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Hydrogen Demand: And Now The Contentious Disappointments

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In the first part of this series, I projected and explained the plummeting hydrogen demand from petroleum refining and fertilizer, the biggest sources of demand today, through 2100. In the second part, I explored the flat demand segments, and the single source of significant demand increase I see for hydrogen in the next 20 years. In this final assessment, I look at the great but false hopes for a hydrogen economy: transportation, long-term storage, and heat.

Hydrogen demand through 2100 by author

Hydrogen demand through 2100, by author.

Transportation — 0 rising to 1 (one) million tons H2

This is one of the great hopes of the current fossil fuel industry, and a couple of car companies which have managed to capture their governments in Korea and Japan. However, there’s no significant place for hydrogen or synthetic fuels made from it in ground transportation. Electrification is simply too easy, prevalent, cheap, and effective. Hydrogen can’t compete outside of tiny niches like vintage vehicles. For short- and medium-haul aviation, and short- and medium-haul water freight shipping, the clear path is battery electric as well.

That only leaves long-haul shipping and long-haul aviation as areas where hydrogen might have a play. Mark Z. Jacobson and I discussed this on CleanTech Talk a year and a half ago. His perspective was that in order to get to a zero-carbon world, hydrogen would have to be used for long-haul shipping and aviation.

His perspective on shipping was that we needed to eliminate black carbon, with its 100-year global warming potential of 1,055–2,240. Subsequently, I spent a couple of hours talking with Hadi Akbari, a PhD of mechanical engineering who has spent the last several years of his fascinating career spanning two continents building scrubbers for heavy marine vessels. Just as particulates are scrubbed from coal plant emissions, they can be scrubbed from marine emissions, and so biofuels with their lower black carbon emissions will be fit for purpose in my opinion. (Note: this is my opinion after talking with Hadi and researching further, not Hadi’s expressed opinion.) Biofuels use nature to do most of the heavy lifting and have advanced substantially over the past decade. There is no value in using them in ground transportation, they no longer consume food sources and there is little real concern about them competing with agriculture, although there is a lot of expressed concern nonetheless.

On aviation, Jacobson rightly points out that we have to solve emissions, but it’s a hard problem, with CO2 emissions, nitrous oxide emissions (anything burned in our atmosphere combines the nitrogen and oxygen into nitrous oxides), and the water vapor which creates contrails. In discussion with Paul Martin, it’s clear that both hydrogen storage and fuel cells would have to be in the fuselage, leaving a lot less room for passengers and luggage or making the fuselage bigger with attendant efficiency losses, and creating a heavy burden of excess heat from the fuel cells that makes them deeply unlikely. In his perspective, hydrogen would be burned directly in jet engines in this model, and that wouldn’t eliminate nitrous oxides or water vapor hence contrails.

Once again, low-carbon biofuels are likely to be the solution here. Certified versions have existed since 2011, after all, while there are exactly zero certified hydrogen drive train planes in the world. And contrails require fairly minimal operational changes, as a regular CleanTechnica reader who holds my feet the fire pointed out (and thank you for doing so, Hazel). Those operational changes still have to be mandated for the airlines, but it’s not as significant a problem as I had originally assumed.

Biofuels are enhanced with some hydrogen in some cases, and there are always going to be edge cases where hydrogen persists, but my projection for all modes of transportation including biofuel use is still only an increase from effectively 0 tons today to a million tons a year by 2100.

Long-term storage — 0 rising to 1 (one) million tons

Hydrogen is also projected as a solution for the dunkelflaute, long dreary periods when there is little wind or sunshine. However, it only makes into the also-ran categories of my projections for grid storage, not into the three major technologies.

Even there, it’s not going to be a big player in the also ran category, fighting for scraps with all the other contenders a long way back in the pack. Some of the reasons are the same as always. It’s ineffective, it’s inefficient and it will be vastly more expensive. But more than that, the need just isn’t there unless you assume a whole bunch of other solutions aren’t already occurring.

