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Hydrogen Station Explodes, Toyota Halts Sales Of Fuel Cell Cars — Is This The End?

June 13, 2019

By Paul Homewood



h/t Dave Ward


From GWPF:



Now, Toyota and Hyundai are both halting sales of fuel cell vehicles in the country.

Does this spell the end of fuel cell hydrogen vehicles as a “zero-emission” alternative?

The Uno-X hydrogen station in Sandvika in Bærum exploded on Monday and resulted in two injuries in a nearby non-fuel cell vehicle.

According to the police, the explosion was strong enough that it activated the airbags in the vehicle without any impact.

The cause of the explosion is currently unknown and the rest of the refueling network is being shut down.

Jon André Løkke, CEO of Nel Hydrogen, the company operating those hydrogen refueling stations, commented:

“It is too early to speculate on the cause and what has gone wrong. Our top priority is the safe operation of the stations we have delivered. As a precaution, we have temporarily put ten other stations in standby mode in anticipation of more information.”

With the refueling network crippled, Toyota and Hyundai have announced that they are temporarily halting sales of fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota Norway manager Espen Olsen said (via TU):

“We don’t know exactly what happened on the Uno-X drive yet, so we don’t want to speculate. But we stop the sale until we have learned what has happened, and for practical reasons, since it is not possible to fill fuel now.”

They will be offering loaner vehicles to customers who currently own the Mirai since they won’t be able to refuel.

Toyota insists that this is not changing their view on fuel cell hydrogen vehicles:

“This does not change our view of hydrogen, and it is important for us to point out that hydrogen cars are at least as safe as ordinary cars. The hydrogen tanks themselves are so robust that you can shoot them with a gun without knocking them.”

Hyundai, the only other automaker delivering fuel cell vehicles in Norway, has made similar announcements and statements.

  1. June 13, 2019 1:43 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  2. June 13, 2019 1:45 pm

    Dèjá vu – all over again. Have they not heard of the Hindenburg?!

    • June 14, 2019 11:51 am

      That famous recording of the Hindenburg was made by Herb Morrison from my home town, Morgantown, WV.

  3. Joe Public permalink
    June 13, 2019 1:48 pm

    Let’s not forget that it was a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear meltdown explosion, which blew roofs off Fukushima Daiichi’s containment buildings.

    • Sheri permalink
      June 15, 2019 1:51 pm

      How is that even relevant? Whole blocks are leveled by natural gas explosions. If you remove the insane fear of nuclear from the equation, an explosion is an explosion. Many things we use in our daily lives can blow the rooves off buildings and level houses. Happens daily, if not more than daily, somewhere on the planet.

  4. HotScot permalink
    June 13, 2019 1:51 pm


  5. June 13, 2019 2:02 pm

    I love the expression “It is too early to speculate”. That’s what BBC opinion makers always say just before they go on to speculate. I will make an early speculation that hydrogen is a very dangerous gas to get closely involved with. It is hard to contain and easily escapes from most containers. It is just waiting to combust.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      June 13, 2019 3:21 pm

      “It is just waiting to combust.” – and you can’t see the flame when it does. (until it sets fire to something you can see)

  6. Mike Higton permalink
    June 13, 2019 2:32 pm

    Replacement of natural gas with hydrogen is a corner stone of the CCC’s “strategy” for reaching “net zero”. Lord Deben may not be available for comment……
    On the other hand we lived with town gas for decades which was typically 50% hydrogen.

    • Joe Public permalink
      June 13, 2019 2:57 pm

      ” … we lived with town gas for decades which was typically 50% hydrogen.”

      Flammability Limits (in air)
      Hydrogen 4-74%
      Nat Gas 5.3-15%

      Explosion Limits (in air)
      Hydrogen 18.3-59.0%
      Nat Gas 5.7-14%

      Ignition Energy (mJ) – i.e. it takes 14.5x more energy to ignite Nat Gas than Hydrogen.
      Hydrogen 0.02
      Nat Gas 0.29

      There are some pretty pictures here:

      ‘Explosion Hazards of Hydrogen-Air Mixtures’:

      Click to access Ireland_hydrogen_safety.pdf

      • June 15, 2019 9:24 pm

        Quite a high proportion of the water that gets piped into every home and world-class is hydrogen.
        So therefore hydrogen is safe.

  7. Chris Matchette-Downes permalink
    June 13, 2019 2:48 pm

    Imagine hydrogen being piped to every household in the UK in 5 years time

    • Nordisch-geo-climber permalink
      June 13, 2019 4:31 pm

      A gas engineer covering north-east England told me just a few years ago that the region had almost 20% leakage from the main gas network. You only have to walk around London and other towns to get a whiff of leaky pipes. Imagine that same network upgraded for Hydrogen.

