*UPDATE: As our commentors have pointed out, it costs less than 10 cents a mile to drive an EV today. We apologize for the error.

Earlier this week, Toyota Motor Sales' senior vice president of automotive operations, Bob Cater, predicted that the cost to refuel a hydrogen vehicle would be around $30 to go 300 miles at some point in the future. That's around ten cents a mile, or about what it more than it costs to drive an EV today. This will require hydrogen to cost around $5-to-$7 per kilogram.

How realistic is this? A new analysis from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis called The Hydrogen Transition takes a closer look at some of the numbers involved in the hydrogen economy and reveals it's all a bit murkier than Toyota would have us believe.

"The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades." – Joan Odgen

For starters, let's acknowledge that the researchers at UC Davis seem to be optimistic about hydrogen's chances. The lead author Joan Ogden (pictured), said in a statement that, "We seem to be tantalizingly close to the beginning of a hydrogen transition." But there's no guarantee. "The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades," she said. There are three places where the study thinks a "targeted regional investment of $100-$200 million in support of 100 stations for about 50,000 FCVs would be enough to make hydrogen cost-competitive with gasoline on a cost-per-mile basis." You can probably guess the three locations: California, Japan and Germany.

As for the timeline, the study predicts that it will take five years to get to $7.50 per kg and 12 to make further progress to $6 per kg. But this has a cost: "The boom in low-cost natural gas makes possible low-cost hydrogen," so if you're not a fan of fracking, then you might want to steer clear of an H2 car. Then there's this: "For the US as a whole, we estimate that about $1 billion investment would be needed in a series of lighthouse cities to bring the cost of hydrogen to $7/kg, a fuel cost roughly competitive with gasoline on a cent per mile basis." In other words, Carter might be right, but there are a lot of details to understand.

For more, read Ogden's article, download the 57-page white paper (or 8-page executive summary) and watch the simplified explanation in the video below. It's all well worth your time.



Show full PR text
WHY THE HYDROGEN FUEL CELL VEHICLE ROLLOUT MAY NOW SUCCEED

A convergence of factors is propelling a market rollout of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, according to a new study from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. A key to hydrogen's potential success is a new smart solution that clusters hydrogen fuel infrastructure in urban or regional networks, limiting initial costs and enabling an early market for the technology before committing to a full national deployment, suggests the study.

The researchers behind the study, "The Hydrogen Transition," probe the variety of factors combining to increase the likelihood of successful hydrogen-powered car commercialization. These include new thinking by government and industry on strategies for developing fuel station infrastructure, falling costs for fuel cell vehicle and hydrogen station components, a new array of sporty hydrogen cars about to come to market from major car makers, ample low cost natural gas for making hydrogen, and the strengthening U.S. interest in climate change solutions.

"We seem to be tantalizingly close to the beginning of a hydrogen transition," said lead author Joan Ogden, professor of environmental science and policy and director of the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (NextSTEPS). "The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades."

Having sufficient hydrogen fueling locations has been a major challenge. It's a "chicken or egg" dilemma where automakers are reluctant to market cars without infrastructure, and station providers are reluctant to build stations without cars. Recently, however, regional public-private partnerships are emerging to develop smart, comprehensive build-out strategies in different locations around the globe. These new infrastructure paradigms enable more efficient fueling networks, saving millions of dollars compared to earlier designs, and hold the promise of providing hydrogen conveniently and affordably.

ITS-Davis researchers calculated that a targeted regional investment of $100-$200 million in support of 100 stations for about 50,000 FCVs would be enough to make hydrogen cost-competitive with gasoline on a cost-per-mile basis. This level of investment is poised to happen in at least three places: California, Germany and Japan.

In California, the state recently awarded $46 million to build 28 hydrogen fuel stations. Hyundai is leasing its Tucson FCVs to select consumers, while several other car makers -- Honda, Toyota, BMW, Nissan and Daimler -- expect to have production vehicles on the road in the next few years. Toyota, whose fuel cell vehicles are set to hit the market next year, is also investing in hydrogen fueling infrastructure in the state.

