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Originally Published in LA Magazine
March 10, 2016
I met up with Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, at the same place that she likes to take her 1½ year old grandson every Sunday… a gas station in West Los Angeles.
He loves to watch his grandma fuel up her brand new Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and Nichols loves that she doesn’t have to expose her grandson to noxious gasoline odors. During our interview we hovered between the dispenser and the Mirai, gawking at technology that countless engineers have seamlessly integrated to create normaldriving and fueling experiences. It took a couple of minutes before I noticed an unusual traffic jam as a Mercedes F-Cell waited patiently to fuel up behind us. Nichols told me that was the first time that had happened to her, but she’s sure it won’t be the last.
Nichols, one of our state government’s most prominent environmental leaders, has been named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world for being a fierce champion of the cutting-edge technology and environmental regulations that have now been adopted by California, the U.S. and beyond.
As head of Energy Independence Now, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the FCEV marketplace, I was eager to get Nichols’s impressions of the Mirai and the new hydrogen fueling stations popping up across California. For more than a decade, EIN has been one of California’s leading advocates and architects of the state’s Hydrogen Highway and we’re committed to ensuring that FCEVs play a leading role in California’s zero emission vehicle future. I usually have to travel to Sacramento from my home in L.A. for meetings like this one, but today I was delighted that I only had to travel about 4 miles to meet Nichols at one of the state’s newest hydrogen fueling stations.
L.A. Driver: What made you want to purchase a fuel cell vehicle?
Nichols: Someone told me I should put my money where my mouth is. This isn’t my first clean vehicle, as I also own a Honda FIT electric vehicle that I love. But it is certainly the most luxurious car I’ve ever owned. I really appreciate the sense of comfort I feel when I drive the car, the impressive safety features and I really love the color — maritime blue. That makes me happy.
Read the entire post at: http://www.lamag.com/driver/mary-nichols-shares-the-joys-of-a-hydrogen-fuel-cell-ride/
by EIN Board Member Terry Tamminen (with Kristina Haddad)
As the former Secretary of the California EPA, and in my current role as the President of Seventh Generation Advisors and Advisor to the R20 Regions of Climate Action, I have long been an advocate for the power of action at the state and local level in the fight to curb climate change. California’s leadership set the gold standard and to help inspire other regions to take similar actions for the last several years I have worked alongside the R20, a non-profit launched by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other global leaders to continue work at the regional level and facilitate and deploy low carbon projects worldwide.
It is against this backdrop that I attended the COP21 conference in Paris. As a representative for subnational action our goals were two fold – 1) To illustrate that subnational action is real and if scaled up could mean significant reductions in emissions at the national level and 2) To inform key policy makers, financial actors, and other stakeholders about the current and future trends taking place in the climate finance efforts, and set forth new strategies and investment vehicles for rapid scale-up and expansion of climate finance. To support these messages we participated in several high-level events and one-on-one meetings and released two reports “Scaling Up: From Local to Global Climate Action” and “Climate Finance: A status Report and Action Plan.”
The report “Scaling Up: From Local to Global Climate Action” confirms that sub-national action on climate change is in many ways surpassing national efforts in scope and ambition. The report uses case studies from nine regions around the world to highlight initiatives that, if adopted nationally, would contribute significantly to, or even surpass, country-level mitigation goals. The highlighted initiatives have the potential to raise national ambition; spur additional mitigation, adaptation, and climate financing; and inject an emphasis on solutions-directed efforts into the public dialogue on climate change. From California to Rajasthan, India, the case studies reveal a range of local partnerships that exhibit strong climate leadership.
“Climate Finance: A Status Report and Action Plan” provides tangible, concrete examples of how to expedite the transition to a low-carbon economy based on proven technologies and projects all over the world, such as those described in “Scaling Up”. Drafted at the request of French President Francois Hollande, who identified climate finance as critical to the negotiations at COP21, the report offers a comprehensive road map to effectively tackle climate finance challenges. The report gives examples of supportive governments in various regions around the world (at the sub-national and national level); mature low-carbon technologies; and substantial amounts of capital, but also points out that intermediaries are needed to align interests and develop projects. The Report concludes by proposing concrete solutions moving forward and will also serve as the basis for implementation of climate finance solutions post COP21.