      • June 13, 2019 4:45 pm

        Hydrogen in that gas network will leak three times (by molecule) faster than natural gas (methane), the square root of the ratio of molecular weights (Graham’s Law of Effusion (leaking)).

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      June 13, 2019 5:19 pm

      Roger Harrabin said yesterday we wouldn’t notice the difference.

  8. Henning Nielsen permalink
    June 13, 2019 3:44 pm

    Just a bit of good old roof-lifting Viking-fun.

  9. Pete Randall permalink
    June 13, 2019 4:56 pm

    “This does not change our view of hydrogen, and it is important for us to point out that hydrogen cars are at least as safe as ordinary cars. The hydrogen tanks themselves are so robust that you can shoot them with a gun without knocking them.”

    Which is great, but the bit that matters is surely the interface at the ‘filling station’. I don’t care how robust the tank is if it is the station that’s likely to blow up!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      June 13, 2019 8:47 pm

      ‘At least as safe as other cars’. So, how many ‘other cars’ are there on the roads compared to hydrogen cars?

  10. John F. Hultquist permalink
    June 13, 2019 5:02 pm

    What, now, does a person with one of these cars do?
    They are too big to be used as a paper weight or a door stop.
    Eggs laid on the cushion seats would not break — so a chicken coop, then?

  11. June 13, 2019 5:03 pm

    Only a lunatic releases energy from hydrogen, the lightest known element, via chemical combustion. It’s inefficient and extremely dangerous. Smart people ‘burn’ hydrogen by fusing its atoms to form helium, releasing vastly more energy per gram of fuel. But of course, fusion research has been put on the back-burner for years because it’s so much easier to produce energy by alternative means. Which is a shame because, if the amount of money invested into fusion research had been the same as that invested in the development and expansion of renewables, I’m sure they would be well on the way to cracking the secret of containing the plasma needed to generate useful amounts of energy via controlled fusion reactions by now.

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      June 14, 2019 9:42 am

      60 years of research have yielded just over a minute of sustained fusion so far.

  12. matelot 65 permalink
    June 13, 2019 6:19 pm

    Hydrogen cylinder are robust..okay, what about the screw connection at the end? Anyone who has seen an Acetylene cylinder acting as an unguided missile due to a welding flashback will stay well away from Hydrogen!

    • Joe Public permalink
      June 13, 2019 6:25 pm

      At least we can be relieved to know that a hydrogen-filled cylinder will contain only 1/3rd the energy that same cylinder would contain had it been filled with natural gas.

  13. June 13, 2019 6:27 pm

    They have the wrong type of fuel cell.
    The safe way to fill up is to fill up with water and then break the water down into hydrogen and oxygen at point of use. So you only have a very small amount of hydrogen at any time.
    An Internal Combustion engine works by having lots of explosions. But the explosions are small and contained in a controlled manner.

    • dearieme permalink
      June 14, 2019 12:02 pm

      Oh you are a wag.

  14. Gamecock permalink
    June 13, 2019 6:38 pm

    ‘Does this spell the end of fuel cell hydrogen vehicles as a “zero-emission” alternative?’

    No. Since they never started being “zero-emission.”

  15. June 14, 2019 2:36 am

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  16. dearieme permalink
    June 14, 2019 12:04 pm

    Hydrogen is slippery stuff.

  17. June 14, 2019 12:19 pm

    Thank you very much, but I prefer a gasoline powered automobile. I have loved my 2004 Ford Freestar minivan. The back seats fold and tumble or can be taken out and the bench seat folds flat. It is so easy to haul a lot of stuff in that car. However, since minivans are not being made by most anymore, I decided it was time to get one while the getting was possible.

    The Honda salesman announced to me that the Odyssey was now more a family than utility car and the seats did not really fold down. On to Toyota Sienna. As my late father would have said, it could not have cleared a banana peel AND when the seats were folded down there were things sticking up all over the floor–nope. Finally Chrysler Pacifica. My 4 criteria beyond NOT A HYBRID, were: color–Luxury Pearl (the other colors stink); neutral interior (NOT BLACK); complete stow-and-go rear seats (you cannot have all the rear seats fold-able due to the big batteries for the hybrid); and U-connect 8.4″ screen so the road map is not on my phone in the cup-holder.

    The big Morgantown dealer was very uninterested. After a month with them I gave up, but the country dealer near Kingwood found what I wanted in 2 days at a dealer in Greensburg, PA and purchased it for me. They are bringing it from Greensburg (near Pittsburgh) today. I will be picking it up on Monday. Additional items which were not important to me are heated seats and back-up camera. Did I mention that it is totally gasoline powered?

