Why isn't electricity cheaper?


Long shot new battery technology on a chip – printed onto a silicon wafer, 36 million at a time. Claims to solve the dendrite problem during recharging, and to double/triple current Li-ion energy density (1400 Wh/l and 405 Wh/kg).

Current technologies:

Explainer vid:


White paper:


Tokamak Energy issued an update last week: they’ve hit a peak magnetic field of more than 24 Tesla using high temperature superconductors. And they’ve done it a year ahead of schedule (although that was a revised schedule, so it’s not as brilliant as it sounds). Announcement vid and article:


Meanwhile in separate news, the UK government announced a new program for fusion research based on spherical tokamaks. This is the latest evolution of JET, the research facility operating at Culham since the 1980s. It will work on some of the technology needed for ITER (and any other magnetic confinement fusion device) such as the diverter needed to get energy out of a fusion reactor once you’ve made it.

In the US, ARPA is also still committed to fusion research and held a conference last month to determine how it could best be supported:



Tokamak Energy and MIT/CFS are working on spherical tokamaks, but there are many other fusion reactor concepts out there. Another magnetic confinement concept is the one being done by Lockheed Martin Skunkworks. I’d almost forgotten it, it’s been in the works so long. This was from the Peak Oil thread six years ago, promising a working prototype by 2017:

Well, by 2017 Lockheed were still multiple prototypes away from a working demo as evidenced by this schedule from that year:

And now they are even further behind, with T5 only scheduled to go online by the end of this year. Nevertheless, they say they are still moving forward. I was interested to see that the prototype after that one will see the use of high temperature superconducting magnets, which will put them on the same sort of playing field as the two spherical tokamak players. HTS is surely going to be an integral part of any successful compact fusion, so having three companies using them on different reactor concepts over the next two years is going to be a big part of establishing feasibility. (The three vital determining factors in all fusion approaches are magnetic field strength, plasma density, and confinement time, the product of all three being referred to as beta).


A further update in this, the UK gov just announced $220m for spherical tokamak research.



They’ve invented a reverse time machine! I have a job for them in IT…


I still think hydrogen has a big role to play - off peak storage (even if efficiency is poor night rates for electricity are incredibly low) and H2 powered cars; storage infrastructure is there

Linde invests in UK hydrogen machine manufacturer

Group’s move is sign of companies gearing up for potential boom in ‘clean’ gas

Linde invests in UK hydrogen machine manufacturer Group’s move is sign of companies gearing up for potential boom in ‘clean’ gas

Industrial gas and engineering group Linde has taken a stake in a small British business that makes machines to produce hydrogen, in the latest sign of companies preparing for a potential boom in “clean” gas. Linde has agreed to invest £38m in return for 20 per cent of Sheffield-based ITM Power, which has a market capitalisation of about £140m and makes electrolyser machines that produce hydrogen from water using electricity. The investment from Linde is one strand of a wider fundraising push announced by Aim-listed ITM on Thursday to raise more than £52m to bolster its cash reserves and help fund its move to bigger manufacturing facilities in Sheffield. Its shares rose 9 per cent to 47p by late afternoon in London on Thursday. The two companies will also launch a 50:50 joint venture to target an increasing number of companies and governments that are backing hydrogen as a possible solution for problems such as how to store excess electricity generated by renewables and how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from sectors including heavy industry and haulage.

