Biden-Harris Administration Announces $750 Million to Support America’s Growing Hydrogen Industry as Part of Investing in America Agenda

This is a government report with macro economic impacts. It is not Off-Topic for this board!

As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $750 million for 52 projects across 24 states to dramatically reduce the cost of clean hydrogen and reinforce America’s global leadership in the growing clean hydrogen industry. These projects—funded by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will help advance electrolysis technologies and improve manufacturing and recycling capabilities for clean hydrogen systems and components, directly supporting more than 1,500 new jobs. Today’s announcement reinforces the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach to accelerating the deployment of clean hydrogen—as laid out in the U.S. National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap and coordinated by the Hydrogen Interagency Task Force.

The projects are expected to enable U.S. manufacturing capacity to produce 14 gigawatts of fuel cells per year, enough to power 15% of medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold each year, and 10 gigawatts of electrolyzers per year, enough to produce an additional 1.3 million tons of clean hydrogen per year. Advancing zero or near-zero emissions clean hydrogen is a key component of President Biden’s plan to tackle the climate crisis, create good-paying jobs across the nation, and strengthen America’s manufacturing and industrial competitiveness.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is propelling an American-led clean hydrogen economy that is delivering good-paying, high-quality jobs and accelerating a manufacturing renaissance in communities across America,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The projects announced today—funded by the President’s Investing in America agenda—will supercharge our progress and ensure our leadership in clean hydrogen will be felt across the nation for generations to come.”

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEERE/bulletins/3906330

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Is there anything they don’t throw money at?

The Captain

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Venezuela does not get any of our money.

You asked.

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Yes dear!

The Captain

It shows!

$2020202020$$$$$

Yes dear.

The Captain

Experts keep telling us hydrogen can play an important role in addressing climate change if we can get costs down.

Funding research and trials to demonstrate feasibility is good policy. I’m glad to see the effort. No doubt success is a long shot but experience helps stimulate ideas for improvements.

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We always want to encourage new clean technology and discourage old dirty technology. This money is well spent. Take it away from coal and oil subsidies.

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I’m generally against all these hydrogen advocates, because they started pushing it ~25 years ago and the message has always been “in just ~10 years” we’ll have the beginnings of a hydrogen economy. They’ve been given a long time and we seem to be no closer.
Not only is the tech expensive the path to get there tends to involve using fossil fuels as the stepping stone…because it is cheaper and available now. If you follow the money (not the source, that is government…but the destination…it seems to be fossil fuel companies, science projects and sowing doubt about other tech…such as batteries…that ARE making big gains in teh last couple of decades)

Anyway, $750M for 52 projects. Really, how is it that there are that many promising science projects? With just a few million each are they really trying to build out anything commercial or just fiddling in a lab?

24 states. No one can argue with that, so many states get some funding…except the 26 that got left out.

Missing. Yes, one thing missing…when they will give a report on all the successes THIS funding helped produce. Nah, we’ll never see that, IMO.

Mike

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It is getting closer particularly in Europe.

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You must have missed all the news about hydrogen used in gas turbines, homes, steel making, and process heating. We are going to green, gold and white hydrogen.

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I wonder if there’s a little bit of “just in case” backstopping going on here, though. Call it the Toyota Scenario.

Right now, as you point out, electrification and batteries have shown a lot of promise. And yet we still don’t entirely know whether decarbonizing transportation can be entirely accomplished just with that tech. It’s far too soon to tell, but it’s not great news to see the rate of EV penetration in European markets slowing as subsidies are withdrawn and interest rates rise. European customers, at least, are turning to hybrids - and a lot of conventional HEV hybrids - in a big way.

Toyota has stated they believe EV’s aren’t going to capture more than 30% of the passenger vehicle market in the intermediate term. If we’re going to decarbonize the other 70%, there’ll need to be other options. Toyota thinks that’s hydrogen fuel cells.

They might be entirely wrong about that…but if you’re trying to set industrial policy around decarbonization, allocating some of that money to longer-shot alternatives might be a good risk mitigation strategy.

Plus, it may be quite a while before certain transportation segments are electrified, because they have weight and range needs that are more difficult to meet - especially if they’re competing for batteries with a growing passenger transport sector. If you read the press release, there’s a lot of allusions to the use of H2 in trucking, and in particular large-vehicle long-haul type trucks. Freight train engines may also pose problems for electrification, to say nothing of heavy vehicles. There might be a niche for both EV’s and fuel cells in transport in the far future.

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I’m pretty sure that complete decarbonization can’t be done with just one technology. But hydrogen has been a long shot for decades. Much money has been spent. We even has some cars and buses built and hydrogen stations in CA for many years. The stations often don’t work and some have been shut down rather than more being built. The fuel is not only much more expensive per mile than gas or electricity, but when you get a Toyota Murai you get a fuel card good for 6 years and $15K of H2. Because no one would pay the real price. AND the H2 is not green. And ten of thousands of charging stations are being built year.

Meanwhile, BEVs get lower fuel costs per mile, at least most of the time…primarily when you charge at home. And if you have solar, for example, it is green. If you charge from the grid it can mostly be from wind, solar, hydro, nuclear in some places, now and will get greener every year.

The idea of using H2 for other uses is a good one, in theory. But the cheapest available H2 is made from NG. Show me any alternative and compare the costs now and with maximum possible thermodynamic efficiency verified by science.
So it is a good idea to research ways to produce green H2 more efficiently before we fall for the trap of getting more fossil power. I doubt we need 50 science projects to do this on top of everything that’s been done in the last ~25 years.
(I was a Ballard Power investor ~25 years ago)

Mike

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All good points. But if EV’s don’t end up being as significant a solution as Greens hope, there has to be a Plan B.

