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Well, whaddaya know. No sooner does New Jersey let slip that it has a new green hydrogen pilot project in the works, when here comes archrival New York right across the river with a whole truckload of green hydrogen news. And they do mean green hydrogen from renewable resources, not that other stuff the natural gas lobby is trying to pass off as “clean.”

Big Apple Goes Gaga Over Green Hydrogen

New York’s big hydrogen announcement is no coincidence. It piles onto the US Department of Energy, which dropped another $52.2 million on hydrogen R&D earlier this week. Most of the Energy Department greenbacks are aimed directly at teasing green hydrogen out of water. The rest apply to projects that extract hydrogen from natural gas, but the technology could also be applied to various forms of sustainable hydrogen, such as biogas.

New York is skipping over the natural gas part, which is no surprise given the state’s prickly relationship with gas, and going straight for the green hydrogen gold.

They have pulled some heavy hitters into the green hydrogen arena. The new announcement enlists the mighty New York Power Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute, which is based in California and has been pivoting from fossil fuels into renewable energy. The last time we checked in, EPRI was hooking into a huge EV and power grid consortium in Texas. Just yesterday they announced a new competitively selected cohort for their latest R&D incubator. The 20 winning startups will work on “demonstration technology projects intended to accelerate decarbonization, electrification, grid modernization, and other electric power industry innovation imperatives.”

NYPA and EPRI have been tapped with General Electric and the specialty gas firm Airgas in a green hydrogen pilot project to be located at a natural gas plant on Long Island, which almost sounds like it could be a natural gas-to-hydrogen project except not, because the project is aimed at measuring different blends of hydrogen in a natural gas turbine.

GE is one of several legacy engineering firms that have become active in the area of blending hydrogen and natural gas in gas turbines. One approach is to design new turbines that are specially made to handle an increasing proportion of hydrogen. The Long Island project is especially interesting because it deploys a 20-year-old GE gas turbine.

If it pans out, then gas power plants all over the country could begin transitioning to green hydrogen without having to invest in new turbines. That’s an important consideration for the US, which became splattered with new gas turbines after the cost of gas dropped in the early 2000s.

The good news is that low-cost gas provided the initial kick for driving coal out of the US power generation market. The bad news is that gas power generation stakeholders are stuck with relatively new gas turbines, but a growing number of leading electricity buyers and other ratepayers are demanding carbon-free electricity. The hydrogen blend idea could help get them off the hook until something better comes around.

Green Hydrogen For Deep Decarbonization

If you’re thinking fuel cell electric vehicles are part of the New York announcement, nope. Once they hit the road, automobiles fall into the category of decarbonization lite. Everybody knows how to decarbonize cars, at least from the tailpipe on out.

The motor vehicle supply chain is a whole ‘nother can of decarbonization worms. Whether you have a fuel cell electric vehicle, a battery electric vehicle, or a plain old gasmobile in your driveway, they all spew invisible bubbles of greenhouse gas from factories all along the supply chain, from tires and body to all the innards.

The solution is deep decarbonization, which refers to detaching heavy industries and other carbon intensive sectors from fossil energy. That’s a tough row to hoe. Hydropower fits some of the bill, including the all-important energy storage angle. Wind and solar can also lend a hand in combination with battery-type energy storage. Green hydrogen comes into the picture as a flexible, transportable energy carrier that can provide storage, generate electricity, or provide the juice for gas turbines and other thermal uses.

To tackle that end of things, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will be building up its ongoing deep decarbonization work. Last December the agency co-hosted a “Deep Decarbonization Workshop” with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The new announcement sets up a more intensive look-and-listen session this fall. Here, let’s have NYSERDA explain:

“The session will be used to help NYSERDA understand how to expand stakeholder engagement to ensure that additional assessment of the pathways, opportunities, and challenges of generating and utilizing green hydrogen across all sectors includes consideration of all stakeholder perspectives, including environmental justice organizations and communities.”

The Hydrogen Economy Goes Green

Because hydrogen is an abundant, zero emission fuel, there has been talk of a global “hydrogen economy” or “hydrogen society” for ages. The problem is that hydrogen has to be extracted from something.

