Archive for the ‘Hydrogen’ Category

Taking EIN to the Governor’s Office

Monday, January 27th, 2014

On January 27, 2014  Energy Independence Now’s Executive Director, Tyson Eckerle, was appointed by Governor Brown to serve as the first ever Zero Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure Project Manager in the Governor’s Office of Economic and Business Development (GoBiz). In this role, Tyson will work to ensure the successful roll-out of the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in electric vehicles.

Tyson’s appointment is a direct reflection of the critical work he helped orchestrate at Energy Independence Now (EIN) with EIN’s Policy Director, Remy Garderet, and a visionary board and funders. Tyson will carry EIN’s insight and deep contact base directly to the Governor’s Office.

“We are delighted for Tyson and also see this as a tremendous reflection on EIN’s great work,” said Board President and co-founder Daniel Emmett. “EIN has advocated for strong state zero emission vehicle leadership for many years. Through the creation of this position and Tyson’s appointment, California will be able to make even greater progress towards clean air, energy security and reduced carbon emissions.”

Moving forward, Remy Garderet will step into the role of interim director as he and the EIN Board continue to advance EIN’s program and inform policy and business decisions.  EIN is looking forward to working with our funders and supporters to maintain focus on core priorities as we begin this next chapter.

AB8 – It began with an Idea

Monday, October 7th, 2013

As advocates for clean transportation, we float ideas constantly.  Some don’t go very far; some result in approximately $2 billion of funding for alternative fuels and vehicles and air quality improvement programs. To be fair, only one idea of ours has resulted in the latter.

On September 28, 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 8 (Perea), which extends critical alternative fuel and vehicle investments and diesel emission reduction programs through 2024. This tremendous victory for the State’s long-term environmental and economic health would not have happened without the planting and execution of one key idea: using the Clean Fuels Outlet (CFO) regulation to mandate the installation of hydrogen fueling stations.

Why was the CFO so important?

The CFO, originally created by the Air Resources Board in 1990 to provide methanol, ethanol, and CNG fueling outlets, was adapted and adopted in 2012 to ensure hydrogen station development kept pace with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) sales projections. The concept of the regulation was simple; if you sell gasoline or diesel in California, you need to provide a proportionally fair amount of clean fuels to meet projected demand. Adapting the CFO for hydrogen was an idea pitched and championed through the process by EIN.

For obvious reasons, oil companies were not fans of the CFO regulation and its 2012 changes. However, rather than pursuing a protracted legal battle likely damaging (or at least resource intensive) to both sides, the ARB and Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA is the trade association that represents the bulk of companies involved in petroleum business) struck a grand bargain: the ARB would put the CFO on the shelf if WSPA and its members could help pass legislation to fund hydrogen fueling stations.

AB8 was crafted in this vein; it effectively eliminates the CFO and supports public investment in hydrogen. However, hydrogen is only part of the story. The bill authorizes substantial investments in all alternative fuels and vehicles (hydrogen, electricity, biofuels, CNG, propane, etc.) and also extends the Carl Moyer Diesel Emissions Reduction and Air Quality Improvement Programs.

WSPA support was critical to the effort.  In California, any bill that raises fees or taxes must achieve a 2/3-majority vote in both the Assembly and Senate to make it to the Governor’s desk. AB8 would not have passed without WSPA’s political clout. In short, the CFO turned WSPA into powerful alternative fuel and vehicle advocates.

As with any action of this magnitude, it takes a village to bring a long-term vision to fruition. A tremendous amount of credit rests on the shoulders of the ARB and legislative leaders, as well as the broad coalition of organizations that worked to generate support for AB 8.  AB 8 would not have happened without them.  But it also would not have happened without the CFO Regulation, which turned out to be a good idea made even better.

Promising Technology: Creating Renewable Hydrogen

Monday, July 8th, 2013

As alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) continue to become more economically viable, fuel source and renewability remains a key point of discussion. Although AFVs like fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) can eliminate fossil fuel dependence while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, many interested parties take a life-cycle approach by questioning the source of the energy used. If the energy carried in a fuel cell doesn’t come from a clean or renewable source, then the vehicle powered by that fuel cell isn’t exactly clean or renewable.

For FCEVs, cost remains the primary challenge to produce 100 percent renewable hydrogen.

The commercial hydrogen market is currently around $100 billion. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, 9 million tons of hydrogen is produced annually in the United States, 95% of which is produced through natural gas reformation. Natural gas reforming is currently the cheapest, most common and efficient method for producing hydrogen. When used in a FCEV, natural gas derived hydrogen reduces greenhouse gas emissions approximately 50%, when compared to conventional gasoline. However, to reach long-term climate goals, we need close to 100% reduction.

