I’ve been a reader of Green Car Reports for years now. I love cars. I was born & raised in Detroit (aka The Motor City). My life has always been about cars. The auto industry put food on my table as a little kid, put my two brothers and me through university, and today puts food on the table for my family and me. I’m also an environmentalist and have spent countless hundreds of hours of my free time volunteering for this Michigan based 501(c)3 called respectmyplanet.org (RMP) which I also founded. RMP is dedicated to protecting our air & water quality via sustainable energy production and ridding our society of using gasoline and diesel fuel for energy. You can probably understand why I would think a car website like Green Car Reports (hereafter GCR) would be right up my alley.
If you look at the name and concept of the website GCR, your first thought would be that it’s a site dedicated to supporting cars that improve America’s environment. That’s how I characterized the website when I first started reading it. You would be misled, however, if you thought GCR supported zero emission technologies without prejudice. I will no longer be reading GCR because their bias against alternative clean energy like Hydrogen and Fuel Cells has crossed a line that must be rebutted and addressed. This post is a rebuttal to this post by GCR senior editor John Voelcker on May 4, 2017. I will demonstrate throughout this post how every single one of John Voelcker’s attacks on Hydrogen is not supported by the links he references, science, common sense, or facts in general. I will first post what John wrote in quote notation and then rebut his false claims with verifiable information.
For too long I have made excuses about GCR’s bias against Hydrogen and continued to not speak out. GCR has long promoted batteries and that’s great. Batteries are a great technology and will play an important part in our clean energy future. What GCR also does, however, that can no longer be tolerated, is to undermine the adoption of Hydrogen as a clean energy solution in the face of sound science and economics. John Voelcker’s arguments, elitism, and arrogance against fuel cells and Hydrogen being settled science must be rebutted because he is flat out wrong.
After John posted “the post” it was the last straw of GCR’s fibbing & bias. I took to Twitter to call John out about it. When I mentioned John’s article proposed a false dichotomy between fuel cells and batteries as being an either or scenario he quickly responded that I should comment in the comment section of GCR and use links to support my arguments. I wanted to write paragraphs back on Twitter but I can only get 140 characters at a time. So instead of Tweeting or leaving comments on the comment section of GCR, it’s time to use RMP’s blog where a thoughtful response with links and media can be leveraged to refute GCR’s misleading propaganda against clean energy through the adoption of Hydrogen fuel cells.
Let’s look at each and every one of John’s arguments in “the post” and take them apart one by one. I will first post what John wrote on GCR in quote notation and then will follow with RMP’s rebuttal:
It’s now clear that the zero-emission vehicles of the future will be powered by electric motors.
The electricity to power those motors, however, will come from one of two competing technologies: high-capacity batteries or Hydrogen fuel cells.
The debate over which technology is superior, which has the lowest wells-to-wheels carbon footprint, and which is likely to appeal more to mass-market buyers has become … epic.
This statement about how only one of two competing technologies can succeed is something I have been calling “the false dichotomy” and it’s John’s opening statement. The false premise argued to mislead casual readers is that we are heading into world of automobiles that can only possibly fall into two different categories: battery or fuel cells. There is no such dichotomy, however, where both technologies cannot work together or where only one technology must be chosen. Further, there is no such thing as a fuel cell car without a battery. Fuel cell cars always, yes always, have a battery. This is how fuel cells work. Fuel cells work together with batteries. A fuel cell powertrain is a full and complex propulsion system for the most advanced vehicles in the world and that propulsion system always includes a battery. Fuel cell advocates don’t necessarily say battery only cars will never be viable. Fuel cell advocates do, however, say that batteries are limited and can never satisfy the entire vehicle market. Some vehicles like emergency vehicles, large vehicles, and even larger transportation vehicles like busses & trains that need to run 24/7 will need to be able to provide continuous use without waiting at the charger for hours on end. Fuel cells will be there to handle those situations where batteries cannot meet market demand. There is no black or white, one or the other ultimatum between batteries and fuel cells. Batteries and fuel cells work together today and will continue to do so in the future. There is no “false dichotomy” as John proposes.
Fuel-cell vehicles are, without a doubt, a brilliant technical accomplishment.
But with the technology rapidly maturing and approaching its limits, it is becoming clear that they cannot offer viable, cleaner and more sustainable transportation than other showroom-available, new vehicle technologies.