Right now, almost all of that something is natural gas, and part of it is coal, so fossil energy stakeholders have been riding high on the idea of the hydrogen economy. However, the cost of non-fossil hydrogen sources is dropping quickly, and fossil energy stakeholders  will have to think fast.

Naturally enough, natural gas stakeholders have an interest in promoting the hydrogen economy as a decarbonization thing to which they can contribute. Their idea is to add carbon capture to the process of steam reformation, which is the primary method for extracting hydrogen from natural gas. Some stakeholders are also experimenting with an emerging technology called autothermal reforming.

That still leaves a steaming pile of local and global impacts related to fugitive methane emissions throughout the natural gas extraction and distribution chain, as well as stress on water resources from drilling operations, including the disposal of drilling wastewater.

In a cold dose of reality for natural gas stakeholders, researchers are already studying how steam and autothermal reforming can be applied to extract hydrogen from biogas. So, have at it, you natural gas stakeholders. See what you can do to improve the technology, and then watch as somebody else applies it to more sustainable, non-fossil resources.

Anyways, much of the green hydrogen R&D activity taking place nowadays is aimed at driving down the cost of electrolysis, which refers to deploying an electrical current to pop hydrogen gas out of water, so it’s possible that New York can build its sparkling green hydrogen economy on water and electricity.

Natural gas stakeholders may be hoping that “electricity” means more room for gas power plants. Dream on, Klingon.

NYSERDA is hooking up with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to “compile the foundational, base-line information and data that will enable New York to have robust discussions and dialogue around the role green hydrogen could play in New York’s decarbonization plans,” and that discussion will be aimed at aligning the hydrogen strategy with “existing mandates for 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040.”

Whither Natural Gas In The Hydrogen Economy Of The Future?

That thing about “zero-emission electricity by 2040” leaves some wiggle room for carbon capture, but not much. Part of New York’s hydrogen announcement involves new funding for long duration energy storage technology, which could eliminate or at least sharply reduce the need for gas power plants altogether.

The idea is that the current state of battery-type energy storage only permits a few hours of peak use. To fill in for gas power plants, a storage facility needs to provide for at least a full day, and preferably more than that.

In any case, New York is not interested in anything on the market today.

“Project submissions should advance, develop, or field-test hydrogen, electric, chemical, mechanical, or thermal-electric storage technologies that will address cost, performance, and renewable integration challenges in New York State,” they specify, adding that “Submissions must only include innovative long duration energy storage technologies which are yet to be commercialized.”

Right back at you, New Jersey. Last week the state’s Board of Public Utilities greenlighted the proposed Atlantic Shores offshore wind farm, which includes a pilot green hydrogen facility in its winning bid, but it appears that New York has vaulted ahead.

Stay tuned for Round 2, whatever that may be.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Image: Renewable hydrogen is encroaching on natural gas territory (via National Renewable Energy Laboratory).

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Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for $2,000 – What’s the catch?




Weird Alibaba: An inflatable Chinese electric jet ski for ,000 - What's the catch?

As usual for entries in this Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column, the fun EVs we dredge up tend to bridge the gap between fun-looking and palm sweat-inducing. Would you take a cheap inflatable electric jet ski out into the bay or off the coast? What if I told you that you had to build it yourself?

That appears to be the case here with this week’s find. It’s an inflatable vessel that is jet ski shaped, though I’m not sure it fulfills all of the requirements to become a jet ski – namely the water jet turbine.

In fact, there’s actually no motor at all. It seems to be just the 3.5 meter (11 ft) boat itself, but at least it comes with a convenient transom in back to mount your own motor.

And in our case, we can slap on an electric outboard to turn this thing into not just a bad idea on water, but a green bad idea on water.

If you really wanted to stay true to the advertising, you could actually get an electrically powered jet ski-style water turbine to add to this boat. Amazon can hook you up with an impressive offering that looks like it would require cutting an inlet hole in the bottom of the boat and an exit somewhere through the rear transom.