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 14, 2019 6:45 pm

      It’s coming up on 3 years since I bought my Mustang Shelby GT350. I too had to go far afield to find a dealer with the right package and price.

      My golf clubs hardly fit in it. MPG stinks. But I’m getting wrinkles from smiling so much.

      Thumbs up from strangers? Priceless.

      • June 15, 2019 12:22 pm

        I started with a 1966 Mustang, then a forgettable one, and finally a Mustang II which I drove 16 years. My Mustang II had a fold down rear seat which allowed me to carry my skis in the car. That model had no gutters to attach the ski rack. That was followed by a Taurus and then the Ford Freestar in 2004.

      • Gamecock permalink
        June 17, 2019 10:33 pm

        Proud to say that I too started with a 1966 Mustang.

  18. Ray Sanders permalink
    June 14, 2019 6:15 pm

    This type of problem is partly the reason that Nobel Laureate George Olah proposed the “Methanol Economy”. By producing carbon neutral methanol from CO2 captured from the atmosphere and H2 produced by splitting water (electrolysis or thermolysis), you can have a liquid energy carrier that is more energy dense than hydrogen on its own. Its is vastly easier to transport and store and can be run through either direct methanol fuel cells or good old fashioned combustion in conventional engines or indeed gas turbines for aviation. A derivative (DiMethyl Ether – DME) can run straight into a diesel with only minor modification and produces none of the naughty PM2.5 particulates
    Indy 500 cars used to run on methanol so it certainly can produce power for a lengthy period.
    H2 is always likely to be problematical whilst CH3OH is fairly straightforward.

    For info here is the wiki description

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 14, 2019 6:56 pm

      Takes twice as much methanol as gasoline. Double tanks sizes, or cut range in half.

      Also, alcohols are acutely hygroscopic, making storage difficult.

      Fires are insidiously dangerous.

      Good old fashioned combustion in conventional engines won’t work. You need very high compression, like 15:1.

      Like the Indy 500, there are specialized uses for methanol that make sense. As a general use fuel, it’s no good. And a “Methanol Economy” is something we really don’t want.

      • Gamecock permalink
        June 14, 2019 10:52 pm

        Oh, and the plumbing would have to be changed. Methanol will eat the seals of current fuel systems.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      June 14, 2019 9:17 pm

      There is so little CO2 in the atmosphere that capturing it would be very expensive. It would be far cheaper to get it from natural gas (and produce hydrogen at the same time).
      Alternately we could use coal and produce diesel fuel from it. The Fischer-Tropf process is an established technology, and you wouldn’t have to re-engineer cars and trucks to use it.
      And if diesel is as bad as it’s made out to be, then there are other processes to turn coal into suitable fuels.

  19. Ivan permalink
    June 18, 2019 5:54 pm

    There was also a worse hydrogen explosion in California earlier this month while loading a tanker. Certainly the occasional house gets flattened by natural gas explosions. Relative risk is what matters, not removal of all risk. Explosions where hydrogen is contained in a confined space are rather more destructive than similar methane explosions.

    In 1985, an explosion at a factory in Norway demolished a 100m long brick building and took out every window within 700m. Hydrogen was leaking for less than 30 seconds before igniting, and the amount that exploded was estimated as 3 to 7kg. 2 dead.

    Click to access 2ead8b933bed601347179b17f7a8df919838.pdf

    Because you have to make hydrogen, it is merely an energy storage medium. It is zero carbon only if the energy that you store is zero carbon, which includes any chemical inputs such as methane. Using chemical energy as a storage medium, it is useful to have zero CO2 at the tailpipe, so that you don’t have to do additional capture to cancel it out. Its advantage over batteries is that you can get longer range with lower vehicle weight. But its energetic efficiency is about 3 times worse than batteries. There are other chemical options. Synthetic diesel has slightly worse efficiency, and has CO2 at the tailpipe, but can be burnt in conventional engines and with well understood safety risks. Other people have suggested ammonia as a carbon-free storage medium because it is easier to compress and less explosive. But it has other disadvantages. It is likely that the specific mass of various energy storage media will continue to fall, and it is difficult to predict what is in fact practical to do at the scale needed for vehicles. It is problematic to decarbonise our light vehicle sector with present battery technology becaues of the mineral mining issue raised recently.

    The CCC reckons that electrolysis at scale is not practical. So it points at going down the path of steam methane reformation with CCS. In any case it needs CCS for the 23% of electricity to be generated by burning methane.

  20. Coeur de Lion permalink
    June 18, 2019 8:20 pm

    Right now gas 61% wind 7%

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