For good or bad, we’ve used government subsidies to promote the implementation of preferred alternative technologies as a way of driving adoption a lot of times before. There’s some precedent that it works. There’s an argument to be made that such industrial policy facilitated the current EV market. Countries started adopting subsidy programs for the production of EV’s - not just basic research - in the late 1990’s as a way of incentivizing their development.

As EV’s move out of the early adopter stage and try to break into the mass-market, and as countries stop subsidizing their purchase, we’re going get more of an idea whether they will be a major factor in decarbonizing transportation or more of a niche product. We know that if a country places enormous subsidies for EV’s, they can almost completely replace ICE’s (Norway) - what we don’t know is what will happen in countries where large subsidies don’t continue past the ramp up phase, and EV’s have to rise or fall without that boost (Germany and most of the rest of the EU).

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In the end, it is quite possible, actually probable, that multiple technologies will usher in an era of cleaner fuels. That very likely includes electrification when appropriate, and may also include using hydrogen when appropriate. It’s not one or the other. For example, for private vehicles, what if EVs are appropriate for most of those who have dedicated parking spaces (either at night or during the day) where their vehicles can charge for a few hours a day, but maybe HVs (hydrogen vehicles) are appropriate for those who don’t have easy access to an electric charger, but can easily go “fill up” once a week or so? Either way, it will remove one vehicle that spews nasty exhaust, and use a net of fewer fuels that are relatively dirty to acquire, store, and transport.

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Or maybe the best solution is green gasoline. Also costly but can be done. Are we serious about climate change or not?

I recall working for chemical companies that resisted spending to comply with environmental regs. Executives hoped to hang on long enough to retire and let others worry about it usually by selling the company. That seems to be happening with climate change too.

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Sure, but hydrogen fuel cell cars ARE electric vehicles. While you can burn H2 to make an engine provide transportation, no one is talking about that, really. Batteries can be configured in many ways to make big and small personal cars/trucks. You can’t really fit significant high pressure H2 tanks in as many form factors as you can batteries. And to make fuel cell cars practical you need just as many places to refuel as you need EV chargers. Actually more (adjusted for refuel time) since you can’t slow charge at home or work. So it is just not a technology that can possibly overcome the lead that EVs have. The only possible advantage is faster refueling and that is incrementally being reducing with advances in batteries.

H2 disadvantages for cars:

  • need more costly infrastructure than EV chargers
  • fuel more expensive based on thermodynamics (this is the killer)
  • fewer useful car/truck form factors
  • can’t charge at home
  • difficult or impossible to get fuel when stranded on empty
  • need to replace H2 tanks in old cars
  • still dependent on fossil fuels since they require 3-4x as much green electricity per mile

So for other, possibly industrial uses may be the only viable good use cases for H2.
Maybe things like steel or cement production where H2 could be produced on site or nearby.

Mike

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There are a few more, in theory. Hydrogen cars can be lighter (much smaller battery), which has some cost advantages and pollution advantages. That also makes it more suitable for things like commercial trucking and heavy equipment, where the enormous weight of long-range batteries might be problematic. Hydrogen cells also use fewer (and different) materials for construction, so you don’t need to compete with the same constrained supply chains as all the other things that need batteries - they can stand outside the demand for lithium.

But the key advantage is on fueling - in three important ways. First, the obvious one - if the time for refueling EVs ends up being a major impediment for consumer adoption, then FCEV’s can have a big competitive advantage. Again, that’s an especially important one for long-distance commercial uses, like long-haul semis - but also a factor in consumer preferences for passenger cars.

Second is interest rates. EVs offer a cost tradeoff that’s affected by interest rates. You pay more upfront for an expensive battery, and you get cost savings into the future through lower fuel costs. FCEVs offer a different package - the hydrogen “gas tank” isn’t as expensive as a battery “gas tank,” but the fuel is more expensive. That’s an advantage when interest rates are higher.

And finally, the economics of refueling. They simply might work better for hydrogen than BEV’s. We’re seeing in a number of places the concern that lack of charging stations is an impediment to EV adoption. Why aren’t there enough charging stations? If it’s just a chicken-and-egg thing, then that will get resolved. But it may simply be that it’s hard to make the economics of free-standing charging stations work, because people can always charge at home instead. If you can’t make enough money from owning and operating a charging station, you won’t see that take off as a business. Tesla supported its investment in Superchargers as a way of increasing the desirability of their cars - they made back some of the cost of the network in the vehicle sale prices, not only selling electrons - but obviously that won’t work for third-party providers. With hydrogen, you could theoretically charge a high enough price to make it a good investment to open a charging station without having your price ceiling limited by the “fuel-at-home” competition.

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Hydrogen is a negligible percentage of current US energy usage, and almost all of it is already used by producers of industrial gases, medical gases, and the oil/gas industry.

Which is why the bulk of the $750MM is for the electrolyzers for in situ generation which enable most of this energy usage

One of the many reasons for investing in electrolyzers is a potential EPA mandate for natural-gas power plants to use clean hydrogen

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Why is any trucking company going to buy a new semi truck when the fuel cost is so high and basic physics is the main obstacle to lower prices?

True Zero is currently the lead hydrogen supplier in California, and currently charges $36 for a kilogram. The Mirai accommodates 5.6 kg of hydrogen in its 142.2-liter tank, meaning you’ll have to spend $201.60 to refuel. This is an obscene amount that both fossil fuels and electricity drastically outprice.

Obscene = ~$0.50 to $0.57 per mile depending on Murai options

Meanwhile a similar sized BEV can be 6x to 10x lower depending on local electric prices.

AND get this. True Zero is not green. 2/3rds of its hydrogen comes from fossil fuels.
The real price of green H2 is much higher.

Mike

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