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Hydrogen-drive motorhomes? Cummins building fuel cells for big vehicles

Big-engine maker Cummins shocked the trucking industry. The company says it will start building hydrogen fuel cells for Freightliner’s Cascadia heavy truck line. With its positive aspects as an alternative big rig fuel, hydrogen would almost seem the ideal fuel for use in motorhomes. Could RV manufacturers jump on board? How would hydrogen fit in your RV lifestyle?

Plenty of pluses for RVers

fuel cell
Paul Smith on wikipedia.org

In his presentation to the ACT (Advanced Clean Transportation) Expo earlier this month, Cummins’ CEO Tom Linebarger told attendees, “Freightliner has an amazing electric chassis we are going to be able to put this fuel cell in.” He added, “It’s going to be our Gen 4 fuel cell. I’m really excited about that.” Is the excitement hype or reality?

Hydrogen fuel cell technology has plenty going for it. Compared to electric battery technology, hydrogen could give longer between-refuel drive ranges, a major plus for RVers. And when it’s time to refuel, instead of waiting potentially hours for an empty-to-full recharge, a hydrogen refuel takes about as long as a conventional diesel fuel stop.

Other pluses? Cargo carrying capacity is a big deal for RVers. Should battery-electric powertrains become a reality for RVs, batteries would have to go on a diet, as current technology steps hard on the scale. Those heavy batteries could really cut into how much gear you could carry in your e-motorhome. But hydrogen tanks for big chassis rigs are thousands of pounds lighter than battery packs for the same size rig. And from a planet-friendly perspective, when produced with renewable resources, hydrogen could be carbon-free.

Tiger with a knot in its tail

Cropped image courtesy Gotanero on wikimedia commons

You may remember the oil company Esso urging you to “Put a tiger in your tank” with its gasoline. Why not put a few kilos of hydrogen in your tank? Hydrogen vehicle fueling could prove to be the tiger with a knot in its tail. While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, the infrastructure for delivering it is far from abundant.

If you lived in California, you could find out for yourself. Toyota produces a hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai. It’s sold only in California, largely because the state is, for all practical purposes, the only one with consumer-oriented hydrogen fuel stations.

So how’s a day in the life of a Mirai owner? Is it time for a fill-up? Hope you live somewhere between Sacramento and San Diego along the coast. That’s where most of the handful of currently “open and pumping” hydrogen stations are. You fire up your Mirai and enjoy the quiet (nearly silent) drive to the station. Provided there isn’t a big line of other hydrogen fuel users waiting ahead of you, it’s a simple matter of pulling up to the pump, linking up the line to your car, and filling up. It’s done in a matter of less than five minutes. Provided…

How much for a fill-up?

fuel cell
USAF

Less than five minutes … provided you aren’t back in line behind others. Hydrogen under pressure is a cool cat. The hydrogen fuel line coming off the pump can be so cold it can literally freeze to your car. That may take a few more minutes to thaw after fueling, setting you back a bit. Meantime, you’ll have a moment to scrutinize your receipt. Hydrogen is sold be weight, by the kilogram. As of this week, the typical price for hydrogen was running around $15 or so a kilogram.

How does that price compare with gasoline? A kilo of hydrogen has about the same amount of energy as a gallon of gas. Compare that with today’s average price of regular gasoline in the Golden State—$6.06. So, almost $10 more “per gallon,” if you like. You may wonder how Toyota could sell their Mirais with that kind of fuel price. Simple. Toyota offers you free fuel for the first six years of ownership, or $15,000 worth, whichever comes first. But at that rate, that’s only the equivalent of 1,000 “gallons” worth. Still, industry says as hydrogen as a vehicle fuel gains momentum, the price at the pump should roll down. Theory has it that hydrogen will eventually sell for about the same price as gasoline.

How about the actual price of a new hydrogen fuel cell-operated motorhome? If comparing the cost difference between conventional and hydrogen commercial trucks is an indicator, expect to pay more. Buying a new diesel semi-truck today, expect to pay around $150,000, depending on options. A year ago, hydrogen fuel cell truck-building startup Nikola said they’d sell their trucks for $235,000.

