Extreme Temperature Diary-August 8, 2018/ Topic: Utilizing Resources- Hydrogen and Cobalt

Wednesday August 8th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. Here is today’s main climate change related topic:

Utilizing Resources- Hydrogen and Cobalt

Yesterday I called on the next President of the U.S. to develop and implement a new Marshall Plan to totally make our infrastructure and transportation systems green, going into a World War III against climate change. Logically once (and ever if) that decision has been made, what is the best way to win the new war? By the middle and end of World War II the allied powers won that war by utilizing air power much more than the ground game via tanks and armies. It was allied bombs that destroyed the Axis industrial and military complexes much more than battleships. So, too we need to think smartly, utilizing  resources in this new war which will expend the least amount of energy and put very little if any carbon in the atmosphere.

Before getting started with today’s post let me make it clear that I was trained to be a meteorologist, having very little experience with physics and chemistry of materials, so I am reporting the best science at my disposal. Debating and civilly discussing the best way forward to battle climate change is what I intend for this site, which will be an educational process not only for me, but I hope for you the reader.

Let’s look at transportation first. In a real sense the market and industry has already given electric vehicles  powered by batteries utilizing cobalt a huge head start over hydrogen powered vehicles. Solar powered vehicles are possible, but are for the most part still on the proverbial drawing board. Looking back through my “Extreme Temperature Diary” I first brought up this subject on April 7th, 2018:

http://www.guyonclimate.com/2018/04/09/extreme-temperature-diary-april-9-2018-topic-hydrogen-as-a-fuel/

Here is most of that post:

Around the dawn of the 21st century I heard a lot about hydrogen being a good alternative for fossil fuels in cars. Gradually electrics filled that void, so I saw less news about automobile companies coming up with new vehicle designs to employ the hydrogen fuel cell. Last week I did see one more though:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/autos-hybrids/2019-hyundai-nexo/ar-AAvyNWQ?ocid=spartandhp&pfr=1

The article that I’ve referred to doesn’t mention climate change, just the fact that fossil fuels are a finite source of energy. This article brings up a good point which I will quote: 

“If you eliminate infrastructure issues from consideration for a moment, utilizing the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen, as an energy source makes a lot of sense. Hydrogen as a vehicular fuel, according to Hyundai, is also a question of when. Unlike energy-storage devices such as batteries or capacitors, once H2 is captured and pressurized, the losses are minimal. Storing 100 kilowatt-hours in a battery for a year is impossible because the state of charge drops over time. Fuel cells do lose some efficiency in cold climates, but not nearly as dramatically as one will encounter with batteries. Yes, pressurized hydrogen can be dangerous. However, there are other ways to store hydrogen for long durations—in ammonia, for example—that involve less risk.”

At $55,000 the 2019 Hyundai Nexo is pretty pricey, so for the next several years even the all electric but cheaper Tesla models will probably be more popular with the public. Being someone who thinks that some capitalism should get us out of climate change mess I welcome competition to bring cost of alternative solutions down. P.S. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla really frowns on hydrogen fuel cells. Yet, the hydrogen fuel cell might be another tool in the toolkit to help solve the climate crisis. Here is more science behind the fuel cell stack: 

Yesterday I learned that two of my best climate friends, who are much more familiar with materials than the old Climate Guy, had very different views on hydrogen vs. mining cobalt and zinc to build electrics. Here are some of their quotes. Please folks notify me if you want me to post additional points. First, here is what some of Robert Fanney wrote being pro Tesla thinking that cobalt built electrics are the best answer: 

It’s worth noting that HCVs are at least 8 years behind EVs in the development change and renewable hydrogen is at least 15 years behind wind and solar if not more. Also there are only 500 miles of pipes rated for hydrogen in the US. But EVs have all the electrical grid to draw from, can charge at home, at work, and have an expanding charging station infrastructure to draw from.”