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission has been around since the 1950s, but in 2012 they finally solved a major technical inhibitor to its wide scale use. Despite the presence of multiple grids on continents already sharing electricity with HVDC asynchronous connections between high-voltage alternative current (HVAC) synchronized grids, despite massive HVDC construction projects under way, planned and proposed, despite electricity already being transmitted long-distances today with much more lossy HVAC, many people seem to think that electricity won’t be transmitted from renewables between opposing ends of continents and even across continents.

Electricity already flows from Africa to Europe across the Bosphorus Strait. Expanding that with big HVDC pipes from solar installations and wind farms in northern Africa is trivial, just as getting more HVDC pipes to ease the logjam from North Sea offshore wind into the population centers of Europe is straightforward and being constructed.

Renewables are cheap to build, and just as with every other form of electrical generation except nuclear, will be overbuilt and run under capacity part of the year.

Demand management strategies vs V2g projection

Demand management strategies vs V2g projection by author

And the emergence of massive electrification increases the ability to do demand management at much larger scales.

The assumption of the need for long-term storage assumes narrow geographical boundaries, an archaic concept of energy independence in a world of global trade, and actively hostile neighbors. Liebreich and I have started this conversation online, with his opening salvo being a question of whether Japan would ever accept the proposed HVDC links with China, to which I respond now that China is already 20% of Japan’s annual trade, so why is electricity different?

Germany will likely be the one outlier in this space. They have underground salt deposits that they can turn into caverns, they have a weird love affair with hydrogen too, and dunkelflaute being a German word isn’t a coincidence. If anybody builds significant hydrogen storage, it will probably be them.

As a result, my projection for global demand for hydrogen for electricity storage rises from effectively zero tons today to a million tons in 2100. Someone will waste the money, but very few.

Heating — 0 tons rising to … 0 (zero) tons

And finally, heating, the beloved hope of natural gas utilities globally, all of whom are lobbying hard to convince governments to let them ship hydrogen into homes and buildings to replace natural gas, and to allow them to inject tiny amounts of hydrogen into existing natural gas lines to produce close to zero emissions reductions.

There are no certified hydrogen home furnaces or stoves today. The existing natural gas distribution network would have to be completely replaced to handle hydrogen. Current challenges with leaking natural gas would be multiplied vastly by leaking hydrogen due to the tiny size of the molecule. SGN in Scotland is trying to retrofit 300 homes in Fife with hydrogen appliances for free, one of the many efforts going on around the world by utilities whose life is rapidly ending.

No, what will happen is that all of that natural gas distribution infrastructure will be shoved into electrical minimills to create steel for useful things, and the world will convert to heat pumps and induction stoves.

My projection for global demand for hydrogen for heating is effectively zero tons today, and remaining at so far under a million tons through 2100 that it rounds down to zero.


And so, that’s the projection. It’s flawed, of course, but not fatally in my opinion. It’s my first iteration of the projection, and it’s withstood me writing 4,000 words over three articles explaining it, so there’s that. But as with my projections on grid storage and vehicle-to-grid, I offer it to create a useful discussion about what the world will become, and welcome challenges to it.

Hydrogen demand today is two-thirds for petroleum refining and fertilizer manufacturing. Both of those uses are going to drop precipitously in the coming decades. The one growth area, steel, will not replace them, in my opinion. Green hydrogen only has to replace the useful two-thirds of hydrogen demand seen today, and grow to 75% of 2021 demand by 2100 to fulfill all needs.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/19/hydrogen-demand-and-now-the-contentious-disappointments/

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Never Mind the Torque Talk, Feel the Romance 

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As relayed by Majella Waterworth to David Waterworth 

Conversations collected at the AEVA EV experience day in Cleveland, Queensland, 26th September 2021.


