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I feel it's a bit like ethically sourced wood or palm oil or whatever. Even if it claims to be 'clean' you just know that at least some 'dirty' stuff has been slipped in by unscrupulous persons/companies/countries.
I haven't got a problem with ethically sourced wood. Trees grow, and quite often, fall and die. As long as you are replacing them and working in blocks which allow wildlife to disperse into the remaining blocks, then it can be sustainable. That practice has to be enforced.
 

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That practice has to be enforced.
But it's not in, for example, the Amazon. Some of that illegal timber gets into the legal trade through fraud.

I'm not talking about trees grown as crops. That's just farming miles of (usually) fir trees.
 

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1980s: "...our hydrogen-powered future."
1990s: "...our hydrogen-powered future."
2000s: "...our hydrogen-powered future."
2010s: "...our hydrogen-powered future."
2020: "...our hydrogen-powered future."

In that time-frame battery-electric has gone from our future to our present (EVs, grid-scale batteries, battery backup for buildings, etc.).

The fuel cell was invented in 1839, and it seems to perpetually be our future, rather than our present In fairness, the battery was invented in 1748 so had nearly an extra century to gain traction.

I'm not trying to be a hater, I'm trying to be a realist. For a hydrogen-powered future we need the technology to get a lot better, then get a lot cheaper, and then we need to build out massive and expensive infrastructure to support it. And it all has to happen while competing solutions essentially stand still and don't innovate or improve at all.

Battery-electric has two aces in the hole: untold amounts of R&D are pouring into it thanks to laptops, cell phones, EVs, etc., and much of the infrastructure required already exists (the power grid). For a hydrogen-powered future to happen, it has to beat all that. I'm guessing it's unlikely to happen.

As the OP says, though, investment is nonetheless growing. I'm not sure I'd agree that interest is growing, I remember high levels of interest all the way back to Ballard Power in the '90s, the governments of California and British Columbia committing to making a "hydrogen highway" in the 2000s, and more; but investment has definitely increased from before.

Maybe my scepticism is unwarranted and it will finally be a huge success. I wouldn't mind that to the degree that hydrogen could help reduce our consumption of fossil fuels (a big challenge right now since fossil fuels are often used in making hydrogen fuel). So part of me would like that to happen, but the rest of me remains sceptical.
 

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To be honest, if FCEVs "won" and the hydrogen was properly green, I really wouldn't care because we will have transitioned away from fossil fuels. Also, even though I would be on the "losing" side I will have the personal smugness of having driven a no tailpipe emissions vehicle in the interim unlike the "I'm sticking to diesel until hydrogen cars" crew.

Unfortunately, what hydrogen is at the moment is a grant farming business and a means for oil companies to greenwash their future by promising big things they have no real idea how to deliver (see carbon capture systems for another example).
 

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Hydrogen has some infrastructure in place already, in that there are experiments in UK at least where hydrogen is being added to domestic gas for use in cookers/boilers. In a wonderful world, all those wind farm would be electrolysing water & storing that hydrogen(energy) either in the gas infrastructure, or pumping it back into emptying gas basins in North Sea for later extraction etc. I'd love to see some of those wonderful Victorian gasometers come back to life! Whether all this is actually economicaly viable remains to be seen, but it's deffo going to have a part to play in specialist places, e.g. planes, and maybe as more & more cities insist on decarbonising & de-smogging I can see it being used increasingly in large, stationary envorinments with enough consumption to make it work. Whatever, it's good to have that choice, and the market will decide.
 

