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Stephane Bilodeau's picture
Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Novacab Inc.

Dr Stephane Bilodeau, Eng., FEC has a PhD in Energy & Advanced Thermodynamics as well as a Master in Applied Sciences. He is a Fellow of Engineers Canada. In the last 20 years, he has driven...

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  • Jul 25, 2020
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The German government has recently announced that it goes all-out for “green hydrogen”, even going as far as claiming that it represents a second Energiewende. But Germany’s “green hydrogen economy” will lean heavily on imports.

Great Britain is looking for a similar (but less aggressive) approach.

The article highlights that many are think:

"Hydrogen has been the next big thing for longer than its advocates would care to remember. Before Elon Musk, Tesla and electric battery technology, it was commonly assumed that we might all, one day, be driving hydrogen cars. The traditional drawback for investors has been the expensive complexity of actually producing the stuff. But in an era of net zero carbon emissions targets, the green utility of the most common chemical element in the universe is turning it into one of the most fashionable products on earth."

What do you think of this new (or somewhat old) trend?

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 26, 2020

"Before Elon Musk, Tesla and electric battery technology, it was commonly assumed that we might all, one day, be driving hydrogen cars."

Stephane, the only reason for the common assumption "we might all, one day, be driving hydrogen cars," at least in the U.S., was a massive PR blitz to promote natural gas, financed by the oil industry.

The chronology goes something like this:

1997: GM's EV1, the first production electric car in 80 years, is leased to ~1,000 car buyers for a trial run.
1998-1999: The car is adored by its lessees, many of whom offer to buy it outright.
2000: Instead of taking the car into production, which suffered from limited battery life (lead-acid was currently state-of-the-art for large-format batteries) GM calls all EV1s in - and destroys them.
2001: Owners who refused to turn the cars in are subjected to lawsuits and harrassment. In the end, all but one EV1 are collected and destroyed.
2002-2004: Recognizing electricity was the fuel of the future for personal vehicles and the end of gasoline, oil companies, in concert with car manufacturers, embark on a plan to sell fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs), to be fueled by liquid hydrogen. The fuel was to be available at 50,000 U.S. gasoline stations converted to sell it. Though hydrogen is marketed as a "clean fuel" (an FCV's only exhaust is water), promoters leave out the ugly part: 95% of hydrogen is manufactured from natural gas in a process that emits even more carbon than burning gasoline.
2004-2007: Development of electric vehicles continues apace. After inventor Stanley Ovshinsky develops improved large-format nickel-cadmium batteries (Ni-Cad), his patents are purchased by a consortium of Texaco, Chevron, and other oil companies with promises to market them, then patent ownership is used to "encumber" (block) further development. When lithium-Ion battery (li-ion) chemistries show promise for electric cars, the University of Texas, funded by the same consortium, sues developers in attempt to block development of large-format li-ion batteries.
2008: Inventor Elon Musk, undeterred, users money from the sale of his startup PayPal to fund development of another production electric car: the Tesla Roadster. Without large-format li-ion batteries, Tesla engineers develop their own battery pack by linking 6,831 li-ion cellphone batteries together. The Roadster becomes the longest-range, fastest electric vehicle ever built.
2010: After UofT loses their suit of large-format li-ion battery developers, hopes for an FCV economy dim. Oil companies concentrate on cornering the market of electricity generation, using their versatile-but-polluting fossil fuel, natural gas. It relies shutting down all existing nuclear power plants - uranium being their only real competition as an abundant, dispatchable fuel to generate electricity.

To be continued. See also Who Killed the Electric Car?

Stephane Bilodeau's picture
Stephane Bilodeau on Jul 27, 2020

Bob, you're right.  This common assumption was an easy conclusion, but not a realistic one. I personally that there will be a mix of technologies and energy sources and that it is the only way forward.  

My point was to highlight the question, since UK stakeholders are asking, to see where other stands. 

Anyways, a "one-size-fits-all" (or I should say a one energy type fits all...) approach is a utopia.  The world is more complex than that. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 27, 2020

Understood, Stephane. I guess my overall point was to show that most of the money made in energy is from sales of fossil fuel - and though various strategies have been employed to conceal that fact from a concerned public, our lack of progress in fighting climate change speaks for itself.

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