Battling Battery Biased Bullies: Green Car Reports Anti-Hydrogen Fake News

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 (RMP). 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.  GCR’s bias against 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. It will be demonstrated 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 the false  or misleading claims with verifiable information.

John Voelcker
John Voelcker is the Senior Editor at the Green Car Reports webiste. John & GCR have always been against hydrogen zero emission vehicles, but May 4, 2017 John finally came out of the closet with a full throated anti-hydrogen article leaving no doubts about his bias against Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles which are supported by our DOE,, and many countries around the world.

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 misleading & false arguments against fuel cells and Hydrogen being settled science must be challenged with truth and facts.

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 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 hydrogen fuel cells.

Let’s look at each and every one of GCR’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 RMP has been calling “the false dichotomy” and it’s John’s opening statement. The false premise argued 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 that always includes a battery. Rational fuel cell advocates don’t 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, and marine craft 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 the market’s demand with batteries alone. 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 that inspired the post you’re reading right now.

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.

Fuel Cells
General Motors Executive Vice President Global Product Development Mark Reuss (l to r), Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Honda CEO North American Region and President Honda North America Toshiaki Mikoshiba announce a manufacturing joint venture to mass produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system that will be used in future products from each company, Monday, January 30, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility site in Brownstown, Michigan.  Fuel Cell manufacturing has not even begun and John Voelcker falsely claims that fuel cells are “approaching their limits”, this picture obviously says otherwise as Michigan jobs will be created ushering in the START of fuel cell manufacturing.  (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors and Honda)(Click image to enlarge)

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 for passenger vehicles 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 in the scientific community that fuel cell technology is far from approaching its limits as John says. Most people following fuel cells  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 false.  It’s a weak argument.   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.

Over the last 100 years in America there have only been a couple dozen merchant Hydrogen plants and they’ve always been located close to where they have been needed.  This is the truth and the exact opposite of what John Voelcker says on GCR.  If Hydrogen plants were to proliferate for a larger market it would create jobs and drive the cost of H2 down very quickly. (Source: image to enlarge)

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. 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.

The price of solar panels was so high in early development of the technology that naysayers would laugh and ridicule solar energy.  They would say it was too expensive and it would never make sense eonomically.  In 1977, the price per watt of solar energy was $76.77.  In 2013, the cost of solar energy per watt was $0.74!!  The price continues to fall through today in 2017.  That is a 99% drop in cost in the past 40 years.  Hydrogen is facing the same sort of naysayers today that solar faced back in 1977.  And, Hydrogen is even more ubiquitous than solar energy.  It is all around us both day & night.   Now that fuel cells have blossomed to near par cost with other technologies if scaled up, there is good reason to produce hydrogen by the quadrillions of kilograms and drive its cost down to near zero dollars.  Just like solar fell in price by over 99%, so too will Hydrogen. (Click image to enlarge)

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 at the time of this article’s publication date. 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 RMP references above is 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 (Update 1/14/2018 H2 refills have jumped astronomically from 5 million to 10 million refills in just the past year since Amazon adopted H2 forktrucks.  An H2 refill is now completed every 5.7 seconds!)  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 misses the mark again and can’t even cite a source properly to back it up.

hydrogen grid balancing
Renewable energy is intermittent and hard to balance to a grid that needs energy when it needs energy.  Water electrolyzers can turn excess renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted into Hydrogen for later use with zero carbon dioxide or harmful emissions like NOx, SOx, Particulate Matter, and Carbon Monoxide.  Hydrogen storage can take place at the megawatt level and with combined heat and power can produce heat & electricity at 80% to 90% efficiency.  This cannot be matched by any other technology when sustained megawatt hours are needed for days between hiccups in intermittent renewable energy. (Click image to enlarge)

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.  Think of fuel cells working together with batteries like the RAM memory and the hard drive memory on your computer:  they don’t compete against one another as foes, they work together and capitalize on each other’s strengths to make your computer a better machine.  Fuel cells and batteries working together make vehicles better machines too, there is no false dichotomy or war between them.

In the last sentence, GCR 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 referenced 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 GCR’s words reconcile with the document linked to? They don’t.  In RMP’s next post, I will write about “energy curtailment” and explain why batteries will need to work together with fuel cells because they won’t be able to significantly reduce CO2 & noxious emissions effectively without a #FuelCell partner.

