Hydrogen rising: US corporates drawn to fuel cells

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Hydrogen fuel cells are firing the imagination about the future of energy.

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While most of what we are hearing out of the United States at the moment is the Presidential clamour of Clinton vs Trump, a huge variety of organisations are getting on with the job of transforming the way the nation uses and thinks about energy.

As a wind power engineer I am naturally drawn to the latest and greatest developments in wind farms, but on a recent trip to Washington DC I found it was hydrogen fuel cells that were firing my imagination about the future of energy.

Hydrogen fuel cells are being picked up by surprising companies for surprising applications, one example of which is for powering forklifts at Walmart’s warehouses. While converting the forklifts to fuel cells comes at a cost, there are no longer piles of big batteries taking up warehouse space while they charge, and forklift drivers no longer have to deal with them slowing down towards the end of a charging cycle.

Instead, a fuel cell forklift goes at full tilt until the fuel cell is empty. Recharging takes moments and the saved space means more real estate for storing goods. Currently fuel cells are being used at 11 warehouses, out of an initial target of 20. The huge efficiencies that are being delivered through the technology means this is just the beginning.

Fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical process which converts hydrogen-rich fuel into energy. They don’t burn fuel like a traditional combustion engine and they don’t need recharging like a battery either. The process of generating electricity is silent and clean, with heat and water the only by-products. A hydrogen fuel cell can be quickly topped up from a source of liquid hydrogen, like a traditional petrol pump. And the units can power anything from a vehicle all the way up to large stationary power systems.

Lots of auto manufacturers are working on fuel cell vehicles. While the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association is careful to point out that fuel cells are unlikely to compete directly with electric vehicles in the small urban market, the technology is well suited to trucks travelling longer distances.

And when big brands like Google, Coca-Cola, Apple, Paypal and Walmart are adopting the new technology, this makes other companies pay attention.

In the last few years Paypal has installed a 6 MW solar and fuel cell plant to power its data centre in Utah, and Apple’s North Carolina data centre installed a 10 MW solar and fuel cell operation, which uses the grid only as backup.

Apple’s ‘Campus 2’ building, currently under construction in Silicon Valley is planning to generate 75 per cent of its energy needs on site using a combination of solar and fuel cells.

These companies see fuel cell technology not only as a hedge against rising electricity prices, but as a resilient option for a clean and uninterrupted power supply – and of course a branding opportunity.

But new technologies don’t roll out to market by accident. The United States is the global leader in fuel cell development, and a lot of that comes down to funding research and development, either directly or by way of tax discounts.

The US Government has a 30 per cent tax credit for stationary and portable fuel cells that allows for a better return on investment. While the tax credit only applies to the actual fuel cells and not to the rest of a vehicle, this still allows companies to make a fairly expensive conversion easier, so they can get back to work delivering those improved efficiencies.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided further support to the fuel cell industry, investing $41.9 million alongside private investment of around $51 million for deployment of around 1300 fuel cells for forklifts and telecommunications backup power.

Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association President Morry B. Markowitz told me that consequently the United States is home to the world’s leading fuel cell manufacturers, as well as hydrogen generation and component companies.

“Everyone benefits when the public and private sectors connect to move an industry forward while utilizing domestic resources and innovations. Fuel cell and hydrogen technologies are dynamic and have nowhere near reached their full potential. The possibilities are limitless.”

But one of the big challenges to the future of the technology is – and this should be familiar to all in the Australian industry – policy certainty. Big companies need to plan technology transitions, they need certainty and they need to find the budget for the updated equipment. The tax credit for fuel cells expires at the end of the year and it is expected to be reinstated. But long-term certainty would be a huge boost to the industry.

Either way, it’s an exciting technology with a big opportunity to help transition the world and Australia to a cleaner future.

The Clean Energy Council’s Policy Manager Alicia Webb visited North America on a three week study tour, sponsored by the United States Government and focusing on climate change and renewable energy policy.

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57 Comments
  1. Keith 3 years ago

    When batteries didn’t have range, fuel cells were an option. Today there is no need to put a fuel cell in a vehicle as the battery copes. This dramatically simplifies the vehicle.

    Toyota has ~300 fuel cell vehicles in California and owners get free fuel for 3 years. It is too late for the fuel cell revolution. Look under the bonnet of a fuel cell car, and then have a look at a Tesla. Simplicity wins.

    There are 1 million electric cars on roads around the world today and this number is just the start.

    • Miles Harding 3 years ago

      I looked!
      Couldn’t find the motor or the battery 🙂

      • Keith 3 years ago

        Hi Miles,

        Precisely, you get a second boot.

        A fuel cell car looks just like an internal combustion engine car with all kinds of stuff to go wrong.

  2. Gordon 3 years ago

    Where are they getting the Hydrogen from- processed fossil fuel gas, or (currently quite inefficient) electrolysis of water?

