatar
    January 2010
    272 Posts
    what about ice on roadways in colder areas? seems like since it'll definetly be a little warm coming straight out of an internal combustion engine, so on highways it could help keep the roads thawed during the day, but what about the erosion at night when it's emptier and it all freezes over and destroys the asphault? what about truckers commuting at 2-3AM on ice covered roadways?

  28. Post #28
    Gold Member
    Dr Magnusson's Avatar
    July 2008
    2,693 Posts
    what about ice on roadways in colder areas? seems like since it'll definetly be a little warm coming straight out of an internal combustion engine, so on highways it could help keep the roads thawed during the day, but what about the erosion at night when it's emptier and it all freezes over and destroys the asphault? what about truckers commuting at 2-3AM on ice covered roadways?
    I think you guys are blowing the water emissions of a hydrogen combustion engine way out of proportion.

  29. Post #29
    Gold Member
    Turnips5's Avatar
    January 2007
    7,087 Posts
    I dunno about the whole nuclear battery thing. If those things got damaged in a car crash there could be a mini-meltdown or at least a radiation hazard. Even though thorium's probably not as radioactive as uranium and plutonium, it's still hazardous, isn't it?

    And about the hydrogen thing, storage seems like an issue. You'd need plenty of energy to store hydrogen in a compact state, wouldn't you?
    No no no. You misunderstand me. The thorium reactors are big civilian power plants, not the power source for the car.

  30. Post #30
    Gold Member
    Dr Magnusson's Avatar
    July 2008
    2,693 Posts
    To put the water emissions in perspective, let's look at the Honda FCX Clarity. It's a hydrogen fuel-cell car, and has been in production since 2008.

    Its tank holds 3.92kg of compressed hydrogen gas.
    It has a range of 240 miles (386km)

    The mass of an oxygen atom is 15.9994u, and the hydrogen atom is 1.00794u Hence, H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u.

    Since the ratio of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u/1.00794u = 17.87337u, and we know that for every two hydrogen atoms, the solution will contain one oxygen atom, we can find the total weight of the resulting solution by multiplying that ratio, by half the mass of the hydrogen component: 17.87337u*(3.92kg / 2) = 35.03kg of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O.

    If you divide that by the range of the car you'll get the water emissions: 35.03kg/386km = 0.09kg/km - or 90ml/km.

    That's about 3/11 of a standard European beverage can, dumped over an entire kilometer.

    Sources:
    http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-cla...fications.aspx
    http://www.convertunits.com/molarmass/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can#Capacity

  31. Post #31
    Gold Member
    Zero-Point's Avatar
    March 2006
    7,169 Posts
    The problem is that it takes a lot of energy to split H[SUB]2[/SUB]O, which is the energy that is expelled when the hydrogen and oxygen atoms are excited and bind again. The reason why hydrogen fuel-cells are interesting is that they could potentially be refilled from a central source, which would allow for much grander and more effective plants. Much like centralized electricity generation. We just need to find a strong renewable source of energy and make the hydrogen extraction process as efficient as possible.

    The process of replacing the fuel system the entire world automobile runs on is not something that happens overnight.


    Like fossil fuels?
    Gasoline and diesel aren't actually all that explosive in their liquid states, it's when they became vaporized that they become explosive. Hydrogen on the other hand is a highly reactive gas.

    Edited:

    To put the water emissions in perspective, let's look at the Honda FCX Clarity. It's a hydrogen fuel-cell car, and has been in production since 2008.

    Its tank holds 3.92kg of compressed hydrogen gas.
    It has a range of 240 miles (386km)

    The mass of an oxygen atom is 15.9994u, and the hydrogen atom is 1.00794u Hence, H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u.

    Since the ratio of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u/1.00794u = 17.87337u, and we know that for every two hydrogen atoms, the solution will contain one oxygen atom, we can find the total weight of the resulting solution by multiplying that ratio, by half the mass of the hydrogen component: 17.87337u*(3.92kg / 2) = 35.03kg of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O.

    If you divide that by the range of the car you'll get the water emissions: 35.03kg/386km = 0.09kg/km - or 90ml/km.

    That's about 3/11 of a standard European beverage can, dumped over an entire kilometer.

    Sources:
    http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-cla...fications.aspx
    http://www.convertunits.com/molarmass/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can#Capacity
    From one car. Multiply that by the number of cars you're likely to see in a highly congested urban area.

    Edited:

    He's not talking about putting nuclear reactors in cars, he's saying use Thorium nuclear power stations to electrolyse the water.



    Uh no? Just stick it in pressurised canisters like we do with every other gas.
    Pressurized hydrogen would be its own problem, depending on the pressure that it's stored under. You'd have to either develop a new storage tank or reinforce the fuck out of where-ever a standard cylinder would be stored lest you have a rocket on your hands in the event of a crash.

  32. Post #32
    Hidole555's Avatar
    July 2009
    4,484 Posts
    Given what you have said, I would go with replacing it all with hydrogen in a single stroke. It's much greener and the impact of water emissions could be nullified by better road design, especially with the crumbly infrastructure of the U.S.

    However, going outside of the present argument, I find that the best type of energy for cars would be electric. This narrows our energy problems down. Finding a solution for renewable electricity would be the same as renewable fuel for cars. I trust many of you have seen the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?", if you haven't I think large portions, if not all of it are on YouTube. It is worth watching. It would also help keep prices lower since currently gasoline is a major part of our lives. Gas is used in delivery trucks, buses, and pretty much a majority of everything with wheels that isn't a kids toy or college project. When the price of gas goes up, the price of everything else goes up in response. Eliminating that factor by switching to anything, hydrogen, solar power, electricity, will help economies greatly.

