The Top 5: Hydrogen Will Be A “Key Solution” to Decarbonize Transport

01.19.17 | Blog | By:

Happy Thursday friends! Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in future fuels and vehicles trends over the last week.

  1. New Hydrogen Council: At the World Economic Forum Summit in Davos this week a new council was formed to establish hydrogen as a “key solution” of the energy transition, including that fuel-cell electric vehicles will play an important role in decarbonizing transport. The group released a paper setting out its vision and the key actions for policymakers to consider to promote hydrogen.
  2. CARB Sticking with EPA on Fuel Economy Standards: CARB released its own mid-term review, largely echoing the findings in EPA’s reviews. It will also finalize those standards earlier than originally indicated. Meantime, in a Senate hearing this week, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-Elect Trump’s pick for EPA Administrator, said that he would review EPA’s decision to lock in the fuel economy regulations. Not only that, he also would not commit to allowing California to continue its own program at the same time CARB has announced its intention to set post-2025 standards.
  3. Preventing More Dieselgates: The FIA Foundation released a report this week detailing a June 2016 meeting it hosted on preventing future “Dieselgates.” The best way to do so?  Set up an independent, global, real-world emissions testing initiative that is financially independent of the carmakers and involves accredited expert testers.
  4. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) Are the #1 Issue Facing the Auto Industry: According to a KMPG survey, Connectivity and digitalization and FCEVs were also top trends.
  5. Co-Optima Annual Report Released: This week DOE released a review of its Co-Optima Program to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable fuels and high-efficiency, low-emission engines.

1. BusinessGreen: Davos Summit: New ‘Hydrogen Council’ Vows to Accelerate Global Fuel Cell Market

A new Hydrogen Council was launched this week at a side event at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Summit to establish hydrogen as “among the key solutions of the energy transition”. The companies currently involved are: Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, BMW GROUP, Daimler, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai, Kawasaki, Royal Dutch Shell, The Linde Group, Total and Toyota. The Council is led by two Co-Chairs from different geographies and sectors, currently represented by Air Liquide and Toyota. The members of the Hydrogen Council collectively represent total revenues of €1.07 trillion and 1.72 million employees around the world.

As part of the launch, the group released How Hydrogen Empowers the Energy Transition, which sets out the vision of the Council and the key actions it considers crucial for policy makers to implement in order to harness the potential of hydrogen as part of the global clean energy transition.

The Council sees four main levers to decarbonize the energy system, shown in the figure below, which includes improving energy efficiency, switching to zero emission energy carriers, relying on increasing volumes of renewable energy and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The Council noted in the report:

“Efforts to decarbonize the energy system need to pull on four main levers: improving energy efficiency, developing renewable energy sources, switching to low/zero carbon energy carriers, and implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as utilization (CCU).


This will radically change energy supply and demand. Today, fossil fuels account for 82% of primary energy consumption; renewable energy sources contribute only 14%, and nuclear sources 4%. Towards 2050, growth in population and GDP will increase energy demand by 16%, despite projected energy efficiency achievements. By 2050, renewables are expected to increase their share of the energy mix by 3 to 5 times the current amount. At the same time, fossil fuels continue to make up a large share (partially using carbon capture and storage to offset or prevent emissions).


New energy carriers will be needed to transfer the growing share of decarbonized primary energy towards the energy demand side, while maintaining the quality of energy services provided to end uses (residential, industries, and transport). Two energy carriers promise to have the greatest possible impact when it comes to decarbonizing and implementing changes at scale: electricity and hydrogen.”

But there are challenges, as highlighted in the figure below.

The Council notes that hydrogen’s unique properties make it a powerful enabler for the energy transition in that it can: enable large-scale, efficient renewable energy integration, distribute energy across sectors and regions, Act as a buffer to increase system resilience, decarbonize transport and industry energy use. With respect to transport, the Council noted that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) would be key not only in passenger transport but in trucking, rail, aviation and shipping as shown in the figure below.

In acknowledging the current high cost of ownership for passenger vehicles, the Council said:

“For passenger cars, total cost of ownership (TCO) for FCEVs is currently higher than for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, while travel cost (hydrogen price per kilometer traveled) is already similar to the cost of HEVs in Japan. When FCEVs reach at-scale commercialization, we are confident that cost parity (from a TCO perspective) can be reached by 2025 for medium to large passenger cars.”

The Hydrogen Council members plan to shift investment from RD&D to commercialization to help develop the hydrogen market, as shown in the figure below.

Policy recommendations include the following:

  1. Provide long-term and stable policy frameworks to guide the energy transition in all sectors (energy, transport, industry, and residential).
  2. Develop coordination and incentive policies to encourage early deployment of hydrogen solutions and sufficient private-sector investments.
    1. In the transport sector, ensure strong coordination among governments (to give direction), car manufacturers (to produce and commercialize FCEVs), infrastructure providers (to invest in supply and distribution infrastructure), and consumers (to purchase FCEVs).
    2. Ensure the energy market reforms effectively in terms of feed-in tariffs, curtailment management, seasonal balancing capacity remuneration and taxation, while taking into account the benefits hydrogen can deliver to the energy system.
    3. Provide financial instruments to leverage private investment with the support of public guarantees, to mitigate risk for early movers.
  3. Facilitate harmonization of industry standards across regions and sectors to enable hydrogen technologies and take advantage of scale effects and decrease costs.