Short of building a true jet ski though, I think an overpowered trolling motor will probably suffice. The vendor for the motor linked above seems to propose that is equivalent to 10 hp, which sounds reasonable for a small watercraft like this.

Technically the motor is only rated at 2.2 kW, which is around 3 hp. But we generally find that small electric outboards offer performance of around 3x the rated power of combustion engine outboards due to their much higher torque. It may not rip as fast as the larger gas engine below, but then again maybe it will. Who knows until we find out ourselves?!

You’ll need a whopping 60V of battery for that awesome little electric outboard, which I’m hoping will fit either under the seat or under the “hood” of the jet ski.

I’d actually be pretty interested to get a look under that hood to see what’s going on with that steering wheel. Since the jet ski/inflatable boat seems to be set up for a transom-mounted trolling motor, I don’t know how they expect to tie in steering linkage to something like that.

But my past experience of buying electric boats on Alibaba has taught me to never discount the ingenuity of East Asian engineers building low-cost vehicles that will presumably hold the life of one or more people in their hands.

chinese electric jet ski

One thing is for sure: At around $2k, this will definitely be the cheapest new jet ski you could buy, electric or otherwise. Personal watercraft aren’t cheap, and the electric ones carry a significant premium.

But if you’re handy, don’t mind wiring up a motor and battery yourself, and also don’t mind a steering wheel for show while you twist around to control a tiller motor, then you just might wind up with one of the most unique vessels on your local lake or river.

And consider the ease of transport! You probably don’t even need a trailer like you would for a traditional jet ski. The entire thing weighs just 176 kg (388 lb), though the spec sheet also says it is made from fiberglass, so perhaps the data isn’t quite accurate. Either way, this inflatable vessel can’t weigh too much. And the fact that you can deflate it to fit in the back of a van or SUV is a big benefit too. Or you can just leave it inflated and probably fit it in a truck with the tail gate down. Not my mini-truck, but maybe your truck.

At $2,025 for this thing, it’s pretty darn cheap – though that’s before the cost of batteries and a motor. Don’t forget though that there’d be several thousand dollars in shipping costs, customs import charges, taxes, broker fees, etc. Also, don’t forget that you should absolutely not buy this thing. While I’ve picked up some cool and weird little EVs from Alibaba over the years, it’s never a good idea. The process is long and complicated, not to mention fraught with extra charges at every step of the way. And you never know if the company who just received your wire transfer is even going to deliver your product in the end, which is just another fun little stressor that comes with shopping on Alibaba. So please, don’t join the ranks of my foolish readers and risk your hard earned money on something weird like this.

But if you ignore my warnings and decide to go for it, be sure to let me know what happened! And maybe update your will before the maiden voyage.

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Here are the best April Fool’s jokes from the e-bike industry this year




Here are the best April Fool's jokes from the e-bike industry this year

April Fool’s Day, celebrated annually on the first of April, is usually a light-hearted and mischievous occasion marked by good-natured pranks, hoaxes, and jokes. Large organizations often take part in hoodwinking others, creating an atmosphere of amusement and (hopefully) harmless trickery. Sure, it’s annoying when you fall for it. But it’s also humorous to see what companies can come up with next. E-bike companies and the larger micromobility industry often have fun getting in touch with their inner prankster (remember the pedal-powered popemobile?!), and this year was no exception. These are some of the fun and light-hearted new announcements from around the electric biking and micromobility world.

We’ll keep updating as we find more, and feel free to send me any you find today (contact info in my author blurb below the article).

Magnum’s human-powered bike

Here in the e-bike industry we are often so deeply focused on the latest batteries or the most innovative new motors that we can sometimes forget our roots. Magnum Bikes, a popular electric bike company, wants to make sure we all remember where we came from with the “launch” of its new human-powered electric bike.

Called the Navigator Infinite, Magnum says the bike can get over 100 miles (160 km) of range. I guess “infinite” truly is at least 100!

Muc-Off releases intimate lube

Muc-Off is a brand of bike cleaning products that is known for, among other things, its various bike lubricants.

I’ve tested the company’s bike cleaners as well as their dry and wet chain lube for different riding conditions.