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      I do not know about your figures but why do you assume electrolysis to be inefficient?

      • Gordon 3 years ago

        Plenty of references online if you have a look, here’s one:

        https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310080822.htm
        Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. “Efficiency of water electrolysis doubled.”
        ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2016.

        >>Water electrolysis has not yet been implemented on a large scale

        Only four per cent of all hydrogen produced worldwide are the result
        of water electrolysis. As the electrodes used in the process are not
        efficient enough, large-scale application is not profitable. “To date,
        hydrogen has been mainly obtained from fossil fuels, with large CO2
        volumes being released in the process,” says Wolfgang Schuhmann.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          The very first grid based upon wind power and H2 was developed in 1892 by Poul La Cour.

          There is several projects in under completion or in service here in Denmark and absolutely no mentioning of the problems your sources appears to claim.

          The conversion efficiency for Synfuel is according to US Navy researchers 60% but recent lab test has upped that to 79% and H2 electrolysis has long been possible above 90% efficiency but at an impractical plant utilization rate and cost.

          Bill Gates aims to encourage direct solar conversion where the present record is 14%, which is lower than the conversion achieved by PV but still respectable.

          I do not have the numbers for NEL, Air Liquide and Nikola H2 production efficiencies but clearly they seem to have little consideration for the conclusion Wolfgang Schuhmann has ventured with – perhaps because no one can double the efficiency of processes that already run with above 60% efficiency.

          A couple of other Synfuel projects are under completion in Denmark (utilizing biogas production emissions of CO2 to produce NG by adding H2 from electrolysis) and Denmark is home to the largest manufacturer of advanced industrial catalysts in the world so perhaps you have encountered a repeat of the humming bee story – it does fly.

  3. nakedChimp 3 years ago

    A FCEV is just a BEV with a FC range extender, more complicated, slower and more expensive. It won’t be able to compete with a pure BEV.

    Summary:
    Clean Energy Council’s Policy Manager Alicia Webb visited North
    America on a three week study tour, sponsored by the United States
    Government

    What a freaking waste of Money if above personal opinion piece comes out of this Alicia.

    PS: I bet you got some degree in some arts thing and have no background that is technical or scientific. Congratulations, you will manage to mismanage a lot of money and opportunities that way.

    • Webber Depor 3 years ago

      hydrogen refuelling — 4 minutes
      recharging — who knows when

      • nakedChimp 3 years ago

        H2 refueling
        – only get half range when refueling
        – get out of your way to find a station
        – pay more for it than for gasoline or electricity
        – care squat about the environment as it’s worse than ICE re CO2
        – have worse experience than ICE
        – have more maintenance cost

        EV recharging
        – start with full range every morning
        – have zippy car experience
        – have less running and maintenance cost
        – do something for the environment

        Anyhow, you FCEV fans won’t get that the train has left the station in this regard. The war is over, FCEV has lost, it came 20 years to late.
        Deal with it.
        I’m out.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          H2 refueling

          – only get half range when refueling
          + You get 600km or if you drive a truck then read up on https://nikolamotor.com/one

          – get out of your way to find a station
          + new stations are cheap and fast to deploy

          – pay more for it than for gasoline or electricity
          + Look up https://nikolamotor.com/one and get informed

          – care squat about the environment as it’s worse than ICE re CO2
          + 100% RE driven and no mining required + all recycled materials

          – have worse experience than ICE
          + what are you on about it is just an EV with a lighter battery and a range extender

          – have more maintenance cost
          + https://nikolamotor.com/one

          EV recharging

          – start with full range every morning

          – have zippy car experience

          – have less running and maintenance cost

          – do something for the environment
          + as opposed to running 100% RE driven ?

          Anyhow, you FCEV fans won’t get that the train has left the station in this regard. The war is over, FCEV has lost, it came 20 years to late.

          Deal with it.

          I’m out.
          + Interesting view points and you just have to be right with all your accurate and sexist beliefs.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            nikolamotor.. wasn’t that the company that switched from BEV truck to FCEV truck and is considered a hoax since that? We’ll probably see on 1.12.2016.
            Even Toyota does finally come around now and is talking about BEVs instead of FCEVs.
            Anyhow, believe in what you want, this is a free planet (mostly) and I’m sure NM will be covered here in the future for better or worse.
            Maybe you can tell me “I told you so” down the road – I will have deserved it then 😉

            PS: I’m not going to explain to you the systematic disadvantage of FCEV tech vs BEV tech – we have had this covered on CT countless times already. I’m tired of it.

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            Nikola upped the game from originally launching with a fuel agnostic engine to now a H2 based system, which somehow caused fury. http://www.autoblog.com/2016/05/10/nikola-motor-company-zero-one-semi-utv/

            http://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/12408/Meet-Nikola-The-Tesla-of-Semi-Trucks.aspx

            You have now proven to be sexist towards the author of the article and dismissive about a technology and a company you know nothing about plus willing to assume things about me you know absolutely nothing about. Wow.

