Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Estimated Operating Cost of Hydrogen Car
Name: Johnny
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: MO 
Country: N/A
Date: 12/21/2005

What is a reasonable guess to what it cost per mile to operate a subcompact car on hydrogen?

I do not think a satisfactory answer exists because it depends upon what the inputs of the cost model is. For example: 1. At present there are few (if any) processes/devices for producing hydrogen in large amounts required at a cost that is even approximately equal to hydrocarbon fuels. Is the cost per mile going to include the cost of reconfiguring the auto engine and/or designing one. 3. There are only beginning to become available systems to store adequate amounts of hydrogen on/in and automobile -- the technology so far just is not there yet. At present storing hydrogen as a liquid (theoretically the best way) is not feasible because it boils at 20 kelvins (about -253 C.). This presents material design problems since many metals absorb hydrogen and become brittle, and of course insulation of the storage vessel would be a challenge as would trying to store it at high pressure. 4. The combustion temperature of hydrogen is very high. Assuming air is used as the oxidant, the nitrogen which is carried along will no doubt produce NOx gases which would have to be removed from the exhaust as it is today.

s It is possible to look up the heats of combustion reactions of: 2 H2 + O2 = 2 H2O and 2 C8H18 + 25 O2 = 16 CO2 + 18 H2O (C8H18 = octane, being a prototype hydrocarbon in gasoline) and compare the heat produced on a weight basis of fuel. However, that is not a valid comparison because all of the costs of hydrogen fuel have to be input. It is the overall cost/benefit that matters. Heat / unit mass of fuel is only one of the factors involved.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Engineering Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory