Alternative Vehicles Compared

Our goal:To evaluate and compare alternatives to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, biofuels, hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.

What’s wrong with existing cars? Gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles are polluting our planet while consuming nonrenewable fossil fuels.  The three major threats to society caused in large part by motor vehicles are:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Dependence on Imported Oil
  • Urban Air Pollution

What are the alternatives? What’s best for society?

This web site evaluates and compares each of these alternative vehicles .

Our analysis methodology: Over the last 20 years we have developed a dynamic computer simulation model to compare the various vehicle options over the entire 21st century, estimating the greenhouse gas pollution, oil consumption and urban air pollution and total societal costs for each alternative vehicle and fuel combination. Our model uses the Argonne Nat’l Laboratory GREET model to predict greenhouse gas pollution, oil consumption and urban air pollution, using input data that we have provided over the 21st century to account for constantly improving vehicle efficiency and changing sources for electricity and for hydrogen production.

Our main conclusion for the long-term: To meet our societal goals, we will have to convert most vehicles to all-electric operation over the next few decades, eventually eliminating most internal combustion engines.  These all-electric vehicles will be powered  either by advanced batteries or by hydrogen-powered fuel cells or, most likely, by both.  Relying only on battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will not be sufficient to reduce GHGs to 80% below 1990 levels as recommended by the climate change community.

Our main conclusion for the near-term: The global imperatives to cut pollution and dependence on fossil fuels are so urgent that we cannot afford to pick winners and losers now.  We need a sustained multi-decade national & global commitment to vigorously pursue all of the above transportation options. We must proceed full steam ahead developing hybrids, plug-in hybrids, biofuels, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles, along with the necessary electrical charging network and hydrogen infrastructure required to support these alternative vehicles. To do less would be putting our children and grandchildren at grave risk. Even in the relatively near-term (2025 to 2030), introducing FCEVs would cut GHGs more by 2030 than deploying PHEVS such as the Chevy
Volt, and FCEVs would cut oil consumption more than PHEVs, even though the FCEVs enter the market 5 to 7 years later than PHEVs

 

Periodic Updates

We will be adding new analyses and links to new data and reports periodically.  Click here if you would like to receive notices of updates. (promise: no more than once or twice a month!)

 Key Results

To skip all the gory details, click on these links to see the results for:

Or use these links to see detailed comparisons of batteries and fuel cells in terms of:

 

 What’s new?

8/15/2013; Electric vehicles disparaged in IEEE Spectrum article; The July issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) normally well-respected technical journal Spectrum included a highly biased article “Unclean at any Speed”  which purports to show that both BEVs and FCEVs are worse for the environment than ordinary gasoline vehicles.  The author, Ozzie Zehner,  “proved” that BEVs and FCEVs are worse than ICVs by quoting data from a 2010 National Academies of Science paper that only included the societal costs due to local air pollution. He did not include any assessment of the societal costs such as climate change caused by GHGs or the economic or military costs of protecting our imported oil.  My rebuttal to the Spectrum article is included here, where I estimate that local air pollution accounts for only 10% to 16% of the total societal costs of operating a motor vehicle. (Thanks to Barney Rush for bringing this article to my attention.)  Mr. Zehner should be congratulated for a very creative approach to demonstrating that BEVs and FCEVs are worse than gasoline vehicles!

 

7/14/2013; Several interesting summer hydrogen happenings:

1. Mobility Hydrogen France
2. So
me quotes from John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America’s President and C.E.O::
    ‘”We’re very bullish on fuel cells;” There are a lot of data points about hydrogen being a better final solution in terms of well-to-wheels sustainability. There’s also a slight efficiency advantage over electrics.” And it comes down to the fact that you’re carrying around 1,000 pounds of batteries that weigh the same empty or full. There’s so much inherent waste and inefficiency in that concept. “Another thing that doesn’t get mentioned much with battery cars is energy loss when the vehicle is sitting unused. If you leave the car parked, it will lose one percent of its energy per day. Those losses multiplied across the entire fleet would be overwhelming, and it’s one reason the scale gets tilted towards the fuel cell.”
3.  Honda CEO w/r to GM/Honda H2 FCEV cooperation:
''Among all zero CO2 emission technologies, fuel cell electric vehicles have a definitive advantage with range and refuelling time that is as good as conventional gasoline cars,'' said Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

4. EU public/private partnership promises $261M per year H2 money for 7 years or a total of $1.82 Billion (1.4 billion Euros before 2020

5/14/2013; DOE announces the H2-USA public-private partnership to promote hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)

David Danielson, the DOE’s Assistant Secretary for EERE announced the H2-USA partnership at the DOE’s 2013 Annual Merit Review. Current signatories of the partnership include the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association,  the American Gas Association; the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Association of Global Automakers; individual auto OEMs including American Honda Motor Corporation; BMW of North America; Chrysler; Ford; GM; Hyundai Kia Automotive Group; Mercedes-Benz USA; Nissan of N. America; Toyota N. America; Volkswagen; several industrial gas companies and fuel cell & electrolyzer companies. The lead signatory on the H2USA letter of understanding  is out-going Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.

The preamble in the letter states that “Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have been identified as one technology and fuel combination that offers tremendous promise in a portfolio of technologies required for a sustainable, clean energy future.  FCEVs can play a key role in an “all-of-the-above” strategy to provide vehicles that customers will want to buy; enable energy, environmental and economic security for the United Stations; and create jobs in an American-led clean energy industry.” The letter goes on to say that “The mission of H2USA is to promote the commercial introduction and widespread adoption of FCEVs across America through the creation of a public-private partnership to overcome the hurdle of establishing hydrogen infrastructure.”

This is certainly a welcome shift in direction by the Department of Energy from four years ago.

 

4/26/2013; NRC Report substantiates superiority of FCEVs for GHG reduction.

You would not know it from their “findings,” (that are silent on the issue), but the latest NRC report on alternative vehicles confirms that FCEVs are needed to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  Here are the NRC’s ratings for several of their alternative vehicles and fuels, ranked in order of best GHG reductions by 2050:

 

Oil Reduction

GHG Reduction

FCEV (opt) +biofuels + LC

-100%

-90%

FCEV + PEV + biofuels +LC

-100%

-87%

FCEV + biofuels

-100%

-86%

Eff + biofuels

-86%

-78%

PEV(opt)+biofuels+LC

-89%

-76%

PEV + biofuels

-94%

-75%

CNGV + biofuels

-100%

-62%

Ref Case

-27%

-22%

LC = Low Carbon electricity or hydrogen; PEV = BEVs + PHEVs; opt = optimistic technology Eff= high efficiency conventional ICVs

The top three scenarios are the only ones that achieve the goal of cutting GHGs by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, and all three include FCEVs.  PEVs (combination of BEVs and PHEVs) cannot achieve the goal, even with biofuels (-76%), nor can NGVs with biofuels (only -62% reduction). The NRC report also has some interesting data on alternative vehicle mass production costs, as summarized in this review article.  They conclude that FCEVs could cost less than regular passenger cars by 2040 to 2050, or even by 2030 in the optimistic case.

4/17/2013; Obama Administration support for hydrogen and fuel cells grows

What a difference four years makes!  In their first request to Congress, the Obama Administration attempted to zero out all funding for hydrogen and fuel cells; this year they have requested $100 million for the H2 & FC budget for FY-2014, down slightly from the $104.3 million allowed under the FY ’13 continuing resolution (CR), but greater than the $80 million they requested for FY ‘13.  Recent funding levels are shown in this table (in US$ Millions) along with the FY’14 request:

(US$ Millions)

FY’12current

FY’13 Request

FY13 CR

FY’14 Request

H2 & FCs

101.3

80

104.26

100

Vehicle Tech.

320.9

420

330.8

575

The breakout of the DOE’s H2 & FC budget is shown in this table:

(US$ Millions)

FY’12

FY’13 Request

FY’14 Request

FC R&D

43.6

38

37.5

H2 fuel R&D

33.8

27

38.5

Manufacturing R&D

1.94

2

4

Systems Analysis

3

3

3

Tech Validation

8.97

5

6

Safety, Codes & Standards

6.94

5

7

Market Trans.