Emerging hard data leaves no room for any other conclusion, meaning that the life support for the fuel-cell dream increasingly depends on discredited assumptions, deceptive comparisons, and unconvincing distant future prognostications.
This block of text is what originally blew me away with its profound absurdity. This is the block of text I read that inspired me to give up on GCR, call John Voelcker out on Twitter, and write this post you’re reading now. Let’s break down how senseless this statement is…
Fuel cell technology is by no means rapidly approaching its limits. In fact, fuel cell technology is advancing at a breakneck pace like never before. This is a good article talking about how #FuelCell manufacturing has not even begun at an automated level.
John Voelcker is saying fuel cell technology is approaching its limits while this article published earlier this year from the reputable Autoweek is saying that fuel cell mass manufacturing has not even started. The article linked is for a new joint venture between GM & Honda for launching a fuel cell manufacturing plant right here in Brownstone, Michigan. This plant will start the first mass production of fuel cell stacks in the world and it will be done right here in the Great Lakes State where RMP is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. It’s general consensus that fuel cell technology is far from approaching its limits as John says. Most people following fuel cells, like me, agree that fuel cells will not even make their world debut until the year 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics. John Voelcker’s statements are nonsensical. Charlie Freese, the Executive Director of Global Fuel Cell Activities at General Motors says in this article written in February of 2016 and published by the reputable Ward’s Auto Magazine that fuel cell technology is advancing so quickly right now that by the time a car got put into production, its fuel cell propulsion system would be antiquated and obsolete by the time the car rolled off the assembly line. What John Voelcker says is pure garbage, and speaking of garbage, Hydrogen can be produced from garbage which kills two birds with one stone. By using garbage and other wastes for Hydrogen fuel feedstocks we eliminate environmental threats, save billions in future environmental remediation costs, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
Hydrogen wastes energy resources, whether fossil or renewable
This proves to be true whether the gas is produced by electrolyzing water or through steam reformation of natural gas.
This estimate, based on multi-year monitoring of existing Hydrogen refueling stations, is consistent with design energy requirements published by a manufacturer of Hydrogen refueling stations and other credible sources.
As both technologies have been practiced on an industrial scale for nearly a century, and their efficiency is limited by the laws of physics, these numbers cannot be expected to change dramatically.
This is a commonly used anti-Hydrogen argument that is off base and misleading. By saying that Hydrogen technology “has been practiced on an industrial scale for nearly a century” and intimating that economies of scale can never be achieved near term because we haven’t seen cost drops in 100 years is misleading ignorance at best and slander at worst. John makes a weak argument here but it has its effect on the unwashed and scores of anti-Hydrogen GCR readers. First off, let’s state clearly that Hydrogen has challenges like all energy technologies do. Furthermore, Hydrogen’s biggest challenge is and remains to be cost reductions to make it more affordable on a mass scale.
Praxair has a great document they published in concert with the EERE that explains in detail the challenges Hydrogen has as it relates to cost. But, what is very interesting is the mention that over the last 100 years there have only ever been less than a couple dozen merchant Hydrogen plants. One of the key takeaways of this Praxair document is that economies of scale have never been achieved because they’ve never been tried which is a truth contrary to John’s inaccurate claim. There has never been a reason to produce Hydrogen on a mass scale until now. Because fuel cell advancements in the last decade have given Hydrogen new demand to power society, the pieces are finally in place to scale up production and also reap the benefits of much lower costs through economies of scale as there is an unlimited supply of Hydrogen in every locality around the world.
In 1977, the cost of a watt of solar electricity was $76.77 and solar energy had been around and understood for millennia. In 2013, solar was $0.74/watt and continues to fall through today in 2017. This is an over 99% drop in cost. Who is John to say that Hydrogen will not drop in cost similar to the way solar has? Hydrogen is already almost on par with gasoline today in California with only 27 public retail fueling stations online. The price per kilogram of public retail Hydrogen dispensed at the pump has dropped already from $16/kg to $10/kg in certain locations, which is a nearly 40% drop. As more stations come online and compressor and chiller technology advances, Hydrogen costs will fall in a pattern similar to solar, because like solar, there is an unlimited amount Hydrogen available. John’s argument is not true. The supporting link John references is a 300 page NREL document published in 2009, which does not support the claim he made and he cites no specific reference or pages within that 300 page document.
