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San Diego
Electric Car Insider Magazine
Interests: electric cars, electric motorcycles, electric bikes, electric vehicles
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Heavy duty trucks rarely carry a full load by weight, the capacity is met first by volume. China may be able to mandate a H2 dispensing network by fiat, but that won’t solve the engineering problems or make it competitive economically.
@Davemart, I think you made your point well enough. Some may share your speculation that Shell pulled out of H2 distribution because it risked being too successful, and would displace fossil fuels, although most of the H2 in the California network is in fact sourced as reformed fossil fuel. The simpler and more likely explanation is that they are eyeing the scoreboard, don’t see the retail H2 market going anywhere, and see the BEV market making solid and impressive progress year over year and prefer to establish a presence in that retail market, which is absolutely displacing fossil fuels.
“…too successful…” That’s quite an interesting way to look at Shell’s exit from the H2 retail dispensing market.
I agree that history does not predict the future, but when a team consistently loses, the oddsmakers do take that information into account on future bets. Shell recently exited the H2 dispensing business in California. Within the last few years, they entered the electric charging business, spanning the range of product and services from consumer EVSE to commercial public charging. Who knows, Nicola may ultimately succeed in building a brand new H2 infrastructure all over the US. Seems like a long shot. They hedged that bet with the development and production of BEV trucks, a big expense for a startup.
I agree that history does not predict the future, but when a team consistently loses, the oddsmakers do take that information into account on future bets. Shell recently exited the H2 dispensing business in California. Within the last few years, they entered the electric charging business, spanning the range of product and services from consumer EVSE to commercial public charging. Who knows, Nicola may ultimately succeed in building a brand new H2 infrastructure all over the US. Seems like a long shot. They hedged that bet with the development and production of BEV trucks, a big expense for a startup.
@Davemart: I am counting trucks on dealer lots, or in fleets, not press releases. I don’t mean that comment to be flippant, just deadpan factual. I don’t follow markets outside of North America, this continent is big enough to keep me busy, so there may exist cheap, plentiful liquid hydrogen at retail elsewhere. Here in California, which is practically speaking, the only place selling H2, it is crazy expensive and the stations are out of service about 50% of the time. These are simply the unvarnished on the ground facts. At any time that H2 competes economically with actual on the road commercial BEV vehicles (or for that matter, light duty vehicles) I’ll take interest. But out here on the frontier, the vehicles and infrastructure is vastly outnumbered by BEVs. I’ll leave it to readers of GCC to catch the numbers, which are regularly reported here.
The 16x H2 supply referenced above is for vehicles using fuel cells. Burning it in piston engines would require that quantity to be roughly doubled.
Good to see that you have not lost your sense of humor, Davemart. I actually appreciate that you and a few others here are willing to take on unpopular positions (unpopular using the measure of market share, if that is a fair way to cast it). It seems the comment section would be nearly vacant otherwise. I agree that electric charging of the volumes of semi’s that flow through a busy Flying J or Pilot diesel station is going to be a daunting task. But consider the case for H2 resupply: where a refueling depot requires one tanker of diesel to service a given volume of trucks, it will require 16 tube truck deliveries of hydrogen. Even if that were converted to electrons for BEVs, it would be an impressive logistics feat to maintain the supply. That is before even mentioning the cost of the fuel.
The Achates Power opposed piston two-stroke May wring a bit more out of a liter of H2 than a conventional four stroke engine, but at the end of the day, cost per mile and total cost of ownership determine the winner in a market economy, even when all vehicles must be zero emission. Most of these commercial vehicles are working a full shift, and some more than that (team long haul driving for example). Fuel cost for 100,000 miles per year x 10 years is usually much more important than the acquisition cost of the power plant.
Fair points, Davemart. But I didn’t see any arguments that explained how burning H2 in a piston engine is going to be economically competitive and become a viable alternative. If cheap green hydrogen becomes available, along with an actual, rather than planned distribution system, great. But until then, it is just hand waving. Battery electric vehicles are making great strides in light duty, and finally showing up in the medium duty segment, with serious trials among heavy duty fleets. China may, with the stoke of a pen, create a market for FCVs and fund the infrastructure. Elsewhere, the market will have a say in the outcome.