            I happen to know the technical director for Toyota Scandinavia and he at least is quite bullish about the future for H2, which he is probably also obliged to be.

            As for the differences between FCEV and BEV I think you are wise to decline to offer any sensible analysis.

        • neroden 3 years ago

          Hydrogen fuelling stations fuel one or two cars and then have to wait an hour before they can fuel another car (while the compressor runs). And they cost a million dollars each.

          A Tesla Supercharger gives you a full charge in about an hour. And they cost about $100,000 for eight.

        • Miles Harding 3 years ago

          I’ll add another:
          Make your fuel from sunlight, at home. I already do that, as do a lot of other EV’ers. No explosive gases involved.

      • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

        3 minutes if you believe this Scandinavian company. http://nel-hydrogen.com

        They have the capacity to build 300 fueling stations annually and the fueling stations are containerized plug and play where you just add water and electricity.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          Just to give any potentially interested reader a chance to catch up with the progress that at least Toyota has managed since 2008 I suggest this link https://www.electrochem.org/dl/interface/sum/sum15/sum15_p45_49.pdf

          On the electrolysis side Air Liquide is the largest manufacturer of industrial gasses in the world, Topsoe is the largest supplier of advanced industrial catalyst and NEL is the largest manufacturer of H2 filling stations.

          These otherwise quite successful companies can obviously be terribly wrong but just assuming so on automat pilot system is probably not the wise thing to do.

          The progress in the last few years have been tremendous and the cost of RE is as everyone know dropping like a stone in free fall. The cost of RE is definitively on a trajectory that will allow Synfuels to outcompete fossil fuels for everything within a very short span of years.

          The most dramatic RE cost drop since 2012 to date is 60% achieved by the offshore wind industry, which means it will soon approach onshore wind cost but also solar has made a great run over the last years and is currently in high insolation areas cheaper than offshore wind.

          • Christian Wojtysiak 3 years ago

            You are right, Jens. The comments to this article show why US firms are left behind when it comes to fuel cell technology. People prefer to believe myths from 15 years ago instead of facing that there were huge steps forward in the past 5 years – outside America of course.
            [irony]Of course all of those Japanese and European market leaders are wrong and Tesla is the most successful car maker in the world. [/irony]

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            Tesla S is on my top 10 list of the most iconic cars ever produced so I think they are enjoying a deserved success.

            If you compare Tesla with another small carmaker like Volvo that has a full suite of cars then Volvo managed to increase their sales with more cars than Tesla sold altogether last year and sold many times more cars in one year than Tesla has managed since the company was formed and they did so while remaining cashflow positive.

            It is very likely that many cars will be EV’s and a large proportion of the cars will BEV’s. EV’s with range extenders and potentially also plug in will be using all kinds of fuels but the common denominator will be that they all will go of fossils.

            Most people do not realize that the fossil age is being terminated.

            Just today I read that Maersk that used to be the largest company in Denmark is now being downgraded by Moodys and that DONG has been unable to sell off its fossil fuel arm despite the fact that it is stillcashflow positive.

            The main reason is that if solar and wind repeat the progress since 2008 to 2015 from 2015 to 2024 then crude oil from any oil field is no longer cheap enough to match the cost point for Synfuels.

            Offshore wind has dropped 60% since 2012 and another 6 years with that kind of performance progress will effectively signify the end of economically gas and oil fields.

            Solar is doing great too.

          • Christian Wojtysiak 3 years ago

            Tesla S is a great car, that’s out of question. But will the company ever be cash flow positive?
            I also do not think that cars should be the main focus when thinking of fuel cells. I would not be surprised if the break through will come from PtG (ITM, McPhy), powering mobile devices (eZelleron), CHP (big thing in Japan), and off grid power for phone masts (Heliocentris) etc.
            Solar and wind power capacity is still growing – with the side effect that huge wind parks have to be taken off the grid when there is a lot of wind. This energy could be used for producing hydrogen when it is cheapest.

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            I think Tesla has a chance to make the first ever cash flow positive quarter in the quarter we are entering now.

            All petrochemical products can be Synfuel based and as you point out many other applications than cars could benefit from fuel cells, so Synfuels and fuel cells are not car centric technologies.

            A Tesla would be significantly lighter if it was a FCEV.

            Since 2008 the fuel cell power density has improved by a factor 2,4 and the efficiency on a system basis by 20%. (No slowing down on the rate of technology improvement in sight) Just imagine how a battery would perform with a similar rate of performance improvement.

            The interesting thing is that many fuel cell designs seems to be adopted by the battery fan boys as batteries. Lithium Air, Zinc Air etc. are however all by definition fuel cells.