The main point of the Praxair article I referenced above is that there are only 10 liquefaction plants in the USA and Praxair has only done capacity expansions on those 10 facilities once every 5 years. The article clearly states “The infrequent builds means it’s very difficult to reproduce designs”. The document also states that larger plants are more capital efficient. The document is a good one because it clearly states the real challenges to Hydrogen’s ramp up but it becomes clear how those challenges can be overcome given that there has never been a reason to ramp up production until now.
A demand increase in Hydrogen is ramping up with Kenworth, Nikola, Toyota, and US Hybrid all working on heavy (Class 8) Hydrogen fuel cell tractor trailers (Gross Vehicle Weight >35,000lbs). The United Parcel Service, United States Postal Service, and FedEx are all working on Class 6 Hydrogen fuel cell heavy box trucks. Retail giants WalMart & Amazon have invested significantly in Hydrogen Fuel Cell fork trucks for their warehouses because batteries cannot compete economically or operationally for their bottom line profits. Plug Power, a fuel cell manufacturer in New York, has over 10,000 H2 units in the field and has provided over 5 million safe, easy, quick, and zero emission refills for customers like WalMart, Amazon, & Kroger. These are all major reasons why we will see economies of scale quickly changing the price of Hydrogen and creating jobs in this burgeoning industry for Americans that want to work to produce clean & domestically sourced energy in the form gaseous and liquefied Hydrogen.
Moreover, as real fuel cells operate at around 50-percent efficiency, only a quarter of the initial energy (fossil or renewable) is available to power the fuel cell vehicle—compared to more than 80 percent of the initial electrical energy that remains available to power an electric vehicle.
As a result, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell consumes more than three times more electricity per mile than an electric vehicle (e.g. the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV).
It also consumes almost the same amount of natural gas as the now-discontinued 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas—which, unlike a Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, did not use energy-conserving hybrid technology.
The idea that future transportation will be based on Hydrogen produced from renewable electricity proves completely unrealistic, as it would require doubling total electricity generation in the U.S.
Whatever share renewable generation attains in the future electricity mix, wasting most of it by making Hydrogen to power fuel-cell vehicles makes no sense whatsoever.
GCR again makes false, unsupported, and misleading claims in this clause of text. In the first sentence, GCR’s John Voelcker references a document that is 115 pages long but he doesn’t cite any specifics to support how he used the link. What part of the document is he referencing? He doesn’t say. If you read the 5 year old document that was published July 2012, it clearly says that Generation 1 fuel cell systems showed efficiency ratings between 51% & 58% (page 26 section 2.1). Gen 2 fuel cell systems achieved 53% to 59% efficiency and exceeded DOE targets. Don’t forget that fuel cells also generate heat which can be used to heat the cabin or defrost the windshield without losing any electrical energy whereas a BEV would have to sacrifice propulsion electricity for heat thus decreasing it’s already low energy density and range as compared to an FCEV. Capturing the heat energy generated by a fuel cell raises its efficiency well above 60%. Not to mention this article is discussing generation 2 fuel cells from 2009 which is over 8 years ago. Charlie Freese, head executive of Fuel Cells at GM just said in 2016 that Fuel Cell technology is currently moving so fast that a production vehicle would be obsolete before it could even make it to market in 2020. GCR’s John Voelcker misses the mark again and can’t even cite a source properly to back his claim. His source disputes his claim throughout and he doesn’t even tell you which page of the document he’s referencing.
Another claim GCR’s John Voelcker makes in the passage above is that a fuel cell didn’t make use of hybrid technology implying that a vehicle must use gasoline to be considered a hybrid. The problem with that statement is that a fuel cell vehicle is a hybrid. FCEVs have always been hybrids and will continue to be hybrids. Fuel cells work together with the same Lithium-ion batteries that are in many BEVs. All fuel cells are hybrids. The difference between the gasoline + battery hybrids and fuel cell + battery hybrids is that FCEVs are zero emissions; yet John continues to laud gasoline propulsion and slander zero emission fuel cell hybrids with fallacy.
In the last sentence, GCR’s John Voelcker again references a document without citing the page and says it’s completely unrealistic to use fuel cells because it would require doubling total electricity generation in the US. The document he references is 286 pages long and was published 8 years ago and based on 2005 data. The word “double” or “doubling” is not found in any of the 286 pages! The whole document is positive about fuel cells and explains the realistic pathways to adopting Hydrogen as a legitimate fuel source for all drivers of all vehicles in America. How do John’s words reconcile with the document he links to which is already out of date? They don’t.
