Yes, it will certainly aid as one of the three factors in moving toward the Solar-Hydrogen Economy.
Currently, there are three main driving forces for the transition. The first and most obvious is the rapid rising cost of gasoline (100% in 2 years), fuel oil and the depletion of oil supplies. This is evident in what Alan Greenspan (ret.-Federal Reserve Chairman) said in June (2006): “The balance of the world’s oil supply has become so precarious that even small acts of sabotage or local insurrection has a significant impact on oil prices” Although, the announcement of the Prudhoe Bay oil pipeline shut down and its reduction in the U.S. oil supply did not dramatically effect the price of gasoline. In addition, the recent drop in oil price to $61 per barrel (September 2006) is only temporary due to several factors both nationally and internationally. We can see further increases in the price of oil with the cost of gasoline at $4.60/gal. next year.
The second driving force is our environment, i.e. global warming, and air pollution. A recent poll (2006) of 25,000 U.S. citizens shows that 94% of the people believe that global warming is a problem and action needs to be taken. The poll also indicates that 84% of the public feels that the automakers can do more, e.g. hydrogen autos. A separate poll has shown that 68% of the people believe that hydrogen-fuel cell autos will be available in 10 years.
The third is our national security. In the earlier poll of 25,000 citizens, 56% believe that dependence on foreign oil is a growing source of national security concern.
There is a sense of urgency in the transition. Subsequently, to make the transition, it requires heavy monetary investment, Government support and full public recognition. Thus, we are approaching full public recognition as to the necessity for the transition. However, we must be committed to the marathon of market transition that lies ahead.
How do you feel the development of Solar Hydrogen Economy as an alternative to Petroleum Economy is progressing?
There are two parts to this question. The solar part of “Solar-Hydrogen Economy” has advanced to the point of early commercialization, e.g. wind turbines, PV cells and solar-Stirling engines. The hydrogen part is lagging behind the solar part due to the three remaining problems:
(a) the hydrogen storage tank for autos, (b) cost of fuel cells for autos, and (c) hydrogen fueling station network.
Progress has been made on the hydrogen storage tank for autos. Safety tests in 2002 of GM’s 10,000 psi 3-layer composite tank was approved by Germany’s top safety institute (TUV) as meeting industry standards in Europe and the U.S. These tanks are extremely rugged and safe since they have come through unscathed in crashes that flatten steel cars and shred gasoline tanks. This will certainly enable GM to reach DOE’s 2010 goal of a >300 mile driving range.
The cost of auto fuel cells (FC) has declined from $275/kW in 2002 to $110/kW in 2005. Consequently, a goal of <$50 and preferably $30/kW is the target. The cost of platinum catalyst for the fuel cells has taken a dramatic price increase to over $800/oz. But, only $60-80 of platinum is needed per auto fuel cell. Consequently, R & D is being conducted on other types of metal catalysts. Currently, all of the automakers have their own time-lines for commercialization of the fuel cell auto between 2010 and 2020. In just 7 years of R & D, GM has had a 14-fold increase in the fuel cell power-density with a corresponding drop in cost. GM expects to meet the $50/kW target by 2010. (A fuel cell auto needs about 100 kW of power.) Honda expects to have a commercial viable vehicle also by 2010 while Daimler-Chrysler expects to have their’s by 2012. UPS and FEDEX are planning on using fuel cell trucks by 2008.
Public traded hydrogen economy stocks have fallen from their peaks but are coming back. Since companies like GE and Air Products have taken leadership roles in the development of the hydrogen economy, others will follow quickly. GE recently announced an electrolysis technology that could bring the cost of hydrogen down to around $3/gallon gasoline equivalent(gge)(compare to $2.87 below).
From a National Academy of Sciences 2004 report, cost comparisons of many different combinations of hydrogen supply chain options including carbon emissions were examined and estimated. At that time, oil was $30-35/bbl ($72, August 2006) and gasoline was $1.90-2.10/gallon ($3.65, August 2006). Of the big centralized generation of hydrogen options, the “steam reforming” of natural gas was the least expensive to produce including the cost for the CO2 by-product disposal. However, it did not include the trucking and network of distribution centers to move the hydrogen to the fueling stations, which would be substantial. I feel the best and least expensive route is the generation at the site of usage, i.e. at the fueling station. In this category I believe that the wind-turbine generation of hydrogen is the best solution at the then cost of $2.87/kg hydrogen (vs. $3.65 for gasoline, August 2006). I feel that the report did not go far enough in gathering all the cost data. This 2004 report needs to be reviewed and edited with the current information and data.
In 2005, worldwide revenues reached $40 billion for PV, wind energy, biofuels and fuel cells that is expected to grow four-fold by 2015. Wind power alone had sales of $11.8 billion last year. Fuel cells and distributed hydrogen will grow from $1.2 billion to $15.1 billion by 2015.