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Hydrogen has some infrastructure in place already, in that there are experiments in UK at least where hydrogen is being added to domestic gas for use in cookers/boilers. In a wonderful world, all those wind farm would be electrolysing water & storing that hydrogen(energy) either in the gas infrastructure, or pumping it back into emptying gas basins in North Sea for later extraction etc. I'd love to see some of those wonderful Victorian gasometers come back to life! Whether all this is actually economicaly viable remains to be seen, but it's deffo going to have a part to play in specialist places, e.g. planes, and maybe as more & more cities insist on decarbonising & de-smogging I can see it being used increasingly in large, stationary envorinments with enough consumption to make it work. Whatever, it's good to have that choice, and the market will decide.
Agreed, it's not that there's no infrastructure for hydrogen, it's just that it pales versus BEV and ICE. ICE has all the gas stations around the world, however many hundreds of thousands or millions that is. Battery electric has however many thousands of fast chargers, plus trillions of outlets that can be slow charged from. Hydrogen has terribly little infrastructure in comparison.

As someone who's become accustomed to charging while I work or sleep, going somewhere out of my way to fill up now seems inconvenient and unappealing, whether ICE or hydrogen. But I'd absolutely take hydrogen over ICE every day, any day, don't get me wrong.
 

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Battery is obviously the current winner for First World people on a grid. But much of the world is off-grid or the supplies are very weak - think pictures of the supplies in some Indian cities.
In those places the infrastructure cost of hydrogen may be attractive, so on a global scale I think it will have a part, possibly a very large part to play. Just not for the average UK car driver.
 

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Battery is obviously the current winner for First World people on a grid. But much of the world is off-grid or the supplies are very weak - think pictures of the supplies in some Indian cities.
In those places the infrastructure cost of hydrogen may be attractive, so on a global scale I think it will have a part, possibly a very large part to play. Just not for the average UK car driver.
Is there a near-term path to making hydrogen cheaper? It has to be near-term, as ICE already has all the infrastructure it needs, and the infrastructure for BEV is good and getting better rapidly. My best guess is the wealthier parts of the world will increasingly go battery-electric, whereas the cheaper parts of the world will unfortunately remain mostly ICE due to how much cheaper it is than hydrogen and how much better the infrastructure is than battery-electric. I'd love the poorer and more rural parts of the world to go hydrogen if it gets them off ICE, but it seems likely to remain cost prohibitive to do so.

The intangible in all this is whether the infrastructure supporting ICE will actually start to atrophy at some point. I wonder if this is happening in Norway yet, where 80%-ish of passenger cars sold are now plug-in cars.
 

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... battery-electric has gone from our future to our present
Do we have enough materials (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium) to make battery-electric scale beyond a decade, or does humanity desperately need to replace BEV with something actually sustainable?
 

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... much of the world is off-grid or the supplies are very weak - think pictures of the supplies in some Indian cities.
I see two issues here.

Off-grid makes me think of remote areas in sub-Saharan Africa, where solar panels are an obvious current aspiration. Mumbai does not strike me as being off-grid, just horribly congested with no hope of destination charging.

My view is that this competition will be won by lighter/faster/safer Scalextric for on-road driving, and solar/BEV for off-road/off-grid driving.


You saw it hear first! Is now a good time to disinvest in batteries?
 

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Is there a near-term path to making hydrogen cheaper?
Energy cost and capital cost is a huge chunk of hydrogen's cost. That's why Europe (UK included) is investing heavily in generating hydrogen from "free" excess wind energy and ramping up electrolyser capacity to get economies of scale. There's a lot of small-scale projects across the region right now. Here's a random one I found:

ITM Power PLC Strategic Partnership and 10MW Electrolyser

The direction I see for hydrogen is perhaps more for heavy duty vehicles that are harder to electrify and for displacing natural gas for home heating, but we'll see how that pans out over the next 10 years or so.
 

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I expect so. So-called "rare" earths aren't actually that rare, apparently. Besides, there are other technologies, Lipo, ..., no doubt more coming.
 

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Is there a near-term path to making hydrogen cheaper? It has to be near-term, as ICE already has all the infrastructure it needs, and the infrastructure for BEV is good and getting better rapidly. My best guess is the wealthier parts of the world will increasingly go battery-electric, whereas the cheaper parts of the world will unfortunately remain mostly ICE due to how much cheaper it is than hydrogen and how much better the infrastructure is than battery-electric.
Why near-term?
The 'cheaper' parts will of course remain fossil-fuelled for some time to come, but as hydrogen matures and gets cheaper then it will become competitive, especially since the distribution and infrastructure can spring off the petrol/diesel systems.