3

0

3

NREL Site Wide Facility Support

0

0

1

     Totals

101.3

80

100

Of course with the Congress looking for all avenues to cut discretionary funding, these requests may not survive the budget process, but starting at $100 million is sure better than zero!!

The large increase in the request for Vehicle Technologies from $330 to $575 million includes $240.2 million for batteries and electric drive systems that will also benefit fuel cell electric vehicles.

3/30/2013; WHite House includes FCEVs in “Energy Security Trust”

The White House has proposed the establishment of a $2 billion, 10-year ‘Energy Security Trust’ program to support vehicle developments in four areas:

    1. Natural gas vehicle tanks (which should apply to hydrogen storage, too)
    2. Advanced batteries (also needed for FCEVs)
    3. Cleaner biofuels, and
    4. Hydrogen fuel cells and breakthrough technologies


Funding for this program will come from oil and gas revenues. So it appears that the White House is including FCEVs in their second-term plans.
 

3/18/2013; FCEV developments

Several major automobile companies have announced intentions to further develop  or manufacture FCEVs:

  1. Hyundai announced that it  started mass production of FCEVs in February, 2013 and plans to manufacture 1,000 FCEVs by 2015, with sales starting in Denmark
  2. Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, the “father of the Prius”  has reportedly stated that FCEVs have “far more promise” than BEVs; Toyota is teaming with BMW to jointly develop FCEV powertrains
  3. Ford is teaming with Nissan and Daimler to develop  FCEVs with a stated goal to make FCEVs “affordable” by 2017.
  4. Meanwhile the UKH2Mobility group has projected that there may be 1.5 million FCEVs in the UK by 2030, which corresponds to 4.2% of all UK LDVs in 2010 (31.1M cars and 4.2M LD trucks.  Scaling to the US (119 cars and 121M LD trucks), this would represent 10 million US FCEVs.
  • 9/26/2012; Enthusiasm for BEVs is waning Toyota and Hyundai have both announced that they are scaling back plans for selling battery electric vehicles.

9/14/12; New web page version This web page has been totally revised and updated. Main changes include:

  • switching to the 2012_1 version of the Argonne National Laboratory GREET model to calculate GHG emissions and oil consumption,
  • updating the projections of new cars sold and annual vehicle miles traveled to match the latest (post Great Recession) data in the Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Annual Energy outlook. The new AEO projections show slower growth in VMT that reduces GHG emissions and oil consumption in all alternative vehicle scenarios.
  • Updating the EIA’s projections of fuel costs (for gasoline, natural gas and electricity) through 2035 in their latest AEO 2012 reference case.
  • Revising the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market penetration levels to match new analysis (See table 6 of this paper) showing that BEVs could at best replace less than 40% of all US light duty vehicles (the previous model assumed that BEVs could replace all sedans, all pickup trucks, all vans and all SUVs.)

The results of these changes are summarized in this short paper that summarizes our major findings with regard to the relative capability of various alternative vehicles to ameliorate our energy security and environmental problems.

6/20/12; Germany announces funding for 50 Hydrogen stations by 2015Reiner Wurster of LBST announced that the German government and industry have agreed to increase the number of hydrogen stations from 15 today to 50 by 2015, when 5,000 FCEVs are expected in Germany. Since the US has 254 million vehicles compared to 53.6 million in Germany, 50 stations in Germany might be equivalent to 230 stations in the US. But with regional hydrogen station hubs in urban areas, far fewer hydrogen stations will suffice to get the hydrogen + FCEV enterprise going.

6/11/2012; Good news from Toronto: Ford rejoins the FCEV club! The Ford Motor Company was an early developer of FCEVs.  (My first professional job in H2 & FCEVs began in 1993 when Ford hired my previous employer Directed Technologies, Inc. to provide technical assistance to Ford in their cost-shared contract with the US DOE to develop FCEVs; DTI was responsible for analyzing onboard hydrogen storage, hydrogen safety and hydrogen infrastructure.) Ford went on to develop and build 30 FCEVs on the Focus glider that became part of the 183 FCEVs tested under the DOE’s technical validation project though 2010. These 30 Focus FCEVs have accumulated 1.3 million miles or an average of 43,300 per vehicle (How far do you think the average prototype ICV traveled in their first road tests?). According to Ford 26 of the 30 Focus FCEVs are still on the road.  They also built what may be the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) made by an OEM: it was a plug-in FCEV built on the Ford Edge glider. But more recently Ford has emphasized BEVs and conventional ICE PHEVs, apparently emphasizing the wishes of the Obama administration.  Ford did not announce plans to introduce FCEVs by 2015 like many other OEMs.

Speaking at the 19th World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) in Toronto last week, however, Chris Gearhart of Ford announced that Ford had returned to the “hydrogen circuit” after a long absence.  Ford was a Gold sponsor of the WHEC conference, the only OEM to do so (DOE was also a Gold sponsor, while Daimler was a Platinum sponsor, and GM, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Nissan were all vehicle sponsors.) Gearhart explained that Ford has developed a corporate sustainability glidepath with continuously decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their vehicles over time.  He said that Ford has three fuel options: fossil fuels with improved ICE efficiency, electricity from fossil fuels with CCS, and hydrogen.  Gearhart stated that “hydrogen is the most attractive fuel for low-carbon vehicles” that can meet customer’s expectations and that Ford must have a fleet of FCEVs ready by 2020 to stay on their corporate CO2 reduction glidepath.

FC Lift trucks. Another WHEC highlight was the continuing commercial success of hydrogen-powered material handling equipment such as fork-lift trucks. Plug Power announced that they sold 360 FC lift trucks in 2008, 524 in 2009, 543 in 2010 and 2,053 in 2011 and are on their way to profitability by the end of the year based primarily on FC lift truck sales. Meanwhile Wal-Mart announced success of FC lift trucks in a Canadian greenfield refrigerated warehouse, where the $1.89 million investment in the FC lift trucks and hydrogen fueling equipment will provide an annual savings of $683,824 compared to using battery lift trucks due to the elimination of three people to change batteries, the elimination of a battery room, and the increased productivity of fueling the FC lift trucks in 2 minutes compared to 11 minutes to recharge batteries and due to the constant high power of the FC compared to the decreasing power available from batteries over a shift. These annual savings will provide a 21% internal rate of return for the $1.89 million investment, above their 17% hurdle rate.

WHEC attendance: another good sign: despite the global economic downturn, 1,200 people from around the world managed to attend the conference.

The only downside for me was the discovery that the Canadian government has apparently diminished their support for hydrogen and FCs. The politics North and South of the border are intriguing and asymmetrical: [The US liberal government tried to eliminate all H2 & FC funding, apparently because it was a conservative agenda promoted by President Bush (At least the Obama administration has never offered any rational reason to drop FCEV support in favor of BEVs and PHEVs, and even after three years in power, they have offered no roadmap or white paper showing how BEVs and PHEVs could possibly achieve our environmental and energy security goals.); Meanwhile, North of the border, Canada’s liberal government has supported H2 & FCs for many years with a very strong group of Canadian companies leading the charge; but when the conservative government came to power, they curtailed much of the former liberal government support for hydrogen.] Just proves once again that politicians should not be making energy policy.

 

5/18/12; Secretary Chu’s new-found support of hydrogen mentioned in the press. John Hofmeister, the ex-President of Shell Oil and the new Chairman of the DOE’s Hydrogen and fuel cell Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC) has mentioned Secretary Chu’s change of heart regarding hydrogen and FCEVs publicly in a Slate article.

5/10/12 DOE Secretary Chu praises hydrogen.Secretary Chu, addressing the HTAC Hydrogen Production Expert Panel Subcommittee on May 10, 2012, acknowledged the benefits of hydrogen and fuel cells. He now sees that hydrogen has a role to play in storing electricity which may enable greater penetration of intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. He acknowledges that the newly discovered shale gas reserves provide a good source of relatively low-cost hydrogen in the near term. After meeting with the major automobile companies, Dr. Chu now believes that the car companies are sincerely developing FCEVs as the next generation vehicle, and are not developing FCEVs as “green-washing” to demonstrate their commitment to low-carbon transportation. He acknowledged that FCEVs can travel 300 miles today without further breakthroughs in technology, and can be refueled in minutes instead of hours.

