It seems like only yesterday that a mysterious new program called Energy Earthshots was in the works for the US Department of Energy, and everybody was wondering what that could possibly be. The curtain has now lifted and the answer is clean hydrogen. If you’re thinking why clean hydrogen and not green hydrogen, that’s a good question. The answer could make fossil energy stakeholders very happy or very, very sad.
Green Hydrogen Vs. Clean Hydrogen
For those of you new to the topic, hydrogen is the cornerstone of the modern industrial economy. The booming market for hydrogen fuel cells is just one slice of a huge chemical pie that includes agriculture, food processing, and refining, among other areas.
The problem is that almost the entire global supply of hydrogen comes from natural gas and coal.
However, not for long. Low-cost renewable energy has fostered a rosier economic outlook for new and more sustainable hydrogen sources, aka green hydrogen. Most of the activity is concentrated in the field of electrolysis, which refers to systems that deploy electricity to tease bubbles of hydrogen gas out of water.
This is what is known as green hydrogen. Other renewable hydrogen sources include biomass, biogas, municipal wastewater, and municipal solid waste.
The idea of producing hydrogen from reclaimed industrial gasses and plastic waste is also catching on. That’s more sustainable than using virgin natural gas or coal to produce hydrogen, though much of the foundational feedstock is still fossil-based and not renewable.
Then there’s a public relations gimmick cooked up by fossil energy stakeholders, in which you still produce hydrogen from natural gas or coal, but you hook it up to a carbon capture system and call it “blue” hydrogen, which supposedly translates into “clean” hydrogen.
I know, right? We think so, too.
So What Is It, Green Hydrogen Or Clean Hydrogen?
All else being equal, the “clean hydrogen” referred to in the new Energy Earthshots initiative could include support for fossil-sourced hydrogen with carbon capture, as well as reclaimed hydrogen from wastes.
However, last week CleanTechnica eyeballed the Biden administration’s FY 2022 budget proposal, and we took a quick look back the Energy Department’s green hydrogen initiatives during the administration of former President and accused insurrectionist Donald Trump, and then we connected the dots to current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s pronouncements about renewable hydrogen earlier this year, and our conclusion is that when Energy Earthshots says clean hydrogen, they may be leaving a bit of wiggle room for fossil sources, but probably not all that much.
Get Ready For The Hydrogen Shot
The name “Earthshots Initiative” is a play on the successful 20th century Moonshot venture that shot US astronauts into space before anybody else got there, and the Energy Department’s early 21st century Sunshot Initiative, which launched during the Obama administration with the goal of bringing down the cost of solar power.
Energy Earthshots aims to replicate that all-hands-on-deck frenzy of collaborative innovation to tackle the energy challenges of the early mid-century period, which will make or break the ability of humankind to save itself from catastrophic climate change.
The Energy Earthshots Initiative aims to “accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade,” the Energy Department explained in a press release on Monday.
Skeptics were and still are laughing off the idea of the hydrogen economy of the future, but the Energy Department is a big fan and they just clapped back bigly when they picked hydrogen as the very first focus of the new Energy Earthshots initiative.
“The first Energy Earthshot — Hydrogen Shot — seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in one decade,” the Energy Department said. “Achieving these targets will help America tackle the climate crisis, and more quickly reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while creating good-paying, union jobs and growing the economy.”
“Clean hydrogen is a game changer. It will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050,” Secretary Granholm added.
Here’s the money quote from the press release:
“By achieving Hydrogen Shot’s 80% cost reduction goal, we can unlock a five-fold increase in demand by increasing clean hydrogen production from pathways such as renewables, nuclear, and thermal conversion. This would create more clean energy jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and position America to compete in the clean energy market on a global scale.”
Fossil-Sourced Hydrogen With Carbon Capture, Or Maybe Not
If you caught that thing about renewables and nuclear, that’s a reference to electrolysis, meaning green hydrogen. There is also something called thermochemical conversion, which deploys high heat from nuclear or concentrating solar plants to split hydrogen from water, but that seems a bit too early-stagey to fit into the Hydrogen Shot timeline. The other option is thermal conversion, which generally refers to steam reformation and other processes that apply to natural gas and coal, meaning not green hydrogen.
The Hydrogen Shot Request for Information emphasizes diverse energy sources in the US, and it specifically mentions fossil energy plus carbon capture for ramping up hydrogen production, so it looks like fossil energy stakeholders have something to cheer about after all.
Or, maybe not. Climate action has become a mainstream business model. It’s a good bet that the market for fossil-sourced hydrogen will shrink as the supply of sustainable hydrogen grows, carbon capture or not.
The Energy Department’s RFI appears to recognize that the private sector is already leaning towards green hydrogen. Despite the nod to fossil-sourced hydrogen, the agency highlights green hydrogen in a shortlist of major projects currently under way:
“… hydrogen production, storage, and end use in turbines through the $1 billion Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah; a 5 MW electrolyzer project planned in Washington State; first-of-a -kind nuclear-to-hydrogen projects in multiple states; a 20 MW electrolyzer plant to produce hydrogen from solar power in Florida; and the first GW-scale factory for electrolyzers announced in New York, with a 120 MW electrolyzer soon to be installed.”