Two young men were enamored by our Tesla Model 3. Majella showed them the tech and then got the comment: “I couldn’t afford this and an expensive engagement ring for my fiancé.” Apparently, he was expected to pay 3 months’ salary — about  $10,000 — for the ring.  My wife, who is quite the expert on jewelry, suggested he look at estate jewelry. But he said if he bought something second hand he would be divorced before he got married.

Then there would be the expense of the date on which he would present the ring. So, she showed him Romance Mode, Netflix access, the quality of the music, and how the panoramic glass roof would be the piece de résistance of a very affordable romantic date. The lower boot in the back would be just right for the chilled champagne and beer, and the frunk would hold the pizzas. Now, that was a hit, and they all had a good laugh.


A young couple arrived and began asking the usual questions about range, charging, and price. They had a two-year-old and another on the way in less than 2 months. Majella suggested they check out the back seat, and when they saw the baby seats, they realized a Tesla could be a family car. They checked out the screens that shielded the glass roof and made the car more comfortable for the children. They were impressed by the space afforded by the frunk and the two boots – you need all the room you can get when you are out with two small children. Karaoke with the Disney tunes was a hit, as was the ability to use Spotify for more kids music.

They live in a unit block and were concerned about where they could plug in. Majella showed them the PlugShare app on her phone. Dad was really surprised at the amount of information available – type of plug, speed of charging, availability. He was impressed at how many charge points there were close to home. He loved the lightning bolt on the Tesla screen that showed where the Superchargers were and how to get to them. 

Photo by Zach Shahan/CleanTechnica.


Majella is a mother and grandmother. She has practiced her people skills over many years in retail. She is an amateur gemologist who enjoys faceting gemstones she has found herself.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/10/17/never-mind-the-torque-talk-feel-the-romance/

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Bright Yellow Rivian R1T Spotted In NYC

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Sam Sheffer shared a short video of a beautiful, bright yellow Rivian R1T to TikTok yesterday. The electric truck was spotted in New York City and Sam noted in the video captions that he had a longer video on his YouTube channel — although, at the time of this article publishing, it is not yet up. In his TikTok video, Sam started with the front of the truck and showed that the frunk opened and closed automatically (sorry, Earl, no frunkpuppy submission here).

As with Tesla, Rivian has cameras everywhere. There are also very cool and unique roof-rack latches that easily snap on and off and can also be moved to the back of the truck above the bed area. The tires are 20 inch tires.

“Now, Rivian says this is an adventure vehicle, so in case of emergency, check this out,” Sam says while opening the door to the truck and then pressing a button along the inside of the door. “Inside the door is a built-in flashlight. How cool is that? And if the flashlight wasn’t enough for you, inside the center console thing is a portable Bluetooth speaker that charges in here!”

The truck also has an automatic liftgate that is activated by the push of a button and a gear tunnel where you can put anything from skateboards to groceries in. He also gave an inside look at the cab and showed the displays and the wooden dash. The seats are made with vegan leather, he added.

While demonstrating the charging port, which has a light to help its owner see at night, he asked, “Is this a transformer or is this a truck?”

You can watch Sam’s video on TikTok here.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/10/17/bright-yellow-rivian-r1t-spotted-in-nyc/

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US & Denmark Unveil Big Plans For Wind Power

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Here’s the thing about renewables like wind and solar that many people don’t get. The “fuel” that makes them work is free. That is not to say the devices we construct to harvest energy from wind and solar don’t cost anything and don’t contribute some greenhouse gas emissions. But let’s not pretend that somehow all the concrete, steel, and piping that go into making a thermal generating plant are inexpensive and carbon free.

And yes, getting the power generated by renewables from where it is made to where it is used requires building new transmission lines. But they don’t leak oil and gas into our rivers and oceans the way pipelines do. Isn’t it odd how fossil fuel apologists question the need for new transmission infrastructure when it involves electricity from renewables but never do when it comes to electricity from thermal sources? One is a scourge while the other is a blessing? Does that make any sense?