"In many respects, hydrogen fuel cell cars offer consumer value similar or superior to today's gasoline cars," Ogden said. "The technology readily enables large vehicle size, a driving range of 300-400 miles, and a fast refueling time of three to five minutes. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could help us achieve a low carbon future -- without compromising consumer expectations. Along with plug-in electric and efficient internal combustion engine vehicles, hydrogen is an important part of a portfolio approach to sustainable transportation."

Additional highlights from the study include:

* Early and durable public policies are key to help launch hydrogen infrastructure and provide consumer incentives for purchasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These may be similar to incentives for plug-in electrics, such as vehicle purchase subsidies, tax exemptions, free parking, and High Occupancy Vehicle lane access.

* Global public funding of $1 billion a year on hydrogen supports research and development, deployment of power, and transportation applications. Automakers have spent more than $9 billion on fuel cell development. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, its public investments have spurred 6 to 9 times more in private investment.

* The near-term prospects for plentiful, low-cost hydrogen are good. The boom in low-cost natural gas makes possible low-cost hydrogen, especially in the United States. Methods for cost-effectively producing low-carbon hydrogen from renewable sources hold promise for greater greenhouse gas emission reductions. Hydrogen FCV emissions are already less than half that of conventional gasoline vehicles, due to the greater efficiency of the fuel cell.

* The long-term environmental, economic and societal benefits of hydrogen FCVs are significant. Fuel cost savings for customers and the reduced costs of air pollution, oil dependence and climate change outweigh transition costs by 10 to 1.

* For California, having hydrogen as part of the fuel mix could be integral to the state reaching its twin goals of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Hydrogen FCVs are increasingly seen as a critical technology for reaching long-term climate goals, with the potential for capturing a major fraction of the world's "light duty" passenger car fleet by 2050.

However, the hydrogen transition is anything but certain.

"Hydrogen faces a range of challenges, from economic to societal, before it can be implemented as a large scale transportation fuel," Ogden said. "The question isn't whether fuel cell vehicles are technically ready: They are. But how do you build confidence in hydrogen's future for investors, fuel suppliers, automakers, and, of course, for consumers?"

About UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies

The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis is the leading university center in the world on sustainable transportation. It is home to more than 60 affiliated faculty and researchers, and 120 graduate students. ITS-Davis is partnered with government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to inform policymaking and business decisions, and advance the public discourse on key transportation, energy and environmental issues. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently designated ITS-Davis as the lead university for the National Center on Sustainable Transportation.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Additional information:
* Read the report: http://steps.ucdavis.edu/files/08-13-2014-08-13-2014-NextSTEPS-White-Paper-Hydrogen-Transition-7.29.2014.pdf
* Photo download: http://photos.ucdavis.edu/albums.php?albumId=429998
* ITS blog commenting on hydrogen FCV transition: http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/news-and-events/its-blog/
* Related: New center to prepare national transportation for extreme weather: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10726
* Related: California exceeds Low Carbon Fuel Standard targets -- for now: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10562


