Hydrogen Fuel Cell & Battery Electric Vehicles Bringing Cleaner Air to our Cities

Toyota Mirai HyGen Fuel Cell Vehicle Sunset Blvd

In a November 2016 report, the European Environment Agency (EEA) stated, “Air pollution remains the single largest environmental health hazard in Europe, resulting in a lower quality of life due to illnesses and an estimated 467 000 premature deaths per year.”

Germany is combating the problem by building a country-wide hydrogen fueling station network. In the fall of 2016, The German government voted to ban internal combustion engines by 2030. Only zero-emission vehicles will be allowed for sale when the ban comes into force. The Netherlands is considering similar measures and one in three new vehicles sold in Norway is zero-emission.

Closer to home, in California, thirty-seven percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Clearly, a bold plan is essential to combat the problem of air pollution. California’s is building a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging and hydrogen fuel stations to support 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), and Air Quality

Some challenge the clean credentials of fuel cell and battery electric vehicles. It’s true that the energy for both automobile types can be derived from fossil fuels but it’s equally true that both can be supplied from clean renewable sources. What’s important is to get these zero-emission vehicles in our cities as quickly as possible. The instant benefit is cleaner local air in our communities and healthier citizens. Longer term benefits come by increasing the percentages of renewables to fuel the growing fuel cell and battery electric vehicle fleet. You can’t do that with fossil-fuel vehicles.

A viable hydrogen station network already exists in Los Angeles and coastal Southern California. The Bay Area will catch up in 2017. At present, most California’s hydrogen stations sell hydrogen derived from natural gas. This process is known as stream methane reformation (SMR). To promote sustainability, the state mandates at least thirty-three percent of hydrogen come from renewable sources.

Although HyGen is committed to clean renewable hydrogen, the company supports the state’s policy for a combination of SMR hydrogen and renewable hydrogen to grow the fuel cell fleet. When FCEVs become mainstream, the ratio of renewable to natural gas hydrogen can be increased.

About the Author: Paul Dillon is CFO of HyGen Industries, based in Los Angeles, California.