Friday, January 22, 2016

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at TRB

Following on my previous posting on electric vehicles at TRB, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which also attracted a lot of attention.
(TRB is shorthand for the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a transportationpalooza held every January when 13,000 transportation professionals from academia, government, and the consulting world congregate in Washington, DC to share the latest research findings and best practices in the field. There are more than 3,000 sessions and presentations, and more than 2,750 papers, so any reporting has to be based on a very limited sample.)
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been called “the other electric vehicle” and “the vehicle of tomorrow.”  But now it appears they may actually start to appear on our streets and highways.
Some highlights from TRB sessions:
Toyota appears to be leading the way for vehicle manufacturers.  They are transitioning from a development phase to commercialization.  The Toyota Mirai (list price $57,500) has zero emissions, a 300-mile range, can be refueled in 3 – 5 minutes, and has a high-torque electric drive.  They have infrastructure partnerships with fueling station providers in California and the Northeast.  Toyota has also provided royalty-free patents to other manufacturers as a way of stimulating the market.
Air Liquide – a major hydrogen manufacturer – has partnered with Toyota to build 12 stations in the Northeast US and has many more on the way.  They are developing alternative pathways for manufacturing and distributing hydrogen, both to create an efficient system and to improve overall life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases.  (How you manufacture and distribute hydrogen matters as much in calculating GHG emissions as what comes out of the vehicle.)
California continues to be the leader among states in promoting HFC technology.  They are concentrating on building hydrogen fueling stations and plan to have 50 of them open by the end of 2016.  They estimate that about 100 stations throughout the state will be needed for a sustainable system.  The hydrogen stations will typically be built as auxiliary operations at existing gasoline stations.
The US Department of Energy supports HFC technology as part of its “all of the above” energy strategy.  USDOE’s priority now is encouraging construction of more fueling stations.  There are now about 50 open in the US.

Honda may be next with a commercial HFC offering, the Clarity.

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