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Hey Toyota: What’s going to be burned to make the electricity to make that ‘clean’ hydrogen for your fuel cell Mirai vehicle?

editors-blog-entry3No, not all EV lovers hate hydrogen. But a lot of them do — and I think I know why so many other EV lovers, including me, view hydrogen so darkly.

Reason No. 5: The hydrogen fairy. For some reason, media accounts of hydrogen frequently fail to ask an obvious question: How is that supposedly “clean” hydrogen going to be made? No, it won’t — poof, be made out of thin air by the hydrogen fairy, although I bet Toyota wishes it would be ;-). The real answer: It will be produced primarily via electricity generated by, you guessed it, the burning of fossil fuels. The hydrogen fairy frame is especially galling to EV lovers because the first thing, often seemingly the only thing, that gets focused on in terms of BEVs is –> How is the electricity going to be produced that powers those BEVs? It’s an excellent question — and the answer ought to be, renewables, renewables, renewables. But it has to be asked of hydrogen vehicles too, not just BEVs. Wake up media!

Reason No. 4: Inefficiency. Why burn natural gas, coal, etc. to create electricity to THEN create hydrogen, which sees a double loss of energy, when you can skip the last step, and pump that electricity right into a battery? From an efficiency standpoint, it makes NO SENSE. Add to that the transportation of hydrogen using the same tanker truck/rail/super-barge system we’ve got, and you’ve got even more inefficiency — not to mention a lot more danger. Tanker truck crashes are fairly common in the U.S., and around the world, and, of course, who’s going to forget the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Canada in 2013, which killed 47 people, and destroyed a small town’s downtown. Oops, I forgot — most Americans probably have forgotten this horrible tragedy, which saw oil tankers explode in fantastically deadly fashion, largely because the accident happened in Canada, not in the U.S.

Reason No. 3: Hydrogen fueling infrastructure/model = gasoline infrastructure & model. In contrast to hydrogen vehicles, EVs have a true and rapidly expanding grassroots following — and why not? Although, at a broad level, they’re still metal boxes driven by people, BEVs are potentially highly disruptive in multiple ways, especially in terms of the ways in which they could — and many BEV advocates hope will — fundamentally disrupt the current car fueling model. According to the old “efficient” model, oil is pumped out of the ground in, say, Saudi Arabia, pumped into a pipeline that goes to the Saudi coast, pumped into giant oil tankers that travel thousands of miles to refineries in the U.S., and elsewhere, is refined — using, yes, you guessed it, natural gas and electricity, then is transported thousands of miles by truck/train to your local gas station. This creates an illusion of “convenience” — NOT! What’s truly convenient, and insanely satisfying, is putting solar panels on your home’s rooftop — and “trucking” the solar-generated electrons a couple of meters from the rooftop directly to the battery of your BEV. This model of fuel production, distribution and consumption is fundamentally disruptive to Big Oil, which leads me to Reason No. 2 that EV lovers hate hydrogen.

You plug in your BEV and you’re done with that whole Big Oil, OPEC, ISIS, Keystone Pipeline crap. If you’ve got solar — and more and more EV people have it, and will have it, you kick Big Utility in the face too (and that’s also satisfying!). That’s a hell of a lot more gratifying than going to Shell Hydrogen, or Exxon-Mobil Hydrogen, or BP Hydrogen, to fill up — again, and again, and again, and again.

Reason No. 2: Big Oil reproduces itself as Big Hydrogen. A big reason many find BEVs so exciting is the fact that EVs allow them to throw off the yoke of Big Oil, to stop drinking, again and again and again and again at the trough of the Big Fat Cats — Shell, Exxon-Mobil, BP, etc. etc. etc. You plug in your BEV and you’re done with that whole Big Oil, OPEC, ISIS, Keystone Pipeline crap. If you’ve got solar — and more and more EV people have it, and will have it, you kick Big Utility in the face too (and that’s also satisfying!). That’s a hell of a lot more gratifying than going to Shell Hydrogen, or Exxon-Mobil Hydrogen, or BP Hydrogen, to fill up — again, and again, and again, and again.

Reason No. 1: Fueling Independence. Okay, this is bit of a variation of Reasons No. 3 and No. 2. But independence is the No. 1 reason BEV advocates hate hydrogen. There’s nothing, and I do mean nothing, more satisfying to probably 50 percent, or more, of EV diehards, than being able to say they’re fueling their own vehicle, in most cases with home solar, but in some cases, indirectly via green power they deliberately pay extra for, etc. Thousands of EV owners in the U.S. are fueling their electric cars with home solar, and thousands more are coming aboard the PV + EV express every year. That sense of fueling independence is sure to grow as home battery pack prices continue to fall, and EV + PV folks add home battery storage to their home electric and electric car independence. While it is theoretically possible to create hydrogen at home using home solar, it’s unlikely to happen — Big Hydrogen is a much more likely scenario. Hydrogen would almost certainly steal fueling independence and would reproduce more of the same Fat Cat, Rich Guys, Top-Down fueling model. That’s no fun — in fact, it just plain sucks. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, and that instead, in 10 to 15 years, we live in a world marked by micro-grids, distributed and democratic renewable energy production and consumption, longer range EVs, and an EV charging infrastructure that taps into renewable-energy generated electricity in a major way.

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I’ve driven 12,000 solar-charged miles in my 2014 Nissan LEAF, haven’t pumped gas in 10 months — and I love everything about that!

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