California Is Trying to Jump-Start the Hydrogen Economy
Since President George W. Bush fueled a minivan with hydrogen 15 years ago, the promise of cars and trucks powered by the fuel has come up mostly empty.
That hydrogen pump, in Washington, closed long ago. But in California, the beginnings of a hydrogen economy may finally be dawning after many fits and starts.
Dozens of hydrogen buses are lumbering down city streets, while more and larger fueling stations are appearing from San Diego to San Francisco, financed by the state and the federal government. With the costs of producing and shipping hydrogen coming down, California is setting ambitious goals to phase out vehicles that run on fossil fuels in favor of batteries and hydrogen.
Some energy executives said they expect investment in hydrogen to accelerate under President-elect Joe Biden, who made climate change a big part of his campaign and proposed a $2 trillion plan to tackle the problem.
A recent McKinsey & Co. study estimated that the hydrogen economy could generate $140 billion in annual revenue by 2030 and support 700,000 jobs. The study projected that hydrogen could meet 14% of total American energy demand by 2050.
The use of hydrogen, the lightest and most abundant substance in the universe, is still in its infancy, and California is determined to be its cradle in the United States.The state now has roughly 40 fueling stations, with dozens more under construction. While those numbers are tiny compared with the 10,000 gasoline stations across the state, officials have high hopes.
With about 7,500 hydrogen vehicles on the road, an aggressive state program of incentives and subsidies from cap-and-trade dollars envisions 50,000 hydrogen light-duty vehicles by middecade and a network of 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2030.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles are similar to electric cars. But unlike electric cars, which have large batteries, these cars have hydrogen tanks and fuel cells that turn the gas into electricity. The cars refuel and accelerate quickly, and they can go for several hundred miles on a full tank. They emit only water vapor, which makes them appealing to California cities that are trying to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Almost any objective analysis for getting to zero emissions includes hydrogen,” said Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.
文／Ivan Penn and Clifford Krauss 譯／李京倫、核稿／樂慧生