WTFuel cell technology?

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announcing interest in fuel cell technology in June 2017.

The Kitchener GO Line that runs through Weston / Mount Dennis will eventually be electrified. The Ontario Government recently announced through Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca that it would be spending ‘up to $200,000’ to study  alternatives to GO train electrification. A Mississauga company, Hydrogenics has managed to persuade the Minister that fuel cells may be the way to go instead of using overhead wires and electric trains.

How would it work? Hydrogen gas (yes, the gas used in the Hindenburg airship) would be produced by applying an electric current to water in a process known as electrolysis. The process is touted as green but unfortunately, electrolysis is notoriously inefficient so hydrogen produced for large projects such as a fleet of trains is manufactured from fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas – releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and therefore not green at all.

Once hydrogen is made, problems continue. Storing it is hard. It must be compressed, cooled to a liquid or stored chemically – all of which are costly in terms of energy. Once stored, it must be transported to the trains.

The trains then would generate electricity from the hydrogen through the use of an on-board fuel cell of the type made by Hydrogenics. That means they would have a fuel cell electricity generator and a propulsion unit. Electric trains draw their current from overhead wires and only need a propulsion unit.

Surprisingly, adding to the negatives, a litre of gasoline contains about 64% more hydrogen than pure liquid hydrogen itself – yes, the hydrogen that was probably extracted at great cost from gasoline or diesel fuel.

Anyone who has been to Europe or ridden on Amtrak would know that electric trains there use overhead wires (called catenaries – in use since 1889) to supply power. The Eglinton Crosstown line opening in 2021 will use catenaries. It’s the current state of the art.

For some reason, either Mr. Del Duca wants to throw a $200,000 present to a company in the Liberal riding of Mississauga – Brampton South or he’s been completely misled about basic physics. Either scenario makes one wonder about the minister’s competence.

This video from Elon Musk sums up the inefficiencies and difficulties involved in getting hydrogen fuel cell technology to work. Yes, Mr. Musk has an axe to grind (battery technology) but his points are valid.

On the Ministry of Transportation’s GO Transit site, fuel cell technology is touted as electrification since the fuel cells generate electricity that drives the trains. If that’s the case, diesel trains can also be called electric since diesel engines generate electricity that drives the trains. Furthermore, since fuel cells are likely to need fossil fuels to provide the hydrogen, maybe we should call a conversion to fuel cell technology, fossilization.

Upcoming events in Mount Dennis

There’s much to do in Mount Dennis this month:

MDCA’s Annual General Meeting, Thursday Dec 14th, starting at 6:20.

To be a livable, net-zero energy neighbourhood and inspire others to do the

We invite you to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association annual general meeting and to engage with our community in the Mount Dennis Eco-Neighbourhood Initiative. Give your input on actions on energy, water, food, transportation, materials use, and work, and learn indigenous historical perspectives and approaches for for contributing to current and future community life.

Following an indigenous opening, the evening will feature Hon. Chris Ballard, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Attendees will also have a chance to hear from our MP, MPP, and City Councillor, and to ask questions of both Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata. Food and refreshments will be served, prepared by local provisioners.

There will be a business portion where new members can join MDCA’s Board. MDCA will also elect its four officers (President, Vice President, Secretary & Treasurer). This is a great chance to get to know people from other parts of Mount Dennis, and to help bring about positive change in your community.

Food for Thought Saturday Dec 16th 11AM – 2PM
MDNC, 1269 Weston Road

Councillor Nunziata’s Skating Party Saturday,December 16th, 2017 from 3PM to 5PM at George Bell Arena.

Join Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata for her annual community skating party,  MDCA will be providing skate and helmet loans at no charge.

We always welcome donations to offset the costs of sharpening skates and maintaining the Mount Dennis Community Rink’s Learn-to-Skate program.

Mount Dennis BIA Winter Solstice Event
Thursday Dec 21st 6 – 8PM

Our Business Improvement Area is organizing a bigger and better 2nd annual Winter Solstice event on Thursday December 21st from 6 – 8 pm under the lights of Nyctophilia  (Weston Rd at Dennis Ave. Free pics with Santa, free face painting, free hot chocolate and entertainment. Please bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to WAES (Weston Area Emergency Services aka the Food Bank), if you are able.

Transit madness

If there’s one thing worse than Metrolinx planning transit, it’s politicians planning transit. This week’s City Council meeting saw two bonkers decisions.

First, Frances Nunziata and a majority of City Council voted against a value-for-money study of the nutso one-stop Scarborough subway, which will cost at least $3,350,000,000 and be a worse solution in every way that a multi-stop LRT. The study would, of course, have told them that it was a terrible idea.

Discontent with one gigantic mistake, council voted to look at building another  underground transit line, again against the recommendations of staff, but on the other side of town–this time in Mount Dennis.

City staff have already recommended a predominantly above-ground LRT to run from Mount Dennis to the airport region. They considered connections; cost; and impacts on the community, traffic, and the environment.

But, crucially, staff didn’t recommend digging a big hole into which money could be poured, so council told them to sit on the stairs and think it through again–and this time to “investigate further grade separation and or tunnelling options“.

An inconsistency then? In one case, council directed city staff to not study; in the other, they asked them to study harder.

No, there’s no contradiction. Our councillors quite consistently  expect the facts to fit the policy, and never the other way around.

It isn’t the city staff who need a time-out on the steps. It’s city council that needs to go and think about their decisions.

Missing woman

The police are looking for Jeannine Filice, 35, who was last seen on Friday, November 17, in the Weston Road and 401 area.  She  is 5’6″ and 180 lbs., with dark-brown, shoulder-length hair.

The police are concerned for her safety.

Another icon closes

Hakim Optical at Weston and Lawrence has closed and relocated out of town.

This is the latest in a series of business closures, including the Scotiabank, the TD and RBC banks on Jane, and the Daily Bun bakery on Weston.

Your correspondent, no chicken little, does find these closures hard to square with the putative gentrification of Weston brought about by the UPX, and the Weston Common/Artscape projects.

Certainly, many businesses come and go, especially in Weston; these recent closures, however, worry me more than usual because they are of long-running businesses that have been in the community longer than I have, and, with a few exceptions, such as the Mount Dennis Weston Health Centre, few of the replacements seem to be high-revenue, community-anchor, medium-sized businesses.

I’m sure you don’t need reminding, and I’m as guilty as anyone, but at this time of delightful over-consumption, let’s make an effort to shop in the neighbourhood. Take your neighbour out for coffee at Perfect Blend; buy some books at Squibb’s (many by local authors, perfect for giving!).


Upcoming events

The politicians of York South–Weston will be having a holiday open house next Sunday, December 10 at Frontlines, 1844 Weston Road. The event will be catered by the Frontlines culinary program.

Mount Dennis a hub for community groups

The Globe and Mail had an excellent article last week on the unlikeliest of locations: Industry Street, in Mount Dennis.

At the heart of the faded manufacturing belt in the old city of York, Industry Street winds it way past low slung warehouses and vacant lots, where used pallets are stacked high and weeds grow wild through chain-link fences.

But don’t let the name fool you. Industry Street near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West is home to an increasing number of not-for-profits and small businesses fostering an urbanity that looks nothing like Queen West or the Annex – but is just as lively.