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      Unless you assume she is lying you should pay attention to this part of the article: “As a wind power engineer I am naturally drawn to the latest and greatest developments in wind farms, but on a recent trip to Washington DC I found it was hydrogen fuel cells that were firing my imagination about the future of energy.”

      • nakedChimp 3 years ago

        Real engineers work in the field and do policy after their active career when they got experience and still want to do something.
        You don’t have much experience with this sort of people and structures, do you?
        Anybody else who get’s into policing that early is better carefully approached and listened to.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          I cannot make much out that comment.

          Are you calling the author a liar or not ?

          I have around 20 patents and work mainly with haptics, lighting and displays so you are correct in assuming I have little to no personal experience with wind energy and electrolysis (built both as a hobbyist though).

          I do however know a lot of individuals of prominence in both the wind industry and in electrolysis industry.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            I think of the author – until I met her personally and have exchanged a couple of thoughts and anecdotes – that she’s to young to be a policy adviser and have my own experience how that works.
            None of this paints the author in an ‘expert’ kind of color for me, which puts a big warning sign on her finding hydrogen an ‘exciting technology’.
            Especially as we have had it here on CT with FCEV and Co numerous times.
            You understand me now?

            PS: I don’t care about your patents nor what your background is or who you know or don’t know.
            So far you come over as an over ambitious hydrogen hot-head. If you think it’s going to work, fine, believe in it.

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            Most engineers working with wind power are likely to be young as the business grows 17% annually worldwide (that is doubling every four years or so) so I can go with your assumption that Alicia is young.

            I am not partial to H2 as I think Synfuels in general is the way forward. No one can oppose batteries and I look forward to the development of quality batteries. With that said I cannot imagine how to transition transportation to batteries and it is far less likely that batteries can have any significant role in balancing RE based electric grids.

            You plan gauge your opinion in the event that you meet Alicia and at the same time you discard my firsthand contact to experts among my friends. Hmmm complex.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            The wind business is decades old and I’m 100% certain there are enough 40-50 year olds in the field that can be policy makers for wind power tech.
            And people who are good at their job don’t make policy, they make stuff.

            And I’m also convinced they’ll find niche applications that can afford to store some energy in hydrogen down the road.
            But that’s it.

            If FC tech was viable we would have it by now. It’s not here, but those tiny batteries from phones, laptops, power tools and rc models are here now and kick serious ass.
            They didn’t get billions of tax payer money thrown at it.
            FC tech is the darling of the NG industry.

  4. MickyJ 3 years ago

    An Australian company, Hazer group may well have the enabling technology to improve the adoption rate for both hydrogen and battery vehicles, they have found a way to economically crack bio methane into hydrogen and battery grade graphite. If they are successful then the cost of both hydrogen and batteries will be significantly reduced. The company have stated that hydrogen could be produced for ~75c/kg which would make it much cheaper than either battery or gasoline energy. The best bit is that they create no emissions, in fact utilizing bio methane the process would actually be net negative carbon.

    http://www.hazergroup.com.au/technology/

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      The company have stated that hydrogen could be produced for ~75c/kg which would make it much cheaper than either battery or gasoline energy.

      There is 33,3kWh in one KG H2 and with current 73% efficient auto fuel cells you get 24kWh or 22kWh directly usable for propulsion.

      That is 3,4c/kWh.

      To match that a BEV has to charge electricity costing no more than 3c/kWh.

      At this point in time I do however consider the Hazergroup statements quite optimistic and I suggest that standard electrolysis will be the way to go.

      • MickyJ 3 years ago

        Agreed the statements are optimistic and to be achieved they do need to get a return on the graphite produced. Without credits from graphite the cost would be closer to $1.5/kg which is still very good when compared to existing production methods. Correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding that around $5/kg is what it currently costs to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. Electrolysis in time will almost certainly become more efficient however in the meantime technology like Hazer provide a pathway to hydrogen adoption.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          The main component of the H2 electrolysis production price is the price of electricity.

          Toyota managed to increase the intra car efficiency by 20% between 2008 and 2015 whereof 6,5% of the achievement was down to improved fuel cell efficiency. In the same period of time the fuel cell power to weight ratio was improved 240%.

          There is an upper limit for further efficiency gains for the intra car fuel cell system but it can be extended a little by introducing combined cycle, which is probably only relevant for trucks and upwards.

          Most of the expected FCEV improvements will according to my beliefs be in power ratio and cost as well as range and charge time.

          Nikola trucks plan to run a lease model where the supply of H2 is included and does not publish much that could help anyone to gauge their actual performance.

          By products from H2 production are not limited to graphite but could also include district heating and or freshwater.