John is a propagandist and cannot be taken as a credible source. John’s writing is misleading spin. This is a quote from the first paragraph of the executive summary of the document John uses as a source document: “The Program has been researching and developing Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies because they have the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign crude oil, diversify energy sources, decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and provide domestic economic growth.” The premise of John’s slander is opposite of the document’s sentiment and supporting facts.
The real bugger of John’s false reporting is this: Wind and solar energy often times becomes “excess” or “wasted” energy as it’s created when there is no demand for it. That is to say that much of the electricity generated by intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar is wasted because there aren’t customers to consume it. We often see the many wind mills in Michigan not spinning on windy days because the electricity is not needed. By converting that electricity into Hydrogen, however, it could be captured & stored rather than wasted. Further, there are many other pathways to creating Hydrogen from several different feedstocks that will not require additional centralized electrical generation. In fact, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells can create electricity and heat at 90% efficiency. John’s claims don’t even hold up to common sense tests. John Voelcker is a shill for BEV manufacturers like Tesla which I will explain further in the concluding arguments of this post.
Because of their higher energy consumption, fuel-cell cars generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than other powertrain technologies.
The emissions come from the Hydrogen-producing facilities that use natural gas, or from power-generating plants—but their effect on the environment is the same.
Greenhouse-gas generation estimates from Hydrogen refueling stations in California show that a Clarity Fuel Cell, powered by Hydrogen produced from natural gas or from the relatively low-carbon (or ‘clean’) California grid, produces 80 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than a Toyota Prius or a Honda Accord Hybrid, a hybrid mid-size sedan of a similar size.
Most importantly, the Clarity generates more than three times the greenhouse-gas emissions of an electric car, such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, when running solely on battery power.
RMP has been dealing with these same tired attacks on Hydrogen for years. I’m thankful to John for laying out every single tired argument so they can all be refuted in this one single white paper. In the first paragraph, John again makes a misleading claim. Fuel cell cars, as explained throughout this article, can be powered by solar & wind electricity that would otherwise be wasted meaning they’re truly zero emission sources. Hydrogen can capture renewable energy that would otherwise go to waste and thereby improve grid efficiency. Fuel cells can also be powered by renewable natural gas that would otherwise be vented to atmosphere. When natural gas is vented to atmosphere as a waste gas or flared as a nuisance gas, it increases GHG emissions to atmosphere without generating useful energy.
John tries to compare an apple to an orange by comparing Hydrogen made from nonrenewable natural gas to electricity for a BEV made from renewable energy. RMP could do the same thing by comparing solar produced Hydrogen to coal produced electricity to power a BEV. RMP doesn’t do that though because we have better ethics than GCR and we do not intentionally mislead readers like GCR does.
Let’s examine this point a bit further because John made it very easy to show how misleading his statements are. Let’s flip the script and say we are charging a Tesla in any major city in either West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Indiana, Missouri, Utah, or North Dakota (all of which get more than ¾ of their power from coal; with WV & KY getting over 90% of their energy from coal) and we are also fueling a FCEV Clarity with Hydrogen made from water & solar. While the Clarity is 100% clean the Tesla energy is nasty. It’s not a fair comparison is it? It myopically distorts the bigger picture and is misleading. John seems comfortable with the kind of poor ethics it takes to write such misleading statements again and again.
This example needs even further analysis. Ask yourself, or better yet ask John, why is the percentage of solar powered Tesla Super Chargers so tiny? Why is it that solar & wind renewable energy are not a good fit for Super Chargers? It’s the elephant in the room when it comes to John dishing out misleading propaganda against Hydrogen. Hydrogen is a much better economical fit for converting intermittent solar and wind energy into stored energy when large quantities of energy are needed. Tesla has 2,361 superchargers throughout the USA (according to a recent download of the AFDC database). According to Wikipedia, only 2 Super Charger stations are powered by solar energy. That means only a staggering 0.08% of Super Chargers are powered by solar energy!! Wait what?!?! Is that true?!? Why is that? I thought Elon Musk talked about Teslas being powered by solar energy. I guess he’s misleading people too, just like John Voelcker. This is hard evidence that solar energy is not conducive to supplying Super Chargers with the electricity needed to keep BEVs moving.
