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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2008. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12222.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2008. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12222.
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2008. Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12222.
Page 21

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1 Introduction Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles show great promise for alle- hydrogen and delivering it to the filling stations must be viating two of the most difficult issues facing the nation: built. climate change and the insecurity of oil imports. Fuel • Even though projections show that hydrogen HFCVs cells convert the chemical energy of hydrogen directly to could be the vehicle of choice in several decades, the tran- electricity, which drives the vehicle. The process is very sition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be challenging. efficient and clean, especially relative to internal combustion Sufficient filling stations must be available to assure early engines. The only emission is water, the result of combining purchasers of HFCVs that they will be able to operate their hydrogen with oxygen from the atmosphere. No gasoline vehicles, but companies will be reluctant to build the stations is used, and no carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse until there is business for them. gas that causes climate change, is produced or emitted from the vehicle. These issues, especially the potential for reductions in That promise, however, will be realized only after some the use of oil and emissions of carbon dioxide, prompted the very substantial challenges are met: U.S. Congress to request this study in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In response, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) currently are arranged for this study from the National Research Council extremely expensive, several hundred thousand dollars (NRC). It focuses on the resources that will be needed to each, in part because the few that are operating are hand bring fuel cell and hydrogen technologies to readiness and built, with no benefits of mass production. However, the fuel then get them through the transition to the point that they will cells themselves and on-board storage of hydrogen are very be self-supporting. The NRC established the Committee on expensive. Considerable research and development (R&D) Assessment of Resource Needs for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen are necessary to bring these costs down to where HFCVs will Technologies, which was guided by the following statement be competitive with conventional vehicles. of task: • Hydrogen is not a natural resource but must be manu- factured from a primary energy source (e.g., natural gas or The National Academy of Sciences National Research coal) or from electrolysis of water, which requires electricity. Council will appoint a committee to carry out a study of fuel More energy is required to produce hydrogen than can be cell technologies that provides a budget roadmap (e.g., what recovered from the hydrogen. All current methods of produc- investments in R&D, demonstrations, skilled people, infra- structure will be required) for the development of fuel cell ing commercial hydrogen also emit significant amounts of technologies and the transition from petroleum to hydrogen CO2 per unit of hydrogen produced, either from the feedstock in a significant percentage of the vehicles sold by 2020. The fuel or from the fuels used to generate electricity. Although committee will: not now prohibitively expensive, hydrogen costs also must be reduced by R&D, especially if it is to be produced with (1) establish as a goal the maximum percentage practicable little or no emission of carbon dioxide. of vehicles that the committee determines can be fueled by • There is currently no infrastructure for supplying hydrogen by 2020; hydrogen to HFCVs. The very few hydrogen filling stations (2) determine the amount of funding required as a whole in the country were built to service test vehicles. Thousands (public and private), and to the extent possible the Federal will have to be built if hydrogen is to become the dominant investments required, to meet the goal established under transportation fuel. In addition, facilities for producing the paragraph (1). Consideration will be given to investments 19