A potential solution to the challenges of production costs and environmental impact lies in the research conducted by Y.H. Percival Zhang at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  Zhang and his team successfully developed a process to produce large quantities of hydrogen from the simple plant sugar xylose, an abundant renewable resource. The innovative technology avoids using expensive metals and releases close to zero greenhouse gases. This could shorten the timeline for making renewable hydrogen commercially available, which would have huge environmental and economic impacts.

When applied at commercial scale, Zhang’s research has the potential to deliver affordable, renewable, emissions-free hydrogen., It does so simply and efficiently, eliminating costs at each step of the process.  Researchers isolate the necessary enzymes and catalytic reactions required to produce the highest yields of hydrogen from sugar and water. This specific enzyme cocktail works in toxic environments, which removes an expensive detoxification step, and can be produced by one bacterium. By using recyclable enzyme-based solvents, Zhang found lower cost replacements for the traditional high-heat, high-pressure process. Using biomass to generate hydrogen drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the process allow for energy efficiency above 100% – meaning that the energy of hydrogen produced is greater than the combined input energies of xylose and polyphosphate.

This efficient, environmentally friendly method of hydrogen production is just one example of many potential pathways for creating renewable hydrogen. With the science in place, the right economics can lead this, and other, renewable hydrogen production methods to commercial viability and success. Such as outcome would be a victory for everyone: a clean, domestic, renewable, and affordable fuel to power our mobility.

The Call for Infrastructure

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

“The challenges for fuel cell vehicles in the long run appear to be entirely on the infrastructure side… we have to begin to invest in that infrastructure now, as the advance placement of infrastructure is critical to the market acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.”

-John German, ICCT Sr. Fellow
Transitioning the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet

A recent U.S. National Research Council report on light-duty (cars and small trucks) vehicle technologies discussed the feasibility of reaching two goals:

  • 50% petroleum reduction in 2030
  • 80% petroleum and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in 2050

This reduction goal is measured against a 2005 baseline, and researchers concluded that with the right policy incentives, combination of vehicle technologies, and added infrastructure for those technologies, it is possible to achieve these targets.

The study considered multiple policy options in modeling the outcomes of potential technology mixes, and considered purchasing prices and energy efficiencies – two major factors that affect market acceptance. Newer technologies like compressed natural gas and battery (BEV), plug-in (PHEV), or fuel cell (FCEV) electric have higher initial costs. However, long-term assessments show that BEVs and FCEVs become less expensive than both internal combustion vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles.

High-volume retail price equivalents

Reducing vehicle weight, aerodynamic drag, and tire rolling resistance, has a greater effect on lowering costs for BEVs and FCEVs than for conventional vehicles. In the long run, FCEVs are shown to be significantly better than conventional vehicles, with cheaper purchase prices, comparable range and refill times, higher efficiency, better drivability, and better space utilization of drive train components.

The major challenge to high-volume FCEV production, which is the assumption made in the above predictions, is infrastructure. John German, the ICCT Senior Fellow who headed the subcommittee that analyzed alternative vehicle technologies, explained that while predicting technology development may be highly uncertain, the investment into infrastructure must begin NOW.

Addressing this challenge, EIN currently leads a multi-stakeholder effort to develop a network-level plan for hydrogen infrastructure deployment in California. If successfully implemented, it will serve as a blueprint for market introduction at national and international levels. This plan will establish a clear pathway to market success for the infrastructure needed to support commercial levels of hydrogen FCEVs.

According to the NRC study only three potential scenarios could meet or exceed the goals of 50% petroleum reduction in 2030 and 80% GHG reduction in 2050; all three of those scenarios require significant market penetration of FCEVs. The first is based on optimistic assumptions for FCEV technology, and the other two both require PHEV and FCEV market success.

By modeling a policy-induced transition to hydrogen FCEVs by 2050, the study estimated a net present value of around $1 trillion. This scenario assumes both $6 billion annual subsidies through the mid-2020s and 500 geographically clustered hydrogen-refueling stations (subsidized or mandated) by 2016. In other words, the long-term benefits far outweigh the nearer-term costs associated with a transition to FCEVs.

FCEV adoption has both private and social benefits.  Private benefits include consumer fuel savings, satisfaction with vehicle purchases, and satisfaction with fuel purchases. Social benefits include reductions in GHG emissions and petroleum use – in this scenario, petroleum consumption could be reduced by about 90-96% and GHG emissions by 59-80%.

Vehicle sales by vehicle technology for midrange technologies and policies promoting the adoption and use of PHEVs, FCEVs, and biofuels.

The study goes on to state that for hydrogen FCEVs, advance placement of fueling infrastructure is critical to market acceptance, as the availability of refueling stations directly affects consumer demand.  It is clear that a coordinated effort is essential to achieving petroleum and GHG reductions goals – and it is even more clear that investments in and development of such infrastructure must occur early on in the transition.