The International Energy Agency, the Paris-based think-tank, has described 2019 as a year of “unprecedented momentum” for hydrogen, which does not produce carbon dioxide when burnt. Sceptics, however, highlight the high costs of producing the gas and safety concerns. The joint venture would allow ITM to concentrate on supplying electrolysers while Linde carried out all of the engineering, procurement and construction elements of projects, said ITM chief executive Graham Cooley. The two companies had already been working together for five years, including on projects such as fitting hydrogen fuelling pumps at UK forecourts owned by Royal Dutch Shell, he said. ITM, which floated on Aim in 2004, said it also planned to raise £14m through a placing of shares with certain existing and new institutional investors. If it secures approval for its fundraising plans from shareholders at an extraordinary meeting on October 22, it will also launch an open offer of more than 17m new shares priced at 40p apiece, aimed at raising up to £6.8m. The company had £5.2m in cash at the end of its financial year, which ended on April 30. It made a loss of £9.3m last year, up from £6.5m a year earlier, as it invested to increase its production capabilities. It generated revenues of £4.6m, up 30 per cent year on year. Hydrogen can be produced in several ways, via electrolysis to produce “green” hydrogen and from natural gas, although the latter produces carbon dioxide that then has to be captured and stored if it is to be considered “clean”. Linde did not return a request f


The thing I can’t help wondering about hydrogen is … what’s keeping it? I’m probably in the same position as people who ask the same question about fusion. I have a tiny bit of an idea (and I mean tiny) about the problems that have beset fusion and the genuine progress that is being made to overcome them. Less so with hydrogen. I bought one book about the hydrogen fuel economy about a dozen years ago, and it gave a reasonable history of the development of fuel cell vehicles and the refuelling infrastructure. But if it is the greatest thing since sliced bread what has stopped it from taking off before now? I realise, of course, that replacing the world’s $6t oil supply infrastructure is never going to happen overnight, but even battery EVs seem to have made more progress than HFCs.

Things that I know about are that there used to be a technical challenge with poisoning of fuel cell catalysts, but I understood that those have been pretty well overcome. There is a challenge with fuel storage – hydrogen is the smallest atom so tends to leak easily and even work its way into the structure of metals, causing embrittlement. There was talk about locking hydrogen up inside some sort of carbon nanofibre structure, but it sounded a bit fanciful and I haven’t heard any more about it. Hydrogen has got a fairly low energy volume density. It’s explosive when mixed with air, but disperses quickly in an outdoor environment so isn’t particularly more hazardous than petrol in vehicle crash situations. Electrolysis, while inefficient, does seem like the perfect solution to capturing stranded renewables without putting a strain on the electricity grid. (I mean it seems that way to someone like me who knows nothing about it … I’m sure it’s more complicated than that).

So why hasn’t it set the world on fire (pun intended)?

EDIT: chicken and egg situation + cars too expensive?

1,000 H2 stations in California by 2030 is presumably the optimistic estimate, and that’s 4% of the number of gas stations today. It makes you realise that betting the farm on uncertain technology when the infrastructure costs are so high is a massive problem. BEVs, for all their problems, at least run on “fuel” that everyone already has.


I think hydrogen is a bad idea for cars, as it is now I don’t know why anyone would pick a Mirai or any of the other fuel cell cars over a Model 3, Toyota will release a new Mirai in 2020, maybe it will improve

Despite thinking fuel cells are a bad idea in cars, they may have a future in trains IMO, in Germany they have now started using fuel cell trains

Irish Rails IE 29000 Caf Diesel commuter trains will need to be replaced in the next few years, converting to fuel cells would improve the passenger experience and depending on how the Hydrogen is produced I assume emit less carbon, would definitely improve the air quality in Connolly station

There are plans to electrify the Dublin-Maynooth/Drogheda, it might be cheaper to use fuel cell trains


IMHO, the hydrogen car was a PR red herring to put the early adopters off EVs.

The technological/economic challenges was (afair) the cost of producing the fuel cells.

I think it was the cost of the palladium that’s used in the fuel cells. ($ 1,517.13 per oz)

It’s already bad enough now with small amounts of platinum in cars.

So isn’t particularly more hazardous than petrol in vehicle crash situations

It would be a different type of explosion.


Here’s one situation where hydrogen seems to make sense. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190327-the-tiny-islands-leading-the-way-in-hydrogen-power


I think we’ll see H2 in use on heavy duty applications like trains, trucks and machinery. Battery weights on those vehicles could be very high and lead to H2 being cheaper overall over the vehicle lifetime.

