the coming decade, investors are betting that hydrogen will become a prominent
fuel that can eliminate carbon dioxide discharges from the vehicles it energizes.
to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the transportation sector has
dominated the growth in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, accounting
for 69 percent of the total increase.
is important that hydrogen technology advances rapidly because cars, trucks and
buses are a growing contributor to greenhouse gas buildups in our atmosphere.
For example, Seattle-based Amazon alone doubled its truck fleet to 20,000 in
just a year, according to GeekWire.com. Its fleet runs on diesel.
2017, Amazon reached an agreement with Plug Power to use its fuel cells and
hydrogen technology in its fulfillment centers. Revenue associated with the
commercial agreements were estimated to be about $70 million.
with increasing numbers of vehicles on the road, many governments worldwide
have pegged hydrogen as another way to eliminate human generated carbon
dioxide. Just as enticing, the byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells is water.
hydrogen into a commercially viable fuel takes money – lots of it.
Hydrogen Council, whose 60 members represent total revenue of nearly $2.9
trillion and close to 4.2 million jobs, recently joined forces with European
Investment Bank to finance hydrogen projects.
The council believes it will require $20 billion to $25 billion in
annual investments during the next decade.
council’s goal is not to diminish the importance of investments in battery
electric vehicle, or BEV, technology, or lower carbon fuels but believes
large-scale capital investments also need to go into developing other ways to
example, China has made BEV development and production a primary objective of
its ambitious “Made in China 2025” initiative. With the help of the government,
it already makes nearly half of the world’s electric vehicles today and aims to
dominate that sector over the next five years.
key drawbacks of BEVs are driving range, lengthy charging time and recycling of
spent batteries, many of which end up in landfills. Hydrogen fuel cell electric
vehicles, or FCEVs, on the other hand, can cover similar distances, but drivers
can gas up with hydrogen instead of gasoline or diesel.
automakers are investing heavily in hydrogen as well. Hyundai, the South Korean auto giant, already
is devoting $6.3 billion to fuel cell technology and plans to ramp up
production from 3,000 units per year to 40,000 by 2022.
truck manufacturer Kenworth is developing 10 zero-emissions Kenworth T680s
powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains. Last April, Toyota
and Kenworth unveiled the jointly developed fuel cell electric heavy-duty
truck, the result of a collaboration with the California Air Resources Board
and the Port of Los Angeles. The trucks will be used at the Ports of Los
Angeles, throughout the Southern California and Central Coast areas, and in
of the benefits of FCEVs is that hydrogen uses a fueling infrastructure that’s
similar to conventional trucks. This means that FCEVs could be refueled at
existing truck stops across the country and the fueling experience would be
similar. A truck can be filled with hydrogen in less than 15 minutes,” said
Patrick Molloy of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Denver.
Motors, a U.S. maker of hydrogen trucks, claims its vehicles can get 12 to 15
miles per gallon, well above the average 6.4 mpg for a diesel truck. Nikola
Motors, based in Phoenix, just announced it also launched a road map for 700
fueling stations across the country.
bottom line is now that hydrogen technology is growing in acceptance, it is
starting to scale up, reduce production costs and accelerate infrastructure and
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.
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