These reports and the messages that we were able to deliver at COP21 were embraced and significantly elevated. Governor Schwarzenegger participated in a number of COP21 events to draw attention to these two papers and continue his longstanding commitment in addressing climate change and protecting the environment. Schwarzenegger highlighted the important role that sub-national leadership is providing in reducing carbon emissions and stressed the need to accelerate the action being created at the local level.
Schwarzenegger gave a keynote speech to the Inter-Parliamentary Union where he formally announced the reports and presented copies to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Minister Fabius fully agreed that public policies and funds could unleash much larger private funding from a wide variety of finance institutions and private investors. Schwarzenegger also spoke to the students and faculty of Sciences Po University about the long-term nature of the climate change challenge and the important role future generations of leaders will play in addressing it.
Finally – and most critical – Schwarzenegger delivered remarks to the official UN negotiating body that was working formally integrate subnational actions into the UNFCCC negotiations for the first time in history. He highlighted how much progress sub-nationals have made to support the reasoning for this new officially sanctioned approach.
We now see that the outcome of COP21 is profound. For the first time in history almost 200 countries agreed on a goal to keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C. There is still much to be worked out and now the real work begins. But this consensus is truly a game-changer for our efforts to lower GHG emissions and expedite the transition to a clean, green economy.
(Kristina Haddad is the Senior Program Associate of Seventh Generation Advisors and a co-author of the two reports cited above.)
by Brian Goldstein, Executive Director, EIN
The L.A. Auto Show always features some of the greenest cars on the road. This year is no exception, although there are several new zero emission vehicles being showcased that might surprise green car aficionados.
A lot of people still think zero emission vehicles with long range and quick refueling times are years away from reality, but this year there are two new fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that aren’t just being featured at the Auto Show—they’re already in select showrooms.
Toyota and Hyundai are betting big on fuel cell electric vehicles that offer high performance, greater cargo capacity, longer range and fast refueling times. They’ve recently launched a sedan (Toyota Mirai) and compact SUV (Hyundai Tucson). Meanwhile, Honda just announced they will be offering their new Clarity sedan late next year (you can check it out at the L.A. Auto show where it is making its North American debut as well).
Many people don’t realize that FCEVs operate on the same electric motors that traditional battery and plug-in electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt use. Instead of relying on batteries, FCEVs utilize hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to power the electric motor. As a result, only water vapor comes out of the exhaust.
You can read my full blogpost on LA Magazine here.
EIN Executive Director Brian Goldstein was recently a featured speaker presenting a “Spotlight on Renewable Hydrogen” at the California Hydrogen Business Council Fuel Cell Summit. This session provided a progress update from the CHBC Summer Summit Renewable Hydrogen Workshop, including a briefing of government officials on the major findings.
The Summit also featured national and international hydrogen and fuel cell energy industry experts and policy makers who created a forum for the exchange of information about both stationary and mobile fuel cells. The purpose of the summit was to help participants recognize the already important commercial markets for these technologies and new products and technologies about to enter the commercial marketplace. Featured topics for this year’s Summit included:
- Renewable Hydrogen
- Regional Environmental Goals
- Sustainable Goods Movement and Freight
- Stationary, Backup, and Telecom Applications
- Energy Storage and Power-to-Gas
- The Perceptions of Hydrogen
The Summit attracted over 200 participants from agencies, businesses, universities, and non-profit organizations. To learn more, go to www.californiahydrogensummit.com
EIN has published a paper on hydrogen fuels, the value of LCFS credits and RFS RINs, and what this all means for renewable hydrogen in California. Check it out on our Publications page.
Energy Independence Now (EIN) is pleased to announce that Brian Goldstein has been appointed as its new Executive Director. Brian replaces Tyson Eckerle, who was appointed as the Governor’s ZEV Infrastructure Project Manager in California’s GoBiz office earlier this year.
Brian’s finance background and experience developing alternative fuel infrastructure are a perfect fit for EIN and its support for investment in clean vehicles.
“We are delighted to have Brian join EIN”, says Daniel Emmett, Chairman and Founder of Energy Independence Now. “He will be leading EIN during a pivotal period for clean transportation, as the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that we have long advocated for are poised to hit the market.”
Brian will continue to work with EIN’s team to support clean vehicle deployment in California, from a policy, industry, and community readiness perspective. “I am thrilled to be joining EIN, and looking forward to working with our dedicated partners to continue to promote the adoption of alternative fuels and advanced transportation technologies. ” say Brian. “EIN is poised to provide critical support to ensure a successful roll out of the next generation of hydrogen transportation technology in California.”