If you can spot the thermal conversion project in that list, drop us a note in the comment thread (hint: there is none).
But What About Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?
Yes, what about them? Hydrogen Shot is not taking aim at the hydrogen fuel cell passenger car and SUV markets, though Toyota and a small but growing list of automakers have been pitching the idea (for the record, the growing list includes Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, and most recently, BMW).
Instead, Hydrogen Shot is focusing on long haul trucks and other heavy applications. That could include locomotives as well as hydrogen aircraft and hydrogen watercraft.
Green hydrogen has already been incorporated into much of the planning for transportation applications, so it’s no surprise that green hydrogen producers are already jockeying to compete for business.
In the latest development on that score, the firm SGH2 Energy is pitching a “greener than green” hydrogen product that draws from biomass and other bio-based waste. The company claims that its green H2 displaces more carbon than both electrolysis-based process as well as thermal conversion, so hold on to your hats.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Hydrogen production from various sources courtesy of US Department of Energy.
Teledriving mobility service Vay to remotely deliver EVs in Vegas as it expands to US
Europe’s first teledriving (remotely driving) service is entering the US market and intends to setup shop in Sin City to begin. Vay is establishing its new US headquarters in downtown Las Vegas, where it will begin testing its teledriving service by dropping off and picking up rental EVs to customers around the city.
Vay is a German teledriving specialist based in Berlin that has taken a remote-first approach to driverless vehicles in which an operator drives a given EV from a dedicated hub. Vay is aiming to gradually introduce more autonomous driving functions in its system as they become more safe and are permitted to do so.
For now, however, the service relies on teledrivers, whose immediate focus is on the driverless transportation of rental EVs to customers. Those customers can then hop in the EV, drive off and then park whenever they are done, enabling Vay to step back in and remotely drive the vehicle back to base.
After operating a vehicle in Hamburg this past February, Vay declared itself the first and only company to drive a car on European public roads with no one inside. We’ve personally experienced this same approach to rideshare mobility in Las Vegas when we went for a ride with Halo.Car.
With its sights now set on the US, Vay will have to compete with Halo.Car in Vegas – the home of its new headquarters.
Vay to compete in growing driverless EV market in Vegas
Following its plans for expanded certification to operate driverless vehicles in Europe, Vay shared details of its expansion to the US, beginning in Las Vegas. The US entity will be lead by general manager Caleb Varner, who joined Vay in late 2022 after leaving Uber where he was director, global general manager, and co-founder of Uber Rent & Valet. Varner spoke:
I am excited to be a part of Vay and launch our service in the US. Vay’s teledriving technology and innovative approach has the potential to reshape the way people move – not only is that a huge business opportunity, but also a service that we see missing from today’s transportation ecosystem. The broader team at Vay is excited about taking this german-born technology and using it to change the way Americans move and building a future with reduced personal car ownership.
To begin, Varner will work closely with Vay cofounder and CEO Thomas von der Ohe to implement Vay’s teledriving technology in the US market that supports the launch of its own remotely driven mobility service. Von der Ohe also spoke to Vay’s new home in Vegas as a kickoff in the US:
We are excited to enter the US mobility market. Our team is talking to stakeholders in various states and has started to work on launching an initial service. The market is ready and the responses we have received so far from regulators, city governments, and potential customers in the US show that it’s a very dynamic market that we will be exploring in the near future!
Like Europe, the approach will begin with remote deliveries of rental EVs around Vegas, but certain permits and certifications are required. Luckily, Vay has the support of Las Vegas’ International Innovation Center, located in the downtown Arts District. Vay’s new headquarters sits within this office which remains part of an investment in economic development in the city.
I guess I will have to go to Vegas and take a test ride in one of Vay’s driverless cars. Twist my arm!
Here’s where Toyota’s first US-made EV, an electric 3-row SUV, will be built
Toyota’s largest plant globally is going electric. The company revealed Wednesday it would assemble its new three-row electric SUV at its Georgetown, Kentucky, facility starting in 2025. The new SUV will be Toyota’s first US-assembled EV as the market continues to surpass expectations.
Toyota’s first US-assembled EV will be in Kentucky
“Toyota Kentucky set the standard for Toyota vehicle manufacturing in the US and now we’re leading the charge with BEVs,” Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, explained.
The Toyota Kentucky plant is the company’s largest manufacturing facility globally, with the capability to produce 550,000 vehicles annually, and will now lead Toyota’s vehicle carbon reduction efforts in the US.
Toyota says the batteries for its three-row electric SUV will come from the company’s new battery factory in North Carolina. The plant was initially revealed in late 2021. Today’s announcement from Toyota reveals the plant will receive an additional $2.1 billion investment, bringing the total to nearly $6 billion.
Sean Suggs, president of Toyota Battery Manufacturing at the North Carolina facility, commented on the new funding, saying:
With this proactive infrastructure investment, we will be able to quickly support future expansion opportunities to meet growing customer need.
The NC plant will produce lithium-ion batteries with six production lines (four for hybrids and only two for EVs).
The Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, said through a $591 million investment for future projects in Scott County, Toyota is committed to retaining 700 full-time jobs.
Although Toyota didn’t reveal any new details of its first US-assembled EV coming in 2025, we know it will be a three-row electric SUV as part of ten new electric cars planned to launch globally.
Toyota aims to sell 1.5 million EVs globally with the new models by 2026 as it looks to keep pace in the rapidly expanding electric car market.
Apart from the company’s first global EV, the bZ4X, Toyota has released an electric sedan, the bZ3, in China and teased upcoming models, including a sport crossover and family SUV.
Since passing last August, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has attracted well over $100 billion in private-sector investment in EVs, batteries, and manufacturing. Toyota is one of many automakers and suppliers that have revealed plans to build on US soil.
That being said, with its first US-assembled EV arriving in 2025, will it still be too little too late for the automaker?
Either way, Toyota is doing what it should have done years ago. It’s building its EV supply chain capabilities with battery factories while retooling manufacturing facilities. In addition, Toyota is developing a dedicated EV platform that will help streamline production and double the range of future electric models with more efficient batteries, according to the company.
With the latest slew of announcements from Toyota, the company is noticeably accelerating the pace of EV development. Perhaps, after watching EV makers like Tesla and BYD steal market share, Toyota is looking toward the future rather than the past.
Former footballer Drogba is E1’s newest team owner ahead of first electric boat racing season
The UIM E1 World Championship electric boat racing league has found its latest team as it prepares to launch its inaugural season later this year. Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba and his partner Gabrielle LeMaire have signed on as owners of the fourth E1 racing team to join the growing league.
The UIM E1 World Championship is a nascent electric boat racing league created by Formula E and Extreme E founder, Alejandro Agag, and Rodi Basso – a former director of Motorsport at McLaren with a background in Formula 1 engineering.
We’ve been following the new sport’s progress for over a year as it has evolved from testing its all-electric RaceBird boats, to a growing league of teams led by some familiar names. Venice emerged as the inaugural E1 race team in April of 2022, and was soon followed by team Mexico owned by Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez.
Early this year, we shared news that tennis great Rafael Nadal had signed on as E1’s next team owner, bringing his native Spain into the fold to compete on the water. As the young championship series continues to develop (and tries) to fill all ten of its initial team slots this year, it has found its latest team owner in soccer (or football) legend Didier Drogba.
Team Drogba joins E1 donning the Ivory Coast flag
E1 announced the addition of Team Drogba to the UIM Championship this morning, which will be co-owned and managed with the footballer’s partner, Gabrielle LeMaire – a successful businesswoman and marketing expert. E1 cofounder and CEO Rodi Basso spoke about what the new Team Drogba owners bring to the league:
This team is so exciting for the E1 Series, blending diversity, inclusion and sustainability with a fire to compete and win. They are a dynamic duo that show how important it is to have equal representation and opportunities for men and women in motorsport, from the boardroom to the cockpit. And their commitment to ocean health and technological change will help take E1’s message further and wider. It’s exciting to see the fleet take shape and there’s more big announcements in the pipeline.
Similar to his new rival “Rafa” Nadal, Drogba’s foundation supports sustainable developments outside of the competitive arenas to make a positive impact on the planet. The former footballer and his partner also help provide a positive impact on the lives of African children living in poverty.
Together, the new E1 owners hope Team Drogba can help the new E1 series reach a global audience and inspire it to join the race to create a more sustainable world. Drogba spoke to the ownership opportunity and the people that have inspired him:
Sport and sustainability together, it’s a winning combination. Gabrielle and I are both fierce competitors so we’re going to build a strong team. We’re inspired by legends such as Senna and Schumacher, but most especially by Lewis Hamilton, winning F1 championships, breaking barriers and acting as a leader for a new generation of pilots.
Pollution has caused the destruction and loss of coastal habitats around the world. The degradation of our underwater eco-systems poses a series threat to marine life and livelihoods of coastal communities. So we want to have a positive impact through the accelerated development of clean technologies and inspiring change. But we’re also going to have fun for a great cause. Rafa and Checo, get ready! We are coming for you. And we’re here to win!
The inaugural UIM E1 World Championship is scheduled to begin later this year as race
organizers state they will continue to accelerate preparations, promising more teams and confirmed race venues soon. Better hurry.
This is another big get by E1 as it looks to bring as much hype to season 1 as possible… whenever that may be. The original schedule was originally anticipated to begin this past spring, but we still seem to be a ways away as E1 is now saying “late 2023” for a championship series kickoff.
The nascent series now has four teams, but has always hoped to begin racing with at least ten, so it’s going to have to hustle to find more owners quickly to get a viable competition together.
Although I do want to see E1 racing begin sooner rather than later, I don’t mind waiting because I’m genuinely unsure what I’m waiting for, meaning I’m not even sure what to expect in electric boat racing. The prospect of it looks promising, and the adjacent focus on foundations and the environment is a big plus – similar to Formula E. People love a brand with a positive cause.
I’m looking forward to seeing what countries/teams/owners join in next and how well season one goes. I’d very much like to see a competition in person, but E1 has to get there first. I’ll be watching!
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