Paul Rodden • Season: 2023 • Episode: 252
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In episode 252, Just how far will hydrogen go and transportation and mobility? Will we ever really see personal transportation embrace the hydrogen economy? I'll go over this divided topic on today's hydrogen podcast.
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Just how far will hydrogen go and transportation and mobility? Will we ever really see personal transportation embrace the hydrogen economy? I'll go over this divided topic on today's hydrogen podcast.
So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where's capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast.
So, today’s show is just a bit different in that I’m going to discuss a topic that has divided many both in the hydrogen market and outside the hydrogen market... will hydrogen be embraced by the personal transportation industry? I’ve had a lot of fun conversations with several influential executives on this topic and they are just as divided a group as any others with some saying hydrogen will only be found in heavy duty transport and to leave personal transport as battery EV only while others want to see more automakers invest in R&D for fuel cell technology. Personally, I believe the upside for fuel cell technology vastly outweighs the potential for battery. Yes, there is a remarkably high barrier of entry for the personal vehicle market to go FCEV.
The infrastructure is nowhere near developed, storage is an obvious obstacle, and where the hydrogen is collected could present its own issues. On top of that are the materials needed to develop fuel cells. They are costly to produce and degrade over time. But none of these issues are insurmountable. The need for infrastructure is regional and combined with modular hydrogen technology, the ability to generate hydrogen without the need to long distance transit drastically reduces the costs associated with developing infrastructure. But let's talk about that infrastructure and what it means for hydrogen in mobility at large. FCEV heavy transport development is still growing... and growing fast. As many of you I’m sure read on September 25th, Daimler announced its latest rig clocking over 1000km on a tank. That’s over 620 miles for those of us not on the metric system. Now I understand this is the talking point for those who say FCEV should just be for long distance hauling. Save the battery EV’s for local transporting of goods and people. And if you’re on that side and live in Europe or even in the northeastern part of the US, I very much understand where you’re coming from.
But here’s the thing. There are a lot of people who don’t live in areas where the next town is within walking distance. Where I grew up, the nearest large metropolitan area was three hours in any direction. And that geographical situation is not unique to the Western US. So many around the world logistically can’t live with a battery EV on a day-to-day basis. And there’s also the argument that the electrical grid simply can’t handle the volume if every vehicle switched to battery. The Texas grid can barely handle the summer heat as it is, and California had to ask EV owners not to charge their vehicles due to intense grid load. So why the animosity towards fuel cell EV’s? There are a handful of media platforms that question FCEV development saying how shameful it is to put capital into its development. That battery electric cars are the only way to decarbonize the industry and commenters further shame the effort in even more biased ways. But something tells me their viewpoint from which they hand out their mockery is from the shoulders of giants. So what do I mean by that.
Well to explain what I mean let me give just a little background on electric vehicles... The electric car was first introduced in the mid 1800’s with the first in the US around 1890. The electric platform was pushed aside for internal combustion engines in the early 1900’s. But that didn’t stop the BEV from trying to become the next step in automobile evolution. It just took about 100 years to get here with the help of an eccentric billionaire and good marketing. The fuel cell EV was introduced in the 1960’s and hasn’t had real attention to it as a workable possibility for transportation since the late 90’s or early 2000’s. So, to mock the endeavor or to claim that the fuel cell’s time has come and gone are saying that as they stand on 150 years of battery EV technology. And it appears that others in the automotive industry feel the same way. Toyota is continuing to pursue FCEV’s as they develop the Murai and build out the Tacoma/ Hilux with a new hydrogen platform. Hyundai is following suit. While those two have been in the hydrogen space for some time, BMW is entering the market with Ford and GM both developing fuel cell technologies. Along with that are motor sports embracing hydrogen with extreme E switching to hydrogen as well Le Mans with hydrogen entries and the grand prix hosting its own hydrogen division. So with all that being said, it sure seems the automakers are doing their part.
What then would be the next big hurdle? Possibly refueling infrastructure? That could be. I’ve spoken with the hydrogen groups in Exxon, Shell, and Chevron. The consensus from them is that refueling infrastructure is extremely expensive. And that could be why we just don’t see that getting developed in areas where FCEV are already sold. It’s a big risk and not one that the super majors are willing to take just yet. That’s why the development from the heavy duty transport industry to build out that part of the infrastructure is so important. Once those platforms are developed and proven out, that will greatly derisk investment. So, capital is going forward on fuel cell development around the automotive world despite the current lack of infrastructure. It's possible they are betting on heavy duty transport to build it out. And that’s certainly a possibility. And at least here in the states, the entire hydrogen landscape will change when the federal hub funding gets announced, and projects begin development I believe there will be an extreme push to develop the support structure needed to really let the hydrogen economy grow. So with all of this being said, what does the future hold for FCEV applications in personal transport? Well ultimately whether the solution is battery or fuel cell, both are electric vehicles and both can be a bit vague on the full cycle carbon impact. That full cycle meaning raw materials excavation through final product delivery.
Personally, I like the combination of a much smaller battery and then using the fuel cell to charge the battery. Best of both worlds. But can that happen or are we too engrained in our opinions to listen to alternatives? Can we have these discussions without accusing opponents of distorting figures or being bought off by lobbyists? I understand having a financial tie to hydrogen or lithium. Both of them have strong futures. Batteries in general and lithium specifically both have huge upside potential. But when it comes to personal transport globally, fuel cells just make more sense. And it will take time to get moving. The infrastructure is coming along with heavy duty transport. This isn’t something that can be rushed and development takes time. Don’t let the naysayers stop progress. Keep pushing forward. And just a couple of closing thoughts on the matter. What made me decide to put out this podcast was a combination of two things... a post on Reddit asking this very question followed by a hit piece I came across on LinkedIn from a media company who tout themselves as proponents of hydrogen although I rarely see any positive written by them. On the reddit post, the responses had me wondering if any thought had been given to the wording.
Most sounded like they were written based on feelings... most likely feelings tied to money invested in either hydrogen or lithium. I say often on this show that we need to take off the rose colored glasses to see the hydrogen economy for what it is. I believe that hydrogen has the capacity to revolutionize how we think about energy globally. And the automotive market is a large portion of that economy. That’s one reason why I talk about it so much. And regarding the media company with their hydrogen hit pieces... Maybe the negativity drives clicks. I know that certainly can do the trick. But it does nothing to improve the energy landscape. If they have an issue with the funds being allocated to hydrogen research, they need to take a step back look at the next 50 years of energy development. It will be a combination of hydrogen, nuclear, renewables, and yes, even hydrocarbons.
Capital is needed to develop new materials and to realize economies of scale. luckily that capital is available. Now the focus is on the hydrogen community to utilize those funds appropriately, not rush development for the sake of meeting an arbitrary deadline, and deliver hydrogen solutions globally. All right. That's it for me, everyone. If you have a second, I would really appreciate it. If you could leave a good review on whatever platform it is that you listen to Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, YouTube, whatever it is, that would be a tremendous help to the show. And as always, if you ever have any feedback, you're welcome to email me directly at email@example.com.
So until next time, keep your eyes up and honor one Another. Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did and want to hear more, I'd appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at www.thehydrogenpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.