The continuing improvement in battery energy density is the thing that moves BEVs into an unassailable competitive position. If you don’t believe that trend line will continue into the future, place your bets on H2. But you also have to simultaneously believe that the FCV developers will solve their myriad of vastly more difficult problems, despite their lackluster track record. If Toyota had succeeded with the Mirai, that point of view might have some justification for confidence. But look at the sales volumes of FCVs vs BEVs, and more vexingly, the resale values as these vehicles come off lease. There’s no way to consider this a success. The question is, what is so different about the long haul trucking market and do those differences bode well for H2 success? Most of the fundamental challenges remain the same.
DM> “I am no lover of massively heavy BEVs, accelerating lethally fast in urban environments with copious amounts of particles from tyre shredding.” We are certainly in agreement on these points. Improved battery energy density solves two of the three, and unreasonable performance capability is a policy problem. (SUVs, at least in the US, are almost entirely a creation of bad tax and emissions policy). The Toyota Mirai is just 70-400 pounds lighter than the Toyota 4Runner (depending on configuration of each) with very little opportunity for light-weighting vs BEVs, which have been on an inexorable path to dramatically lighter weight for decades (including step changes in battery chemistry e.g lead, nickel, lithium). Lithium silicon, lithium sulfur, lithium metal/air all have the capability to extend this success streak. I publish a commercial vehicle buyers guide for fleet managers, and organize commercial vehicle demos at places like SunTrax, so I actually do have a little bit of insight on the market, from both the OEM and fleet points of view, mostly by listening closely to what the producers and consumers are telling me. OEMs are producing FCEVs and who knows, they may succeed. But the physics and economics make it a steep haul uphill.
I agree, Davemart, that there are use cases for light duty H2 PHEV, only pointing out that Toyota has said they won’t produce them. Not a technical limitation, they see a product market fit problem, mostly that it devastates the financial case for H2 refueling infrastructure, which is already challenged. Increased battery energy density, solving both BEV vehicle weight and cost disadvantages, and smart grids, where vehicle batteries are part of the grid solution technically and financially, will render gasoline and H2 obsolete. When utilities will pay consumers a couple hundred dollars a month to leave their cars plugged in when not driving, the economics of EV ownership are changed completely, and nothing else will be able to compete. If this sounds preposterous, talk to the folks developing V2G. They tell me they will pay a couple hundred dollars per month. Tesla Powerwall owners are already getting payouts on the SF Bay Area. It’s not too far off.
I’d love to see the successful deployment of any zero emission transportation technology but I believe it is far more likely that cost effective solutions for local electric generation and long distance transmission are developed before green hydrogen production and distribution are accomplished. Certainly it’s a race, may the best solution for consumers win. Grid scale batteries (including managed charging and V2G) and smart grids, for example, could allow utilities to wring far more capacity out of existing infrastructure. Conceptually, it’s like switched telco vs packet. There’s a point at which switched was just not going to be able to compete so packet, even for real time voice, was a fait accompli. Whether you knew that early or not depended on where you were invested, and how familiar you were with the advantages of packet, despite the early limitations. “Ship bits not atoms” - Nicolas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab
Toyota has said that the extra expense of H2 hybrid PHEV is uneconomical, even though it may seem appealing. Weight and space are also already impacted but H2 tanks, as Roger notes. The problem with H2 combustion, as most readers of this site are probably already aware, is efficiency. The poor efficiency of burning H2 rather than using a fuel cell makes an expensive trip more than twice as expensive. In here is no technology in sight that will solve that problem. Heavy duty trucking seems like a potential application, but fleets are among the most savvy fuel consumers, with the largest arbitraging fuel purchases. Who thinks any of those guys are going to get on board a system which has no cheap green hydrogen available (compared to fungible cheap electrons) and whose lack of efficiency will always put it at a distinct disadvantage? The number simply do not work out.
Everyone will breath easier when ZEVs, which can not be rigged to pollute by either manufacturers or owners, are the only cars available for sale.
Sure hope that cheap hydrogen is available soon: California’s largest H2 fuel retailer, True Zero, which operates 37 of the 53 hydrogen filling stations in the state, recently hiked the price of H2 at all its pumps to $36/kg, up from around $30/kg. As recently as April 2021, it was charging just $13.14 per kilo. At the new price, filling a Toyota Mirai’s 5.6kg tank would cost $201.60 — around $0.50 per mile.