5/42012 Senate Appropriations adds $24 million to Hydrogen Technologies. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill that passed the full committee by a vote of 28 to 1 on 4/26/12  includes $104 million for hydrogen technologies, restoring the $24 million reduction in the Administration’s request for FY 2013 compared to FY 2012. The Senate report 112-164 language includes these instructions: ”Within this total funding, $14,000,000 is for Technology Validation focused on passenger vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure applications where vehicles will be deployed, $34,000,000 is for hydrogen fuels R&D, and $15,000,000 is for Market Transformation for cost-shared advanced demonstration and deployment of early market stationary power and motive applications including material handling equipment, ground support equipment, refrigerated trucks, auxiliary power units and the associated hydrogen infrastructure.” continuing the emphasis on vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure that was in report language that was included last year(See 9/17/11 entry below).

4/16/2012; Japan spending $240 million on hydrogen and fuel cells (vs. $104M for DOE in FY 2012) Almost half of this amount ($112M) is for the ENE-FARM home stationary fuel cell system running on city gas (mostly methane) that provides heat (hot water) and electricity (250 to 750 Watts) with 41% efficiency at a cost of $8,771, but they are also planning on spending $37.7 million on hydrogen infrastructure and vehicle demonstrations, according to Fuelcells2000.  See this link for press report.

2/11/2012; New analysis shows that, averaged over the entire U.S.. both BEVs and PHEVs would increase GHG emissions compared to gasoline HEVs.A new analysis based on the regional estimates of the marginal US electrical grid mixes by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, combined with the estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and oil consumption by the Argonne National Laboratory GREET Model shows that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will both increase GHG emissions compared to gasoline hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), when averaged over the entire US according to the number of light duty vehicles in each region, while fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will decrease GHGs by 25.3% as summarized in the following table

Percent change in GHG emissions and petroleum consumption relative to gasoline HEVs

 

BEV

PHEV

FCEV

% GHG change

+7.4%

+10%

-25.3%

% oil change

-92.4%

-36.3%

-99.4%

 

 

 

Note: the table above assumes that ALL gasoline HEVs are replaced by BEVs or PHEVs; it does not take into consideration the limited market potential of small BEVs.  As described in the 7/1/11 post below, we are projecting that BEVs will be limited to a 7.9% reduction in GHGs based on the limited number of US vehicles that could be affordably replaced by BEVs using batteries that meet the USABC long-term goals.

For the detailed derivation of these projections and a comparison with the overly optimistic PHEV GHG projections published by Scientific American, see this report.

9/17/2011 It’s Official: the DOE’s hydrogen and FC Budget has been approved at $104 million for FY 2012, a $6 million increase over last year and $3.6 million more than DOE requested.

The Senate voted 67 to 32 to approve the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that provides funding for the DOE through September 30, 2012. The House passed the bill yesterday by a vote of 296 to 121, showing that Congress can still pass some legislation.

 Hydrogen and fuel cells did remarkably well in the conference between the House and Senate: the $104 million for the DOE’s hydrogen and fuel cell budget is $3.6 million more than Secretary Chu requested ($100.5 million), and $6 million more than last year’s level at $98 million. This level is also $9.3 million more than the average of the Senate mark at $98 million and the House mark at $91.5 million (the conferees between the Senate and House often take the average of their two marks.) Hydrogen with a 3.5% increase over the DOE’s request did much better in conference than biomass, solar or wind, which were cut by 41%, 37% and 27% respectively below their requests. For full details on the appropriations marks for various alternative energy programs, see this chart.  In addition, the bill includes “no less than” $25 million for the SECA solid oxide fuel cell program, which Secretary Chu attempted to zero out.

Furthermore, the strong language in the Senate Energy & Water appropriations report effectively survived in conference.  (In normal times, Congress passes 26 appropriations bills each year, 13 in the House and 13 in the Senate.  Each bill is accompanied by a report that expresses the intent of Congress. While report language is not legally binding, any executive branch that ignores report language does so at their own peril.) The conferees between the House and the Senate usually issue their own report that will modify the report language from the two Houses of Congress.

This is not a “normal” year, with Congress failing to pass an independent Energy & Water bill. But the omnibus appropriations conference report, the “Joint Explanation Statement of the committee of conference.” specifically states that any language in the House or Senate reports that is not explicitly modified will be treated as accepted by the conferees.  The omnibus conference report did include 23 paragraphs that modified some language in either the House or Senate reports for other programs, but there was no mention of hydrogen or fuel cells.

Therefore the strong hydrogen and FC language in the Senate report has survived. This language, effectively promoted by James Warner, who works for the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), states that the committee: “recognizes the progress and achievements of the Fuel Cell Technologies program. The program has met or exceeded all benchmarks, and has made significant progress in decreasing costs and increasing efficiency and durability of fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems. Further, the Committee believes fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems for stationary, transportation and other motive, mobile and portable power applications have the potential to enable clean and efficient use of our domestic energy resources. The Committee affirms its support for stable and continued funding for these programs now and in the future. Within the available funds, the Committee recommends funding is provided for Technology Validation focused on passenger vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure applications, hydrogen fuels R&D, and for Market Transformation in early markets," (emphasis added for the support of the Tech Val program that has successfully tested more than 150 FCEVs that have accumulated over 3 million miles of on-road travel by ordinary citizens, including more than 25,000 refuelings with high pressure hydrogen with an average fueling time of 4.4 minutes.

Congratulations to Morry Markowitz and his team at FCHEA for a very significant victory in the legislative process.

9/27/2011; DOE Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) discovers Hydrogen!

As you may recall, the original draft five-year QTR from DOE never mentioned hydrogen or fuel cells, much to our collective consternation (see 7/13/11 entry below). Many of us responded that Hydrogen and fuel cells should at least be included in any five-year DOE energy plan. We did succeed to some degree:

  • The final draft QTR document released today mentions “hydrogen” 17 times! and “fuel cell” 15 times.
  • The glossary at the end of the document defines “EV’s” as including HEVs, PHEVs, AEVs (all-electric vehicles, their new term for battery electric vehicles-BEVs) and FCEVs. (however, see first bullet below on remaining negative aspects).
  • The “Vehicle Electrification” chapter on page 45 includes EVs “powered by batteries or fuel cells.”
  • Doug Nelson, the professor at Virginia Tech who has been developing and utilizing fuel cell technologies for years has his picture on page 45, along with his Virginia Tech students who won the 2011 EcoCar Challenge.
  • On page 51, the QTR lists two challenges for EVs: cost and range anxiety, but it notes that only AEVs (BEVs) suffer from range anxiety [but see bullet #2 below.]
  • One main conclusion from the QTR is that the DOE has “underinvested” in transportation in favor of stationary energy, and that they should increase emphasis on transportation.

But the QTR final report still has serious shortcomings:

  • Page 28- the paragraph describing electrification of the vehicle fleet does not mention hydrogen or fuel cells [nor does an “out-of-the box” box on the next page.], leaving the impression that the President’s goal of having one million EVs on the road by 2015 refers only to BEVs and PHEVs,although the glossary at the end of the document does include FCEVs under the definition of “EVs”.
  • Table 2 comparing various EVs lists the range of BEVs/AEVs as 80 to 250 miles (has anyone seen a BEV with 250 miles range (other than an electric bike?!) while the FCEV range is listed as >250 miles, leaving the impression that there is not much difference in range between BEVs and FCEVs.
  • The QTR has a section on “clean electricity: but none on “clean hydrogen,” ignoring the fact that renewable hydrogen with negative GHG emissions is already available at the Fountain Valley, California waste water treatment plant hydrogen fueling station.
  • The QTR lists  only 58 hydrogen stations in the US compared to 2,449 public charging stations, leaving the impression that electric infrastructure is closer to widespread deployment than hydrogen infrastructure. [there is no discussion of infrastructure costs, including the fact that the Obama administration has already spent billions on a small number of electrical outlets & our analysis showing that the average cost of an electrical outlet for a BEV is $24,800/BEV to $27,520/BEV while the cost for hydrogen infrastructure for a FCEV averages out to $2,432/FCEV, as summarized here.
  • The QTR does not address the projected long-term cost advantage of FCEVs over BEVs as summarized here.
  • The  QTR does not discuss the role for fuel cells as distributed electrical generators.
  • One key section that telegraphs DOE’s intentions on FCEVs: on page 53, after acknowledging “significant progress on fuel cell research in recent years, the report goes on to say that “significant further improvements in key technologies remain to be demonstrated to meet program objectives[for FCEVs]. if those goals are met, the cost of driving (vehicle plus fuel) for FCEVs will likely be comparable to other alternative technologies (including vehicle efficiency improvements, electrification from HEVs to PHEVs to AEVs [BEVs], and biofuels).” and then this sentence to justify continued emphasis on BEVs, PHEVs & biofuels:  “However, those other alternative technologies are currently economically superior and will continue to improve rapidly.”