On January 27, 2014 Energy Independence Now’s Executive Director, Tyson Eckerle, was appointed by Governor Brown to serve as the first ever Zero Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure Project Manager in the Governor’s Office of Economic and Business Development (GoBiz). In this role, Tyson will work to ensure the successful roll-out of the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in electric vehicles.
Tyson’s appointment is a direct reflection of the critical work he helped orchestrate at Energy Independence Now (EIN) with EIN’s Policy Director, Remy Garderet, and a visionary board and funders. Tyson will carry EIN’s insight and deep contact base directly to the Governor’s Office.
“We are delighted for Tyson and also see this as a tremendous reflection on EIN’s great work,” said Board President and co-founder Daniel Emmett. “EIN has advocated for strong state zero emission vehicle leadership for many years. Through the creation of this position and Tyson’s appointment, California will be able to make even greater progress towards clean air, energy security and reduced carbon emissions.”
As advocates for clean transportation, we float ideas constantly. Some don’t go very far; some result in approximately $2 billion of funding for alternative fuels and vehicles and air quality improvement programs. To be fair, only one idea of ours has resulted in the latter.
On September 28, 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 8 (Perea), which extends critical alternative fuel and vehicle investments and diesel emission reduction programs through 2024. This tremendous victory for the State’s long-term environmental and economic health would not have happened without the planting and execution of one key idea: using the Clean Fuels Outlet (CFO) regulation to mandate the installation of hydrogen fueling stations.
The CFO, originally created by the Air Resources Board in 1990 to provide methanol, ethanol, and CNG fueling outlets, was adapted and adopted in 2012 to ensure hydrogen station development kept pace with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) sales projections. The concept of the regulation was simple; if you sell gasoline or diesel in California, you need to provide a proportionally fair amount of clean fuels to meet projected demand. Adapting the CFO for hydrogen was an idea pitched and championed through the process by EIN.
For obvious reasons, oil companies were not fans of the CFO regulation and its 2012 changes. However, rather than pursuing a protracted legal battle likely damaging (or at least resource intensive) to both sides, the ARB and Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA is the trade association that represents the bulk of companies involved in petroleum business) struck a grand bargain: the ARB would put the CFO on the shelf if WSPA and its members could help pass legislation to fund hydrogen fueling stations.
AB8 was crafted in this vein; it effectively eliminates the CFO and supports public investment in hydrogen. However, hydrogen is only part of the story. The bill authorizes substantial investments in all alternative fuels and vehicles (hydrogen, electricity, biofuels, CNG, propane, etc.) and also extends the Carl Moyer Diesel Emissions Reduction and Air Quality Improvement Programs.
As with any action of this magnitude, it takes a village to bring a long-term vision to fruition. A tremendous amount of credit rests on the shoulders of the ARB and legislative leaders, as well as the broad coalition of organizations that worked to generate support for AB 8. AB 8 would not have happened without them. But it also would not have happened without the CFO Regulation, which turned out to be a good idea made even better.
As alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) continue to become more economically viable, fuel source and renewability remains a key point of discussion. Although AFVs like fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) can eliminate fossil fuel dependence while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, many interested parties take a life-cycle approach by questioning the source of the energy used. If the energy carried in a fuel cell doesn’t come from a clean or renewable source, then the vehicle powered by that fuel cell isn’t exactly clean or renewable.
For FCEVs, cost remains the primary challenge to produce 100 percent renewable hydrogen.
The commercial hydrogen market is currently around $100 billion. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, 9 million tons of hydrogen is produced annually in the United States, 95% of which is produced through natural gas reformation. Natural gas reforming is currently the cheapest, most common and efficient method for producing hydrogen. When used in a FCEV, natural gas derived hydrogen reduces greenhouse gas emissions approximately 50%, when compared to conventional gasoline. However, to reach long-term climate goals, we need close to 100% reduction.
A potential solution to the challenges of production costs and environmental impact lies in the research conducted by Y.H. Percival Zhang at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Zhang and his team successfully developed a process to produce large quantities of hydrogen from the simple plant sugar xylose, an abundant renewable resource. The innovative technology avoids using expensive metals and releases close to zero greenhouse gases. This could shorten the timeline for making renewable hydrogen commercially available, which would have huge environmental and economic impacts.