This is a quote from the first paragraph of the executive summary of the document GCR 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 GCR’s slander is opposite of the document’s sentiment and supporting facts.  This is why RMP is calling GCR #FakeNews and the term #FakeNews is proliferating in the internet age.

Hydrogen cost downs
Above is a graph depicting the actual and forecasted cost of fuel cells & electrolysis.  Both have come down in cost dramatically and we are now today entering the supply chain scaling phase.  As we approach mass production phase of fuel cells, good paying jobs will sustain a clean Hydrogen energy future that can support all of the world’s citizenry. (Click image to enlarge)

The real bugger of GCR’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. GCR’s anti-fuel cell claims don’t even hold up to common sense tests.

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 GCR for laying out so many of these tired arguments so they can all be refuted in this one single white paper. In the first paragraph, GCR 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.

well to wheels emissions
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the lowest well to wheels emission on average than any vehicle technology existing today and projected through the year 2035. BEVs are in second place behind fuel cells according to the United States Department of Energy. When fuel cells are powered by only 33% renewable energy their high range of well to wheels emissions is as good as BEVs low end. Where is GCR getting the garbage information they’re posting?  (Source: United States Department of Energy)(Click image to enlarge)

GCR 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 GCR 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 comes from burning coal. It’s not a fair comparison is it?   It myopically distorts the bigger picture and is misleading. GCR seems comfortable with the kind of poor ethics it takes to write such misleading statements again and again.

According the most recent list of the Alternative Fuels Database there are 2,361 Tesla Super Charger locations. According to Wikipedia only two Super Charger locations in the USA are powered by off-grid solar.  Yes, only two locations.  Don’t believe us, research it yourself.  (Click image to enlarge)

This example needs even further analysis. Ask yourself, or better yet ask GCR, 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 GCR 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!  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 RMP challenges GCR to explain their plan for powering large cities with long cold winters without including fuel cells.  Neither GCR no anyone will be able to offer a solution because it’s not feasible. When I sent a ping to John Voelcker on Twitter saying that he needs to learn about landfills and sewage for energy, he ridiculed me with a derogatory personal attack.  It’s hurtful because the irony is that landfills & sewage are great sources of energy that he does not understand and are polluting our air & water until challenges to clean them up are tackled.  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. It would be nice to hear what GCR proposes to deal with these real world challenges?

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.”

GCR really takes the nonsense up a notch in this last passage.  GCR  shows a chart with 3 FCEVs generating between 350 to 700 grams of CO2 per mile and then references for the 4th time a credible document from the NREL that doesn’t support the homemade graph.  Let me reiterate that point for emphasis: the GCR graph is homemade from a spreadsheet and the graph in this RMP post is from the very source document GCR 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 GCR posts a chart that is not based in reality or supported but then sources a chart here that contradicts the very bullshit GCR displays as a graphic in their article.

wells to wheels GHG
The chart above comes from the very source that GCR’s John Voelcker links as a reference in his false claim.  The graph shows Fuel Cells Electric Vehicles as the #1  Wells To Wheels technology with not a single grid electricity version of BEVs beating any type of energy source for FCEVs.  Please ask John Voelcker why the source he cites belies his false claims.  (Source:  NREL via Green Car Reports)(Click image to enlarge)

To the left of this sentence is a graph from the very source that GCR cites when GCR falsely says that FCEVs are worse than gasoline cars in well to wheels GHG emissions.  In fact, the chart from GCR’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 be trusted when they write the exact opposite thing compared to the source they cite?  I think it’s a smarter bet to trust the DOE source GCR provides which supports what RMP has told you:  FCEVs are the #1 wells to wheels GHG technology on the planet earth.  Anyone who took a minute to open the source GCR linked to knows it’s dishonest reporting.

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.

GCR refuses to accept the notion that people want cars that work the way they want them to work.  People don’t buy pickup trucks because they have no care about the environment as GCR seems to suggest. People buy pickup trucks and large SUVs for utility. GCR refuses to address the 800lb gorilla in the room: BEVs don’t scale up well for the utility people demand like fuel cells do.  GCR 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 GCR, it’s always someone else’s fault BEVs are not displacing ICEs at a more rapid rate.

