Similar logic is also at play at large warehouse-dependent companies such as Amazon which just announced a deal with an important hydrogen fuel-cell company (PlugPower). Amazon will purchase 23% of the company and start using its hardware to power some of its forklift trucks. The fuel cells will be swapped into battery-powered forklifts that now must sit idle many hours a day while being recharged. By using hydrogen, Amazon will be able to continue using low-noise vehicles that don't emit toxic exhaust fumes indoors, yet only need a few minutes to replenish fuel and continue work practically uninterrupted.
These two examples are niche use cases, but they do serve to demonstrate that there is still room for the hydrogen cell.
Porsche is hedging its bets, though.
On one hand it has fully embraced EVs. It has been producing the Taycan for a couple of years, the all-electric Macan is on its way next and there are multiple electrified prototypes of Porsche's different models being tested; but the 911 will not go full EV any time soon, it will become a hybrid inspired by the 919 platform, although it expects that a whopping 80% of its lineup will be electrified by the end of this decade.
On the other hand, as I explained in another of my recent articles, Porsche has committed many of its resources in the development of eFuel. Porsche also considers another importance percentage: 70% of all Porsches ever produced are still on the road.
They acknowledge that many of today's cars still run on gasoline and simply removing them from the global fleet isn't a tenable option for a variety of reasons.
Porsche is very clear that eFuel is not hydrogen. Porsche is not looking at fuel cell vehicles. They state that the main reason is weight.
eFuel is instead a derivative from hydrogen. The process begins with electrolysis, which splits water intro hydrogen and other gases. From there Porsche captures carbon dioxide from the air and combines it with hydrogen, to produce synthetized methanol.
Porsche tacks the “e” on the front of eFuel because it foresees using renewable electricity resources to handle the electrolysis process. That's why Chile was selected for the pilot program: wind turbines in South America can produce up to four times the energy of similar setups in Germany.
The big advantage of eFuel is utilizing existing CO2 in production. It “closes the loop” using a byproduct of internal combustion engines to then fuel them in the future. Porsche predicts a “wheel-to-wheel” CO2 reduction of 85%.
A cleaner-burning fuel is an important improvement on its own, but there are other advantages to eFuel. For starters, since it would be refined in the same way as existing fuel, it could be used in ICE with no adjustments. No retrofitting necessary.
Porsche says that the current pilot plan costs hover around $10 per liter of eFuel. Within the next 4-5 years they expect that the costs could come down to $2 per liter ($7.50 per gallon) which is comparable to the cost of gasoline in many European countries today.
Published in the August 2022 issue of “Die Porsche Kassette”
If you read one of my recent articles, I questioned whether full-electric vehicles (EV)s were really better than internal combustion engine'd (ICE) cars, looking at the PROs and CONs of each one.
My conclusion was that they were not really better (yet) but I really didn't delve into whether there are other alternatives. I think there are … and I'm convinced and have been convinced for many years that it will involve Hydrogen.
The whole world is being rushed into battery-powered cars and conventional wisdom believes that they are a perfect for our future.
Some large auto-makers such as Hyundai, Honda and others, including me, don't buy it.
During the past months Hyundai has been running a world-wide public relations campaign citing the advantages of an alternative source of electrical power – fuel cells. Even though fuel cell technology has been around for decades it has never fully caught on.
A fuel cell generates current from a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen, from the air, reacts with (compressed) hydrogen from a storage tank aboard the vehicle that can be replenished at a filling station, like gasoline. The beauty of the fuel cell is that, even though it creates an exhaust, since it's a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, that exhaust is just (pure) water.
And, just like EVs, there are reasons not to embrace hydrogen. Up to now, hydrogen has been extracted from natural gas in a process that emits greenhouse gasses, as Elon Musk strenuously argues, although attempts to produce “clean” hydrogen are under way from quite a few enterprises which feel very confident that they will succeed.
Another drawback at this time for consumers is the overwhelming lack of refueling infrastructure.
And yet the fuel cell does have one incredibly appealing feature: unlike charging the battery in an EV, a fuel cell vehicle can be refueled and moving again in minutes. That's of particular interest in industrial and defense applications.
Electric vehicles are appealing for military and industrial applications because of their stealth capabilities to the former and because of zero-emissions in enclosed environments (warehouses) to the latter.
A convoy of electric military vehicles barely makes a sound when compared with their gas-powered counterparts, but they won't be finding many charging stations in battle zones.
GM's Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 offers a potential solution, because it can run 400 miles on a tankful of hydrogen that can be quickly replenished at the base, using a refueling tanker truck, or by using hardware that can produce it's own hydrogen in the field.
Either way, the element of the future is sure to be the first element in the Periodic Table of Elements, and the most abundant resource in the Universe: Hydrogen.
For more information on Hydrogen Cells, EVs, ICE and more, please visit my website: www PedrosGarage.com.
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