Find out more about EIN’s work with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure here.

The 2011 LA Auto Show and What’s in Store for Roads Worldwide

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Car buyers everywhere have every reason to be excited. Whether they’re browsing for luxury, power, performance, or efficiency – they can expect to find themselves frequenting the gas pumps a little less often over the next coming years. The 2011 LA Auto Show officially opened to the public on November 18th and concluded exhibit viewings on the 27th.  Despite the premiere of a staggering 1,000 new vehicles, the most notable aspect about this year’s show was the significant increase in vehicle fuel efficiency across the board in all categories. In light of Obama’s new fuel efficiency standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025, car manufacturers wasted no time in working towards this goal with design innovations appearing in both their debut models as well as models already in production. The show displayed a total of 15 vehicles with 40 plus mpg, 35 hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, 9 clean diesel vehicles, 7 electric vehicles, 13 alternative fuel vehicles and 2 fuel cell vehicles.

In the spirit of competition, Best of Show recognitions were made and selected based on fuel efficiency, tailpipe emissions, and incorporation of innovative technologies that allowed vehicles to meet California’s Clean Car Standards. For the Working Truck category, the blue ribbon went to the Ford F-150 with EcoBoost, followed by the Toyota Tacoma as the runner up. For the Sporting Car category, the blue ribbon went to the Honda CR-Z Hybrid Coupe followed by the Mazda3 SKYACTIV as the runner up. For the Non-Sporting (midsize) Car category, the blue ribbon was awarded to the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco with the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in placed as runner up. For the Herding Car (SUV/Minivan) category, the blue ribbon was awarded to the 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid with the Toyota Prius V placed as runner up. And lastly, for the Compact (or subcompact) Car category the blue ribbon went to the Hyundai Elantra followed by the BMW i3 as the runner up. Vehicles and technologies recognized for Best of Show are either currently on the market or expected to be on the market within the next 2 years.

So to all those prospective buyers looking to purchase the greenest car of 2012 – look no further. The Honda Civic Natural Gas won the 2012 Green Car of the Year Award and boasts the cleanest-running internal combustion engine certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The model gets 48 mpg on the highway and releases tailpipe emissions at levels that render it untouchable by any competing engines of its kind. Automotive manufacturing companies are making extensive improvements in vehicle fuel economy and couldn’t be doing it at a better time. With gasoline prices expected to reach record highs in 2012, the demand for more efficient and cleaner-burning cars by drivers all over the world could not be more present.             

By Christine Jaramillo

Zero Emissions Vehicles For All Drivers

Monday, October 24th, 2011

In our society's quest for energy independence, its important to remember that no one solution is going solve our oil addiction problem.  We consume A LOT of oil. People naturally have different driving habits and transportation needs. To truly reach a sustainable transportation system, we need to have zero emissions vehicles that can meet the driving demand of all drivers. This means zero tailpipe emissions today,and moving towards zero energy production emissions in the future. Check out this EIN video to learn more:

For a list of references for facts stated in the video, please click here.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Progress: A Showcase

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

At the end of June, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hosted a Hydrogen and Fuel Showcase to educate board members on the incredible progress hydrogen and fuel cell technology has made under the Zero Emissions Vehicle program.  Check out Remy Garderet (EIN’s Policy Director) at the event in this video clip:

His points are well put; CARB’s Zero Emission Vehicle Program helped drive substantial investment into fuel-cell-electric-vehicles (FCEVs), as well as battery-electric-vehicles (BEVs).  As a result, consumer ready, zero-emissions products are ready to be launched. Without strong government policy, much of this progress simply would not have been made.

We need continued strong policy signals to ensure the successful deployment of these technologies and the infrastructure needed to support them. EIN is working hard to ensure that by 2025, 1 in 5 vehicles on car lots will be able to run on hydrogen or electricity.  Because of these recently showcased technology advancements, this vision is attainable.  We can now realistically hope that your next vehicle will be powered by hydrogen, electricity, or both.

All Hands On Deck – The Need for both Fuel Cell and Battery Electric Vehicles

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

With this year’s upcoming releases of the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Coda, the success of the already available Tesla Roadster, and a handful of electric vehicles scheduled for release in 2011 and 2012, we have great reason to be excited about battery electric vehicle technology.  These vehicles are commercial products, expected to make money in the near future, not just comply with regulations.  They help us begin the transition away from petroleum.

Amid the excitement for battery electric (BEV) and extended range electric vehicles (i.e., the Volt), it is easy to lose sight of the other critical electric vehicle technology: hydrogen fuel cells. Honda, Daimler (Mercedes), Toyota, GM, Hyundai, Nissan, VW, and Chrysler all maintain fuel cell programs focused on a range of vehicle types, small and large.  While test fleets are already on the streets, these vehicles are expected to be available commercially in Southern California 2015.  Why are fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) so critical? Because our transportation emissions problem is BIG.