Bottom line: this document, while at least acknowledging that hydrogen and FCEVs exist, gives no indication of any shift in DOE policy to actively pursue hydrogen infrastructure to advance the planned 2015 rollout of FCEVs by the auto companies. It appears that the DOE is planning to move full-speed ahead with BEVs and PHEVs, while for the most part leaving FCEVs up to private industry.

The full QTR report is available here.

8/25/2011; another good news/bad news story.  The good news: a courageous reporter challenged the government’s decision to subsidize BEVs and PHEVs:

Nobody knows for sure which type of alternative energy vehicles -- hybrids, EVs or fuel-cell vehicles -- has the best chance to succeed. Each type of powertrain has its pluses and minuses.

This is why global automakers like General Motors Co. and Daimler AG continue to develop fuel-cell powered vehicles and conventional hybrids along with their EVs and plug-ins.

Instead of favoring a particular technology, the government should simply subsidize fuel-efficient vehicles - regardless of the type of powertrain. The government should let the market decide which technology is best.”

The not-so-good-news: the reporter , Yang Jian, was referring to the Chinese government subsidies for BEVs and PHEVs (which makes his reporting even more courageous.)

8/25/2011 Has Steven Chu gone soft on hydrogen? After a brief tour of hydrogen and fuel cell projects at the University of South Carolina, Secretary Chu reportedly said that “I am very excited about what I have seen today.”  He went on to say that “there are some people who felt I was trying to get rid of fuel cells, totally altogether, This is absolutely not true.” [As a reminder: Sec Chu proposed to zero out all funding for hydrogen and FCs in his first submission to Congress in 2009; in his latest submission to Congress for FY 2012, he proposed cutting the program from $170.3 million down to $100.5 million.] In 2009, Senator Byron Dorgan, then chairman of the appropriations subcommittee of energy and water that sets H2 & FC budgets, restored most of the hydrogen funding, but the new chairwoman, Diane Feinstein, seems comfortable rubber-stamping the recommendations of her fellow Californian, Steven Chu.

Congratulations to the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina hydrogen and fuel cell alliance, and representative Jim Clyburn for helping Sec Chu see the virtues of the program he loves to hate. (but hates to be seen as opposing!) He also stated that “ We still want to fund R&D of these fuel cells”  (as long as the applications are limited to backup power, material handling equipment, and do not compete with the administration’s infatuation with BEVs and PHEVs!)

8/18/2011: Steve Chalk comments on opening of renewable hydrogen station in Fountain Valley, California. Steve Chalk, a Deputy Assistant Secretary at DOE, commented on the opening of the hydrogen fueling station in Fountain Valley California. The hydrogen is derived from the Orange County Sanitation District’s waste water treatment plant. The anaerobic digester gas from the waste runs a Fuel Cell Energy 250-kW molten carbonate stationary fuel cell that produces electricity for the plant, and waste heat for the digester tanks, thereby cutting greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating grid electricity and natural gas to heat the tanks. The fuel cell does not utilize all the digester gas energy, so hydrogen can also be derived to run fuel cell electric vehicles by cleaning up the fuel cell output gas stream with an Air Products PSA (pressure swing adsorption) system. Chalk commented that "By providing the added value of electricity and heat, this approach provides a significant step in overcoming economic challenges with hydrogen refueling infrastructure," He also said that "Innovations like this demonstrate how American ingenuity and targeted investment can accelerate breakthroughs in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry while driving the clean energy economy forward,"  see full UPI report “US hails clean fueling breakthrough

8/1/2011; EPA/NHTSA/CARB report suports Obama Administration push for BEVs and PHEVs. Greg Moreland pointed out the EPA joint assessment report that supports the new CAFE fuel economy standards. While this report does include hydrogen and FCEVs, the emphasis is clearly on BEVs and PHEVs:

  1. Their market penetration shows zero FCEVs by 2025, while BEVs achieve 14% to 20% market penetration, despite the fact that the OEMs stated that FCEVs would be cost competitive with BEVs by 2020, and a survey of OEMs revealed that they plan to deploy 44,706 FCEVs in California alone in the 2015 to 2017 time period.  If other state programs materialize, then FCEVs could achieve significant market penetration.
  2. The report provides useful data on electrical and hydrogen infrastructure costs, but they do not connect the dots.  For example, the Federal government spent $1.2 billion for electrical outlets under the ARRA program. The weighted average government cost of outlets was $91,626/BEV according to their data (excluding any company cost-share for these outlets). For comparison their listed hydrogen infrastructure costs worked out to $15,200 to $16,300 per FCEV. In other words, the electrical outlets cost 5.6 to 6 times more per vehicle than the hydrogen infrastructure. [needless to say, they did not point out these comparisons!]
  3. The $1.2 billion government investment will support approximately 13,000 BEVs and PHEVs. If this same investment were made in hydrogen stations, then 61,000 to 78,300 FCEVs could be supported.
  4. Finally, using Argonne National Lab/DOE GHG data, these FCEVs would cut GHGs by 6 to 7.6 times more than the cuts from deploying BEVs. [again, the EPA report failed to point out these facts, given that they have chosen to ignore science with their fake GHG listing of zero for BEVs by counting only tailpipe emissions, ignoring all the CO2 spewing from coal and natural gas power plants used to charge BEVs and PHEVs.]

For details of these calculations, see this report.

7/29/2011; White House announcement of new fuel economy standards includes FCEVs.  Peter Hoffmann points out that the White House announcement of the new 54.5 mpg fuel economy standard includes a statement that the EPA and NHTSA in coordination with California, will consider incentives for “game changing performance improvements”, including:

  • Incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cells vehicles;

7/13/2011; QTR Progress. (the draft DOE Quadrennial Technology Report (QTR) did not even mention hydrogen or fuel cell electric vehicles) Thanks to all of you who wrote to DOE and pointed out this “oversight”, the latest version apparently will at least mention hydrogen, although maybe not in a positive light. Today Steve Koonin, the DOE Undersecretary for Science, charged with organizing the QTR, held a public “Capstone workshop,” with four panels. The first panel was on transportation, but, incredibly, the panel did not include any representative from the automobile industry! Panel members were from ConocoPhillips, Delphi (which DOE may have considered representing the auto industry since Delphi provides auto parts), DuPont and A123, the battery company (who told Sig Gronich privately after the public session that no automobile company was developing FCEVs!!). Sig Gronich (who flew in from Hawaii specifically for this meeting...Thanks, Sig), Ruth Cox and I all made positive hydrogen & FCEV statements in the Q&A session. As a result, the transportation panel members used the “H” word at least 5 or 10 times in the subsequent discussion, and none of the comments were overtly derogatory toward hydrogen. {I presented two results from the McKinsey & Company report on alternative vehicles in Europe [see 11/9/2010 post below]: their conclusion that FCEVs would cost less to own and operate than either BEVs or PHEVs by 2030 when all vehicles were mass-produced, and I also mentioned their result that installing electrical outlets for BEVs and PHEVs would cost 5.4 times more than adding hydrogen infrastructure for the entire EU. My question: have any of the panel members read this seminal work on transportation alternatives? (No)...a staffer then asked me to send a copy for the panel to review.}

Secretary Chu attended the luncheon and delivered a nondescript presentation.  Prompted by an aide, he then suddenly asked for questions (which was not on the agenda).  One of the panel members from the stationary energy panel asked the Secretary basically why he favored only one solution: (battery) electric vehicles? The Secretary looked offended by that suggestion, and lamely commented that the DOE is supporting hydrogen (disingenuous at best, since he proposed eliminating all funding for hydrogen in his first budget submission to congress in 2009; funding was partially restored only because of Senator Dorgan, who was at the time the Chairman of the Senate Energy & Water subcommittee of Appropriations, a position now held by Senator Feinstein who seems content with rubber-stamping anything Secretary Chu, a fellow Californian, proposes.