    • neroden 3 years ago

      Well, if you want to use fossil fuel methane… no, they aren’t using biogas

      • MickyJ 3 years ago

        They use methane which can be derived from many sources, the company’s vision is to use biomethane

      • MickyJ 3 years ago

        Also, is fossil fuel usage so bad if it can be used in a way that produces zero emissions? Obviously it is not eternally renewable but it is currently the most widely used energy source, surely a vast improvement if it could be utilized without emissions. In time it is highly likely that other economic and renewable technologies will emerge which may supersede Hazer however at present it looks like an exceptional pathway to zero emission vehicles.

        http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/09/toyota-runs-fuel-cell-car-human-waste/

        This is one example of a sustainable methane source which could fuel the Hazer technology

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          Even though the carbon emissions from the Hazer process are zero by definition then the GHG emissions during the fabrication of NG and biomethane have to be in the calculation. (Modern biomethane production is net GHG reducing, so once they are able to do that the Hazer technology will not only be Carbon sequestering but also directly limit GHG in the biosphere.)

          Methanol production is quite energy efficient (60%-79% with other valuable fractions co-produced) and could potentially provide a source for a Hazer style process as Methanol is possible t reform into NG.

          • MickyJ 3 years ago

            As you say modern biomethane is GHG reducing as the gas utilized would otherwise be released to the atmosphere during decomposition. With this in mind biomethane from waste would be the ideal feedstock however with the process able to produce hydrogen fuel from any methane source with the entire well to wheels emissions being very near zero the environmental impact is likely superior to that of almost every other production method. Keep in mind that hydrocarbons are only harmful as a fuel source due to the products of combustion with CO2 being the main offender.

            Currently 95% of the worlds $150 billion dollars worth of hydrogen is produced via steam methane reforming of hydrocarbons, SMR reforming (which is also the method used to produce methanol). SMR reforming produces approximately 9 tons of CO2 emissions for every ton of hydrogen and costs about $2.5/ton to produce hydrogen. SMR is currently the most economic production method widely utilized.

            The Hazer process is estimated to cost around 75c per Kilogram without emissions. The reason that this process is able to outperform SMR on a cost and emissions basis is due to the fact that the carbon is recovered at a high value solid carbon morphology known as spherical graphite. Graphite has many uses with the primary high growth market currently being battery grade graphite for energy storage. The current graphite market is around $15 billion dollars per year and growth is rapid.

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lWF9JKGEXKI

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            The GHG suppression of modern Biomethane production is actually larger than just the Methane release during rotting because free decomposition is not limited to produce Methane but also produce Dinitrogenoxid.

            Novozymes has come a long way to make the production cost competitive to fossil fuels and recently there has been two major break throughs for Gen. 2 biofuels that does not use food or feed stock.

            Most everywhere food production is heavily subsidized but going forward energy production in the form of solar, wind, biofuels and Synfuels with associated rural job creation could form the foundation for robust agricultural economy instead of subsidies. A positive by effect is that every thermal power plant taken out will reduce the water consumption, which benefits agriculture and wildlife.

            Only about 4% of the H2 produced worldwide is from electrolysis so there is a market to start with and as soon as economics of scale and deployment drives down cost then the many potential gains in efficiency, cost reduction and side products will kick in.

            Cheap sustainable graphite is destined to be a fundamental enabler of very light and strong polymers. http://minesqc.com/en/blog/article/2015/05/18/what-is-graphite-used-for/ Mitsubishi Rayon has just made a joint venture with fiberline to be headquartered in Denmark targeting the wind turbine market. Fiberline compete with SSB and LM Power plus of cause Siemens wind Power, Enercon, Vestas and others that produce blades internally. LM Power is right now in the lead as their new blades for Adwen 8MW has 20% larger swept area than Vestas 164 8,4MW despite similar rotor weight and Siemens Windpower has just entered into collaboration with LM Power. SSB is soon to release their new blades that will be the longest in the world and as the industry is now targeting 20-25MW (the port of Esbjerg is being rebuilt to handle that scale).

            So being able to produce high quality graphite will place H2 production in a symbiotic relationship with wind power. Synfuels as such are also a much purer source of hydrocarbons for the petrochemical industry.

            When it comes to the destruction of the fossil fuel supply chain then it is important to analyse whether you just depress the market as battery technology can do or you are able to snatch a high value market for a particular fraction of refinery products because one missing revenue stream will affect all elements of the fossil fuel chain.

            According to Elon Musk in this article by the Zachary Shahan the chief editor of Cleantechnica it takes the equivalent of 200 Gigafactories to cover the yearly auto demand.
            http://www.treehugger.com/cars/elon-musk-200-gigafactories-needed-electric-car-demand-alone.html

            The demand for cars is projected to reach 2billion within 2030. (might be faster though because just between 2013 and 2015 the total car sales grew from 65mill. to 75mill.)
            So assuming that there will be no range increase and all BEV’s will run for 20 years and you get up to 200 Gigafactories specifically for cars only, then these Gigafactories for cars only would have to run full throttle for 20 years to reach 100% BEV penetration.