DM> At that price it is difficult to imagine why you would mess around with big batteries. At that price, you still don’t have a hydrogen distribution or retail dispensing system or competitively priced vehicles. Hydrogen fueling stations cost $3-4 million each. Unless they are fed by pipeline, which does not exist, they have to be resupplied several times per day by tanker truck. FCVs are still considerably more expensive than BEVs. The high pressure tanks are life limited. The power plant is far more complex than a BEVs, having all the components of BEVs, plus all the components of the fuel cell and balance of plant, which includes thinks like pumps, etc. Really hard to see how this could be competitive with BEVs, which have the advantage of vehicle to grid applications, in addition to transportation. In a V2G scenario, the electric utility pays you a monthly fee for being plugged in. Neither ICE or FCVs can match that.
In 2013, the average price of a lithium-ion battery was $780 kWh. A decade later the average battery cost is $139/kWh, which is 12 percent lower than 2022 according to BNEF. Let’s look a little further back. A 1 kWh lithium-ion battery cost $7500 in 1991 Batteries are getting cheaper continuously. BEVs are now much cheaper than ICEs on a TCO basis. Spread all the FUD you’d like, Davemart, but the market is trending decisively toward battery electric cars, SUVs and trucks. There’s a good reason for that.
The perpetual promise of cheap hydrogen in the distant future is the only rationale for continuing public funding of H2 as a light duty transportation fuel. In the meantime, the entire world is busy making the transition to battery electric vehicles. By the time that cheap hydrogen materializes, BEVs will have a lock on the market for virtually every form of transportation except long distance trucking, shipping and large scale commercial aviation. That lock comes from unbeatable efficiency, fungible energy source and low cost. Batteries continue to get cheaper, and are recyclable, so that over time, less extraction is needed. Not to mention that batteries with 10-30,000 cycles are being demonstrated now. It seems likely we’ll see a commercial million mile battery well before we see cheap hydrogen. Vehicle to grid, with a robust, long life battery, creates a renewable energy ecosystem that hydrogen is not going to be able to make inroads against.
Free charging should come with policies that encourage responsible use or these OEMs and EA are simply creating an avoidable tragedy of the commons. If you are driving on a long trip and you have to wait an hour to charge at a site where locals are camping out and charging to 100%, you are going to have a pretty crummy experience. These poorly conceived promotions only serve to highlight the superior performance of the Tesla experience. The Tesla Superchargers are not only vastly more plentiful and reliable, but Tesla is implementing sensible policies like capping fast charge sessions at 90% (the charge rate above 90% drops to ~10kW, which takes another 45 min to complete. It’s not worth waiting for unless you’re a miser and EA is giving you that last $1 worth of charge for free) EA appears intent on driving their customer experience into the ground, with Kia assisting.
Free charging is causing unneeded congestion at fast chargers. I travel all over the US in EVs and local folks camping out, charging to 100% usually occupy the majority of chargers in urban areas. Get outside the city and it’s a completely different situation, no waiting and all the EVs are in transit somewhere. When anyone complains that EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, remind them that the problem is entirely preventable, that it is caused by manufacturers giving away free charging without putting sensible limits/policies in place. It would be worthwhile to investigate whether these poorly conceived free charging policies were created to support OEM claims that EV demand is cooling. Screw up the public charge network enough and yeah, demand will ease. Tesla, once again, leads the industry in implementing sensible policies.
Encouraging to see Subaru make a commitment to 50% EVs, and adopt the NACS, but hope they can survive on 50% reduced market share from current position. Very few people will want to buy anything other than an EV in 2030. Look at some charts on the rate of adoption of new tech. In seven years, driving an ICE will be like using fax to communicate in 2015. Sure, there were a few holdouts but it was already an antique.
It is a travesty that this took so long, and a bigger travesty that GAMI and AVfuel have not been given large performance based grants to get G100UL to every GA airport in the county asap.
Can you imagine being the last chief executive to figure out that this was a fait accompli the moment Ford and GM signed deals with Tesla?