Not yet planet-friendly

fuel cellWhat about the environment? There is something to be said about tailpipe emissions that only consist of water vapor. Sounds pretty enticing. But before the hydrogen gets in your rig, it has to be produced. At present, the bulk of hydrogen is produced from coal or natural gas in a process that actually contributes to global warming by a byproduct—carbon dioxide. It’s true, hydrogen can be made from water using electricity to separate its components, oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used for production was from, say, wind or solar, it could become truly planet-friendly. But putting together the infrastructure needed is a way down what looks to be a very bumpy road.

Hydrogen fuel cell motorhomes? No stink, no noise, no pollution. All attractive properties. But from where we sit, don’t look to see it happen any time soon.

##RVT1053b

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Eric
1 month ago

When he was governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on to initiate California’s “hydrogen highway”.
Seems hydrogen is the best answer to long-haul driving, and battery for shorter (local charging) use. Both need electricity from renewable sources to make environmental sense.

Not Yours
1 month ago

I’m still trying to figure out why they don’t make cars that use Hydrogen to power motors that only recharge the batteries for a Hybrid vehicle that can use it’s own batteries to create hydrogen from water. Ok Hydrogen is expensive but, when it’s being created from water, waters free, unless you’re getting it from the tap or bottles…

Wendell Rudderham
1 month ago

A gallon of gasoline, 2.85763 kg contains 371.5 grams of hydrogen, so if you pay $6.06 per gallon for gasoline your paying $16.31 ( 6.06 ÷ 0.37149191 ) per kg for the hydrogen. Also one kilogram of hydrogen contains the same amount of energy as ( 1 ÷ 0.37149191 ) 2.6918487 gallons of gasoline. In other words 1 kilogram of hydrogen will take you the same distance as 2.6918487 gallons of gasoline or if you paid $114.73 for fuel and you drove 421 miles that’s 27.25 cents per mile, in this case the kind of fuel or the quantity is not relevant.

Steve Heye
1 month ago

To take hydrogen nationwide, it’s going to need a network of distribution pipes, like natural gas. One way to get this network jump started is to get the major railroads involved. Using their right of way, the network could quickly spread, especially if the railroads switch out the diesel motors with fuel cells to generate an engine’s electricity.
The railroad companies would have a large source of hydrogen to make their switch and then take the excess to supply local H2 powered cars, trucks and RVs.

KellyR
1 month ago

When I got to the end of the comments below, I had forgotten the article was about Cummings working on a new engine and understood that Cummings has started the wild fires in the west and created flying pigs. Fire – not good. Flying pigs – good. No more pollution driving pigs to market. Pigs equal methane – burn methane. No more need for hydrogen, right?

Bob M
1 month ago

Their right Hydrogen will be the same price as gas. Shortly $15. a gallon for gas.

Keith Malone
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob M

Bob: There are two typical prices for fuel cell cars in California: about $16 (includes tax) a kilogram at the first generation of stations and about $13 a kilogram at the newer and much bigger stations (six times the size). So we’re seeing the price drop as we scale up. With the heavy-duty category (buses, trucks, rail) scale up, we should see production increase and fuel prices drop further.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago

I just saw a pig fly!

Tim
1 month ago

Did you take a swipe at it with your buggy whip?

Ray
1 month ago

For folks interested in hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles, I encourage you to watch a now 15? year old film on Youtube of Bob Lazar showing off his hydrogen powered corvette to a reporter. In it he demonstrates how many (not all) of the concerns raised by creating, containing and using hydrogen can be eliminated.

1HasBeen
1 month ago

The pressure vessels required to get good range are quite large. Making hydrogen in suitable quantities from 100% renewables will not happen any time soon.

Hindenburg much?

Steve Heye
1 month ago
Reply to  1HasBeen

Hindenburg’s hydrogen burned above the accident. You can see it in the film if you know where to look
The fire you see in the film is the skin of the ship burning. And by the way, 2/3 of those on board SURVIVED. Design the vehicle right, the gas would burn outside the vehicle in a wreck. Safer than gasoline or diesel.