At this point Sig Gronich jumped up to ask another question of the Secretary, but Steve Koonin, probably sensing another pro-hydrogen question, suddenly reminded the Secretary that he had another meeting, and they cut off questioning before Sig could ask his question.

Bottom line, we don’t know what the QTR will say about hydrogen and FCEVs (this may be a case of us not being careful what we ask for!), but at least it will apparently no longer be silent on the issue.

 7/1/2011;PHEV limits: I have extended the analysis from the post below to cover both BEVs and now PHEV-40’s like the Chevy Volt. Correction from the last post: Steve Plotkin noticed several inconsistencies in my last tables on BEVs, which I have corrected. The major change is that BEVs replacing all small cars and trucks could reduce GHGs in the US in 2015 by 9.3% instead of the 4.9% reduction reported previously. The corrected analysis can be downloaded in the previous post below.

The new results from the PHEV analysis are summarized in this table, showing the maximum possible percentage reductions in GHGs and oil consumption if all US cars were replaced by the following alternative vehicles: (these values pertain to the 2011 to 2035 time period based on AEO 2011 projections for the electrical grid; all hydrogen is made from natural gas for these numbers, all derived from the Argonne National Laboratory GREET 1.8_d_0 model:

 

GHG’s

Oil Use

FCEVs

-51.2%

-99.6%

BEVs-only

-7.9%

-24.5%

PHEVs-only

-25%

-53.5%

BEVs + PHEVs

-26.6%

-64.7%

 

 

 

 

Therefore, even if all US vehicles (cars, trucks, vans and SUVs) were replaced by PHEVs, GHGs could only be reduced by 24.6%, and oil consumption by 56.1%. The combined BEV + PHEV case assumes that all small cars and trucks and 50% of all midsize sedans were replaced by BEVs, and all other cars and trucks were replaced by PHEVs.

The details and derivations of these numbers are provided in this report, which also includes results for future fuels from biomass and from zero-carbon grids such as nuclear power.[For a 3-page summary of these results, see this report.] We conclude that hydrogen made by gasifying woody plants would produce the least future GHGs at only 2 grams of CO2-eq. per mile, although dimethyl ether (DME) made from biomass and used in a diesel engine PHEV-40 comes in a close second at 4 grams/mile.  One other very promising option of making hydrogen from anaerobic digester gas such as the MCFC system installed at the Orange County Sanitation District in Fountain Valley, California has the potential to produce renewable hydrogen with negative GHGs, since the stationary fuel cell displaces grid electricity used to run the WWTP and also displaces natural gas used to heat the digester vessel.

6/30/2011 NEW BEV FINDINGS: I have completed a new analysis of the types of vehicles on the road in the US, stimulated by the McKinsey & Company report that showed that 50% of all cars in the EU that generate 75% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are either too big or travel too fat to be affordably powered by batteries, and hence fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will be required to substantially cut GHGs and oil consumption.  This new assessment for the US shows that even if battery electric vehicles (BEVs) replace all small cars, all small vans, all small wagons, all small pickup trucks,all small SUVs and 50% of midsize sedans, then BEVs will still  account for less than:

  • 40% of all vehicles on the road
  • 28% of all vehicle miles traveled
  • 26% of gasoline consumed
  • 9% of all GHGs from light duty vehicles in 2015
  • and less than 26% of all GHGs even with a carbon-free electrical grid.

Therefore we will need hydrogen-powered FCEVs to achieve our nation’s GHG and oil reduction goals. For the details of this assessment, see this report. (Note that this assessment will impact all of the GHG charts on this web site, which will have to be revised to account for limiited BEV market penetration potential.)

6/19/2011; two more positive articles: Two recent articles have directly challenged the decision of Secretary Chu to slash the hydrogen and FCEV budget. The first article, By Alan Ohnsman and Brian Wingfield is a well-researched article for Bloomberg that quotes several individuals questioning the Chu decision.  [Essentially a well-documented “the emperor has no clothes” article (or maybe, more appropriately, “the physicist has no theory that could rationally exclude hydrogen and FCEVs compared to BEVs and PHEVs.”(by the way, don’t try to analyze the article headline, which is most convoluted and perplexing; just read the article!] This article includes scathing comments from Mary Nichols (chairwoman of CARB) stating that Chu’s “explanations don’t make sense to me.  They are not based on the facts as we know them.” And from Bob Shaw, current chairman of the Hydrogen and fuel cell technical advisory committee set up by Congress to advise the Secretary: “Why is it that the Secretary can’t look at the data, look at the facts and arrive at the same conclusion that his own advisory committee has reached?” [the article also notes that the Secretary has not met with the committee despite being on the job for more than two years, and the Secretary declined to be interviewed for the article.]

To provide balance, the article does offer a quote from Joe Romm in support of Chu’s decision to cut hydrogen funding. Romm offered the lame and uninformative opinion that “It’s just not a good use of taxpayer funds.”

The article does repeat the frequent misleading claim that FCEVs still cost $1 million, without noting that both MIT and McKinsey have projected that, once mass-produced, FCEVs will cost less than BEVs and PHEVs.

The second article quotes Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, who stated that “Zero emissions will not come with hybrids -- they will be fueled initially by batteries and eventually by batteries and fuel cells. The CEO predicted that fuel cells will be part of the automotive picture "within the next ten years."

6/6/2011; Another positive article: This article describes the GM FCEV program and the efforts of a New York Assemblyman (Joseph Morelle) to use state, federal and energy industry cost-shared funding to build more hydrogen stations in the NY area.  This gives us renewed hope that state initiatives in NY, California and Hawaii (& maybe S. Carolina?) may provide sufficient US hydrogen infrastructure to demonstrate the efficacy of FCEVs at the regional level despite renewed efforts by Secretary Chu to eliminate the DOE hydrogen and FCEV programs, These US state initiatives may complement deployments in Germany, Japan, and Korea.

6/3/2011; Refreshing new article: See this link for a candid and thorough comparison of hydrogen and electricity. For example, the author, Richard Blackburn, reports that: “But in recent months, it seems that the car industry is beginning to realise the limitations of a plug-in future. There’s just no way around the fact that battery vehicles simply aren’t up to the task of replacing the family car.

“Even their staunchest advocates admit they are likely to be a second car for affluent families for the foreseeable future. The bottom line is that no-one can build a battery-powered car that can be both affordable and able to cover sufficient kilometres to overcome buyer anxiety about their car limping to a stop several kilometres short of its destination”

“They may work as city runabouts, but as a replacement for the trusty Commodore, they fall short.”

“If you’re looking for 400km of range there is no way you have a solution that is competitive. Don’t expect high mileage and a reasonable price.”

“General Motors subsidiary Opel says that in order to achieve a 500-km driving range, an electric vehicle would need to carry around a battery that weighed 800 kg, not much less than a Mazda2. That compares with 125 kg for a hydrogen tank and 43 kg for a diesel tank.
More importantly it would also be prohibitively expensive. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV - a city runabout -  would be likely to cost $80,000 if it were offered to private buyers in Australia.”

The article also has a run-down on current FCEVs with pictures.

5/20/2011 Electrical infrastructure costs for BEVs and PHEVs rise again. As reported in our 5/3/2011 posting below, the cost estimates for installing Type 2 240-Volt outlets for BEVs and PHEVs cost as much as $18,400 per outlet in Hawaii, although the cost of installing Type-2 outlets in a 300-car parking garage in Boulder averaged $12,400 for three competitive bids obtained by Kreider and Associates.  Now we have learned that ECOtality is charging $230 million to install 14,000 Type 2 outlets that will support 8,300 BEVs, or an average cost of $16,429 per outlet or $27,711 per BEV!!. (They are installing an average of 1.7 outlets per BEV, which approaches the Electrification Coalition recommendation that 2 outlets be installed for every BEV to overcome “range anxiety.”)