  1. The availability of renewable hydrogen is based on the cost of the electrolyzer and the availability of infrastructure to mass transport hydrogen. Electrolyzer costs cannot compete at this time. Maybe in a few years. But electrolyzer scaling is still lagging. We have a few ambitious projects. But they are glimmers in the eye at present. The Honda plant is a pilot.

  2. Robert Fanney

    For a sample of the hydrogen vehicle market — total HCVs sold during 2017 were approx. 5,000. Total EVs sold during 2017 were 1.2 million Fuel Cell vehicles aren’t being produced en masse or supported en masse or produced at prices where they can be bought en masse. Toyota and Honda keep talking about it but failing to deliver. When in doubt, look at actual production figures. In light of these, promises and talk mean little. EVs will probably hit 1.8 million in 2018. FCVs will be lucky to hit 10K.

4. A typical fallacy is ‘peak minerals.’ It’s a scarcity narrative that doesn’t take basic supply and demand functions into account. Though supplies are not infinite, the combined resource size and various use optimizations create an expanding availability horizon for various minerals. The most recent fear campaign surrounded cobalt. But that was blown out of the water when battery manufacturers managed to reduce their cobalt needs by 1/8 through better design and different battery chemistries. We should also be aware that battery chemistry is a moving object. Designs keep changing for better price, materials, and charging optimization.

And now here is the other side of the coin, the case for hydrogen-

  1. #ClimateJustice

    Decarbonized transport systems total reliance should not be place on EVs and Tesla style batteries. There will be serious environment impact from mining all that lithium and cobalt.  World supply could be non sustainable, and it introduces territorial annexation by war for ‘white oil’ as in the past with ‘brown energy’. In contrast, fuel cells using green hydrogen are now being designed with little or zero use of precious metals.  The main fuel,  should not be cracked from fossil fuels but by electrolysis from water or other natural sources like.

    Hydrogen is everywhere.  In the air, oceans, grass, livestock and food waste.  Hydrogen is being balanced for long range truck with multimedia trailers. Tractors and bulldozers.  Mining and tunneling moles. Fork lifts in warehouses,  delivery drones, the company’s Amazon’s investment in delivery fleets.

    Raza by is a small car with lowest emissions in the world.  In summary hydrogen being so widely available can be distributed in production alongside wind and solar farms. Even down to small domestic electroliers. Good at range and high horsepower.  Green hydrogen can be made using excess wind and solar. Making wind and solar independent of power auctions,  demand peaks and able to put excess renewable energy into storage when supply exceeds local usage demand for surplus diverted into micro or nationals grids.

3. Hydrogen as a renewable subject is split by 1. Tesla style EVs commercial propaganda against a perceived opposition 2. H2 has previously been extracted from fossil fuel (LNG cracked with steam) but Honda plant in Swindon, Wiltshire U.K. produces green hydrogen on site from solar, wind and electrolysis of water. Orkney Islands in Scotland have great success that includes marine bobbing raft 3. A lot of fuel cell research has been progressed by BP and Shell who saw it as a means to perpetuate fossil gas. However with advent of green hydrogen, I feel technology dev. has been suppressed.

I’m learning a lot about materials from this discussion. We have probably scratched just the surface of this subject, so I’ll be posting more on transportation later this year. In summary, we have learned in the past that some carbon solutions aren’t very good like the production of ethanol and natural gas. Let’s keep this discussion going so that we won’t find ourselves in a carbon trap ditch going into the 2020s, finally getting a nice consensus blueprint for how to fight that World War III.

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line.)

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Tomorrow there will be a cooling trend in the South and East:

The Pacific Northwest will get much hotter.

Here is some of today’s climate change related news:

Trending now on YouTube 🔎 Study suggests Earth may enter Hothouse Climate State ♨️ ~300 views per hour with

As usual here are today’s reports of ETs (Wednesday 8/8):

Coastal Los Angeles County actually broke daily records by a pretty wide margin in some spots…94 is extremely hot for LAX, which is right on the coast! Also very muggy w/ high heat indices for CA–dewpoints locally 65-70 deg!

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The Climate Guy

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