If you read RMP regularly you already know a lot about energy. The space required to produce economic quantities of solar energy or wind energy are vast. The largest solar field in the world takes up over 10 square miles and only produces 850 MW. Solar energy + batteries will not work for liberating large cities from their fossil fuel dependencies which is why I challenge John to explain his plan for powering large cities with long cold winters without including fuel cells in the plan. He won’t be able to offer a solution because it’s not feasible. When I told John on Twitter that he needs to learn about landfills and sewage, he ridiculed me, but the irony is that landfills & sewage are great sources of energy that he does not understand. Our wastes can be used to make Hydrogen to power cars, trucks, busses, trains, and cities. By using our wastes for energy, we reduce waste processing costs while we turn a societal burden into valuable fuel. BEVs are best used in short city commutes but that is the exact place where they have trouble getting their energy from renewable sources. Care to explain how this issue can be resolved John Voelcker?
The comparison chart above is based on official estimates of wells-to-wheels greenhouse-gas generation associated with using fossil fuels or with the generation of electrical power.
These numbers are again consistent with other credible studies, even though the obvious conclusions are left out.
To conclude that fuel-cell vehicles have lower total greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional cars, an otherwise excellent 2012 report estimates their emissions against an imaginary “conventional mid-size passenger car” with a fuel economy of 20 MPG (e.g., a Lincoln Continental).
Publications aimed at the general public often propagate such disinformation.
As one official fuel-economy guide states, “[FCVs] generate much less GHGs than conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles.”
John really takes the bullshit up a notch in this last passage. His GCR website shows a chart with 3 FCEVs generating between 350 to 700 grams of CO2 per mile and then he references for the 4th time a credible document from the NREL that doesn’t support his homemade bullshit graph. Let me reiterate that point for clarity: the GCR graph is home made from a spreadsheet and the graph in this post is from the very source document John Voelcker references. The graph in the NREL document (Fig 1, shown below) shows on page 1 that FCEVs beat BEVs in GHGs across the board with the only exception being the BEV100 and BEV300 categories using renewable energy. But, as I just previously mentioned, BEVs in the city are not getting their energy from renewable sources, they’re getting their electricity from grid mix electricity, a category in which Hydrogen FCEVs beat BEVs in EVERY SINGLE CATEGORY!! It’s funny how John posts a chart that is not based in reality or supported but then sources a chart here that contradicts the very bullshit he displays as a graphic in the GCR article. To use the same ridicule John used against me on Twitter I can only say [sigh].
To the left of this sentence is a graph from the very source that GCR’s John Voelcker cites when he falsely says that FCEVs are worse than gasoline cars in well to wheels GHG emissions. In fact, the chart from John’s source shows FCEVs are the #1 green vehicle technology wells to wheels with all five types of energy generation for FCEVs beating grid electricity for BEVs on their high end. How can GCR’s John Voelcker be trusted when he says the exact opposite thing that the source he provides shows? I think it’s a smarter bet to trust the DOE source John provides which supports what RMP has told you: FCEVs are the #1 wells to wheels GHG technology on the planet earth. Nice try John Voelcker, but anyone who took a minute to open the source you linked to knows you were being dishonest.
Another serious hurdle is that Hydrogen fueling stations are expensive to install, and probably not viable without public financing.
Seven new stations in California, recently announced by Shell and Toyota, will cost $28 million. California will pay 60 percent of that total.
Operating around the clock, each station can fuel up to 300 Hydrogen cars a day.
California expects to spend more than $200 million by 2024 to reach its target of 100 Hydrogen stations, capable of supporting 30,000 fuel-cell vehicles—which is a mere 0.1 percent of all vehicles on California roads.
John likes to express his BEV elitism in the form of deriding others for not spending their money the way he wants them to spend it. He refuses to accept the notion that people want cars that work the way they want them to work. John will moderate your comment if you mention politics on GCR but then he’ll write a story like this one that impugns the integrity of an entire group of people for not buying a vehicle that doesn’t fit their needs. People don’t buy pickup trucks because they have no care about the environment as John seems to suggest. People buy pickup trucks and large SUVs for utility. John refuses to address the 800lb gorilla in the room: BEVs don’t scale up well for the utility people demand like fuel cells do. John uses many of the same excuses other BEVangelists use for tepid BEV demand: people aren’t spending on advertising, or dealers aren’t pushing hard enough to sell BEVs. According to John, it’s always someone else’s fault BEVs don’t sell.