We have also determined that up to 219 hydrogen stations that could be installed for $230 million that would support 46,300 FCEVs. Averaged over a variety of hydrogen fueling station types and capacities, an investment of $230 million for hydrogen infrastructure could support an average of 95,000 FCEVs, or 11.4 times more than the 8,300 BEVs or PHEVs supported by electrical outlets for $230 million.  See this document for details and references.

5/18/2011 For an intelligent man, Steven Chu is a very slow learner!  He was asked by Senator Feinstein this afternoon what he now thinks about hydrogen since he is recommending a $70 million cut in the program for FY 2012.  [She noted that the HTAC advisory committee was “dismayed” by the Secretary’s cuts, but he ignored that comment.] Secretary Chu responded by saying that the hydrogen economy is “hopeful,” but we need a good source for hydrogen. He went on to say that most hydrogen is made from natural gas, but this creates CO2, so “in terms of carbon benefits, there is none.” This statement was both grammatically and technically incorrect. As his own department has shown in numerous settings, hydrogen made from natural gas that is used in a FCEV cuts GHGs by 41% to 56% compared to conventional cars. For example, DOE estimates that current gasoline cars generate 450 grams of CO2-equivalent per mile, while a FCEV using hydrogen made from natural gas generates only 200 grams/mile, or a 56% reduction in GHGs.  For an advanced gasoline ICV, GHGs are estimated at 340 grams/mile, so the FCEV would cut GHGs by 41% compared to advanced gasoline ICVs.  Similarly, FCEVs using hydrogen made from natural gas would cut GHGs by 15% compared to gasoline HEVs such as a Prius (235 grams/mile), and it would produce 26% lower GHGs than a PHEV-40 such as the Chevy Volt (270 grams/mile) and a FCEV would produce 13% lower GHGS than a battery EV such as the Nissan Leaf (230 grams/mile)  These PHEVs and BEVs GHG estimates are assumed to be powered by the average US grid mix in the 2035 time period when the grid has less coal-generated electricity than today, meaning that the FCEV would have even greater benefits in the next decade or two. Sec. Chu then said that the fundamental issue is to find a source of hydrogen that is affordable.  He went on to say that natural gas needs to be more abundant, and that we must find a way to use fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), mentioning the gasification of coal with CCS as one potential option for producing clean hydrogen.

After more than two years on the job, one would think that any intellectually curious scientist would take the time to learn a few basic fundamentals of programs under his jurisdiction such as hydrogen. Either his staff is afraid to show him DOE documents that do not match his preconceived notion that hydrogen is some distant dream (no one is willing to tell the emperor that he has no clothes!), or he is unwilling to consider any information that does not fit his world-view of hydrogen and FCEV. Either way, this is a dangerous situation for our nation, since Sec Chu is in the process of eliminating one of the best options we have to cut oil consumption, GHGs, and local air pollution from the transportation sector. He is effectively denying our children and grandchildren one tool that will help to make their world cleaner and more secure.

Unfortunately there was no Senator present at the hearing with enough knowledge about hydrogen to correct the Secretary (We miss you, Senator Dorgan!) And none of the Senators that signed the letter to the Secretary asking him to maintain the hydrogen and FC programs spoke at the meeting (Senator Tester came in, but left the hearing without asking a question.)

Senators Feinstein and Alexander had a contest to see which one could provide the highest superlative to describe Sec Chu, with Senator Feinstein saying she has “the greatest respect and fondness” for her home-state scientist, lauding him for his “astonishing” achievements.  Senator Alexander seconded that motion, and offered that Sec Chu was President Obama’s “best appointee”

5/3/2011 Electricity infrastructure costs keep rising.When we first began modeling the cost of installing sufficient electrical outlets to support BEVs and PHEVs, we used the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory estimates of $1,250 to $2,146 per Type II (240-Volt) outlet. [Ordinary 120-Volt home outlets would not be adequate, since charging times would range between 10 hours for the Chevy Volt PHEV to 16 hours for the Nissan Leaf BEV.]  Recently, however, Kreider and Associates obtained three formal bids to retrofit a 300-car parking garage in Boulder Colorado with 10% Type III fast chargers and 90% Type II 240-Volt outlets. The average cost for the Type II outlets was $12,400 each, while a Type III fast charger average cost was $106,000 per outlet.  Based on these new competitively bid estimates, we now estimate that the cost for installing sufficient electrical outlets for one million BEVs would be at least $12.4 billion, assuming one outlet per BEV, or as high a $24.8 billion using the Electrification Coalition’s recommendation that two Type II outlets be provided for every BEV initially. For comparison, the average cost of hydrogen infrastructure to support one million FCEVs would average approximately $3.2 billion today, decreasing to $1.19 billion in the future. This Paper documents these findings and provides references to the assumptions used. On this basis, the electricity infrastructure for BEVs will cost between 4 and 20 times as much as hydrogen infrastructure.  This is consistent with the McKinsey & Company report on the EU, where they estimated that electrical infrastructure would cost 5.4 times more than hydrogen infrastructure for the EU.

4/20/2011- Finally some good news; as reported by Chris White (CalFCP), a California NGO group has written a letter to Governor Brown to celebrate Earth Day, recommending that electricity and hydrogen be the “primary transportation fuels within 20 years.” This NGO group, the “Coalition for Clean Air” includes some likely hydrogen supporters such as Alan Lloyd and Catherine Dunwoody, but also some members from organizations that do not normally support hydrogen (at least not outside California!) including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, and a Natural Gas Coalition.  Congratulations to the California fuel cell council and others for convincing this NGO group to include hydrogen with electricity as a transportation fuel.  It gives us renewed hope that California will at least continue the hydrogen revolution, even if the rest of the county is forced by Secretary Chu and the White House to abandon hydrogen and FCEVs just as commercialization is within reach.

4/13/2011; DOE releases distorted version of the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Policy Report. The DOE released a new item today that claims that the IEA is recommending electric vehicles to clean the environment, where DOE would like to define EVs as battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), ignoring the more promising hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), which the administration is trying to terminate. The actual IEA report, however, includes hydrogen and FCEVs in their definition of “electric vehicles,” since FCEVs are electric vehicles with the electricity provided by fuel cells instead of batteries or internal combustion engines connected to generators.  This report compares the DOE distortions with the actual IEA report.

4/12/2011; Ex-Congressman Walker resigns from HTAC; The brain-drain continues from HTAC --the Hydrogen and fuel cell Technical Advisory Committee established by Congress to advise the Secretary of Energy on hydrogen and fuel cell activities.  Byron McCormick of GM resigned in protest last year. Now HTAC has lost the services of Bob Walker (R-Pa), who championed the development of hydrogen and FCEVs in the House of Representatives for several decades.  His resignation letter eloquently describes the folly of the DOE’s vendetta against hydrogen and fuel cells. He states that the administration is “unwilling to acknowledge technological progress,” which will “consign us to be followers, rather than leaders.” He correctly and perceptively notes that “physics does not stop at the US border” and notes the reality that “all across the globe there is a growing recognition that the limitations of battery technology make hydrogen and fuel cells a viable option if one wishes to harness the efficiencies of vehicle electrification.” He states that the DOE’s position is “disappointing and unsupportable,” that the administration has “failed to listen, failed to learn, and has failed to lead.”

3/17/2011: Mercedes plans  to build a $50 million fuel cell plant in Burnaby, British Columbia, with a goal of increasing the production of the Daimler FCEVs from 200 to 10,000 FCEVs in the “next two to three years!”.  Daimler also plans to sell FCEVs to the public by 2015.

2/24/2011 Highlights of the 2001 FCHEA conference in Washington DC

Visionary thinker Jeremy Rifkin advocates a distributed renewable hydrogen energy system in what he calls the “Third Industrial Revolution:”  This Rifkin plan for a sustainable distributed renewable hydrogen energy system was formally adopted by the European Parliament in 2007 and is being implemented in the EU and its 27 member nations.