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 210 Comments
      2 wheeled menace
      • 4 Months Ago
      Uh yeah. That's what i've been saying for at least 5 years.
      DaveMart
      • 4 Months Ago
      Before people who don't much fancy fuel cell cars try to use this to 'prove' how unrealistic they are, here are the comparisons of subsidy costs to breakeven for FCEV, PHEV and BEV on page 40, table 5 of the study: FCEV:Breakeven 2025 4million FCVs ~$5B for H2 supply ~$18B to subsidize FCV price PHEV Breakeven :2028 28million PHEVs ~$28B for chargers ~$157B to subsidize vehicle price BEV: Breakeven::2024 3million BEVs ~$1-2 B for chargers ~$34B to subsidize vehicle price
        purrpullberra
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        Bullsh1+.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        So you're basing your view on different types of vehicles based on who's bribed government to divert money from taxpayers? Hey, how come you didn't figure the 1 million dollar cost per fueling station figure into FCEV? :)
          JakeY
          • 4 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          @elctrNmbliT And that is not even the full cost. $1.6 million is only the government's share, which is mandated to max out at 65% of the total project, so it's $2.46 million total or more a pop.
          elctrNmbliT
          • 4 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          1 million - 2 million. Right now California is paying for stations at 1.6 million a pop.
          DaveMart
          • 4 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          I'm commenting on the views in the report to show their comparisons which come down pretty heavily in favour of FCEVs before people start cherry picking it in precisely the manner you are doing.
          DaveMart
          • 4 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          OTOH those knocking the subsidy needed for the hydrogen stations such as JakeY and 2WM are astonishingly quiet on the $1-2 B the report quotes for chargers until breakeven, or the stonking $34b in BEV subsidies, which dwarf the subsidies for the H2 stations. Is it because they fancy some bits of the report and not others?
          DaveMart
          • 4 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          The $1 million a station refers to the needed subsidy each for the first hundred or two stations, not the total cost of the station. The rest of the cost they are showing as met commercially.
        PeterScott
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        The actual "study" is nothing but pro-hydrogen nonsense. The "Breakeven" statements are complete nonsensical hogwash. It is apparently how much money they have to pump into H2 for how long until it costs less than gasoline. BEVs/PHEVs running cost are less NOW. Then based on how long that will take you extrapolate PHEV/BEV subsidies forever... Look at the charging cost numbers. They have Higher charging costs/car for PHEVs than the do for BEVs. PHEVs have MUCH smaller batteries, and many are so small that they can achieve a full charge while you sleep on a standard 120V plug. Like most BS H2 promotion it is disingenuous tripe.
        DaveMart
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        BTW the study is actually very optimistic about the very high potential it sees for hydrogen and fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gases, in spite of Sebastian's rather out of the blue comments about fracking. In fig 18 page 35 even a worst case estimate of CO2 emissions using coal without carbon sequestration shows a 30% fall in emissions by 2050 using coal for the generation without carbon sequestration. That is against a gasoline car with I assume the much greater efficiency against present models they talk about earlier in the study. More realistic scenarios pout the savings at 65% and up, and the cost increment for a massive 90% fall only a modest $1/kg on a fuel good for more than 60miles/kg
        Jesse Gurr
        • 4 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        I'm curious about the numbers for the fuel cell part. It takes us 10 years, 2015-2025 to get 4 million vehicles on the road, yet on that same table in 2030, only 5 years later, we have an additional 12 million vehicles. That sounds VERY optimistic. I'm also unsure about the subsidy money. What does that include? Is it only vehicle tax breaks or something else? If we assume it is only the tax break then for the additional 12 million vehicles we add $38B to the total for a per vehicle tax break of about $3,200. Which is interesting since the IRS will give a minimum $8,000/car not counting whatever state incentive is thrown on top of that. Numbers just don't seem right to me. I need more data.
      Prez
      • 4 Months Ago
      Fracking my ass. Do it in your own backyard and stay as far away from mine as possible....
        avconsumer2
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Prez
        Don't believe the propaganda. FrackNation. Just educate yourself. Do your own research.
      Greg
      • 4 Months Ago
      Of course it's optimistic. Do you think it would have been published if it was pessimistic about hydrogen?
      GoodCheer
      • 4 Months Ago