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 to what 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 never seems to acknowledge BEVs aren’t practical when it comes to continuous operation vehicles and the large vehicles the market demands. GCR 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.


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 GCR 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 GCR 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 GCR.

The Mercedes GLC #FuelCell Plug-in hybrid vehicle will be sold in California within a year. It has 30 miles of pure battery electric range and 300 miles of total range because of Hydrogen. This is an example of what John Voelcker is afraid of: a zero emission vehicle that challenges auto makers like Tesla. If you could have a vehicle that rarely needed to be refueled but was capable of refueling in under 5 minutes when you needed to go in a hurry, you would never want a BEV, you’d want an FCEV hybrid. This is the #1 fear of BEVangelists and why they’re spewing fake news to undermine the adoption of FCEVs.  When people see they can have the best of both worlds, they’re not going to want a pure BEV.  Read more about the Mercedes GLC Fuel Cell here.(Click image to enlarge)

Another point is that GCR 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 in 2018 and it has the benefits of plug-in short commute driving and also the long range & continuous driving benefits that hydrogen provides which are 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.

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?

While there are a great many BEV advocates that are rational and support both batteries & FCEVS, it is an interesting paradox of an argument that radical BEV supporters seem to bash hydrogen even though it is necessary to decarbonize our energy production.  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 admit 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 GCR is doing 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 GCR’s article is not supported by facts or even the links they use as references, GCR concludes the piece by saying 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 last 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? GCR’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 Green Car Reports and others in the “anti-Hydrogen” media. 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 GCR’s final conclusion to what is obviously an “anti-Hydrogen” hit piece that is not supported by very links referenced let alone the facts.


10 Replies to “Battling Battery Biased Bullies: Green Car Reports Anti-Hydrogen Fake News”

  1. I fully agree with Matt Wandel. The Voelcker article was horribly partisan and full of errors. Some “Green” sites seem to be unreasonably “anti-Hydrogen”. In discussions I got the explanation that the writer had invested in Tesla and therefore had the right to favour battery EVs. There should be a declaration of conflicts of interests for every writer on this matter. For the record: I have no conflict of interest.

  2. Matt, I think you would have received a lot more than 4 comments if you had tried to work with Green Car Reports and John Voelcker, rather than “being done” with GCR.

    Sometimes it pays to work with those you disagree with rather than stomping your feet and going off into a corner of the internet.

    1. Thanks for your comment Douglas. Hope you took the time to read the article to understand the arguments and science behind them. If you find anything factually incorrect please let us know by leaving a comment about it. GCR has been posting anti-hydrogen material and selectively editing comments supporting fuel cells for a long time. RMP has a duty to speak out against GCR’s misleading reporting. GCR’s credibility is eroded and RMP stands by the arguments made in this post. There is no anger, emotion, or “going off into a corner of the internet” as you say; it’s just science. RMP works in the sunlight and is proud to work closely with other Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania non-profit organizations. RMP is proud to work with Friends of the Au Gres – Rifle River Watershed, Freshwater Future, Kent County Water Conservation, Michigan Chapter Sierra Club, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC), FracTracker, other volunteers, and other donors. RMP is proud to have won environmentalist of the year awards from Michigan Chapter Sierra Club & Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) for our geological data repository work, hydrological data repository work, and linking our database to the Google Maps API so all Michiganders could see what was going on with regard to water protection when High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing came to Michigan in 2010.

      RMP has branded itself as Michigan’s data clearing house for geological & hydrological data that people can trust and can’t find anywhere else. We have also branded ourselves the 501(c)3 that calls out & exposes people, groups, and companies that provide information that is false and misleading by using our database, software & research skills. RMP is not in a popularity contest to get comments. This post is getting thousands of page views with no funding and if people choose to comment, that’s great. If people don’t comment much, all the people that volunteer to work with RMP (myself included) will hold their heads high knowing we are doing the right thing to provide relevant, reliable, and credible data to all for free. We will continue to work in the sunlight to protect Michigan’s air & water by supporting batteries & hydrogen fuel cells as clean energy solutions that cut air & water pollution in a major way.

  3. What is the update?
    What are the current and projected costs of producing, storing and distributing hydrogen from wind and solar?
    Thanks for article.

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