When applied at commercial scale, Zhang’s research has the potential to deliver affordable, renewable, emissions-free hydrogen., It does so simply and efficiently, eliminating costs at each step of the process. Researchers isolate the necessary enzymes and catalytic reactions required to produce the highest yields of hydrogen from sugar and water. This specific enzyme cocktail works in toxic environments, which removes an expensive detoxification step, and can be produced by one bacterium. By using recyclable enzyme-based solvents, Zhang found lower cost replacements for the traditional high-heat, high-pressure process. Using biomass to generate hydrogen drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the process allow for energy efficiency above 100% – meaning that the energy of hydrogen produced is greater than the combined input energies of xylose and polyphosphate.
This efficient, environmentally friendly method of hydrogen production is just one example of many potential pathways for creating renewable hydrogen. With the science in place, the right economics can lead this, and other, renewable hydrogen production methods to commercial viability and success. Such as outcome would be a victory for everyone: a clean, domestic, renewable, and affordable fuel to power our mobility.
“The challenges for fuel cell vehicles in the long run appear to be entirely on the infrastructure side… we have to begin to invest in that infrastructure now, as the advance placement of infrastructure is critical to the market acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.”
-John German, ICCT Sr. Fellow
Transitioning the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet
A recent U.S. National Research Council report on light-duty (cars and small trucks) vehicle technologies discussed the feasibility of reaching two goals:
- 50% petroleum reduction in 2030
- 80% petroleum and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in 2050
This reduction goal is measured against a 2005 baseline, and researchers concluded that with the right policy incentives, combination of vehicle technologies, and added infrastructure for those technologies, it is possible to achieve these targets.
The study considered multiple policy options in modeling the outcomes of potential technology mixes, and considered purchasing prices and energy efficiencies – two major factors that affect market acceptance. Newer technologies like compressed natural gas and battery (BEV), plug-in (PHEV), or fuel cell (FCEV) electric have higher initial costs. However, long-term assessments show that BEVs and FCEVs become less expensive than both internal combustion vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles.
Reducing vehicle weight, aerodynamic drag, and tire rolling resistance, has a greater effect on lowering costs for BEVs and FCEVs than for conventional vehicles. In the long run, FCEVs are shown to be significantly better than conventional vehicles, with cheaper purchase prices, comparable range and refill times, higher efficiency, better drivability, and better space utilization of drive train components.
The major challenge to high-volume FCEV production, which is the assumption made in the above predictions, is infrastructure. John German, the ICCT Senior Fellow who headed the subcommittee that analyzed alternative vehicle technologies, explained that while predicting technology development may be highly uncertain, the investment into infrastructure must begin NOW.
Addressing this challenge, EIN currently leads a multi-stakeholder effort to develop a network-level plan for hydrogen infrastructure deployment in California. If successfully implemented, it will serve as a blueprint for market introduction at national and international levels. This plan will establish a clear pathway to market success for the infrastructure needed to support commercial levels of hydrogen FCEVs.
According to the NRC study only three potential scenarios could meet or exceed the goals of 50% petroleum reduction in 2030 and 80% GHG reduction in 2050; all three of those scenarios require significant market penetration of FCEVs. The first is based on optimistic assumptions for FCEV technology, and the other two both require PHEV and FCEV market success.
By modeling a policy-induced transition to hydrogen FCEVs by 2050, the study estimated a net present value of around $1 trillion. This scenario assumes both $6 billion annual subsidies through the mid-2020s and 500 geographically clustered hydrogen-refueling stations (subsidized or mandated) by 2016. In other words, the long-term benefits far outweigh the nearer-term costs associated with a transition to FCEVs.
FCEV adoption has both private and social benefits. Private benefits include consumer fuel savings, satisfaction with vehicle purchases, and satisfaction with fuel purchases. Social benefits include reductions in GHG emissions and petroleum use – in this scenario, petroleum consumption could be reduced by about 90-96% and GHG emissions by 59-80%.
Vehicle sales by vehicle technology for midrange technologies and policies promoting the adoption and use of PHEVs, FCEVs, and biofuels.
The study goes on to state that for hydrogen FCEVs, advance placement of fueling infrastructure is critical to market acceptance, as the availability of refueling stations directly affects consumer demand. It is clear that a coordinated effort is essential to achieving petroleum and GHG reductions goals – and it is even more clear that investments in and development of such infrastructure must occur early on in the transition.
Find out more about EIN’s work with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure here.