2. CARB: CARB Releases Major Report on the Future of Ultra-Clean and Zero-Emission Vehicles

All of the focus on fuel economy standards in the U.S. has been focused at the federal level, but the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been working on its own mid-term review of its 2022-2025 standards (which are aligned with the federal government’s), which it released this week. No surprises: CARB has “confirm[ed] that the previously adopted package of GHG standards, technology-forcing zero-emission vehicle standards, and the most health-protective particulate matter standards in the world are appropriate.” Read more about it here.

3. FIA Foundation: Can We Prevent Another Dieselgate?

At a June 2016 meeting hosted by the FIA Foundation a group of experts mostly from academia and NGOs met in response to the Dieselgate scandal “to discuss how civil society could contribute towards ensuring vehicles comply with emission legislation and consumers provided with reliable information.”  Read more about it here.

4. KPMG: Global Automotive Executive Survey 2017

KPMG recently published its 18th annual global automotive executive survey of 1,000 executives in more than 42 countries on the state of the industry.  Read more about it here.

5. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE): Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines – Y16 Year in Review

This week DOE released a review of its Co-Optima Program to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable fuels and high-efficiency, low-emission engines with a “first-of-its-kind effort to simultaneously tackle fuel and engine research and development (R&D).”  DOE notes that Co-Optima is conducting research to identify the fuel properties and engine design characteristics needed to maximize vehicle performance and affordability, while deeply cutting harmful emissions.

“Rather than endors­ing a single solution, this initiative is designed to arm industry, policymakers, and other key stakeholders with the scientific foundation and market intelligence required to make investment decisions, break down barriers to commercialization, and bring new high-performance fuels and advanced engine systems to market sooner.”

The idea is to:

  • Deliver $30-$40 annually via improved fuel economy.
  • Spur U.S. economic growth with the establishment of 500,000 new jobs.
  • Contribute to national goal of 80% reduction in transportation GHG emissions by 2050.
  • Accelerate the speed of deployment with commercial introduction of new fuels/technologies by 2025.
  • Increase energy independence with biofuels from domestic feedstocks supplying as much as 15% of liquid fuels by 2035.
  • Improve passenger vehicle fuel economy by 50% — 15% beyond the projected results of existing R&D efforts.

The first phase, Thrust I, concentrated on:

  • Improving near-term SI engine efficiency
  • Assessing desirable properties for bio-derived or bio-based components (blendstocks) to be blended with petroleum-derived gasoline
  • Identifying more than 40 promising blendstock candidates
  • Evaluating the impact of discrete fuel properties on advanced SI engine performance

DOE notes that researchers have also initiated R&D on Thrust II ACI combustion strategies focused on achieving higher efficien­cy with lower levels of harmful emissions than can be achieved today.

A few highlights from the report include the following:

  • High-octane blends improve fuel efficiency in aggressively tuned engines. “At a compression ratio of 12:1, use of 98 RON fuels (including E20) yields significant fuel efficiency improvements relative to 92 RON fuel, offering the possibility of fuel economy parity with E10 fuels for some driving cycles. The benefit of octane increases with the aggressiveness of the driving cycle due to the higher fraction of time spent in knock-limited combustion phasing conditions. Higher RONs reduce the need to retard combustion phasing under these conditions, improving fuel efficiency. Engine downsizing and down-speeding are well suited to take advantage of higher-octane fuels because these engines encounter the knock limit more frequently.” This is shown in the figure below.

  • Particulate matter from ethanol blends has lower activation energy than from gasoline. “Co-Optima has determined that Thrust I fuel blends will likely influence particulate matter (PM) oxidation behavior in the absence of an aftertreatment solution, which could have regulatory implications. Gasoline particulate filter (GPF) cores were exposed to exhaust from a DI engine running on either 100% gasoline (E0) or a 30% blend of ethanol in gasoline (E30). Subsequent measurements were done with neutron imaging. As shown below, it was determined that the thickness of the PM soot cake did not change until 20% of the carbon had been removed with little difference between fuels. While the E30 PM was easier to oxidize, both the E0 and E30 PM oxidize differently than diesel PM.” This is shown in the figure below.

  • Possible link found between particulate matter and ethanol’s interaction with aromatics. “Co-Optima researchers characterizing a set of 15 gasoline blends made the unanticipated discovery that ethanol suppresses aromatic evaporation and pushes it to higher temperatures. Incomplete fuel vaporization and mixing produces higher PM emissions—especially for aromatic compounds with a high sooting tendency. E15 or E30 blends inhibited evaporation of the aromatic at the midpoint of the distillation curve, causing the fuel to be enriched with the aromatic toward the end of the distillation. In ongo­ing work, the Co-Optima project is testing these fuels in a DISI engine to measure PM emissions.” This is shown in the figure below.