The FCTO has intimated 8 kilograms of Hydrogen can power a large SUV for a roughly 400 mile range. This means millions of people in the market for a pickup truck or large SUV could buy a zero emission FCEV if fuel cell vehicles are supported and a supply chain is fostered. The FCTO also expresses that FCEVs will be comparable in cost to ICEs ($40/kw) and H2 will be comparable to under $4 per gallon of gasoline by 2020. Imagine an America where our fuel was made domestically from garbage or sewage that created jobs and eliminated environmental hazards. People could drive large zero emission pickup trucks & SUVs with comparable ranges and refuel times that they’re used to today with fuel cells. BEVs don’t scale well to these sizes with 400 mile ranges and 3 to 5 minute refuel times. GCR’s John Voelcker never seems to acknowledge just how weak BEVs are when it comes to continuous operation vehicles and the large vehicles the market demands. John always cites stats about most people’s driving habits but ignores millions of people who aren’t in a market for spending their money on a vehicle that will not and cannot fit their needs.
The best example of John’s arrogance and elitism when it comes to BEVs, however, is showcased in this article in the “Etiquette” section. Let’s examine an excerpt of John’s sentiment below:
First, there’s the problem of “ICE-ing,” in which a car with an Internal Combustion Engine parks at a charging site, blocking access for plug-in drivers–whether inadvertently or maliciously.
Your best bet there is to see if there’s a local security guard or a way to page the driver. Failing that, leave a factual but courteous note pointing out that their action prevented you from recharging–which was the sole purpose of the spot they parked in.
In this passage John demonstrates his sentiment that a parking spot should be reserved for a BEV over any other type of vehicle because that particular parking spot’s “sole purpose” is to charge a battery electric vehicle. Imagine how this weakly thought out logic scales up where parking real estate is limited & therefore very valuable. It just doesn’t add up as a solution that will work for all drivers. A Hydrogen station that serves 1,000 kg a day or 2,000 kg day would service from 200 to 400 regular size cars per day. Imagine how many chargers would be needed in a densely populated city to service everybody. Further, imagine all the prime time parking real estate is “reserved” for BEVs. It’s an elitism that says “I deserve” to park somewhere because I drive a BEV and you don’t deserve to park there because you don’t drive a BEV. While BEVs are less than 1% of the vehicles on the road John’s warped logic might make sense to himself because his arrogance has not yet considered common sense, but with BEVs growing to even 15% of vehicles on the road the whole “etiquette” concept turns to a bunch of similarly arrogant people fighting over a limited number of parking spots. As Johnny Cochran might say regarding this logic: if it doesn’t scale, it’s gonna fail.
Considering all the obstacles and requirements for new infrastructure (estimated to cost as much as $400 billion), fuel-cell vehicles seem likely to be a niche technology at best, with little impact on U.S. oil consumption.
Battery-based vehicles have a far more realistic potential to reduce oil consumption. The average daily driving distance of 30 miles is well within the range of new electric vehicles.
New plug-in-hybrids with battery ranges of 30 miles or more can eliminate most gasoline use on commuting trips, and operate as efficiently as hybrids on longer trips.
Again this information is misleading and undermines environmental protection of our water and air by wrongly mischaracterizing Hydrogen’s contributions to a clean economy. First off, the link from 2008 that John references above for $400B estimates that $16B in R&D would be spent over the next 15 years. Of the $16B referenced in the link, only $5B, or less than one third, would come from DOE spending. The majority of the spending would occur over a period of 42 years (through 2050) and would be private investment with subsidies phased out. This means a self sustaining Hydrogen economy that creates jobs and makes the USA 100% energy independent. Further, the infrastructure described is not “niche” as John misstates. The infrastructure described in the link would support 220 million vehicles, which is approximately 100% of vehicles (i.e. everybody is supported, every single US citizen). How is 100% of vehicles considered a niche that cannot reduce oil consumption? Only by using the warped and irrational logic of John Voelcker.