  33. Post #33
    OvB
    Facepunch resident scientist
    OvB's Avatar
    March 2007
    12,773 Posts
    To put the water emissions in perspective, let's look at the Honda FCX Clarity. It's a hydrogen fuel-cell car, and has been in production since 2008.

    Its tank holds 3.92kg of compressed hydrogen gas.
    It has a range of 240 miles (386km)

    The mass of an oxygen atom is 15.9994u, and the hydrogen atom is 1.00794u Hence, H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u.

    Since the ratio of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u/1.00794u = 17.87337u, and we know that for every two hydrogen atoms, the solution will contain one oxygen atom, we can find the total weight of the resulting solution by multiplying that ratio, by half the mass of the hydrogen component: 17.87337u*(3.92kg / 2) = 35.03kg of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O.

    If you divide that by the range of the car you'll get the water emissions: 35.03kg/386km = 0.09kg/km - or 90ml/km.

    That's about 3/11 of a standard European beverage can, dumped over an entire kilometer.

    Sources:
    http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-cla...fications.aspx
    http://www.convertunits.com/molarmass/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can#Capacity
    I think i've seen my car leak more than that while just sitting there. And that was more dangerous liquids like oil and washer fluid. Car's leak stuff all the time, not to mention the older models that you have to put water in the radiator. This would actually be quite a non issue.

    Avatar fits.

  34. Post #34
    DylanWilson's Avatar
    January 2010
    272 Posts
    To put the water emissions in perspective, let's look at the Honda FCX Clarity. It's a hydrogen fuel-cell car, and has been in production since 2008.

    Its tank holds 3.92kg of compressed hydrogen gas.
    It has a range of 240 miles (386km)

    The mass of an oxygen atom is 15.9994u, and the hydrogen atom is 1.00794u Hence, H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u.

    Since the ratio of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O is 18.01528u/1.00794u = 17.87337u, and we know that for every two hydrogen atoms, the solution will contain one oxygen atom, we can find the total weight of the resulting solution by multiplying that ratio, by half the mass of the hydrogen component: 17.87337u*(3.92kg / 2) = 35.03kg of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O.

    If you divide that by the range of the car you'll get the water emissions: 35.03kg/386km = 0.09kg/km - or 90ml/km.

    That's about 3/11 of a standard European beverage can, dumped over an entire kilometer.

    Sources:
    http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-cla...fications.aspx
    http://www.convertunits.com/molarmass/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can#Capacity
    which is all well and good until you get here


    where car's are burning fuel sitting still in traffic, and there's tens of thousands of them travelling over the same piece of roadway very slowly

    P.S. that pic is of I-295 in Jacksonville, Florida. and it looks like that every day,from 7-9 AM and from 4:30-6PM

  35. Post #35
    own-fucking-zone
    Within's Avatar
    April 2009
    4,010 Posts
    which is all well and good until you get here


    where car's are burning fuel sitting still in traffic, and there's tens of thousands of them travelling over the same piece of roadway very slowly

    P.S. that pic is of I-295 in Jacksonville, Florida. and it looks like that every day,from 7-9 AM and from 4:30-6PM
    Sitting still in traffic means idling engines, which means low(er) H2O emission.

  36. Post #36
    Gold Member
    Contag's Avatar
    July 2010
    11,828 Posts
    Given that the average car travels 14,000 kilometers, with 800 million cars, we'd be generating about a trillion liters of water a year.

    About 570,000 trillion liters of water evaporate each year as part of the hydrosphere. About 70,000 trillion of that is based on land.

    It doesn't seem like it would have that much an impact, at least in terms of climate change considering the meager increase. This also assumes no condensation, no effect of (slightly) increased cloud cover and a bunch of other stuff.

    In regards to the political ramifications - I would not like to live in an oil-dependent state, but fortunately for them the petrochemical industry is pretty much essential to modern civilization. It just means that the raw feedstock for plastics and drugs and so on will be quite a bit cheaper.

  37. Post #37
    Gold Member
    Dr Magnusson's Avatar
    July 2008
    2,693 Posts
    The argument from problematic H[SUB]2[/SUB]O emissions would only be relevant, if the current fuel of choice wasn't already spewing out much more dangerous gasses.

  38. Post #38
    Gold Member
    mike's Avatar
    October 2005
    4,308 Posts
    The argument from problematic H[SUB]2[/SUB]O emissions would only be relevant, if the current fuel of choice wasn't already spewing out much more dangerous gasses.
    not to be that guy but water is the most potent greenhouse gas.

    but burning petrol produces plenty of that anyway so your point is still valid.

    nevertheless, hydrogen fuel is still not that useful because its production will produce greenhouse gases in energy generation costs

  39. Post #39
    Thoughtless's Avatar
    September 2011
    689 Posts
    Hydrogen cars are all well and good, but hydrogen is almost always attached chemically to something else, meaning we have to apply more energy extracting it than we get out of it. So I suggest we mine Jupiter for gasses, including Hydrogen which should be closest to the surface as it is the least dense gas possible.

  40. Post #40
    Gold Member
    mike's Avatar
    October 2005
    4,308 Posts
    Hydrogen cars are all well and good, but hydrogen is almost always attached chemically to something else, meaning we have to apply more energy extracting it than we get out of it. So I suggest we mine Jupiter for gasses, including Hydrogen which should be closest to the surface as it is the least dense gas possible.
    lol.