BMW, Norway take on the race for cleaner hydrogen

It takes energy to make energy, and renewables are the key to green H2.

Hydrogen's automotive future is unclear right now. With plug-in cars achieving more range at lower costs, and with a lack of a robust hydrogen fueling infrastructure, it feels like battery electric vehicles are pulling out ahead of their fuel cell counterparts. Still, H2 has some momentum, and certain automakers – end even countries ­– are dedicated to exploring its viability.

BMW is currently proposing its own hydrogen solutions, showcasing solar-powered electrolysis at the Hannover Trade Fair, as The Detroit Bureau reports. Breaking water down into hydrogen and oxygen requires energy, which is cause for concern when touting it as a green alternative to traditional fuels. Using solar power for that process ensures that the hydrogen you're putting into your fuel cell car has a low environmental impact. And the fact that BMW is pursuing clean hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles is interesting, considering that another German automaker, Mercedes-Benz, is pumping the brakes on its fuel cell program.

Still certain markets promise to move ahead with hydrogen, even going so far as to develop a "hydrogen economy." Japan is one country where hydrogen has a future, and, as Reuters reports, Australia and Norway are competing to be the source of that hydrogen. With Japanese President Shinzo Abe seeking to showcase hydrogen power for the 2020 Olympic Games, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is looking to develop a supply chain. That's where Norway and Australia come in.

Again, the cleanliness of the source is key here. Australia has been working to create H2 from brown coal. That involves separating the carbon from the coal, and sequestering it underground in old wells. Norway, on the other hand, has a greener solution along the lines of what BMW is pursuing. Norway's Nel Hydrogen has launched a pilot project to produce H2 from renewable sources like hydroelectric and wind energy to be shipped to Japan and elsewhere. Norway's timeline could beat Australia's to market, which would mean cleaner fuel for Japan.

And, like the race between Australia and Norway, it still seems too early to call the race between FCEVs and BEVs, too.

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