      "The most efficient gas engines are in high 30% range." ... at their most efficient operating point (RPM & torque). As you move away from that point.. ie, when you actually use the engine, the efficiency falls dramatically.
      Jeff
      • 4 Months Ago
      The 2nd sentence in the article states: "That's around ten cents a mile, or about what it costs to drive an EV today." Of course that's wrong. That's why I pointed it out.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Follow the money. Chevron awards $25million to UC Davis to study transportation fuels: http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/stories/2006/09/18/daily14.html The Chevron-UC Davis joint research agreement establishes a collaborative R&D program directed at the development of liquid transportation fuels from biomass feedstocks. Funded through Chevron Technology Ventures http://energy.ucdavis.edu/research/programs-and-centers/chevron/ UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies Ph.D. candidate Gabriel Lade was awarded the 2013-14 Chevron Fellowship http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/in-the-news/?pag=2
        purrpullberra
        • 4 Months Ago
        This is likely where this Kathy22 liar is employed.... Or at some related sham.... If employed....
        PeterScott
        • 4 Months Ago
        Yep. She also ran their Hydrogen Pathways program: http://hydrogen.its.ucdavis.edu/sponsor-list Sponsors listed include: BP America ConocoPhillips Shell Hydrogen ExxonMobile Chevron Indian Oil Corp Total Corp and many others. Spending a few tens of millions on generating favorable studies, get a killer return on investment if you convince governemnt to Spend billions on H2 infrastructure.
          Ray Blackburn
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          LTAw, Sorry if you don't like the truth. Geez this as been gone over again and again. As Marco has pointed out constantly the government gets taxes from the fuel like they now get for gasoline and diesel. Conspiracy is what exists here sorry if you don't like it. The drug cartels conspire to make money so does the oil corps. Get over it! I am tired of your half truths when promoting H2. Please shut up!
          Letstakeawalk
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          And what cut do you think the government will take in the form of taxes?
          PeterScott
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          Selling government subsidized Hydrogen, in Government Subsidized Fuel stations, to fuel government subsidized FCVs. The various players get their cuts when they subsidy creates sales that otherwise wouldn't exist.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          LTAW, I am sure they are aiming for another 100% just like the last time the oil corps gave them money.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          What "return on investment" do you think they're planning to get?
          Letstakeawalk
          • 4 Months Ago
          @PeterScott
          If you can't provide a serious answer, please stay out of the discussion, EVSUPERHERO. My question was addressed to PeterScott, if he'd care to answer it. Otherwise, I'll just chalk it up to the same conspiracy nonsense you like to spout, EVSUPERHERO.
      BipDBo
      • 4 Months Ago
      Instead of spending all of this R&D on H2 cars and refueling stations, etc, why not just build more cars that run on compressed natural gas and/or liquid propane? Imagine how efficient and clean something like a CNG Prius would be. I'd bet that the long tailpipe emissions of any H2 car would be significantly higher than the short tailpipe emissions of this much more attainable model. Now imagine if a commercial truck manufacturer scaled this CNG hybrid drivetrain concept to build local drive fleets like garbage trucks and FedEx trucks. Smaller versions could be used for postal vans, taxis, police cars, etc. Refueling could be done every day at the base. Natural gas is so cheap though, anyone building a fleet to burn it would probably forgo the cost of hybridization and just use CNG ICE.
        Ryan
        • 4 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Many garbage trucks and fleets around here do use CNG. It makes a little more sense than H2. Still not perfect though. There are even places that make natural gas instead of drilling, which is better than H2 unless it is made by renewable electrolysis.
      Jim_NJ
      • 4 Months Ago
      "Toyota Motor Sales' senior vice president of automotive operations, Bob Cater, predicted that the cost to refuel a hydrogen vehicle would be around $30 to go 300 miles at some point in the future. That's around ten cents a mile, or about what it costs to drive an EV today." Unless I'm missing something, the cost to drive an EV at average utility rates today is 4 cents per mile. I've driven my Volt over 40,000 miles, and my real-world cost is a little under 5 cents per mile with higher-than-average electric rates (15 cents/Kwh). If the rest of this article is correct, then that means that FCV's will be more expensive to fuel than EVs into the foreseeable future.
        Neil Blanchard
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jim_NJ
        Depending on your EV and the electric rates you pay, 2-3¢ per mile is pretty typical. Add some solar panels into the mix, and you can drive an EV for under 1¢ per mile, or even for free.