Battery could still win out but needs big advances in power density, weight and cost. I'm not sure those are very likely despite some optimistic views which tend to centre on exotic chemistries.
Hydrogen is pretty simple at the point of use - fundamentally you can use it in an engine instead of petrol ... no fuel cells required.
 

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Why near-term?
I said why near-term in the post you're replying to. Here it is again:

"Is there a near-term path to making hydrogen cheaper? It has to be near-term, as ICE already has all the infrastructure it needs, and the infrastructure for BEV is good and getting better rapidly."

So my thought is that fuel cell may be priced-out or teched-out of the market, if it doesn't reach a point of broad commercialization before competing technologies get good enough or ubiquitous enough that it's no longer economical to switch to fuel cells.

The 'cheaper' parts will of course remain fossil-fuelled for some time to come, but as hydrogen matures and gets cheaper then it will become competitive, especially since the distribution and infrastructure can spring off the petrol/diesel systems.
There don't seem to be many infrastructure symmetries between gasoline and hydrogen when it comes to filling stations, from what I've read.

Battery could still win out but needs big advances in power density, weight and cost. I'm not sure those are very likely despite some optimistic views which tend to centre on exotic chemistries.
Hydrogen is pretty simple at the point of use - fundamentally you can use it in an engine instead of petrol ... no fuel cells required.
Well, you could be right. It is just striking to me that it's forever talked about as if it's just around the corner, but never here. Whereas battery-electric has rapidly become a big deal from the invensions of NiMH and Li-Ion. Litihium-ion was proposed in the 1970s, successfully commercialized in the 1990s, and now is an amazing array of devices. Where's the corresponding innovation-to-successful-commercialization success for fuel cells? Sure they are in use, but not broadly, and that's always on the verge of changing apparently but never seems to.
 

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So my thought is that fuel cell may be priced-out or teched-out of the market, if it doesn't reach a point of broad commercialization before competing technologies get good enough or ubiquitous enough that it's no longer economical to switch to fuel cells.
As I said, it doesn't have to be fuel cells.

There don't seem to be many infrastructure symmetries between gasoline and hydrogen when it comes to filling stations, from what I've read.
You don't think that tankering fuel to storage at a distribution point where it's then fed to 'pumps' that connect to vehicles that stop alongside is a bit like the way petrol and diesel are handled?
 

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As I said, it doesn't have to be fuel cells.

You don't think that tankering fuel to storage at a distribution point where it's then fed to 'pumps' that connect to vehicles that stop alongside is a bit like the way petrol and diesel are handled?
It is a bit like how petrol and diesel are handled, but very little of the equipment required is the same, so they'd have to add new types of storage tanks, new types of pumps, etc. At this point at least, it is much more expensive than gasoline apparently. Are the economies of scale likely to be there anytime soon to bring those costs down? And it's adding another level of complexity. Around these parts, many gas stations already have three automotive fuels on offer (gasoline, diesel, and propane), so this would be a fourth.
 

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Around these parts, many gas stations already have three automotive fuels on offer (gasoline, diesel, and propane), so this would be a fourth.
Well I'm talking more about the likes of Africa and India - as I said earlier, the first world is likely to be mainly BEV as for the most part it has good power grid to support charging.

But what you say is exactly my point. A current gas station is a running business and has the real estate, buildings, etc. Swapping out or adding tanks and pumps for a different fuel can be done a bit at a time thus matching supply to demand. It's not going to be particularly cheap, but it does spread the cost. Beefing up the power grid in such places will be a job needing to be done in one hit for each area*, so a big upfront investment.

OTOH, if local solar and wind are installed with suitable storage then BEV could still be the solution. I suspect that everywhere will end up with a mix like we have with petrol and diesel - one fuel is better for some things and vice-versa.

(* There's no sense in beefing up the network to handle one EV charger, then repeating that each year as more are installed.)
 
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