Another point is that John says 30 miles of plug-in driving on average would satisfy the needs of most drivers. All FCEVs have a lithium-ion or other type of battery and are in effect “hybrid” vehicles without gasoline. Mercedes will be releasing their GLC plug-in Hydrogen FCEV hybrid later this year that has the benefits of plug-in short commute driving and also the long range & continuous driving benefits that Hydrogen provides similar to gasoline. That is to say, a plug-in Hydrogen FCEV is the best of both worlds with no gasoline. If you’ve been following RMP you know that just about everything we do is centered on reducing gasoline & diesel consumption to zero. John’s slander of zero emission vehicles and support of gasoline hybrids as “good enough” is completely unacceptable for a “Green Car” website; It makes GCR as sham.
RMP has been Michigan’s lead watchdog of the oil & gas industry. We support a responsible migration away from oil use while also supporting the creation of new jobs for the hard working men and women serving the energy markets of today. We have demonstrated with our mapping technology where 100s of oil & gas leaks are in Michigan in order to study water contamination plumes. RMP has worked hard to understand the oil industry so we can all do better for our children as we move forward with alternative energy solutions. While we have always supported the working men & women in all industries, including the oil industry, our plea since this organization was founded is to make a responsible migration away from oil as an energy source. In Michigan alone, we have over 4,000 Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUSTs) (i.e. gasoline fueling stations) contaminating Michigan water right now. Michigan has a $1.8 billion backlog for remediating ground water contamination at the more than 4,000 active LUST contamination sites. And, that remediation money could be going toward investing in clean, zero-emission, and domestically sourced energy. If each of the 50 states has a similar $1.8 billion backlog to remediate LUSTs, that’s $75billion in cleanup costs to remediate water contamination related to gasoline storage. How can anyone propose gasoline hybrids as the stopgap for where BEVs fall short of serving all market segments?
It is an interesting paradox of an argument that BEVangelists seem to use in their anti-Hydrogen stance: it’s as if in one part of their argument they argue BEVs as a solution for transportation for all and simultaneously laud gasoline hybrids as a solution for the situations where they subconsciously know BEVs will not solve all transportation needs. I mean, which is it? If BEVs are acknowledged as serving the needs of some, why not fill the gaps where BEVs fall short with zero emission Hydrogen FCEV hybrids rather than gasoline hybrids? It’s something RMP will not stand for and will not sit idly by and let this argument pass for making sense.
When your solution is to shun zero emissions Hydrogen fuel in favor of gasoline storage you have jumped the shark. Ridding the country of gasoline and diesel is the number one reason to support zero emission vehicles. If you’re saying it’s ok to use gasoline where BEVs fall short and therefore require gasoline & diesel filling stations to exist in perpetuity and you use junk science to support an anti-Hydrogen stance, you need to be called out. That’s exactly what John Voelcker is doing on GCR and it must be called out as fraudulent. This is RMP’s job as an environmental organization, to call out misleading and unsupportable claims that threaten air and water.
Today, however, in my view, CARB’s continued focus on developing fuel-cell technology has become counterproductive.
Carmakers produce them and subsidize their sales mainly to receive valuable ZEV credits for every one they deliver—credits that are higher than those they receive for other vehicles with lower wells-to-wheels carbon emissions.
As a senior Honda executive recently suggested, “California air quality targets could be met with new plug-in hybrids, if the regulators set air quality standards instead of mandating percentages of ZEVs … and let automakers figure out how to meet them.”
With available new technologies offering more energy-efficient, cleaner, and more economical alternatives than fuel-cell vehicles could possibly provide, even in a far-distant future, development efforts and heroic investments into Hydrogen infrastructure no longer make any sense.
After demonstrating that John’s article is not supported by facts or even the links he uses as references, he concludes his piece by saying he thinks Hydrogen doesn’t make sense with another worn out and false argument: Carmakers are building FCEVs to get ZEV credits in California. Let’s break down the fallacy and arrogance of this argument.
Toyota is one of only three carmakers producing an FCEV for sale or lease in California. The car is hand made in Japan at very low volumes with a ramp up toward 2020 for high volume production. Toyota & Honda have both committed to debut FCEVs officially in the year 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics. The entire country of Japan has geared their policy toward migrating to the “Hydrogen Economy” with hundreds of thousands of solid oxide fuel cells already in service making energy at over 90% efficiency. Japan has also committed to building 160 H2 fueling stations for FCEVs like the Mirai and Clarity by the year 2020. Both Toyota and Honda have been working on FCEV technology for decades, long before ZEV credits were enacted in California. Further, these companies have invested billions of dollars in Japan to support production of FCEVs. How does a small per vehicle credit in the thousands reconcile with billions of spending in another country? Toyota is now spending millions of more dollars on the East Coast of the USA to further build out H2 fueling infrastructure. Is Toyota spending in Japan & New York to get a ZEV credit in California? John’s claims make the same amount of sense as the emissions coming out of an FCEV tailpipe: zero.