        kmiller22kathy
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Jim_NJ
        Do your figures include the fact that the battery must be replaced in every single battery only electric on the road today? Of course they don't. The Leaf replacement battery will set you back $5,000 + tax and installation. The Tesla- >$15,000. That's why you can pick up a used Leaf real cheap. Who will want to buy a used Tesla that is out of warranty and due for a $15,000 "battery swap"? That's the only battery swapping that will happen too. The whole thing was a Musk Hoax to scam tax credits from poor and middle class so the rich could buy expensive toys.
          19nomad56
          • 4 Months Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          An ICE car could very well need an engine replacement/overhaul at the same point batteries in an EV would need replacing. I haven't priced anything lately, but I paid about $5K several years ago for an LS1/4L80 trans combo for my chevy project car.
          Jesse Gurr
          • 4 Months Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          Do your figures take into account replacing the fuel cell every 75,000 miles? As well as the battery in a fuel cell car? Didn't think so.
          purrpullberra
          • 4 Months Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          Just making up more lies, how pathetic. You don't know anything about batteries. You don't know anything about fuel cells either. You cite completely made up BS. nd you wonder why some people call you the terrible things you truly are. Like "Liar" "troll" "Stooge". If you would talk sensibly about reality all of us would gladly discuss with you. But you lie. You use untruths and baseless feelings to argue senseless garbage. You aren't among idiots here the way you must be in real life. Because we can see through all the BS. That is why your score here is so low. We know you're full of dog crap.
          Jim_NJ
          • 4 Months Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          "Do your figures include the fact that the battery must be replaced in every single battery only electric on the road today?" Do you have anything to back that up? If you're only talking about the Leaf, with no heating/cooling, perhaps you're right. But there are lots of Volts on the road with over 100,000 miles showing no signs of reduced ranged. It's expected that their batteries will last well over 200,000 miles. Any car with over 200,000 miles on it is likely to have high repair costs.
          j
          • 4 Months Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          I can measure current and voltage in a used Leaf to see if I need to worry about battery life, and how much my solar panels need to fuel it. Can you measure the point where FCEV's will have lower fuel costs than EV's and be powered by renewable energy rather than reformed natural gas and fossil fuels? Go Ags - on renewables!!!
      paulwesterberg
      • 4 Months Ago
      If the oil companies think that hydrogen is such a great idea let them pay for the stations they get enough tax breaks and subsidies as it is.
        Spec
        • 4 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        My conspiracy theory is that they have always pushed it in a half-hearted way . . . enough to get people interested and thinking about it as a future . . . but never enough to actually deploy them. In this way, they act as a spoiler for EVs and PHEVs since why should people get EVs with their short range? And why get PHEVs when FCVs are coming real soon now? Real soon. We promise. From the oil company perspective, the fact that fuel cell cars never actually ship is a feature, not a bug.
          j
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Spec
          "From the oil company perspective, the fact that fuel cell cars never actually ship is a feature, not a bug." Are you suggesting that limited availability, leased never sold, CARB area only cars are the next evolution in vaporware?
        paulwesterberg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Also I charge my leaf at night for .07 per kWh which makes my cost per mile 2 cents.
      Jesse Gurr
      • 4 Months Ago
      I think the future is nuclear reactors! Didn't anybody see the new Star Trek movies, that looks kinda like a nuclear reactor to me. Can't wait for anti-matter and di-lithium crystals to power everything. :D
      purrpullberra
      • 4 Months Ago
      This is more proof that the dreams of a hydrogen fuel cell future are misguided at best and it's certainly dangerous and wasteful. And it's rather indefensible when you consider that BEV's are already capable of outdoing even the best possible fuel cell the future may hold simply due to their inherent inefficiency. For a HFC to get really good efficiencies, that can compete with BEV's it always uses a thermal recapture system that just won't fit on a car. All other arguments fall away as meaningless next to the basic facts. AS neat as the tech is there is no excuse for such inefficient and waste. The money wasted alone could've built at least an entire Gigafactory. Even these proponent see it is nearly impossible even if the wild dreams somehow come true and a billion dollars just appears to be happily wasted..
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