The central point is, once the fuel for thermal generating plants gets consumed, we have to go out and find more of it. Prices for coal, oil, and gas aren’t stable. They fluctuate constantly — sometimes wildly — which makes it hard to make long term business decisions. The world is about to get a hard lesson in the true cost of relying on fossil fuels this winter. With unnatural gas in short supply, prices are expected to skyrocket. The cost of electricity in some places could double or triple as a result.

Yet the cost of sunlight never goes up. It is free and always will be. All we have to do is gather it up and distribute it efficiently and humans will have all the electrical energy they could possibly need forever.

Wind Is Solar

Wind is just solar energy in a different format. Think about it. Wind is air moving from one place to another. And what causes the air to move? Temperature differences. And what causes temperature differences? The sun. Whether we are talking about a breeze that fills the sails of a boat or the jet streams that encircle the globe, the sun is the ultimate source of all air movements on Earth.

Denmark Opts For Wind Islands

Denmark has been experimenting with offshore wind power since 1991. It’s no wonder two of the world’s largest wind turbine companies — Vestas and Ørsted — are both Danish. For years, it has thought about constructing artificial islands in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to serve as bases for offshore wind farms. Now the government has officially sanctioned the idea. The Danish government will own 50.1% of the islands with private partners owning the rest.

The island in the North Sea will have a capacity of 3 GW, which is equal to the electricity consumption of three million households and twice the amount of energy provided by all offshore wind turbines in Denmark today. It also corresponds to approximately half of Denmark’s total electricity consumption. The capacity will be expanded in phases to a maximum of 10 GW, which could cover the electricity consumption of 10 million households and contribute to the further electrification of Denmark and its neighboring countries.

In the Baltic Sea, the artificial island will be located offshore near the island of Bornholm. Electricity from the offshore installation will be distributed from Bornholm to electricity grids on Zealand and neighboring countries. The turbines off the coast of Bornholm will have a capacity of 2 GW, corresponding to the electricity consumption of two million households.

The decision to establish the two energy islands was reached under the climate agreement of 22 June 2020, which was entered into by the Danish Government, the Liberal Party, Danish People’s Party, Social Liberal Party, Socialist People’s Party, the Red-Green Alliance, Conservative Party, Liberal Alliance and the Alternative.

The US Offshore Wind Initiative

Offshore wind is popular because the equipment can be placed well out to sea where it is invisible to people on land. We don’t object to a welter of poles, wires, and transformers cluttering up our built environment but heaven forfend we have to deal with the sight of a spinning turbine. Eeeek! Also, wind speeds tend to be more stable and predictable out over the ocean than they are on land, which makes offshore wind more reliable.

This past week, the US government announced plans for seven major offshore wind farms along both coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are part of a plan by the Biden administration to create 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 — enough for 10 million homes. Sharp eyed readers will note Danish authorities expect that much electricity to power 30 million homes, which tells you something about how much electricity the average home in the US uses compared to homes in the rest of the world.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said her department hopes to hold lease sales by 2025 for areas off the coasts of Maine, New York and the mid-Atlantic, as well as the Carolinas, California, Oregon and the Gulf of Mexico. The projects could avoid about 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions while creating up to 77,000 jobs, according to The Guardian.

In addition to offshore wind, the interior department is working with other federal agencies to increase renewable energy production on public lands, Haaland said, with a goal of at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy from wind and solar power by 2025.

The government’s wind initiatives will face a host of technical and political challenges. Who will ever forget a certain ex-president telling a group of fawning admirers that wind turbines “kill all the birds”? Yet the same people don’t bat an eye when offshore oil rigs (many of which are visible from land) spill millions of gallons of crude oil into the ocean, when pipelines threaten the water supply of millions of people, or fracking turns domestic drinking water toxic. Can you say “hypocrites,” boys and girls? Yeah, we knew you could.

The government is taking steps to address those concerns, however. The DOE announced last week it allocate $11.5 million to study the risks offshore wind development may pose to birds, bats, and marine mammals. It will also monitor changes in commercial fish and marine invertebrate populations at an offshore wind site on the east coast and spend $2 million on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals and seabirds at potential wind sites on the west coast.

