Hydrogen holds key for next eco-friendly car boom
© Getty Images

As we head into a new year and a new administration, President Trump has made it clear that we need to continue to support a diversity of energy sources to strengthen the economy and ensure our energy security.

In the United States, 28 percent of all domestic energy consumption is used by the transportation sector.

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Currently, gasoline and diesel fuel dominate, accounting for 77 percent of transportation energy consumption, making this sector ripe for fuel diversification.

One solution to the fuel diversity puzzle will be showcased at this year’s Washington Auto Show — hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). 

FCVs generate power to drive their electric motors through a chemical process utilizing hydrogen fuel. There is no combustion, so there are no emissions other than harmless water vapor, which is why FCVs are zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). 

Why is it that our electrical grid uses a broad array of fuels — natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, coal, and renewables like wind and solar — while the transportation sector does not boast such a portfolio?

For a century, our transportation paradigm has been rooted in the internal combustion engine, using petroleum-based fuels like gasoline and diesel.

However, modern leaps in technology allow new innovations to scale quickly and affordably. Today, hybrid electric cars are seemingly on every corner, but just 20 years ago were considered exotic.

ZEVs are next in line, and as more FCVs are introduced into the market, they are winning customers and gaining traction.  

According to a 2017 survey of the automotive industry, 78 percent of industry executives surveyed agree that “fuel cell vehicles will be the real breakthrough for electric mobility.”

This is because FCVs maintain continuity with the classic driving experience — five minutes or less for filling up, and a 300-400 mile drive range.  

There already is strong competition among automakers to lead the FCV market. Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda vehicles are currently in showrooms and on the streets in California, and nearly every other major automaker plans to join them in the coming years.

Hydrogen power is not only gaining in momentum with passenger cars, but also growing in other vehicle markets, including hydrogen fuel cell buses in California, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

Similarly, major Fortune 500 companies, including Walmart, the Home Depot and Coca-Cola, use hydrogen-powered forklifts at warehouses and other facilities in more than 20 states. 

To increase America’s energy independence, maintain our competitive edge and create jobs for the future, we must continue to create and utilize diverse technologies, including FCVs.  

Hydrogen is a particularly attractive fuel choice because it is derived from domestic sources, including our abundant reserves of natural gas, biofuels, solar, and wind.  

Using American resources to fuel our transportation sector will make us more self-reliant and keep our energy dollars at home.

Diversifying our transportation sector with hydrogen fuel will have the added benefit of fostering growth, particularly for early-adopter communities.  

Building the hydrogen fuel infrastructure for these innovative fuel cell vehicles, such as constructing hydrogen fueling stations, and the producing, delivering, and storing supply chain, will spur a first-mover advantage leading to new jobs across the hydrogen industry.

A technologically-diverse transportation sector and fueling landscape reflect the best future that American enterprise can offer our nation.

It will increase consumer choice, a competitive marketplace, healthy economic growth, and greater control of our energy destiny.  

That’s why using hydrogen to power our vehicles is a clear win for the United States today, and tomorrow.

 

Morry Markowitz is the president of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.


 

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.