But now the company is apparently branching out into another industry that is slightly more, err…. intimate.

With the release of personal lubricant for adult activities, Muc-Off wants to be there for you no matter what you’re riding.

Though perhaps the company put it best, explaining that they “worked long and hard to develop a deep penetrating lubricant that fills that sweet spot between smoothness and abrasion. With our bicycle lubes the target is to hit zero friction, but following round, after round, after round of internal tests, we found friction to be vital in achieving a satisfactory outcome.

Well there you go.

Charge your electric car with pedal power

If you thought traditional fast chargers were just too darn slow, then FastNed says they have the solution. And it just so happens to be connected to your feet.

The company is touting its new 750 kW fast charger known as Bike Boost that is powered by pedaling. They claim it can fill your electric car’s battery in just 5 minutes.

That’s more than just a Wheaties breakfast… that must require eating an entire truck of Wheaties!

Radio Flyer’s new air travel

We’ve been more attracted to Radio Flyer’s electric bikes lately, but perhaps it’s time to rethink travel by wheel. Instead, Radio Flyer has announced a new air service known as Radio FlyAir.

It’s not just a Radio Flyer jet though. The entire airline seems to have gotten the red wagon treatment, complete with wagon luggage carriers and kids riding through the terminal.

The best e-bike April Fools prank of all time?

Try as they might, I’m not sure any company will top what I believe to be the best April Fools product launch of all time: The RadFit from Rad Power Bikes.

Just as electric bikes have revolutionized the bike industry, so too can they upend the stationary exercise bike industry. At least that’s what Rad suggested with its electric stationary bike.

I don’t want to butcher this one, so just watch the short video below for the full effect. I promise that it’s worth it.

Lead image credit: ETA

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Scientists have found major storage capacity in water-based batteries




Scientists have found major storage capacity in water-based batteries

Texas A&M University scientists have been working with metal-free, water-based battery electrodes, and they’re finding that the difference in energy storage capacity is as much as 1,000%.

How the water-based batteries work

In the scientists’ paper, published in Nature Materials this week, the water-based, or aqueous, batteries consist of a cathode – the negatively charged electrode; an anode – the positively charged electrode; and an electrolyte, like traditional batteries. But in this water-based battery, the cathodes and anodes are polymers that can store energy, and the electrolyte is water mixed with organic salts.

The electrolyte transfers the ions – the charge-carrying particles – back and forth between the cathode and the anode, and the electrolyte is also key to energy storage through its interactions with the electrode.

Chemical engineering professor and co-author Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus asserts:

If an electrode swells too much during cycling, then it can’t conduct electrons very well, and you lose all the performance.

I believe there is a 1,000% difference in energy storage capacity, depending on the electrolyte choice because of swelling effects.

According to their paper, the electrodes – the “redox-active non-conjugated radical polymers” – are promising candidates for water-based batteries because of the polymers’ high discharge voltage and fast redox kinetics.

However, the researchers note in their paper’s abstract:

[L]ittle is known regarding the energy storage mechanism of these polymers in an aqueous environment. The reaction itself is complex and difficult to resolve because of the simultaneous transfer of electrons, ions, and water molecules. 

The future of aqueous batteries

The researchers suggest that water-based batteries might be able to mitigate potential shortages of metals such as cobalt and lithium, as well as eliminate the potential for battery fires.

Lutkenhaus continued:

There would be no battery fires anymore because it’s water-based.

In the future, if materials shortages are projected, the price of lithium-ion batteries will go way up. If we have this alternative battery, we can turn to this chemistry, where the supply is much more stable because we can manufacture them here in the United States and materials to make them are here.

The researchers also conducted computational simulation and analysis, and they’ll carry out further simulations to better understand the theory.

Chemistry assistant professor and co-author Dr. Daniel Tabor said:

With this new energy storage technology, this is a push forward to lithium-free batteries. We have a better molecular level picture of what makes some battery electrodes work better than others, and this gives us strong evidence of where to go forward in materials design.

Read more: A Mars rover scientist is about to scale carbon-oxygen batteries

Photo: Texas A&M Engineering

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