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H2USA Signals about Face for Obama on Hydrogen Cars

I’ve talked many times about the Obama White House’s less than enthusiastic stance on hydrogen cars, putting money behind battery electric vehicles instead. And I’ve even talked in recent months how the President is warming up and evolving on the idea of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a long range, zero emission, quick fueling solution.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who is on his way out of office, has even warmed up to the need in the marketplace for fuel cell vehicles. We aren’t quite at the Kumbaya stage yet, but good things are starting to happen.

For instance, according to Automotive News, “The U.S. Department of Energy soon will launch a campaign to promote hydrogen cars, embracing a technology that was favored by the administration of President George W. Bush but initially shunned under Barack Obama.

“The project is tentatively called H2USA, in reference to the chemical symbol for hydrogen gas. The DOE is signing up automakers, suppliers and other companies that want to see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles hit the marketplace.”

H2USA may not have the same money thrown at it as George W. Bush’s FreedomCAR initiative, but it will still be a step in the right direction. H2USA is an important signal to carmakers, infrastructure providers and the automotive consumers that this is the direction we are headed in. When these three entities have confidence, then good things happen. And, look for this kind of confidence to swell within the next few years.


About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. Hydro Kevin – You might find this recently published paper on the economics of a hydrogen refueling station network in California of interest: The paper is based on a collaborative effort between Empowered Energy and the University of California-Irvine.

  2. The right (quick-recharge) kind of batteries is still the correct development path, as it does not need the distribution infrastructure of gaseous hydrogen.
    This infrastructure will become the next economic albatross.
    When we have a chance to choose wisely, why do we always follow the political (might is right) instincts ?

  3. Hydro Kevin

    Thanks, I appreciate the link!

  4. The current hype around the centralized hydrogen production requirement is an excuse to delay the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle commercialization.

    There are other low cost, short-term H2 infrastructure options that have been ignored and should be used in a logical transition stage. We intend to bring such options to fruition.

    For example, hydrogen can be “produced on demand” with the employment of “on board the vehicle” highly efficient, nonpolluting multi-fuel reformers that can separate hydrogen from nonrenewable as well as renewable fuels. These types of reformers exist and have already been demonstrated.

    The total cost of the fuel cell and on board reformer package (power plant) can be much lower than that of a fuel cell and hydrogen tank combination (equivalent to the cost of an ICE powerplant)

    The infrastructure cost in this case would be reduced to $0.00!

    In addition, the 2-3 times greater fuel efficiency of an FCEV with an onboard multi-fuel reformer (when compared to an ICEV), would enable greater driving range (1,000+ miles per filled fuel tank) and that much fuel cost reduction to the consumers.

    Furthermore, multi-fuel reformers can be placed at the currently existing fueling stations, to process nonrenewable as well as renewable fuels, such as: bio-methanol, biodiesel, ethanol, etc.

    Placing water electrolysis or other types of H2 separation from water units at the current fueling stations is another cost effective option. There are new methods of separating hydrogen from water that can lower the H2 cost/Kg to $1.50, making this a much cheaper and safer option than petroleum exploration, transport and refining…or the grid upgrades/charging infrastructure associated with BEVs.

    FCEVs equipped with fuel reformers do not emit any NOx, Sox or other harmful particulates and due to the 2-3 times higher efficiency (when compared to IC vehicles and centralized power plants), they can enable drastic CO2 reduction, as well as fuel conservation. Carbon/CO2 sequestration at the station can be accomplished as well.

    These options are available now. Therefore, we can begin making this much needed transition now, not years from now.

    Following are the off-board vehicles hydrogen production options listed on the DOE website. Has anyone asked the question why did we start with the hardest to achieve one in short term?
    Please take note of the “Distributed Production” option.

    U.S. DOE quote:
    “Central Versus Distributed Production
    Central, semi-central, and distributed production facilities are expected to play a role in the evolution and long-term use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. The different resources and processes used to produce hydrogen may be suitable to one or more of these scales of production.

    Distributed Production
    Hydrogen can be produced in small units where it is needed, such as vehicle refueling stations, in a manner known as “distributed production.” Distributed production may be the most viable approach for introducing hydrogen in the near term in part because the initial demand for hydrogen will be low. Two distributed hydrogen production technologies that may offer potential for development and commercialization are 1) reforming natural gas or liquid fuels, including renewable liquids, such as ethanol and bio-oil, and 2) small-scale water electrolysis.

    Centralized Production
    Large central hydrogen production facilities (750,000 kg/day) that take advantage of economies of scale will be needed in the long term to meet the expected large hydrogen demand. Compared with distributed production, centralized production will require more capital investment as well as a substantial hydrogen transport and delivery infrastructure.

    Semi-Central Production
    Intermediate-size hydrogen production facilities (5,000–50,000 kg/day) located in close proximity (25–100 miles) to the point of use may play an important role in the long-term use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. These facilities can provide not only a level of economy of scale but also minimize hydrogen transport costs and infrastructure.”

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