My previous prediction of 2010 from Curve II for the 8% “transition point” in the Solar-Hydrogen energy market was a little too early (HYPERLINK to part I, previous interview). The year 2015 would be a better target for the 8% changeover. We are still below my predicted 8% transition point of $70 billion (in the U.S. energy market) before sustained linear growth of the Solar Hydrogen Economy.
Recently, it has been have predicted that by 2034 hydrogen vehicles will have 60% of the market and then by 2038 capture 100% of the market. This is in line with my earlier estimate from curve II of 2040. From the above data and information, the cost of gasoline is very close to the cost of hydrogen on an equivalent per mile basis.
For those hydrogen vehicles that run-out of hydrogen on the highway, a small canister for hydrogen needs to be developed similar to the gasoline can. It can easily be developed now. In summary, the conversion to the hydrogen fuel and economy is moving forward. It is not as fast as I had initially predicted from Curve II (see Part I).
What is the comparison of the energy conversion efficiency of hydrogen-to-auto-power vs. fossil-fuel-to-auto-power?
For the standard gasoline internal combustion engine (ICE), the conversion efficiency is typically 14% from oil-well-to-wheels. Generating the hydrogen by “steam-reforming” of natural gas and for the fuel cell auto, the natural gas-well-to-wheels efficiency is 42%. Generating hydrogen by electrolysis of water, the water-hydrogen-to-wheels efficiency is 44%. Both of these last two processes are three times more efficient for the hydrogen-fuel cell auto vs. the ICE auto.
What do you feel is the best solution for hydrogen in autos: fuel cells or hydrogen/internal combustion engines and why?
I am glad you asked that. In 1995, I attended a local renewal energy show in Riverside, California. At the show was a heavy duty pickup truck with an internal combustion engine (ICE) that was converted to run on hydrogen or gasoline by a local auto mechanic. It had a very large pressurized hydrogen tank in the truck bed. On the floor board next to the gearshift was a small valve that allowed the driver to switch to hydrogen or gasoline for the engine. The owner- mechanic mentioned that he had to modify the carburetor for the hydrogen. I was allowed to drive it for a short test. It was very smooth driving. Yes, there was only water dripping from the exhaust. It did not have the acceleration that a gasoline engine has but who needs to “burn rubber” from a stop sign anyway?
Since that time, the conversion to hydrogen for internal combustion engines in conventional vehicles has been done in a number of auto repair garages in the U.S. There are advantages using hydrogen for the ICE such as oil changes every 500,000 miles and less engine wear.
Ford has been working on hydrogen ICE vehicles since 2000. In 2003, several Ford V-10 H2-ICE vehicles were introduced at the U.S. International Auto Show. They recently announced (July, 2006) that they are leasing a fleet of 6.8-liter SOHC V-10 H2-ICE shuttle buses. The first group of buses are going to Florida and then to other locations across the U.S. The engines were custom built for hydrogen service with cast stainless steel exhaust manifold, twin screw super- charger, compression ratio of 9.4:1, aluminum heads, hardened steel seats, iridium-tipped spark plugs and other minor changes. The engine generates 235 hp at 4,000 rpm.
ISE Corporation now has 50 hydrogen powered ICE buses in service in the U.S., Europe and Japan with a 310-mile range. Unknowingly, the buses are becoming a “billboard” for the hydrogen economy since the bus riders are now hydrogen supporters. The buses have extensive operational experience showing 7 kilometers per kilogram of hydrogen using the Ford V-10 engine. The hydrogen-ICE buses have performed well at 117 o F (Palm Springs) to -17 o F (Manitoba, Canada).
At the 2006 Detroit Auto show, Ford, BMW, Toyota, and Mazda all had hydrogen-ICE autos on display. BMW has announced that their “bi-fuel 7" series autos will be on the road in the U.S. in two years using both gasoline and hydrogen. Mazda plans on leasing 10 of their duel-fuel RX-8 Hydrogen RE coupes by the end of 2006
I feel that this growing use of hydrogen in ICE vehicles and buses is an excellent transition during the time the cost of the fuel cell is being reduced and is moving closer to market realization. The use of hydrogen-ICE vehicles will “spur” the growth of the hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S.
What are your thoughts on the California Hydrogen highway project? What do you think of its progress and planning?
The California Hydrogen Highway Network Action Plan was initiated by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004. This program is targeting 150-200 fueling stations with stations every 20 miles on California’s major highways by 2010. Thirty-three other States are following this closely.
To carry out this plan, three groups consisting of a Senior Review Committee, Governor’s Team, and Implementation Advisory Panel were formed in early 2004. Over 50 outstanding leaders from Industry and Government make up these three groups. During 2004, a series of public meetings were held on various aspects of the Hydrogen Highway led by the Implementation Panel and its sub-groups.