Dave
1 month ago

From my view, hydrogen is the future. The article did not state that hydrogen is being tested in heavy vehicles in Europe.

Criticizing the hydrogen Toyota in CA is not an objective analysis. One thing for sure, CA’s electrical grid barely provides enough power to homes and certainly won’t support millions more vehicles. Plus, they don’t want to upgrade their power grid. Plenty of criticism can apply to EVs that tow approximately 100 miles between recharges when towing.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

The idiots at the helm have closed so many coal fired generation plants that there is antisapated rolling blankouts in the west. And hers the best part, they are closing about 80ty more this year.

Wind and solar, by DEFINITION, are classified as UNRELIABLE generation. You can’t make this stuff up people. It’s going to be a long summer for some of you.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago

Okay, Boomer….

Solar and Wind generation are part of a layered approach. There are a LOT of renewable options. And, best of all, with new homes and buildings being built with them, they feed back into the grid. You need to watch ‘Undecided with Matt Ferrell‘ on energy storage options. There is a LOT of research, and companies testing out ideas on how to best store this power for when it is needed. Sure, fusion power would be ideal, but that’s a century away in reality. WE NEED TO CHANGE FROM CARBON NOW!!

As for ‘making stuff up’, I see you tend to repeat a LOT of ‘alternative facts’ people pull out of their focus groups to scare old, white folks like you and me. Well, get educated, be informed, and stop spreading the fear.

B N S
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Jeff.. How do you know Billy is “White”?? (Identity Politics)!

Jeff Craig
1 month ago
Reply to  B N S

Logical guess. Don’t hurt your brain cells trying to read too much into it.

Sailor Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Build more nuclear power plants. The US Navy have been using them safely for over fifty years. They provide abundant clean power with no carbon emissions. Bury the spent fuel in the US government owned mountains and land in Nevada and New Mexico.

Judy G
1 month ago

…and the ultimate use of wind/solar/water to produce the ‘fuel’…by that time the world will have run out of water!

Spike
1 month ago
Reply to  Judy G

I think the projection is for oceans to continue to rise. While there may be a fresh water crisis coming in the future, there will be no lack of “water.” Desalination would have to be done first.

There was a very good article in USA Today back in February on desalination. Search for the title “California and the American West is thirsty. But is seawater desalination ‘a silver bullet’ to solve the water crisis?” if interested.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Spike

First, recorded sea levels are not rising as the tree hugger loons predicted. It gets traction because sells by the MSM types. Second, see Sam Kinison’s skit on food shortages and living in a desert.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago

Yes, they are documented as rising around the world. If you have a peer reviewed study that shows otherwise, post it. And, there were only 5 billion people on Earth when Sam said that, not the 7.4 billion we have now. In America we grow food in the desert, because we have water. Carbon caused climate change is reducing rainfall and water levels – so we will be hungry and thirsty.

I want to post a longer response, but you won’t care and probably won’t read it. All I can say is I hope my comments reach more people who vote to keep ‘alternative fact’ loving people like you out of power in the US. We have enough problems as it is, we don’t need another term with ************ like Trump.

Tim
1 month ago

Oh sure the sea levels aren’t “rising”. It’s an “illusion”. All the land is just sinking. lol

Michael Gardner
1 month ago

Yet another complicated expensive system with no fuel network…….. just don’t!!

B N S
1 month ago

Drill Baby Drill !

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago
Reply to  B N S

Best Solution yet! You still haven’t convinced me of a problem as far as global warming goes. Yes pollution is a problem, yes man and his trash is a problem but global warming? Show me the legitimate scientific data to support it.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

A very respected climatologist back in the early 1970’s when the “sky was falling the other way, and we were headed into another ice age”, stated the earth has a natural heating and cooling cycle of approximately 100 years. He explained the earth will heat up for a 50 period and cool off for a 50 period. At the time we were experiencing colder winters and cooler summers, therefore all the “chicken littles” were claiming we’re going to have another ICE AGE. Well guess what we didn’t, now chicken little says we’re going to burn up. Actually they may be right, after the great flood in the Bible God said he would never destroy the earth with water again, the next time will be with fire. Now here’s a thought, think about where millions of non believers live, in the west, now think about where most of the wildfires are. If I lived there I would be studying my bible everyday. Sorry couldn’t help myself I just had to put that thought out there.

John Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Good for you!

Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

LOL.
“Non-believers” live on planet Earth.
I do agree. I have said for years that global warming is real and in fact is predicted in the Bible.
Just the same for the “Big Bang” theory. Right in the Bible too. God spoke the universe into existence. No bigger bang than that to happen!

Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Non believers live mostly in US and follow the ex TV guy in Florida.

Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom hit it right on the head. It will get worse when the “other guy” in FL becomes POTUS

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee

At least it won’t be Russia, Russia, Russia. LOL

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

45? Soon 47?

Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Yes, the Bible also talks about all those who will be deceived and for following the false prophets. FL covers the bases.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Life has risks.

Dennis E Prichard
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

I live in New Mexico, and if the fires here don’t convince you, I cite the scientists of Arizona State University who, 20 years ago, predicted MORE fires in the Southwest. They also said they would be MORE holocaustic, would burn LARGER areas, and would COST way more to suppress/control. But that being said, the re-growth will not result in the same habitat that was burned, even after centuries have passed. Forests would grow back into shrubland, burned shrubland would become desert because it is now too hot for the original types of plants to sprout. It convinced me, and now we see it coming to fruition. How’s the temperature where you live?

1HasBeen
1 month ago

You mean the huge NM fire they finally admitted was caused by a “controlled burn” that they let get away from them? Decades of poor forestry management by bureaucrats with an agenda? USFS and BLM are overrun with them. Man caused fires by fools?

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  1HasBeen

I dont think Dennis believes you. In fact, more land will burn, more destruction will ensue, and still the tree huggers will deny. Ho Hum

Stephen Malochleb
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

What no one understands is that much of our pollution comes from other countries that have zero regulations.China, Taiwan, Korea. Their pollution follows wind direction and ocean currents. The US has become somewhat interested in recycling but other countries have not. They have no EPA.

Tim
1 month ago

Yeah, so why should we waste our time. They aren’t. smh

Snayte
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Well, we do not need to convince you. So have a great week.

Warren G
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

The scientific data is abundant and widely available. Living in CO, average temps have increase about 2.5 degrees over the last 50 years. The state is seeing more drought, pine bark beetle infestation and forest fires.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren G

Where do i begin! Ah, why bother, you wouldn’t read the empirical data if it was presented to you in raw tables.

Love Denver just getting popped with a late May snowstorm, LOL. How many inches fell, i meannits ALMOST June. Gee wiz Beaver.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago

There’s a difference between weather (one late season storm) and climate (a persistent change in average numbers over a given period of time). Plus, when you look at the historical CO2 levels, warming has accelerated as CO2 levels in the atmo have risen.

Let me put it in terms YOU can understand. One bacon cheeseburger every few months won’t kill you if you eat right otherwise. One every day, will blow your blood chemistry and take years off your life, via cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc…, if all you eat is processed foods.

Guess which diet we have Planet Earth on for the last 150+ years??

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Ask the dinosaurs, oh yeah guess you can’t.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  B N S

Sarah Rules!!!

Steve Heye
1 month ago
Reply to  B N S

That’s not an answer! The oil companies have hundreds of permits to drill on federal land and they have only touched 2%. 2%!! If they wanted to increase supply, they got their chance but aren’t taking it. Company greed.

Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Heye

Over the last few years the government has been putting pressure on the banks loaning money to the oil companies. The current administration is now putting pressure on the investment community about investing in the oil industry. These two together hurts the oil companies cash flow issues. On top of these the oil companies are also fighting the environmentalists at every drill head. Yes there is more profit per barrel of oil today than 2 years ago, however, with all of this it makes the oil industry nervous and reluctant to develop new production.

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