John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy accurately described what ails the US energy policy (or lack thereof): excessive political partisanship, energy policy restricted by 2- or 4-year election cycles, combined with 13 executive departments covering energy issues and 26 energy-related committees in Congress.  As a result, he claims that we are headed for an “energy abyss.”  He recommends that the US develop an independent energy regulatory body - A Federal Energy Board modeled on the Federal Reserve Board, with independent members (hopefully expert or at least conversant in current energy issues and willing to consult with outside experts in all energy sectors without political bias) appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Hyundai and Kia Motors of South Korea unveiled their third generation FCEV, the Tucson-ix at the show, joining the Honda Clarity, the GM Equinox and the Toyota FCHV-adv. FCEVs at the show.

Charlie Freese announced that GM is moving ahead with plans to deploy their Equinox FCEVs in Hawaii, working in concert with The Gas Company, which already has a synthetic natural gas pipeline containing 12% hydrogen that runs through Honolulu on the South coast of Oahu.  They plan to separate out the hydrogen at local fueling stations to supply the FCEVs.  This continuing activity by GM is re-assuring, since some of us feared that once the Obama Administraion took over GM, they might try to end the GM FCEV program.  Fortunately this did not happen.  Jeff Kissel, President and CEO of The Gas Company, noted that they already produce 7,000 kg/day of hydrogen by refining light hydrocarbons, enough to fuel 15,000 FCEVs. They plan to supplement this by processing landfill gas and are also adding capacity to convert beef fat to methane and hydrogen.  The state goal is 40% renewables and a 30% improvement in energy efficiency while The Gas Company is planning on increasing hydrogen production by 40%.

Overall, the conference highlighted many commercially successful hydrogen and fuel cell products, which, along with the rigorous plans by other nations including Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Scandinavia to deploy hydrogen-powered FCEVs, giving us hope that hydrogen and fuel cell technology will succeed in the global marketplace, despite the unfortunate and misguided efforts by the Obama administration to derail the program. Hydrogen and fuel cells likely will succeed, but the US competitive position will suffer in the process, and we will be forced to buy technology from abroad, just as we did with hybrid electric vehicles (with one exception, we will not be in a good position to use FCEVs when our hydrogen fueling infrastructure lags behind the rest of the world, with the possible exceptions of Hawaii, California and other states such as New York, Connecticut and South Carolina that take an initiative to join Jeremy’s Third Industrial Revolution. For more conference highlights see this report.

2/12/2011 More bad news for the DOE hydrogen program.

  Secretary Chu announced that he would cut the hydrogen technology program budget by 41% as part of a total DOE budget cut of $600 million.  He also announced that the fuel cell program in the office of fossil fuels would be terminated. He will request $8 billion for “clean energy” technologies. Certainly hydrogen would be considered a “clean energy” project in most other nations. In fact, storing excess wind or solar energy by electrolyzing water to make hydrogen could become a key pathway to increase the use of intermittent renewables by capturing energy when their is insufficient demand and/or insufficient transmission line capacity to bring that energy to market.  But Secretary Chu apparently continues his vendetta against hydrogen energy, oblivious to the continued aggressive pursuit of hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicles as critical components of “clean energy” programs in Germany, Japan, South Korea, the UK and Denmark, among others.

1/30/2011 Daimler believes that their FCEV will cost no more than a diesel HEV by 2015:

According to Eric Loveday of autobloggreen,Herbert Kohler, head of e-drive and future mobility at Daimler, recently told Automotive News Europe that the cost of fuel cell vehicles will decline at a rapid rate in the coming years. Kohler stated:

“By 2015, we think a fuel cell car will not cost more than a four-cylinder diesel hybrid that meets the Euro 6 emissions standard. By 2013-2014, we want to bring a four-digit-number of fuel cell vehicles to market.”

1/13/2011 Toyota bullish on FCEVs

According to Alan Ohnsman in a Bloomberg article,Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice president for research and product development, stated:

“I have high expectations for fuel-cell vehicles as a candidate for next-generation cars,” Uchiyamada said in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “Over the past several years, we’ve seen many of the outstanding technical issues solved.”

1/13/2011; 13 Japanese companies announce plan for 100 hydrogen stations by 2015 in Japan

Thirteen Companies including Honda, Nissan and Toyota and energy companies announced plans to install 100 hydrogen fueling stations in four major urban cities ((Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka) by 2015 to support a growing fleet of FCEVs.

 

11/27/2010 It’s now official: the US EPA has listed the Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle (BEV) as having zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions!

The EPA, apparently bowing to pressure from political operatives in the White House, who are promoting BEV and PHEVs at all costs while ignoring the scientific evidence from the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory that BEVs and PHEVs will generate more GHGs than alternatives such as fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) running on hydrogen made from natural gas as summarized in this report have listed the Leaf BEV as producing zero GHGs by listing only the tailpipe emissions; (the EPA did show some backbone by listing the range of the Leaf as 73 miles under real life driving conditions, and not the 100 miles range claimed by Nissan.)

11/18/2010 Another Good News/Bad News story:

The good news: The state of New York has formed a Climate Action Council to address climate change at the State level, and they have included hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in their plan.

Now the bad news: their interim report states that all hydrogen must be made by electrolyzing water with zero or near-zero carbon electricity, specifically calling out the use of high temperature steam reforming with the electricity produced by gas-cooled high-temperature nuclear reactors. They even state that using hydrogen made by steam reforming of natural gas would be a “showstopper”!!without any explanation...a classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

This interim report neglects the GHG simulation results reported on this web site.  It also ignores the WTW GHG emission estimates made by the U.S. DOE which shows that a FCEV using hydrogen made from natural gas produces the least GHGs (200 grams/mile) of all alternative vehicles, lower than BEVs (230 g/mile), PHEV-10s (230 g/mile) and PHEV-40s (270 g/mile) and 63% less than today’s gasoline ICVs (450 g/mile) and 41.2% less than future gasoline ICVs (340 g/mile), all based on mid-size vehicles in the 2035 to 2045 time period; so FCEVs with hydrogen from natural gas are surely not a “showstopper,” but instead are a cost-effective enabler of low GHG transportation. It also neglects the results of the McKinsey and Company report (see 11/9/2010 item below), which assumes that all hydrogen before 2020 is made by steam reforming of natural gas, and FCEVs are still a main component of their plan for alternative vehicles in the EU.    The New York team is accepting public comments at http://www.nyclimatecomments.us
before Feb 7 2011. We have submitted this response.  Please fee free to use any of this material in your response. Responses from any of you living in New York would be especially welcome.  Just tell the writers that they should consider hydrogen made from natural gas as an interim fuel for FCEVs before lower carbon hydrogen sources become cost effective.

11/9/2010 McKinsey and Company report demonstrates need for FCEVs in addition to BEVs and PHEVs to meet GHG targets in EU.

McKinsey and Company released a report today, showing details of an EU-wide analysis of light duty vehicles based on proprietary and confidential cost data from a consortium of auto manufacturers and other organizations, which concludes that FCEVs will be required for large passenger vehicles in Europe to achieve the EU target of cutting GHGs by 80% by 2050.  This authoritative report substantiates many of the conclusions from our own detailed computer modeling reported on this web page:

  1. FCEVs are ready for commercialization now after extensive testing of more than 500 FCEVs in real on-the-road customer testing of more than 15 million km (9.3 million miles) and more than 90,000 refueling events.
  2. FCEVs have longer range and shorter refueling times than even advanced BEVs They project that even a medium-size car will at best have 150 km (93 mile range) due to the heavy battery pack required, while even large (J-segment) FCEVs will have ranges corresponding to gasoline and diesel ICVs (500 to 600 km or 310 to 373 miles range)
  3. FCEV cost: the report concludes that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for FCEVs will eventually cost less than either BEVs, PHEVs or conventional gasoline-or diesel-powered ICE cars. By 2030, FCEVs will have a lower TCO (45.9 cents/km)than either BEVs (48.9 cents/km)or PHEVs (47.9 cents/km)
  4. Hydrogen infrastructure cost: similarly, the McKinsey report estimates that the total cost of installing a hydrogen infrastructure for the EU would be 101 billion EUROs over 40 years, while the cost of installing charging stations for BEVs and PHEVs would cost 540 billion EUROs over the same period. [Our simulations predict a total cost of $80.9 billion for a hydrogen infrastructure for the entire US ($29.3 billion of government support and $51.6 billion of industry investments over 50 years or so) and $276 billion for electrical charging infrastructure ($41 billion of government subsidies for charging stations and $234 billion of industry investments.)