            I think that Tesla has shown that range is a popular request and I do not consider 20 years BEV lifetime realistic and it is impossible to keep full production capacity utilization, so a more sober projection of the number of Gigafactories required just for cars is probably something I would suggest.

            The more than 200 Gigafactories just for cars will do nothing for the 60% of transportation GHG effects that are not related to cars.

            Generally the same dreamy people appraising BEV as the solution to transportation emissions also favor battery storage as a means to achieve 100% RE grids.

            This is battery demand on top of the demand for batteries to remove fossil from transportation.

            How much storage that would require is obviously highly dependent upon how the grid is planned. Smart grid principles, mix of sources, HVDC grid expansion and over provision strategy are the key enabler.

            As a point of departure we could plan for 2% battery storage capacity.

            That would with the present electricity production require 2% of about 24.000 TWh or 4.800 TWh https://yearbook.enerdata.net/world-electricity-production-map-graph-and-data.html

            One Gigafactory has an annual output of 35GWh, which is about 137.000 times less than what is required. If you want it done in a 20 year timeframe you should have the equivalent of 6.850 Gigafactories running at full throttle for 20 years.

            The extremely long timeframe for BEV introduction and for adequate battery storage will prolong the fossil fuel dependency and on top of this fossil fuels will continue to be required for a wide range of industrial processes and polymers and fertilizers etc.

            Batteries are a good thing and we need them but please stop serving them as “the” solution to cut GHG emissions and please stop campaigning against the very technologies that can actually reverse the dangerous level of GHG’s in the biosphere.

  5. Rikaishi Rikashi 3 years ago

    “These companies see fuel cell technology not only as a hedge against rising electricity prices”

    They’re idiots then, because you have to put twice as much electricity in to a fuel cell as you get out of it due to large inefficiencies.

    Sounds like somebody fed the author an over-hyped sales pitch.

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      Once the grid everywhere shift to RE we will frequently have surplus electricity, which will be dumped on the market. Those companies that will allow the grid management to decide when they get electricity will get a cheap deal.

      Solar and wind power is heading straight towards the “too cheap to store” cost point and besides it is totally impossible with current battery technology to build the needed amounts of batteries to balance the grid and near impossible to build enough capacity to electrify vehicles.

      The only argument for BEV’s is energy efficiency and who needs that at a higher cost and slower penetration ?

      Keep the eyes on the ball and go for fast out phase of fossils to create a sustainable world.

      • neroden 3 years ago

        Actually, it’s trivial to build the number of batteries needed to balance the grid (and they’re being installed right now, such as a large contract Tesla has in California to balance the SoCal grid), and it’s straightforward to build enough to electrify vehicles (Tesla’s doing it right now, and there are no limitations to ramping up production other than time to build factories).

        Keep spewing out debunked lies if you really want to. But don’t do it here, please.

      • Rikaishi Rikashi 3 years ago

        Faster penetration? Really. Is there a HFC vehicle company with more then 3 billion miles travelled on its fleet that I don’t know about? Because we have that for BEV so they are winning the penetration race so far.

        Is HFC being used for grid and commercial energy storage applications anywhere in the world? Because batteries are already doing that.

        Batteries are ready for prime-time right now and the costs continue to decrease over time. The only problem is ramping manufacturing fast enough to keep up with demand and that is a good problem to have.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          Imagine you built the equivalent of the Tesla gigafactory for fuel cells instead.

          Those fuel cells would weigh 90% less and would use electricity to convert water and excess CO2 in the biosphere into Synfuels with a plant efficiency ranging from 60% to 79%.

          That 35GW fuel cell capacity would if ran 24/7 produce 180.000GWh worth of Synfuel that can be transported, stored, sold and used by already existing infrastructure.

          So why are there only very limited Synfuel production and why is the huge majority of the limited Synfuel production based upon coal and NG you might ask. The answer to that question is that coal and NG up until now has been the cheapest feedstock and because Nazi Germany and Apartheid South African were the only states that was forced to rely on Synfuels.

          This is however changing due to the succes of RE. You need approximately 16kWh of electricity to produce one liter Fluid Synfuel and approximately 45kWh to produce on KG H2. This is likely to drop about 30% through technology advances.

          Cheapest solar is currently US 2,42C/kWh and average 20 year wind PPA in USA without subsidies was in 2014 US 3,5C/kWh, so the electricity cost per Liter Synfuels is between US 39C/Liter and US 56C/Liter. The electricity cost per KG H2 is between US108C/KG and US158C/KG.

          I think a lot of people is more familiar with gallons where the cheapest solar/wind electricity to produce Synfuels is respectively US 148C/gallon and US 231C/gallon.

