Hydrogen Vehicle: A Realistic Path to Clean Energy? | money

Ohio Canton – Each morning, more than 12 buses arrive at the Ohio Canton gas station before expanding onto this city’s route south of Cleveland.

Buses made by El Dorado National and owned by the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority look like any other bus. Taken together, however, they reflect the state of the art, which can play an important role in creating cleaner interurban transport. Instead of polluting diesel fuel, a quarter of government buses run on hydrogen. They only give off harmless water vapor.

Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is increasingly being seen along with electric vehicles as a way to delay the polluting effects of 1.2 billion vehicles on earth, most of which burn gasoline and diesel. Increase. Heavy truck and commercial vehicle manufacturers are starting to adopt hydrogen fuel cell technology as a way forward. Likewise, the manufacturers of airplanes, trains and passenger cars.

Traffic is the only major contributor to climate change in the US, which is why hydrogen production is seen as a potentially important way to reduce CO2 emissions in the long term.

Magical solution?

Indeed, hydrogen is far from a magical solution. So far, hydrogen, which is produced annually around the world primarily for refineries and fertilizer production, has been produced from natural gas and coal. The process pollutes the air and warms the earth rather than saving it. In fact, a new study by researchers at Cornell University and Stanford University found that most hydrogen production emits carbon dioxide. This means that transporting hydrogen as a fuel is not yet considered clean energy.

However, proponents of hydrogen-powered transport say that hydrogen production will be more environmentally friendly in the long run. They provide for an increased use of electricity from wind and solar energy, which can separate hydrogen and oxygen in the water. As such renewable forms of energy become more common, hydrogen production should become a cleaner and cheaper process.

General Motors, Navistar and truck maker JB Hunt plan to build a gas station and run hydrogen trucks on several highways in the US within three years. Toyota, Kenworth and the Port of Los Angeles have started testing hydrogen trucks to move goods from ships to warehouses.

Volvo Trucks, Daimler Trucks AG and other manufacturers have also announced partnerships. Both companies hope to commercialize their research, cut costs and offer zero-emission trucks that meet stricter environmental regulations.

In Germany, hydrogen-powered trains went into operation in 2018, and more trains are coming. Airbus, based in France, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, is also considering hydrogen.

Sean Lister, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied hydrogen fuel cells for nearly 20 years, said:

Hydrogen has long been a raw material for making fertilizers, steel, petroleum, concrete and chemicals. We have also been driving vehicles for many years. In the United States, about 35,000 forklift trucks, or about 4% of the country, run on hydrogen. Its ultimate use on roads for the transportation of large loads could begin to replace diesel-burning pollutants.

Nobody knows when hydrogen will be distributed or even accepted. Craig Scott, Toyota’s head of advanced technology in North America, said it was likely two years since the company was ready to sell its hydrogen trucks. The construction of more filling stations is important for widespread acceptance.

Kirt Conrad, CEO of Canton’s Transportation since 2009, explains that SARTA uses national buses for demonstrations because other transport systems are so interested in this technology. Canton’s system, which bought the first three hydrogen buses in 2016, has since added 11 more. A fuel cell station is also being built. Two California transportation systems in Oakland and Riverside Counties have hydrogen buses in their fleets.

“Our buses have proven to be reliable, inexpensive, and broken down the barriers that have slowed the spread of technology,” said Conrad.

Testing at the Port of Los Angeles began in April when the first of five hydrogen-powered Toyota hydrogen-powered cicadas began moving cargo to a warehouse in Ontario, California about 60 miles away. The $ 82.5 million public-private project will eventually have 10 cicadas.


Hydrogen as a fuel is included in President Joe Biden’s plan to cut emissions in half by 2030. The Senate Infrastructure Bill, passed this week, allocates $ 9 billion to research and regional hydrogen production centers to reduce the cost of producing clean hydrogen.

The long-haul truck industry appears to be the best choice for an early introduction of hydrogen. Fuel cells, which convert hydrogen gas into electricity, offer longer ranges than battery-operated electric trucks, are more expensive in cold weather and can be refueled much faster than charging batteries. Proponents say that hydrogen vehicles have a shorter refueling time, which gives them an edge over the electric vehicles used in the taxis and delivery vans that are constantly in use.

This advantage was important for Green Tomato Cars from London. GreenTomatoCars uses Toyota Mirai vehicles with 60 hydrogen fuel cells in 500 emission-free vehicles to transport corporate customers. Co-founder Johnny Goldstone said his driver could cover over 300 miles in one tank and refuel in three minutes.

“If you have to spend 40, 50 minutes, an hour, or two hours connecting a car in the middle of a work day, that’s unacceptable,” said Goldstone, since the driver’s income depends on the fare. Rice field.

So far, Green Tomato is one of the largest operators of hydrogen vehicles, which is still a small market in Europe, with around 2,000 fuel cell vehicles, garbage trucks and delivery trucks on the streets.

Around 7,500 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are in use in the USA, mainly in California. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai produce cars that are thousands of dollars more expensive than gasoline cars. There are 45 public gas stations in California, and more are planned or under construction.

In contrast to buses and heavy trucks, experts see the future of US cars primarily as battery-powered and not with hydrogen. A fully electric vehicle can go further than most people need on a relatively small battery.

And so far, hydrogen production is increasing pollution, not decreasing it. The world produces about 75 million tons annually, most of which is a CO2 emissions production process that involves the steam reforming of natural gas. China uses more polluted coal.

So-called “blue” hydrogen from natural gas requires additional steps. The carbon dioxide emitted is transported and stored under the earth’s surface. A study by Cornell and Stanford found that making blue hydrogen emits 20% more carbon than burning natural gas or coal with heat.

Industrial researchers therefore rely on electrolysis, which uses electricity to separate hydrogen and oxygen in the water. In vehicle fuel cells, hydrogen mixes with oxygen to produce electricity. The amount of electricity generated by wind and sun is increasing worldwide, making electrolysis cleaner and cheaper. said Joe Calgnelli.

How much?

Currently, building hydrogen trucks to produce fuel is more expensive than using diesel vehicles. In California, hydrogen costs about $ 13 per kilogram, and one kilogram can provide slightly more energy than a gallon of diesel fuel. In contrast, diesel fuel costs only about $ 3.25 per gallon in the US.

But experts say inequality will close.

“If they expand their technology for production, hydrogen should go down,” said Lister of Carnegie Mellon University.

Diesel cicadas can cost around $ 150,000 depending on the equipment, but the price of a fuel cell truck is unknown. Nikola, an emerging maker of electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks, estimates it will earn about $ 235,000 for every hydrogen truck sold last year.

Finally, clean electricity could be used to produce and store hydrogen in train stations, where locomotives and semi-fuels can all be refueled with zero emissions.

Cummins predicts hydrogen will be widespread in the United States by 2030, accelerated by stricter diesel emission regulations and government requirements for zero-emission vehicles. Europe has already set ambitious targets for green hydrogen to accelerate its use.

“It just blows the market and drives it,” said Kagneri. “Then other places like North America will follow.”

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