20 TRANSITIONS TO ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES—A focus on hydrogen needed for R&D, demonstrations, skilled people, and in- opment (R&D), to get there. This report updates the review frastructure; of the rapidly improving technology and focuses on the (3) determine what actions are required to meet the goal resources needed to have a significant number of HFCVs in established under paragraph (1); operation by 2020. Increasing concern over both petroleum (4) examine the need for expanded and enhanced Federal imports and climate change suggests that an earlier introduc- research and development programs, changes in regulations, tion of HFCVs, relative to the projections in the 2004 report, grant programs, partnerships between the Federal Govern- ment and industry, private sector investments, infrastruc- could be desirable. In assessing the potential of HFCVs to ture investments by the Federal Government and industry, achieve significant reductions in oil imports and CO2 emis- educational and public information initiatives, and Federal sions, the committee also benefited from interactions with and State tax incentives to meet the goal established under the NRC’s Committee on Review of the Research Program paragraph (1); of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, which evaluated (5) consider the role that the use of hydrogen in stationary progress in the R&D programs related to fuel cell vehicle electric power applications, as well as advanced vehicle technologies and hydrogen production technologies in the technologies, will play in stimulating the transition to hydro- partnership between DOE, the three domestic automotive gen-fueled hybrid electric vehicles. Also consider whether companies, and five energy companies (NRC, 2008). Many other technologies would be less expensive or could be more of the technical conclusions in this report stemmed from quickly implemented than fuel cell technologies to achieve that cooperation. The present committee also conducted its significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and oil imports; own analysis on a variety of issues and heard from many (6) take into account any reports relating to fuel cell tech- experts in industry, academia, and research centers, as listed nologies and hydrogen-fueled vehicles, including (a) the in Appendix B. National Academies report issued in 2004 entitled Hydrogen In this report: Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs; and (b) the report prepared by the U.S. Fuel Cell Council in • Chapter 2 presents a framework for considering an 2003 entitled Fuel Cells and Hydrogen: The Path Forward; accelerated transition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. (7) consider the challenges, difficulties, and potential barriers • Chapter 3 then reviews the progress of the technologies to meeting the goal established under paragraph (1); and that will be necessary to make the introduction of HFCVs (8) with respect to the budget roadmap (a) specify the amount feasible. This includes hydrogen production as well as the of funding required on an annual basis from the Federal vehicles themselves. Government and industry to carry out the budget roadmap; and (b) specify the advantages and disadvantages to moving • Chapter 4 examines two alternative approaches to toward the transition to hydrogen in vehicles in accordance reducing the use of petroleum and emissions of carbon diox- with the timeline established by the budget roadmap. ide from vehicles—advanced conventional vehicles and fuels (9) Write a report documenting its study and assessment. derived from biomass (biofuels)—to compare their potential to HFCVs. The committee’s priorities from the statement of task • The possible relationship between hydrogen for were as follows: transportation and the electric power system is explored in Chapter 5. This includes an examination of electrolysis for • Establish as a goal the maximum practicable per- hydrogen production during the transition, as well as central centage of vehicles that can be fueled by hydrogen by station plants producing hydrogen that could also be used for 2020; stationary electricity production. • Determine the funding, public and private, to reach that • Chapter 6 presents several scenarios designed to goal; analyze the transition and its impacts. Building on the tech- • Determine the government actions required to achieve nology assessment in Chapter 3, one scenario examines the the goal; rapid introduction of HFCVs. Two others look at the rapid • Establish a budget roadmap to achieve the goal; improvement in conventional fuel economy and at the use of • Evaluate the synergy between the use of hydrogen in biofuels, as discussed in Chapter 4. Finally, another scenario stationary electric power applications and in hydrogen-fueled projects the impact on fuel use and CO2 emissions if all paths vehicles; and are pursued simultaneously. Variants of these scenarios also • Assess other technologies which could achieve signifi- were analyzed, as reported in Appendix C. cant CO2 and oil reductions by 2020. • The funding for research, development and demonstra- tion (RD&D), as well as the investments in vehicle produc- This report builds on an earlier NRC report prepared for tion and hydrogen infrastructure that will be required for a DOE, The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barri- transition to HFCVs, are discussed in Chapter 7. The chapter ers, and R&D Needs (NRC, 2004). That study examined how culminates with the budget roadmap mandated in the state- the hydrogen economy might work and the track the nation ment of task above, plus a discussion of how costs might be might follow, especially with regard to research and devel- shared between the private sector and government.

INTRODUCTION 21 • The federal government must supply more than just REFERENCES funding to stimulate a transition to fuel cell vehicles. A vari- NRC (National Research Council). 2004. The Hydrogen Economy: Op- ety of other policy requirements and options are explored in portunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs. Washington, D.C.: The Chapter 8. National Academies Press. • Finally, Chapter 9 assesses the broad advantages and NRC. 2008. Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and disadvantages of accelerating this transition. Fuel Partnership: Second Report. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

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Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) could alleviate the nation's dependence on oil and reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas. Industry-and government-sponsored research programs have made very impressive technical progress over the past several years, and several companies are currently introducing pre-commercial vehicles and hydrogen fueling stations in limited markets.

However, to achieve wide hydrogen vehicle penetration, further technological advances are required for commercial viability, and vehicle manufacturer and hydrogen supplier activities must be coordinated. In particular, costs must be reduced, new automotive manufacturing technologies commercialized, and adequate supplies of hydrogen produced and made available to motorists. These efforts will require considerable resources, especially federal and private sector funding.

This book estimates the resources that will be needed to bring HFCVs to the point of competitive self-sustainability in the marketplace. It also estimates the impact on oil consumption and carbon dioxide emissions as HFCVs become a large fraction of the light-duty vehicle fleet.

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