          There are five strong drivers for lower Synfuels cost:
          1. Lower RE cost
          2. More surplus electricity at discounted rates
          3. Higher plant efficiency
          4. Co-produced (Water, minerals, graphite etc.)
          5. Any high yielding RE source is usable where ever it is

          Those 180.000GWh max capacity utilization worth of Synfuel one Gigafactory equivalent fuel cell factory could produce can be returned as electricity at roughly 38% roundtrip efficiency using existing power plants and will thus equate to about the battery storage capacity that 2.000 Tesla Gigawatt factories could deliver assuming that every single of the Gigawatts stored in batteries can be returned loss free.

          • MickyJ 3 years ago

            Are you able to point me towards further information about this synfuel made from atmospheric water and CO2 for 39c/l.

            Having extensive 1st hand knowledge of the petrochemical industry, including real world synfuel plants, I find it very difficult to believe that these two atmospheric components could ever be economically produced into a synfuel. Then the obvious second question is, what kind of synfuel? If you are talking hydrocarbons which are then to be distributed via existing infrastructure then to be burnt in internal combustion engines with 80% of the energy wasted as heat and there is still going to be CO2 emissions.

            This is why I believe that the Hazer group process is the best option currently in play with lower cost and emissions to produce hydrogen and graphite.

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            I wrote “the electricity cost per Liter Synfuels is between US 39C/Liter and US 56C/Liter.”

            This article (I am against nuclear) https://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/ supplies you with a lot of links and a spreadsheet where you can model the cost.

            Since that article there has been a tremendous development despite very low research investments and the efficiency is now up to 79% for Synfuel Methanol. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2016/02/20160203-usc.html

            The Ruthenium catalyst technology has recently made a big breakthrough, which is likely to increase plant yield significantly and also up the efficiency slightly. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2016/04/20160402-ru.html

            I do not think there is any doubt that the fossil age will end before we have exhausted the fossil resources and mainly because RE electricity combined with Hydrogen and Carbon very soon will be the cheapest option.

            Since 2014 where the average 20 year wind PPA in USA was 3,5C/kWh without subsidies the quality and size of wind turbines have improved and Vestas has each year dropped the average selling price per MW windturbine by 9% and the management thinks this is a surprisingly stable trajectory, which if continued will lead to approximately 1,8C/kWh by 2021 when the PTC expires.

            The average PPA was in 2014 2,3C/kWh including PTC so 1,8C/kWh represents a 22% cost drop. Hidden in that number is the expected capacity factor growth that increase Synfuel plant capacity utilization.

            Solar is a bit more problematic for Synfuels because of the low capacity factor but is also likely to go below the 2C/kWh threshold even in USA where labour cost are higher and insolation less than in UAE.

            Both technologies has the potential to go below 1C/kWh. For wind this is perhaps best illustrated by the realized 60% cost drop between 2012 and 2016 for offshore wind. The original industry target was 40% by 2020 but the industry blew straight past that with solid economy simply due to strong incremental technology development.

            Synfuels based upon RE are GHG neutral but to up the game the Hazer process could be employed to begin carbon sequestering. Also Synfuels can employ the excess CO2 from biofuels production.

            Ps. If you have any peer reviewed articles on the Hazer technology I would appreciate links since their homepage is rather general.

  6. Miles Harding 3 years ago

    As usual I have to ask what’s going on here??

    It certainly sounds as like these companies are exploiting cheap natural gas, although (micro-)turbines would probably be more efficient and have better service lives.

    Any way you do the maths, fuel cells are poor performers:
    *> If sourced form natural gas, it makes more sense to burn the natural gas directly and not pretend it’s clean or sustainable.
    *> If sourced from (renewable) electricity, the energy cycle requires more than twice as much source energy as does an electric-distribution-battery system.

    Further to this, any fuel cell stack that will fit in a forklift, or passenger car for that matter, is going to be limited to about 30kW, so power beyond this has to be supplied by batteries, which makes these actually electric vehicles with a fuel cell range extender.

    The fork-lift fuel cell argument doesn’t make sense. Lead acid batteries often will need recharging or a battery swap during the day, but lithium should be able to triple or better the operating time, more than enough to get to the end of the day and, if required, fast charging can deliver a 50% charge in about 15 minutes during a lunch or tea break.

    Another ugly feature of FCEVs is a little warning label that says “do not fuel after 10 years”, a wise precaution with ultra-high pressure H2 storage tanks. In additon, I doubt that the fuel cell stack will last longer than this, making the 10-year refit terminal for the vehicle. A great outcome for the car maker, but lousy for second market customers and worse for the environment.

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      As usual I have to ask: what’s going on here??