The siting strategy of the hydrogen stations is based on a combination of factors to provide the greatest hydrogen usage and linkage. This is broken down into three phases. Phase 1 is a 50 station network for the major population centers for both northern and southern California. There are nine current or planned stations already in northern area. Ten additional stations would be sited in the Bay area and Sacrament under Phase 1. The Southern area already has 21 existing stations or currently planned in the L.A. and San Diego areas. Ten more stations would be sited under Phase 1.
Phase 2 and 3 would enable a network of 250 hydrogen stations for 10-20,000 hydrogen vehicles. At this point, there might be a growing number of homeowners having their own hydrogen stations for heating, cooking and auto fueling. The network would focus on station deployments along interstates 5,10,15, and 80.
Under California law SB-76, California’s Air Resources Board provides funding ($6.5 million) for implementing the Hydrogen Highway network plan. The money provides for co-funding up to three hydrogen fueling demonstration stations and the lease-purchase of a variety of hydrogen-fueled vehicles.
As of June (2006), two fueling stations have been opened. One in Santa Monica and the other in Burbank. Request-for Proposals (RFP’s) are available for the development of hydrogen fueling stations and procurement of hydrogen vehicles. Several State agencies have already received Ford hydrogen vehicles for testing. Public meetings have been held on fuel cells and the SB-76 program.
As a side note, as of late May 2006, the Hydrogen Association has a listing of all hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. (www.hydrogenassociation.org)
I feel that good progress has been made toward the hydrogen infrastructure within California in just two years. Planning appears to be quite adequate and thorough. It will certainly lead the way for other States to follow. It should add an incentive to “big oil” and other investors to increase the number of hydrogen fueling stations within California. It also makes the public aware of the fact that there will soon be sufficient hydrogen fueling stations for them to drive the major highways in California. One can now drive a hydrogen vehicle from San Diego to Los Angeles, fuel up and return.
Do you feel ethanol and other biofuels can bridge the gap between fossil fuels and hydrogen or should we put more effort into a hydrogen economy now?
No. I can see that the biofuels and ethanol are just a short “stop gap” attempt to get the nation off of gasoline. I feel that their production should not be continued because we do not have sufficient arable land to fuel all the nation’s autos. They both still generate CO2, which has an atmospheric “half-life” of over 10 years that adds to the reservoir of global warming gases (half of the original amount taken up by oceans and plant growth in >10 years).
Yes. We should put more effort into the hydrogen economy now.
Do you feel our current Government is doing all it can for the development of a hydrogen economy?
No. However, during the past three years, there has certainly been a change in the U.S. Government’s approach to the Solar-Hydrogen economy. A 5-year, $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative was presented by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address. In July 2005, The House and Senate have held three hearings in both reviewing the progress and the challenges ahead in the hydrogen economy. Bob Inglis (R-SC) stated that the hydrogen economy “has the potential for being the next giant leap for mankind”.
The Government’s DOE has stated that: “full commercialization of the Hydrogen Economy is our national energy destination; assuring that we accurately understand and intelligently manage its course and is, in fact, our duty.” There is the possibility of utilizing Title XVII Loan Guarantees, which might enable the commercialization of the uses of hydrogen fuel cells. The Government passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 containing a number of targets and goals for the hydrogen economy under several sections (805, 808, 811, 812). The DOE Secretary must submit to Congress every 3 years a report describing progress in the eight major task areas. One sub-task is reporting the progress in the infrastructure toward the goal of 100,000 hydrogen vehicles by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020. Another task is to report the goal of achieving sufficient hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. by 2010.
In 2003, the National Science Foundation has sponsored a fuel cell center at the University of South Carolina. There are a number of major companies that have joined the center including GM, Air Liquide, Boeing and others.
DOE initiated, in 2004, their “hydrogen, fuel cells and infrastructure technologies program” for advancing the hydrogen economy. This program has many sub-programs including hydrogen production, storage, delivery, fuel cells, safety codes and standards, and technology validation.
Although, DOE has had a small fuel cell R&D program since 1990, it recently has expanded its fuel cell programs. DOE, through three of its National laboratories, have established three different R&D fuel cell programs consisting of (a) PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cells, (b) phosphoric acid and alkaline fuel cells and, (c) molten salt and solid oxide fuel cells. Each National Lab has a cluster of 7-9 University research groups also working in those same affiliated areas of fuel cell research.
Since 2004, the National Renewable Energy Lab has had a number of hydrogen fuel R&D programs. In their V.C. Systems Analysis program, they are to validate hydrogen vehicles with >300 mile range, greater than 2,000 hour fuel cell durability and <$3/kg hydrogen production cost. Another task is to identify near-term strategies for developing a hydrogen infrastructure.