We have millions of gasoline and diesel powered cars to replace before we can end our dependence on oil.  But before we get there, each car or truck we replace with a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) counts.  How much?  According to data from two California Air Resources Board databases (CEPAM and GHG Emissions tools), over the course of a year, a light to medium duty truck (i.e., SUVs, pickups, etc.) emits close to one and half times more greenhouse gases than a passenger vehicle.

Put simply, it takes more energy, and thus more gallons of gasoline or diesel, to move trucks and SUVs than it does to move passenger vehicles.  As a result, these heavier vehicles emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) and criteria pollutants (SMOG precursors and particulate matter).  On a per-vehicle basis, replacing an SUV or truck with a ZEV reduces more emissions than replacing a passenger vehicle.

This brings us back to the importance of fuel cells.  Based on what we know today, engineers expect fuel cells to have the best chance to replace long range and heavier trucks and SUVs (and consequently truck and SUV emissions) in the near future.  At production volumes, adding more power output to a fuel cell system will not add insurmountable cost or weight to a vehicle.  Adding more power output to a battery system will add both.

Just recently, as reported by Automotive News, Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice president in charge of research and development, told students at the University of Michigan that he saw BEV as a niche product, focused on short distance city driving.  He sees FCEVs as the most likely zero emission technology to replace the general purpose vehicle.  Why?  Because they are expected to be able to replace the complete utility of petroleum powered vehicles, large and small.

Let’s make no mistake, BEVs are critical to our ability to end our addiction to fossil fuels.  But in our excitement for BEVs we cannot forget the importance of fuel cell development.  We need all hands on deck, and all technologies moving forward if we hope to beat petroleum.

~Tyson Eckerle

Renewable Hydrogen to be Produced in Orange County

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

FuelCell Energy has just been awarded a $2.1 million sub-contract from Air Products to provide a fuel cell for a hydrogen fueling station in Fountain Valley, CA. Air Products was awarded the prime contract for the project from the California Air Resources Board in order to demonstrate a renewable hydrogen fueling station. The first large-scale project of its kind will produce roughly 140kg of hydrogen per day from renewable biogas sourced from a wastewater treatment facility using an Air products’ concept that incorporates FuelCell Energy’s DFC-H2 Technology in a hydrogen fueling station. The hydrogen produced from the facility will be available for public use and can also be used in early market fuel cell applications such as backup power and forklifts. Potentially, the facility can produce enough fuel for a fuel cell vehicle fleet of approximately 100 vehicles. The fuel cell will also generate 300 kW of electricity per day, which will be used by the Orange County Sanitation District in its daily operations.

This new facility will demonstrate an important component of the development of the hydrogen infrastructure in California. While hydrogen production from other sources (i.e. steam methane reforming of natural gas) shows a significant savings in GHG emissions on a well-to-wheel basis, hydrogen production sourced from a renewable feedstock is significantly better, and one of the only pathways currently available to curb almost all GHG emissions. This project will demonstrate that such renewable hydrogen can be made in centralized facilities together with electricity generation, an especially attractive option while there are still few fuel cell vehicles around.

If we are to achieve California’s aggressive climate change goals, then renewable hydrogen combined with fuel cell vehicles must be included as part of the solution. The hydrogen fuel produced from this facility will also count towards meeting the goals of SB 1505 legislation, which requires that, in the aggregate, 33% of hydrogen fuel will need to be produced from renewable sources. The legislation will play a vital role in ensuring that renewable hydrogen pathways are included in the roll out of California’s emerging hydrogen infrastructure.

For the official press release from FuelCell Energy please go to:

National Academies of Science – Plug-In and Fuel Cell Build Out Costs

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

On December 14th, the National Academies of Science released the pre-publication copy of Transitions to Alternative Technologies – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles.  The report looks at the expected costs of deploying plug-in electric vehicles (i.e., the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-In, etc.).  The general conclusion:  plug-in hybrid costs are likely to remain high, and the benefits are expected to be modest, for decades.  What does this tell us?  It tells us that there is no easy solution to reducing our petroleum dependence. Plug-ins are important, but they will not get us there alone.

According to the report press release, “a portfolio approach toward reducing U.S. dependence on oil is necessary for long-term success.  This should include increasing the fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles and pursuing research, development, and demonstration into alternative strategies, including the use of biofuels, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.” Plug-in hybrids are an important bridging technology that will help facilitate the transition to broad adoption of 100% pure electric vehicles.  But we cannot expect them to save the day alone.  We need to pursue every potential non-petroleum solution we have.