“In order for Americans living in coastal areas to see the benefits of offshore wind, we must ensure that it’s done with care for the surrounding ecosystem by coexisting with fisheries and marine life – and that’s exactly what this investment will do,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced.

The Takeaway

The bottom line is what is known in the industry as the levelized cost of electricity — the triple net, absolute measure of what it costs to generate kilowatt of electricity. Water seeks its own level, nature abhors a vacuum, and business craves the lowest cost option. Today, the LCOE of wind and solar energy is lower than thermal generation and getting cheaper all the time. And why not? The cost of fuel for renewables is zero. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Fossil fuel adherents will fuss and fume about national security, energy independence, and the wonders of military might, but the truth is renewables not only slash carbon emissions, they can enhance national security, provide energy independence, and eliminate much of the need for standing armies to any country and all for free. What could we possibly be waiting for?

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/10/17/us-denmark-unveil-big-plans-for-wind-power/

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Cool & Fun Alternatives Manufacturers Can Use To Lower Insurance Premiums For Fast EVs (Part 2)

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In Part 1, I explored the problem of high insurance rates for EVs, and the problems that can come with giving insurance companies even more data. Long story short, there are life-and-death level privacy risks that come from having your personal data out there, the data isn’t as good as we think, and insurers will eventually want even more of our data or money.

In this article, I want to explore the problem a little more so we can see why alternative approaches are necessary, and then go through some of the options I’ve come up with.

I May Be Wrong, But I’m Not Alone

I know not all readers will agree with what I’ve had to say in Part 1, and some will think I’m being extreme or paranoid. Keep in mind that I’m not saying that you personally shouldn’t be able to purchase such insurance or share your personal data with whoever you want. I think customer choice is a great thing, and you should be able to choose that option if you’re comfortable with it and think it suits you.

Even if us “luddites” who don’t want telematics-based insurance are 100% wrong and 200% stupid, around a third of insurance customers aren’t comfortable sharing telematics data, so addressing this concern with alternatives is still a smart move. Leaving a third of the market to a company’s competition isn’t a great move, and if a manufacturer’s insurance monitoring programs are really saving lives, having 1/3 of the population sit those out leaves a lot of chances to improve safety on the table.

Manufacturers and insurers should come up with alternative approaches that we can choose from depending on our comfort level. That way, people comfortable with the risks of telematics-based insurance can still use it, while people like me can have alternatives to choose from. Plus, you can do telematics plus alternatives, and save even more!

On top of this, public support for innovative insurance programs can be improved when people aren’t reading about how something like a “safety score” could lead to bad driving. People don’t like to feel like guinea pigs, especially when it’s for an experiment they didn’t sign up to be part of. Once again, even if these concerns are unfounded, they should still be considered if a manufacturer doesn’t want the government coming down on them.

Things Any Alternatives Must Do

High performance vehicles often come with high insurance premiums because the history of other owners with the same make and model isn’t so great. Big wrecks, a high number of small wrecks, or anything else that drives the average cost of claims for that make and model up leads to a high “symbol,” and high premiums for the owners of that vehicle type.

Telematics helps insurers offer lower rates because (in theory) they don’t have to guess at who is more likely to do something irresponsible with a vehicle that has 2–5 times the power of the average family sedan they had a good driving record in before.

For any alternative solution to work at reducing what you pay for insurance, it must (A) lower the actual number of wrecks and the costs of those wrecks for the make and model in the wild and/or (B) help insurers to see that you’re personally a less risky driver. Ideally, both should happen.

Idea #1: Tutorial Mode For New Owners

One of the biggest problems with fast cars is that it’s a lot easier to get in over your head. People who have been driving a gas car with only 100–300 horsepower don’t know how different a vehicle’s dynamics can be with 500+ horsepower and full, instant torque from zero RPM. Thus, even experienced drivers can make big, big mistakes.

