(July 2004) University of Florida (Gainsville) researchers have concluded that producing methanol from coal offers a cost effective pathway for supplying hydrogen for future fuel cell vehicles.
According to the Methanol Institute
, the study investigated pertinent cost to drivers and compared future costs for various fuel options for fuel cell vehicles. Costs were projected for the year 2020, based on factors such as feedstock supply and demand, fuel production methods, transportation, storage and taxes. Using high and low cost scenarios for natural gas, the cost to generate hydrogen at the feedstock plant and deliver gaseous hydrogen to a fuel cell vehicle at the fueling station may cost between $4.32 and $3.44 per gallon equivalent gallon. Employing similar economic projections, the cost to produce methanol from coal, transport the wood alcohol fuel to the station, and produce hydrogen under the hood of a fuel cell car using an on-board fuel processor is estimated to be just $1.77 per gasoline equivalent gallon. While there are important environmental issues to be resolved with the production of methanol from coal, the reforming of coal-based methanol on-board a vehicle is likely to provide the least expensive hydrogen of the fuels considered.