I could point to an exhaustive list of items as to why this argument about ZEVs credits is ridiculous but the same tired and false argument continues to be used by those like John Voelcker and his ilk in the “anti-Hydrogen” community. Germany is the world leader in Hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure and continues to be projected to be the leader by our DOE for the next two decades. Are Germans spending billions of dollars in their home country to get a $7,500 credit in California where they’ve never even ever sold a single production FCEV? There can be no more ridiculous argument than John Voelcker’s final conclusion to what is obviously an “anti-Hydrogen” hit piece that is not supported by his own links let alone the facts.
RMP’s Concluding Arguments
RMP got started when Ecana came to Michigan and put our fresh water resources at risk with large volume water withdrawals for high volume hydraulic fracturing. We went out of our way to learn about oil & gas to become Michigan’s leader in reporting about and understanding high volume hydraulic fracturing. RMP got to the bottom of things by sticking to a simple philosophy: always follow the money.
RMP was also able to call out the University of Michigan and their assessment of high volume hydraulic fracturing in Michigan that missed the mark on relevancy and reality. RMP also called out BMF as fraudulent when we demonstrated that the threat of high volume hydraulic fracturing was over and it was time to focus on legitimate threats to Michigan’s environment. BMF is still to this day trying to wrest money out of people under false pretenses.
Now we get to John Voelcker & GCR and again we are on guard to call out another group propagating misleading information. GCR is owned by High Gear Media which is funded by Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, and DAG Ventures; all of which are venture capital firms headquartered in the Palo Alto area. High Gear Media and Tesla are both headquartered in the Palo Alto area too. High Gear Media has demonstrated a close relationship to Tesla, which is a BEV maker who’s CEO Elon Musk, has flamboyantly criticized and ridiculed Hydrogen & fuel cells because they are a direct threat to his for-profit business. High Gear Media has worked closely with Tesla to do promotional contests like this one where the winner does direct promotional activities on Tesla’s behalf. There are other financial conflicts of interests too. For example, Accel Partners, a major investor in High Gear Media, invested in SunRun which sells Tesla battery storage products. Simon Rothman is a partner at Greylock Partners VC, which is part owner of High Gear Media, and was formerly a Tesla Board Member.
It stands to reason that John Voelcker would promote BEVs over FCEVs because GCR & High Gear Media are funded by groups that have financial interests tied to the profits of a company like Tesla. There is nothing wrong with promoting products sold by for-profit companies. In our capitalist society, investors seek to get a return on their investment, and that’s perfectly fine. What cannot be tolerated, however, is to purport to be a legitimate news organization while slandering environmentally sound technology like Hydrogen fuel cells when you have a financial conflict of interest against their success. Hydrogen fuel cells are a viewed by High Gear Media as a potential threat to BEVs like those Tesla makes. High Gear Media’s cozy relationship with Tesla suggests how it might make sense that John Voelcker, an employee of High Gear Media, could be motivated to write slanderous propaganda pieces against fuel cell technology. Promotion of batteries is great because they’re a great technology. But, slander of Hydrogen fuel cells which are also a great technology cannot be tolerated.
RMP has demonstrated clearly how John Voelcker’s GCR article cannot be considered anything other than unsupportable and false reporting. RMP has also shown a financial conflict of interest and potential motivation as to why John Voelcker might be publishing misleading and false information. You be the judge though. Tell us in the comment section if you think RMP got it wrong. RMP has no billionaires on our side to get our reporting in front of as many people as High Gear Media, but we do have the truth on our side. And, even if you have a billion dollars, you can’t buy the truth which allows our small not-for-profit organization to challenge Bay Area battery biased billionaire bullies.
RMP is an unfunded Michigan based 501(c)3 organization. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our organization by clicking here if you would like to see us continue to write hard hitting, peer reviewable, and truthful articles. You can help us out for free by following RMP on Twitter,liking our facebook page, or using the buttons shown below to share this post on your social media feed. Thanks for reading.