The US government will grant $7 billion to establish seven hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs)

The US government will grant $7 billion to establish seven hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs)

Hydrogen in transportation lives a chicken-or-egg paradox. Companies do not invest in producing this gas for use in cars because there is not enough demand. Meanwhile, automakers aren’t investing a lot of money in fuel cells, because people will have nowhere to find hydrogen. It seems that the US government wants to end this matter by providing the necessary supply through public investments. To be more precise, we’re talking about $7 billion, which will lead to the creation of seven new hydrogen centers across the country.

The Department of Energy released more information on the matter and made sure to point out that it is “part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, a key pillar of the Biden economy.” In many countries, this connection would be prohibited by voting and election laws for a simple reason: the Department of Energy is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not something that belongs to a politician or party. While people debate whether Joe Biden – who is 80 – is not too old to try for re-election, he has already said he will run as the Democratic nominee. As a candidate, to present any of his government’s actions as personal would be tantamount to using the state as an electoral tool. Apparently, this is perfectly fine in the United States.

Beyond the controversial presentation of these measures, those who were eager to see the US hydrogen chicken-or-egg dilemma solved can celebrate. If all goes according to plan, they will be able to buy a Toyota Mirai or Hyundai NEXO in many more states than just California. Other automakers may also decide to offer similar products, not to mention fuel cell electric trucks (FCETs) like the Nikola Tree FCEV that could benefit from a more extensive hydrogen offering.

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One of the big issues with fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) comes down to affordability, both for hydrogen and fuel cells. A first generation fuel cell car recently had to be replaced in Germany. Till Westberg was shocked to find out it would cost him €103,764.17 ($109,041 at the current exchange rate) to get his 2016 Hyundai ix35 FCEV running again. He has used it for only 84,000 kilometers (52,195 miles) and seven years. Even though the ix35 FCEV was produced on a very low scale, this is still scary.

Photo: Hyundai

As for hydrogen, Alexander Vlaskamp said last June that it is “It’s very expensive, about four to five times what would be interesting for our customers to use.” MAN’s CEO is betting bigger on battery electric trucks (BETs), which is in line with what Volkswagen sees as the future. They never mention what happens when trucks carrying nine or more battery packs similar to those used in cars need to be replaced. In Tesla’s case, it costs $20,000.

The US government appears to be aware of at least one of these concerns. The Department of Energy has promised to produce these hydrogen hubs – officially named H2Hubs “Clean, low-cost hydrogen – a valuable energy product that can be produced with zero or near zero carbon emissions.”

Here’s the rub: Of the seven new H2Hubs, at least three of them will use natural gas, the same method used for most of the hydrogen currently used in the world. We’re talking about hydrogen hubs in the Appalachian Mountains (ARCH2), the Gulf Coast (HyVelocity), and the Midwest (MachH2). This essentially creates what is classified as gray hydrogen – obtained by steam methane reforming (SMR) or gasification without carbon capture. Given what the Ministry of Energy revealed, only the first two plants will include carbon capture.

The other four H2Hubs are California (ARCES), Heartland, Mid-Atlantic (MACH2), and Pacific Northwest (PNW H2). They will rely on renewable and nuclear energy to produce green hydrogen. MACH2 will be reused “Historic Oil Infrastructure” To transport hydrogen through pipelines. Each of these projects will generate about $1 billion, but they will not generate the same amount of jobs, which is very uncertain.

While the ARCHES H2Hub will generate 220,000 direct jobs – 130,000 in construction and another 90,000 in permanent jobs – the Heartland Hydrogen Center will create just 3,880 direct jobs, neatly divided into 3,067 construction jobs and 703 permanent jobs. Despite the similar investments and goals, the disparity in job creation between these projects can only be clarified through a closer look at all the details.

Now, we’ll have to wait until the H2Hubs are up and running to see if they can make a difference in decarbonizing transportation. The Department of Energy recognizes that cars and trucks represent only a small part of the problem, and said the centers will help reduce energy levels “Emissions from difficult-to-decarbonize industrial sectors account for 30 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions.” port operations, “Fertilizer production”, “Electricity generation”, And “Space heating in cold climates” They are among the targets. As long as H2Hubs can actually provide blue or green hydrogen at reasonable prices, the $7 billion the United States plans to invest could turn out to be a worthwhile investment.

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