If manufacturers offered an optional “Tutorial Mode” for new owners, insurers would likely approve a discount for drivers that went through the tutorial and gradual got used to the higher power levels a performance EV offers.

The car can start out offering only a small fraction of its full potential power for a set number of miles, while offering safety tips through the infotainment system. With a reasonably good driving score (with plenty of leeway for the occasional need to do things like stomp the brakes), the vehicle can unlock higher levels of power a little at a time until the driver finishes the tutorial and has full power at their disposal.

No data, other than that the driver passed the tutorial program, would need to be sent to insurers, so privacy concerns wouldn’t be an issue if one chose to use these “training wheels.”

Idea #2: In-Person Training For New Owners

The Jurassic Park-like entrance to the Bronco Off-Roadeo.

Earlier this year, I had a lot of fun going to Ford’s “Bronco Off-Roadeo” near Austin, Texas. The event is meant for new Bronco and Bronco Sport owners to get familiar with the off-road capabilities of their vehicles in a controlled environment with professional instructors. Perhaps more importantly, the training time is included in the price of the vehicle.

Not only was it a fun experience and a great show that Ford put on, but I left the event knowing a lot more about how the new Ford Bronco works, and where the vehicle’s features would work best. I didn’t leave there knowing everything, but anyone would be a safer off-roader after attending such an event.

The gathering area for the training drives.

There’s no reason that other manufacturers, including the manufacturers of high-performance EVs, couldn’t do the same. Insurance companies already give discounts for additional driver training, so this would be a great approach.

Idea #3: In-Car Virtual Reality Training

In-person training is expensive, especially if a customer has to travel to the event. Fortunately, modern technology gives us other options, and today’s EVs are well-suited to this kind of thing.

It may surprise some readers that the United States Air Force uses the DCS World flight simulator software to train A-10 Warthog pilots. The simulator runs on a normal gaming computer, using off-the-shelf VR goggles like the Oculus Quest. Add a decent set of controls (joystick, throttle, and a few other odds and ends–all available for cheap on Amazon), and you can provide a person with a simulation of flying that’s close enough to the real thing for the Air Force to allow it to serve as training time.

Here’s the thing: Tesla already uses the vehicle’s controls for in-car games. Beach Buggy Racing 2 Tesla Edition uses the car’s steering wheel and pedals to control the video game car on the car’s center display.

Tesla’s computing hardware is also up to the task of powering advanced VR software, especially the newer ones. So, that’s not going to get in the way. Add some power-steering-based wheel force feedback and modified sim racing software to the car, work any adjustable suspension to add realism, plug in a pair of VR goggles, and you can have a very robust and realistic car simulator software.

The gaming potential of using a Tesla as a sim racing rig is cool on its own, but it could also serve as a great virtual environment for safety training. While parked, the driver can experience all sorts of driving situations we would rather not ever see on the real streets, and learn to effectively deal with them to avoid collisions.

This could enable every Tesla to come with a months-long advanced driver training course that drivers could go through in their spare time to get insurance discounts. If other manufacturers’ in-car computers are sufficient to do this, any EV could potentially serve as a training area.

I’ve personally tried DCS World, and found the experience very realistic. I’ve also done Star Wars Squadrons in VR, and while I have no idea what flying a TIE fighter is really like, it did feel very realistic. But, none of my personal experience is anywhere close to what an Air Force flight instructor or a professional race car driver has. If today’s VR is good enough for them, it should be good enough for anybody.

Do You Have More Ideas?

I’m going to hand this back to the readers now. Do you have any ideas that EV manufacturers could use to improve safety? Do you have any other ideas to reduce insurance costs without introducing potential dealbreakers like monitoring or tracking?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Featured image by United States Air Force (Public Domain)

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/10/17/cool-fun-alternatives-manufacturers-can-use-to-lower-insurance-premiums-for-fast-evs-part-2/

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