US fuels up on the importance of hydrogen

Almost by definition Hydrogen is expensive – especially compared to non-hydrogen alternatives, such as ethanol, ethanol + gasoline, and liquid natural gas. Courtesy of the EPA. Having established a roadmap to the specific plant…

US fuels up on the importance of hydrogen

Almost by definition Hydrogen is expensive – especially compared to non-hydrogen alternatives, such as ethanol, ethanol + gasoline, and liquid natural gas.

Courtesy of the EPA.

Having established a roadmap to the specific plant locations, the United States Department of Energy – in cooperation with Great Britain’s Department of Energy – worked out how to drive the point home on the aspects of the electricity grid, hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, the petroleum-driven assets, and how hydrogen would be priced in the gasoline market.

Hybrid gas trucks are based on fuel cell trucks

A recent presentation from LuWay4bus was about funding for R&D, an impact of R&D, the impetus for driving the hydrogen infrastructure, and the exploration of downstream hydrogen services. We had the opportunity to meet with LuWay4bus founder Jay Johnson, who serves as the chief executive. His work echoes work by Dan Tease, Kevin Bush, Robert D. Farmer, and Andy MacGregor.

Speaking for LuWay4bus, Johnson sees the HGH approach taking off as the primary fuel for a growing number of Clean Trucks.

Courtesy of Dan Tease.

Johnson is talking up the cost of Hydrogen fuel cells (HFCs) being competitive with diesel powered diesel-electric hybrid (D-tron) trucks. He also points out that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fleet status is being reported as “Green Car Diesel (Scary Green Diesel),” meaning that the Class 8 medium-duty truck fleet is now rolling along with only 20% diesel and 80% electricity, and also that in California, engine efficiency is measured in terms of internal combustion engines as opposed to allowing for fuel economies. For all of these reasons, hybrids and hybrid and electrified vehicles are potentially unavailable on a near-term basis. With the introduction of the new Electric Scooter Combo, the cost of range and range-extending solutions have come down significantly.

Courtesy of LuWay4bus.

Based on current fuel cell technology, the implementation of HGH will be in the following amounts: 100-200 trucks at a cost of about $20-$40/gallon. However, growth is not certain as many companies in the United States have a faith that hydrogen will have its price cut in half in at least the next few years. Some of the cost disadvantages are due to direct operating costs. For example, one hydrogen truck can be 4 times as expensive as a diesel-based truck in direct operating costs, such as labor and maintenance. This is mostly due to the cost of installing and operating hydrogen gas-to-liquid (HGL) stations.

Courtesy of Brian Mielke.

A gas-to-liquid fleet of hydrogen-powered buses or trucks would require close to as many and even more rapid refueling stations as diesel fueled trucks, even though diesel truck fleets are more economically equipped to stop every one to two minutes. It remains to be seen how much of an edge will be gained over the efficiencies of dedicated hydrogen fueling stations, which present a similar long-term price advantage over fuel cells.

The country currently has about 600 hydrogen fueling stations, and the DOE is in the process of increasing that number. Depending on how much these stations are able to serve, there could be as many as 14,000 hydrogen buses and trucks on the road across the US by 2030, as well as close to 1,600 hydrogen fueling stations. When fuel cells can be owned and operated as efficiently as diesel trucks, the economies of scale will be huge in driving fuel costs down.

Hydrogen and hydrogen tanks, which are based on the same materials as Hydrogen tankers but have higher hydrogen densities and a more stable containment, are capable of operating at up to 17 kms/gallon and shipping as much as 1.5 liters (212 gallons) of hydrogen at a time in a single tank.

Hydrogen can be manufactured through refined gasifying (steam reforming) with carbon dioxide and hydrogen for energy production. Considering the high operating costs of the diesel-electric hybrid technology and HGH fuel cell – and the cost of the whole hydrogen/fuel cell economic equation will have to fall – one would expect costs to come down with every new generation of hydrogen cell production and fueling station.

The economics of hydrogen technology are not transparent, but they are fascinating and likely to play an increasingly large role in the public highway market over the next few years.

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