      It certainly sounds as like these companies are exploiting cheap natural gas, although (micro-)turbines would probably be more efficient and have better service lives.
      + Nope its 100% RE based vehicles

      For road vehicles or fork-lifts, fuel cells are poor performers:

      *> If sourced form natural gas, it makes more sense to burn the natural gas directly and not pretend it’s clean or sustainable.
      + Not going to happen

      *> If sourced from (renewable) electricity, the energy cycle requires more than twice as much source energy as does an electric-distribution-battery system.
      + Interesting viewpoint there since that would require +100% EV efficiency so let us assume your knowledge on the subject is limited.

      Further to this, any fuel cell stack that will fit in a forklift, or passenger car for that matter, is going to be limited to about 30kW, so power beyond this has to be supplied by batteries, which makes these actually electric vehicles with a fuel cell range extender.
      + Exactly

      The fork-lift fuel cell argument doesn’t make sense. Lead acid batteries often will need recharging or a battery swap during the day, but lithium should be able to triple or better the operating time, more than enough to get to the end of the day and, if required, fast charging can deliver a 50% charge in about 15 minutes during a lunch or tea break.
      + The argument is valid for near 100% of the battery driven forklifts in operation and since lithium ion insofar are factors more expensive than Lead acid batteries it does make sense to use the argument.

      Another ugly feature of FCEVs is a little warning label that says “do not fuel after 10 years”, a wise precaution with ultra-high pressure H2 storage tanks. In additon, I doubt that the fuel cell stack will last longer than this, making the 10-year refit terminal for the vehicle. A great outcome for the car maker, but lousy for second market customers and worse for the environment.
      + that is purely speculative arguments you pull there since all pressurized gas containers has this text and all can be approved again.

      https://nikolamotor.com/one does away with each and everyone of your speculations by offering a leasing contract where you basically do not have to worry.

      • nakedChimp 3 years ago

        Li-Ion are not more expensive than LAB.
        That ship has left the port a year ago my friend.

        • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

          I think Porsche is the only car manufacturer to use Li-Ion starter batteries. So smaller, lighter, longer lasting and cheaper and no one else has picked up on that !!

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            An LAB as a starter battery for a car (simple charge controller is always part of car) and no one cares if it packs in after 2-3 years of harsh treatment is not to compare with a (currently low volume) replacement unit that needs to bring a BMS to not burst into flames when it’s being overcharged or overdischarged and needs some balancing from time to time (in a harsh environment).
            You have no idea what you compare here.

            Anyhow, I do run the numbers occasionally and for a off-grid system it’s 1:1 on cost if you compare similarly potent systems with each other.

          • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

            Well actually I do. I have a friend who has build a brand new battery based beverage delivery truck and two friends that developed BEV Jaguars before anyone heard about Tesla and a friend that has a Tesla, a BMWi3 and a self built EV bike in his garage. One of the friends that converted Jaguars into BEV’s was formerly the CTO of the company that developed the first ever Li-On battery for a volume product.

          • nakedChimp 3 years ago

            and none of them build a FCEV or owns one?
            They went BEV?
            And they are still your friends?

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      “Further to this, any fuel cell stack that will fit in a forklift, or passenger car for that matter, is going to be limited to about 30kW, so power beyond this has to be supplied by batteries, which makes these actually electric vehicles with a fuel cell range extender.”

      A modern auto fuel cell packs 100kW and weighs 50kg and H2 tank with 600KM range weighs 89KG full. Added to that to get better accelleration and regen you need a battery.

  7. Christian Wojtysiak 3 years ago

    “The United States is the global leader in fuel cell development…”

    Let’s have a look on that.

    When it comes to fuel cell cars the market leaders are Honda, Toyota and Hyundai.

    Ballard, Hydrogenics and Hyteon are Canadian firms. Proton Power, Intelligent Energy and Ceres Power are based in the UK. SFC and eZelleron are German. Plug Power buys most of their stacks for fork lifts from Ballard. GM relies on Hondas know how.

    Important Hydrogen producers are Iwatani (Japan), Air Liquide (France), Linde (Germany) and NEL (Norway). Leading PtG companies are McPhy (France) and ITM (UK).

    US a global leader in FC technology? Well…

  8. Robert Comerford 3 years ago

    Hydrogen is principally a product of the fossil fuel industry.
    Wake me when it isn’t.

    • MickyJ 3 years ago

      So is electricity, tell me, what is the problem with fossil fuels anyway?

  9. neroden 3 years ago

    Not this garbage again. There are multiple very long debunkings of the “hydrogen fuel” nonsense. Summary: it’s more expensive than batteries and *it always will be*.

    • Jens Stubbe 3 years ago

      Keywords for those “debunking” efforts are old, outdated, speculative.

      Whether or not H2 or other Synfuels will be too expensive relative to batteries is down to a whole lot of fast moving targets. The number one trigger for H2 is the cost of electricity and that one is moving very fast in the favor of H2 and other Synfuels.

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