There are a large number of programs on hydrogen R&D at DOE. I feel that in some of the R&D areas, the Government could eliminate the “far-out” research programs and tasks such as molten salt fuel cells and others and to place more emphasis on the more applied programs. I feel that the DOE should be more selective in its hydrogen programs it funds.
In summary, it is encouraging to see that the Federal Government is finally taking the initiative to making an effort in advancing the hydrogen economy and giving this economy its public recognition.
The Government is developing many avenues for the production of hydrogen for the Solar-Hydrogen Economy. Should the Government continue to fund the development for the generation of hydrogen from nuclear power plants?
Definitely not. Hydrogen and nuclear power is a recipe for disaster. The Chernobyl explosion at the Ukraine nuclear power station was caused, in part, by a hydrogen explosion. I certainly do not want large volumes of hydrogen being generated at any of the U.S. nuclear power plants. In addition, the U.S. nuclear power plants are 30-40 years old. These “aging dinosaurs” will have to be dismantled costing the consumers billions of dollars in their electric bills.
Do you feel that “Big Oil” will slow or help the further development of hydrogen fuel and why?
“Big Oil” is still dragging its feet. During the 2000-2004 period, some of “Big Oil’s” early plans for the Solar-Hydrogen Economy did appear to hamper the transition away from petroleum. For example, Shell had done R&D for on-board auto gasoline converters to hydrogen for the fuel cells and had proposed their usage. This has been dropped in favor of the hydrogen-ICE auto. At Shell’s home base of operations in the Netherlands, they will soon see a hydrogen public transportation project. Shell Hydrogen has agreed with MAN Truck & Bus Company, N.V. to make an economic study of the project with investment in 2007. Buses will be fueled from a Shell combined gasoline-hydrogen service stations with the buses expected to be operational by 2009.
However, Shell says that “caution may be the watchword” right now. They believe that the time-determining step is the development and the mass production of the competitive fuel cell applications. Shell still has to make that big leap of faith.
Chevron’s hydrogen boss, Rick Zalesky, is in charge of the hydrogen business for Chevron Technology Ventures. Chevron is spending $300 million per year on clean and renewable energy projects. Chevron is opening three more hydrogen fueling stations in 2006, with two in California and one in Florida, for a total of five. Zalesky states that the “old ways” do not work, i.e. centralized fueling networks. Both he and Chevron believe that the method of producing hydrogen where it is consumed makes more sense. Chevron proposes to use the “steam reforming” of natural gas process for producing hydrogen at each station, which requires CO2 sequestering. “Steam reforming” is too energy intensive and that electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is a better choice. Recent progress on the photocatalytic process using sunlight to produce hydrogen from water has great potential to lower production costs.
British Petroleum’s (BP) Alternative Energy company and GE have teamed up in 2006 to jointly develop and deploy hydrogen power projects for electricity generation. They, too, are using the “steam reforming process with capture of the CO2 by-product and storing in deep geological formations”. One can see that this is a “stop gap” measure since the CO2 will eventually leak back out of the storage formations. They plan on two initial hydrogen power plant projects in Scotland with 475 MW hydrogen fired power plant and California with 500 MW. BP’s Alternative Energy company is their second venture into the Solar-Hydrogen Economy with BP’s first company, BP Solar. BP, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company plans to build a network of fueling stations to support Ford’s fleet of hydrogen-ICE buses in Sacramento, Orlando and Detroit.
By using the “steam-reforming” of natural gas process, the net savings to the Big Oil companies would be on the average about $25 billion per year worldwide. However, I feel that “steam reforming” is not the best way for generating hydrogen since the by-product is CO2. It would be better to use either wind-power or PV electricity to generate hydrogen by electrolysis. This the cleanest and most environmentally safe way to go.
In summary, we still need “Big Oil” to convert their stations over to hydrogen. They will have to dismantle their vast network of gasoline and fuel oil distribution systems. They are not going to do that easily and it will take time. Big Oil is entrenched in their running petroleum business and do not see any immediate threat by the Hydrogen Economy. However, they do see the profit incentive but they are waiting for the fuel cell autos to be produced. Thus, in the future, changing Big Oil would be like getting “an elephant to turn on a dime”. There would have to be some massive downsizing of Big Oil.
I believe that Ford has the best business plan in their hydrogen-ICE auto and that should “spur” Big Oil to downsize and concentrate on hydrogen. I also believe Chevron has the correct idea in their approach to generate hydrogen where it is used, i.e. at the fueling station. But, they should plan for using solar electricity and water electrolysis to generate the hydrogen and not the “steam-reforming” process since the by-product is CO2.
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