For additional details on the McKinsey report including Bob Rose’s list of key points from the report, see this summary.

10/22/2010 DOE submits new draft hydrogen and fuel cell program plan.  The US. Department of Energy has prepared a plan for their hydrogen and fuel cell program. This plan quietly puts fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) back into the mix of alternative vehicles after Secretary Chu attempted to eliminate all funding for the program when he first became Secretary of Energy. On the positive side, this new draft plan acknowledges that fuel cell fork lift trucks can cut life cycle costs by 50% of battery lift trucks and FC lift trucks cut greenhouse gases 33% more than battery trucks. It also states that FCEVs will produce 15% less GHG than gasoline HEVs and 25% less than gasoline PHEVs. The plan also emphasizes the potential role of hydrogen to store intermittent renewable energy, stating that hydrogen-based energy storage for electric utilities could provide a cost-competitive alternative to peak power “shortly after 2012.” On the negative side, the plan specifically states that DOE will not fund a large-scale hydrogen infrastructure project without co-funding from other government agencies such as the Department of Transportation. For full details and comments on the draft, see this report

9/21/2010 Proposed EPA/DOT motor vehicle fuel economy label to include GHG data; The US EPA and US DOT are proposing adding GHG emissions data to the window fuel economy “sticker” placed on all new vehicles.  This should be a valuable addition, since credible GHG data would provide drivers with some notion of how their new car purchase will affect climate change.  Unfortunately, however, these agencies are proposing to list only the vehicle tailpipe emissions, excluding all upstream fuel emissions, which will be highly misleading. For example, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will be listed as zero tailpipe emissions, neglecting all the GHG emissions back at the power station used to charge car batteries.  Plug-in hybrids will get a similar break, since they will be listed with only the ICE emissions, and not the upstream electrical plant emissions. We have calculated the full well-to-wheels (WTW) GHG emissions for a set of 31 alternative vehicles, and ranked those vehicles according to WTW GHGs and also according to tailpipe-only emissions. A plot of the tailpipe-only rankings vs. the WTW rankings looks like a random scatter diagram, indicating that tailpipe GHG emissions are NOT a good surrogate for the full WTW GHGs, the only true measure of climate change impact.  In other words, this proposed GHG label will be no better than a dart board to rate alternative vehicle WTW GHG emissions.  For more details, see this document.  Note also that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has rated the PHEV Volt as generating more local air pollution than the HEV Prius.

9/21/2010; No increase in GHG emissions with 100% coal electricity??  Some advocates of BEVs and PHEVs have claimed that even if the car batteries are charged with electricity from coal plants, they will still have lower GHGs than conventional gasoline cars or hybrids. Using the authoritative and well-respected Argonne National Laboratory GREET model, we show conclusively that this is not true. For example, a BEV using coal electricity will have 11% more WTW GHGs than a conventional (non-hybrid) gasoline car. And a gasoline hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) will have lower GHG emissions than any PHEV as long as the PHEV battery is charged from coal-based electricity. For example, a PHEV-40 like the proposed Chevy Volt will produce 43% more GHGs than a non-plug-in HEV.  thus future owners of PHEV-40s will be able to reduce GHGs 43% by using only gasoline and never plugging in their PHEVs if their electricity is predominatly generated from coal.

6/16/2010 DOE National Laboratory (Argonne) report repudiates any justification for DOE’s attempts to kill the hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) program in favor of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The Argonne National Laboratory released a new report on PHEVs that undermines DOE Secretary Chu’s hasty and ill-conceived decision to downgrade or eliminate the hydrogen and FCEV program (Dr. Chu’s first budget request to Congress eliminated all funding for hydrogen and FCEVs; although Congress restored most of the funds, the Obama administration continues to pump billions of dollars into battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and PHEVs while cutting back hydrogen and FCEV programs. Dr. Chu’s latest request for hydrogen & FCEVs for FY 2011 represents a 21.6% cut from the FY 2010 budget (from $174 million to $137 million) He also slashed the very successful Technology validation project that is demonstrating on-road performance of FCEVs from $13 million to $11 million, which will jeopardize our nation’s ability to remain a leader in zero emission hydrogen and FCEV technology.

The new Argonne report shows that:

  1. Hydrogen is the best motor fuel to simultaneously cut greenhouse gases (GHG) and oil consumption, better than ethanol and gasoline
  2. In all parts of the US, a fuel cell PHEV running on hydrogen made from natural gas will generate less GHG than a gasoline PHEV with the same all-electric range (AER)
  3. In most parts of the US, a series hybrid PHEV with 40 miles all-electric range (AER) like the proposed Chevy Volt will increase GHGs compared to a gasoline hybrid electric vehicle like the Toyota Prius. thus Argonne estimates that a series PHEV-40 will generate approximately 310 g/mile of CO2-equivalent GHGs running on the average US grid mix, while a gasoline HEV will generate only 270 g/mile.
  4. In states like Illinois with mostly coal-generated electricity, a PHEV-40 like the Volt would actually produce approximately 10% more GHGs than a conventional (non-hybrid) gasoline car using “smart charging” (using lowest cost electricity at night).
  5. A FCEV running on hydrogen from biomass will generate less GHGs than a PHEV running on E-85 (85% cellulosic ethanol and 15% gasoline) made from biomass
  6. Even in California with its lower carbon grid mix (less coal than the average US) a FCEV running on hydrogen from biomass will produce lower GHGs than a BEV.
  7. With the average US grid mix, plugging in any HEV will always increase GHGs.  For example, a (non-plug-in) HEV generates about 270 g/mile GHGs. A PHEV-10 produces 275 g/mile; a PHEV-20 about 280 g/mile; a PHV-30 305 g/mile and a PHEV-40 baout 205 g/mile (numbers are approximate since they were read off Argonne graphs).  So plugging in an HEV will not help to reduce GHGs in many parts of the country.
  8. Even in California, the GHG reductions are small due to plugging in an HEV: the HEV generates about 270 g/mile in California; the PHEV-10 produces about 250 g/mile; a PHEV-20 about 245 g/mile; a PHEV-30 produces about 255 g/mile and a PHEV-40 about 245 g/mile.

 

6/6/2010 Government vehicle subsidies; the 2008 National Research Council report on hydrogen estimated that the government would have to invest $40 billion to subsidize 100% of the cost differential between FCEVs and conventional cars.  These costs can be reduced by assuming a) that consumers will pay extra for a true zero emission vehicle and b) some consumers, and particularly companies with large vehicle fleets, will take into account future fuel savings when making their purchase decisions. With the assumption that drivers will pay a preimum of $3,000 for zero emission vehicles and that businesses will account for ten years of fuel savings, then the government subisidies for FCEV buy-down costs would be reduced to $27 billion. For comparison, applying these same critiera ($3,000 premium and 10 years of fuel savings) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) still requires government subsidies of $761 billion!!

6/6/2010. German FCEV deployment goal. A public/private consortium in Germany has signed a memorandum of understanding, committing to deploy 600,000 FCEVs by 2020. Scaled to the much larger US vehicle fleet, this would correspond to 1.973 million FCEVs in the US.  This German plan is more aggressive than the FCEV market introduction rate assumed in this model and also more rapid than the rate of introduction assumed by the US NRC  report.

5/13/2010 NGV’s: discoveries of large quantities of natural gas in shale formations have suggested that natural gas vehicles (NGVs) may be a good alternative fueled vehicle for the 21st century. However, as shown here, converting that natural gas to hydrogen for use in a fuel cell electric vehicle makes much better use of the (still finite) natural gas, and cuts greenhouse gases at least 2.1  more than burning that natural gas in a conventional internal combustion engine car in the next decade or two; in the longer run, FCEVs can cut GHGs by 89% below1990 levels, while NGVs would increase GHGs by 41% above 1990 levels with the increased VMT assumed in this model. Natural gas PHEVs could cut GHGs by 47% below 1990 levels, which fails to meet the goal of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels.

 

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