There are times when our flat-out race to escape one technology, in this case, fossil fuels, makes it impossible for us to consider what will replace it objectively. This is very much the case in the world of transportation. For more than 100 years, virtually all vehicles on the land, sea, and air have been powered by petroleum-burning engines of one type or another. For the past decade, scientists have told us that the Earth’s climate is changing due to increases in greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. The number one greenhouse by volume is carbon dioxide, and the leading producers of this gas are motor vehicles of all types and aircraft. Several years of extreme weather around the world, including forest fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, have energized leaders worldwide to replace fossil fuel engines in all vehicular applications ASAP!
Vehicle manufacturers have responded by announcing their plans to switch to electric-powered vehicles. While timelines vary by manufacturer, no car company wants to look like a laggard, or worse, look as if they do not care about preserving our planet!
Recently, one company, the Hyundai Motor Group, decided to show the world a road less traveled by showing how hydrogen could end up being an efficient and necessary part of the path to ending our dependence on fossil fuels. In its “Hydrogen Vision 2040,” the Group explained it intends to popularize the use of hydrogen fuel cells for “Everyone, Everything, and Everywhere.”
The Group intends to become the first maker to power all of its commercial vehicles by 2028. It also wants to make fuel cell-powered electric vehicles price competitive with battery-powered electric vehicles by 2030. And introduce an entirely new and broad range of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles ranging from flying drones to high-performance sports cars and even emergency and rescue vehicles.
In a presentation on September 7th, Hyundai’s Chairman, Euisun Chung, explained his vision this way, “By developing advanced technologies and innovative systems-as well as encouraging close collaboration between public and private sectors around the globe, it is possible to make this sustainable vision a reality for all.”
It is important to point out that electric motors ultimately power all of the transport solutions presented as part of Hydrogen Vision 2040. But the key difference from other electric vehicles is that they get their electricity from a fuel cell powered by hydrogen gas which, when combined with air inside the fuel cell, produces electricity and an exhaust gas we know as water!
You may ask yourself, what is the big deal? If it will run on an electric motor, why not just throw a battery in it and call it a day!
Well, the problem is that batteries need to be recharged to operate. And the rate at which manufacturers have agreed to build battery-powered electric vehicles is very likely to cause shortages in the rare earth metals necessary to produce the batteries, which will disrupt the availability of batteries for the new battery electric vehicles. Additionally, the rate at which electric charging stations are being built is not fast enough to support all EVs that are due to come into the marketplace by 2030. The increased demand for electricity to supply those chargers will exceed our ability to produce sustainable electricity. The road to a sustainable future will likely feature many shortages and brownouts! If you have any doubts about the vulnerability of our grid, ask anyone who lives in Louisiana after IDA.
Granted, you don’t find that many hydrogen stations in the U.S. right now either. There are some in California, but that is about it. But two points are very much worth making here. Hydrogen can be manufactured by using electricity to separate hydrogen atoms from oxygen atoms in water. The hydrogen, a gas, can then be collected and stored at high pressure and then either pumped to fueling stations by pipeline or in pressurized canisters, not totally unlike those used on your gas grill.
Isn’t that inefficient if you are going to use electricity to make the hydrogen gas only to turn it back into electricity again in the fuel cell of your car? Not really, because using electricity to produce hydrogen allows you to store its energy. For example, wind generators often produce more electricity than there is load. When that happens, the electricity is effectively wasted. Similarly, solar panels may produce much more electricity during the day than load….and again, it goes to waste. But, if it is used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, that energy is stored and available for use when needed.
Another strong point to be made here is that hydrogen can be used in two different ways once it is produced. It can either be combined with oxygen from the air inside a fuel cell, which is at the center of the Hyundai scenario. Or, it can be burned, very much like a conventional fossil fuel in an internal combustion engine, very much like fossil fuels of the past. Again, the big advantage is the exhaust is….water! No carbon dioxide here.
I salute the people at Hyundai for taking the road less traveled. I am sure the hydrogen road is more than wide enough for one manufacturer. And even the fact that a single manufacturer has elected to take it will ease the congestion in the competition for batteries and for charging stations.
We have had fossil fuel-powered cars for more than a hundred years. At almost no time during that history have we ever tried to make such a monumental technological change in such a short time. Back when cars were first invented, the common wisdom of the day said, “Smart people don’t put all their eggs in one basket.”
Perhaps that is still a good idea. Electric vehicles are great, and Hydrogen vehicles would help solve the same problem, ending our dependence on fossil fuels.
The editorial board of tippinsights would like to thank RealClearPolitics for featuring our inaugural editorial.
France's foreign minister has accused Australia and the US of lying over a new security pact that prompted Paris to recall its ambassadors.
In an interview with France 2 television, Jean-Yves Le Drian also accused the countries of "duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt."
"The fact that for the first time in the history of relations between the United States and France we recall our ambassador for consultations is a serious political act, which shows the magnitude of the crisis that exists now between our countries," he (Le Drian) told France 2.
The pact, known as Aukus, will see Australia being given the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.
The move thwarted a multibillion-dollar deal France had signed with Australia.
France was informed only hours before the public announcement was made earlier this week.
In Kabul, a new sign was up outside the Women's Affairs Ministry, announcing it was now the 'Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.'
The latest troubling sign was that the Taliban is restricting women's rights as they settle into government, just a month since they overran the capital Kabul. In their first period of rule in the 1990s, the Taliban denied girls and women the right to education and barred them from public life.
Separately, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in the eastern provincial capital of Jalalabad on Saturday, killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but ISIL (ISIS) fighters, based in the area, are enemies of the Taliban.
The Taliban is facing major economic and security problems as it attempts to govern, and a growing challenge by ISIL would further stretch its resources.
Pro-Russian separatists in the territory can attend polling stations and participate in this weekend's vote.
Moscow, which considers Crimea part of its territory, has also distributed more than 600,000 passports in east Ukraine, where citizens can vote electronically or in the Russian border region of Rostov.
But Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia was committing a "flagrant violation" of international law.
Calling on the United Nations to help "restore the territorial integrity of our state," he told reporters: "The Russian occupation will end."
Since the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine has been in conflict with pro-Russian separatists widely believed to be supported by Moscow. More than 13,000 people are known to have been killed in the conflict.
Recent satellite images show North Korea is expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a sign it intends to boost the production of bomb materials, experts say.
The assessment comes after North Korea recently raised tensions with its first missile tests in six months amid long-dormant nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States.
The report said the photos taken by satellite imagery company Maxar showed construction in an area adjoining the uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon.
It said a satellite image taken on September 1 showed North Korea cleared trees and prepared the ground for construction and that a construction excavator was also visible.
The report said a second image taken on September 14 showed a wall erected to enclose the area, work on a foundation, and panels removed from the side of the enrichment building to provide access to the newly enclosed area.
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