Power generation could also use H2 instead of natural gas for CO2 free electricity output. Conversion of H2 to Ammonia allows for long term storage and security of supply when wind and solar are low for a cold few weeks in the winter. Surplus renewables producing H2 for backing up a shortage of renewables has a neat efficiency.


It’s also cheaper to provide the refuelling infrastructure in more geographically concentrated applications such as trains, buses and fleet vehicles.


A deal has been reached in principle for the sale of Wrightbus.

Bidder Jo Bamford said agreement had been reached with “the Wright family for the Wrightbus factory and land”.

“We are still to conclude a deal with the administrators but are pleased to report this important step in the right direction,” he said.

He thanked DUP MP Ian Paisley for “his hard work and diligence in helping to mediate what has at times been a tricky negotiation”.

On Thursday, the owner of the Wrightbus factory, Jeff Wright, said he had not been able to reach a deal to sell the company to a new owner.

The sticking point had been farmland he did not consider part of the factory site.

However, a statement from Jeff Wright on Friday confirmed that the farmland will now be gifted to the local council as “a tribute” to his father, Sir William Wright.


Mr Bamford, an English industrialist, who is the son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, wants to buy the Wrightbus business and the factory through his Ryse Hydrogen company.


IIRC Bamford - i.e. Mr. JCb Jr is an ardent Brexiteer… while Ryse Hydrogen part of EU based consortium



Everfuel, Wrightbus, Ballard Power Systems, Hexagon Composites, Nel Hydrogen and Ryse Hydrogen, leading players in the hydrogen fuel cell electric value chain, are joining forces to form the H2Bus Consortium. The members are committed to deploying 1,000 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses, along with supporting infrastructure, in European cities at commercially competitive rates.

It is essential that commercial players join forces to realize the true zero-emission mobility society. The hydrogen fuel cell electric bus is the ideal substitute for fossil solutions, without compromising range, operational ability or cost. We are expanding our product portfolio to accommodate different market needs. The first phase of the project, totalling 600 buses, is supported by €40 million from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The grant will enable the deployment of 200 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses in each of Denmark, Latvia and the UK by 2023.



Yet another fusion startup, First Light Fusion is a 2011 Oxford University spin-off. Their trick is a variation of inertial confinement, wherein a coin-sized copper disc is accelerated by a type of rail gun into a 15 mm cubic plastic target. The target contains a deuterium-tritium bubble which compresses rapidly enough to undergo fusion, releasing the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil*. A pulsed operation machine would aim for one shot per five seconds, yielding a gigawatt of thermal power to drive a conventional steam turbine.

Initial research focused on modelling the projectile impact and resulting shockwave in software. Now they are aiming for first fusion this year and net energy gain in 2024. The secret sauce is in the design of the fuel-bearing targets to shape the compression wave. First Light Fusion aim to be the Nespresso of the fusion industry by patenting and selling these.


* From the pictures, estimating the fuel bubble to be 3mm diameter, I reckon the deuterium-tritium mixture must be compressed to about 10,000 atmospheres to yield the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil. You can see why the manufacture is tricky.


People need to be aware of the deliberately confusing language surrounding much of the energy debate.
As example, methane generated from cow slurry is cagegorised as’renewable’ because the supply of slurry is continuously being renewed.
But methane from a natural gas well is not categorsed as renewable because the well stays the same and is not renewed.
Go figure.
The atmosphere of course does not see any difference in the carbon dioxide generated by burning methane from either source.


But the greenhouse gas from slurry (Methane or CO2) is going to be released anyway, natural gas is sequestered permanently… that’s a big difference. or am I missing something?



That’s not why it’s categorised as renewable.

The atmosphere does see the CO2 reduction due to uptake by plants which the cow ate to produce the methane. The CO2 from burning the methane will be taken up again by plants which the cow will eat again. That’s what renewable means. Very different from burning fossil methane.